Summary: Lost people often use our failure to live as we ought to justify their rejection of Christ. While we cannot excuse them, we must know that we do offend. Therefore, we require grace to honour God and to avoid giving offence to the lost.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” [1]

We’ve each undoubtedly heard someone say at one time or another, “If that’s the way Christians act, I want nothing to do with their God!” People that make such statements often speak out of their anger because they can’t have their way. In their rage, they want to strike out to hurt Christians who love them and who long to see them fulfilled by the love of Christ. Lashing out, they assail the one thing they know that Christians value—their relationship with the Saviour.

I know a young woman who rejected God and all that is righteous in her youth. She had a tempestuous relationship with her mother and a tenuous relationship with her grandparents who loved her dearly. In a rage against her mother, this young woman even refused to permit her mother to visit her first grandchild. That girl’s mother was taken with a severe illness that would eventually result in death. Grief-stricken, the young woman rushed to her mother’s bedside, though her mother was comatose and incapable of acknowledging anyone’s presence. When her mother succumbed to that illness, that young woman raged, calling God a filthy name because He allowed her mother to die.

What is tragic about this story is that the mother knew Christ as Saviour and had prayed for that young woman, as had many others who knew that girl. That young woman had rejected Christ and refused to have anything to do with God, and yet she cursed God when her mother died. She hasn’t the capacity to see what she has become, but that young woman has made herself the centre of her universe. When her mother died the young woman became enraged at God because He did not acknowledge her as the rightful claimant to the throne of her life. She wanted to have her way, imagining that God must obey her. She was enraged because she cannot dethrone God, and she was determined to show Him the way things must be.

Whenever I witness such puerile, infantile behaviour, I recall an oft-delivered sermon among black saints in an earlier day. The preacher simply said, “Puny little man, your arms are too short to box with God.” Ain’t it true! Ain’t it true!

That same young woman had earlier been angry at her grandfather because he wouldn’t affirm her in her rebellion. She blustered, “If that’s the way Christians act, I want nothing to do with his God.” It is a convenient excuse to continue living without regard for what is righteous, but it must be seen for what it is—an excuse and not a reason. The great tragedy of such stories is that the young woman must bear the consequences of her own choices. The failures—real or imagined—of the saints do not excuse her own wicked choices. When judgement comes, and it shall assuredly come, her grandfather will grieve, but he shall give God glory for His justice and His goodness.

GOD’S EXPECTATION FOR HIS PEOPLE — “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable” [1 PETER 2:11-12a]. Writing the Christians in Rome, Paul makes a sage, though sorrowful, observation of the rebellious. Paul writes, “Although [the lost] know God’s just requirement—that those who practise such things deserve to die—they not only do these things but even applaud others who practise them” [ROMANS 1:32]. The lost seek affirmation that they aren’t so bad; and the easiest way for them to attempt to maintain this position is to point out what they imagine to be hypocrisy in the saints of the Most High God.

I would never suggest that we who follow the Saviour are to attempt to be plastic saints, living without any flaws and never doing or saying things which are either unadvisable or foolish. We often heard from Christians in an earlier day, “Please be patient with me; God is not finished with me yet.” We seemingly forget that we are saved, not perfected. We are being perfected, but we have not yet arrived. The Galatians, and hence, we also are challenged, when Paul asks, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” [GALATIANS 3:3]? We know the will of God, and we are open about our need to be holy and righteous.

I suppose that each of us has read or heard the admonition the Apostle has written in the Ephesian Encyclical. “Be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

‘Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.’

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” [EPHESIANS 5:1-21].

I suspect that each of us agree that Paul provides a comprehensive list that defines a godly lifestyle. If we embraced what is provided and did not deviate from the commands, we would not provide fodder for the lost of this world to use to excuse their own rejection of Christ. The overarching command is for us to “be imitators of God” as we imitate God through reflecting the love which Christ our Lord has showered on us. If we were to implement what is written, we would be discerning without being judgemental. We would be loving without being saccharine. We would be forthright without being rude. We live a life that reveals our gratitude to God without being showy.

Christ’s love for us is to guide us in every relation with others. We know the love He has revealed to us, and we are to permit that love to be revealed through us as we interact with others. And it is at this point that we struggle. We know that we are to love others, but those others, both fellow believers and lost people, can be quite unlovely. If we will fulfil this command, we will need to remain focused on the love we received though we were unlovely and unlovable—and yet, Christ loved us.

If we are imitating God and if we are reflecting the love of Christ, the sordid catalogue of sinful behaviour will not be seen in our lives. Sexual immorality, impurity, greed will not be tolerated for even a moment if we are revealing the love of Christ. Our speech will be transformed; we will not speak the language of this dying world. F-bombs that are so prevalent in the language of this world will never be heard in the speech of those who reflect the love of Christ. Rather than crudities, there will be thanksgiving. Our hearts will be filled with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs as we walk as children of the light. A life of love will reveal the wisdom which is given by the Spirit of Christ.

Elsewhere, the Apostle admonishes each of us who seek to follow the Saviour, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” [COLOSSIANS 3:5-17].

This is yet another instance of Paul cataloguing characteristics that reveal the presence of God’s Spirit in the life of His people. Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience will mark the life of the child of God in whom the Word of Christ is dwelling richly. A Christ-controlled saint will exhibit tolerance toward her fellow Christians, and forgiveness will mark the life of those who are walking with Christ.

Thus, the saint walking with the Saviour will enjoy peace with God and peace with fellow believers. The life of that saint will be marked by a spirit of thanksgiving. The Spirit-controlled Christian will seek to teach rather than castigate, will endeavour to admonish in wisdom rather than destroy with her words, will do all within her power to build rather than tear down.

The will of God for how we are to live our lives is pretty clear; we really can’t argue that we cannot know what God expects of us. If there is a question, the blunt statement Paul delivered in his First Letter to the Church in Thessalonica puts the issue to rest. There, we read, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” [1 THESSALONIANS 4:3a]. If someone should argue that they are somehow confused about this business of sanctification, or holiness of life if you prefer, then the Apostle makes the issue crystal clear as he continues writing, “It is God’s will that you be sanctified: You must abstain from sexual immorality. Each of you must know how to control his own body in a holy and honorable manner, not with passion and lust like the gentiles who do not know God. Furthermore, you must never take advantage of or exploit a brother in this regard, because the Lord avenges all these things, just as we already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to be holy” [1 THESSALONIANS 4:3-7 ISV].

God expects His people to choose to live lives that reveal His holy character. Our lives as followers of the Risen Saviour are to be godly, and godliness does not always fit the expectation of this dying world. One translation in particular of the text before us reveals the divine expectation for us and the tension we experience. The New American Standard version of the Bible is quite literal. Consequently, it does not always read as smoothly as other contemporary translations. However, it does reveal the pointed thrust of what was originally written in some instances. For instance, the translation of the verses under scrutiny in this message read as follows. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behaviour excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” [1 PETER 2:11-12 NASB 95].

Peter is providing a succinct summation of the Lord’s expectation for us as we live out our days on this earth. Christians are to abstain from fleshly lusts. Our thoughts in this generation likely turn to sexual mores because that is an emphasis of this darkened age, but fleshly lusts include such aspects of life as anger and our expressions of rage. The swearing, the cursing, the filthy language that we use when we are enraged demonstrates the control our fleshly lusts exercise. Fleshly lusts would include greed, which seems to seize control of our lives more fully than we care to imagine. Our desire to accumulate, our need to possess the latest and the greatest are demonstration of the control greed can exercise over our lives. And that need to control extends to our dissatisfaction with our lot in life. You see, there is a very fine line between ambition that drives us to excel and greed that impels us to possess.

At one time or another, you will have perhaps heard of the “seven deadly sins.” Those sins—pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth—manifests the fleshly lusts that wage war against the flesh. These are the sins that turn us away from serving the Lord, weighing us down so that we can no longer run with perseverance the race that is set before us. We will struggle against all such sins throughout the days of this life, and seldom with the success for which we long.

In the past, each of us has succumbed to temptation to quit the struggle, allowing these sins to reign over us; and it is quite possible that we will likely do so in the future. Standing against the tide is tiring, and we are susceptible to discouragement. However, because we have the Spirit of Christ living within, we who are redeemed cannot enjoy the tyranny these wicked desires exercise over our lives. We want to honour our Master, and so we struggle against the evil that seems so powerful and that is always present to tempt us. Thus, we are forced to cry out to God for deliverance.

The Apostle to the Gentiles has summed up our struggle precisely when he wrote, “I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death” [ROMANS 7:21-24]? Who, indeed?

FAILURES OF THE SAINTS — A great sorrow that we followers of Christ experience is the impact our imperfect lives have on the lost. We know that our actions sometimes, perhaps even often, have a negative effect on the choice of lost people concerning faith in Christ Jesus. We know this happens, and that realisation gnaws at our souls.

Like the Apostle Paul, our desire is to be godly at all times, but the reality is that we fail more than we succeed in this business of living holy lives that honour Christ Jesus. This is a tragedy because outsiders have an image of what they think we should be as Christians—and that image cannot be achieved at this time! Though that image may be unrealistic, outsiders nevertheless commonly hold this particular view of Christians. The outsiders’ view asserts that we Christians believe we are already perfected. Therefore, any deviation from what the outsiders imagine to be perfection is thrown into our faces with the accusation that we are not perfect. And we can’t deny reality! We who follow Christ are not perfect! We sin, we fail in our efforts to be godly. And knowing our failure, we grieve that we dishonour our Saviour through our failures.

Have you ever felt the sting of accusation—justified or not—thrown into your face by someone you love? Those who are opposed to Christ and opposed to godliness have created a standard of their own making, and they see themselves as righteous because they imagine they are living up to their own standard. And because Christians are not living by the standard of the lost individual, Christians are ridiculed and censured.

It doesn’t follow that God’s acceptance of us equates to our perfection in the present. To be certain, we who are born from above are now accepted in the Beloved Son of God. However, we have not yet been perfected. We struggle to fulfil the righteousness revealed in the Word of God. We who follow the Saviour are being perfected, but that process is not complete at this time. We do stand perfect in Christ before the Father’s throne, but we struggle to be righteous as we know we should in this life and as we long to be. We feel shame when we fail—and we do fail so very often.

An old adage reminds us, “Scratch a saint and you find a sinner underneath.” Lost people who are convicted of their rebellion against God are inclined to attempt to justify their life marked by rebellion by pointing to the failures witnessed in the lives of the saints. There is no question but that their fatuous accusations are nothing more than a cheap attempt to deflect responsibility for their own rebellion, but the accusations they cast in our face often prove effective at silencing us as followers of the Christ.

Almost without giving thought to what they are doing, the lost of this world are able to seize upon the obvious flaws of the righteous in order to speak against them. And if they are unable to actually find flaws in our conduct, they will invent failures just to exaggerate their own “goodness” by tearing us down through exposing our failures. Undoubtedly, our lost assailants are motivated by their own sinful condition to castigate the lives of the righteous about them. We cannot simply assign their feeble efforts to the devil. The lost would dethrone God if possible, but because they are unable to dethrone Him they seek to ridicule His work in the lives of the righteous in a vain attempt to bring God down to their level. Their attitude toward God may best be described by the expression, “If God can’t make Christians perfect, then I’m fine as I am.” We need to understand that this is nothing less than a feeble excuse for their rejection of God.

In making this assessment, I am not trying to excuse our failures as Christians. This statement is an admission that we who are followers of the Saviour have not yet been perfected. God has initiated a work in the life of each of His children that will be complete only at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Followers of Christ are undoubtedly aware of the overview the Apostle has provided when he speaks of the work God is performing in the life of His people. In the First Corinthian Letter, Paul has written, “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” [1 CORINTHIANS 13:8-10].

It is obvious that we who know the Lord should be grieved at the thought that we would cause some lost individual to stumble; worse still is the knowledge of the many times we have allowed ourselves to respond in anger toward the caustic attitudes of lost people, both family and friends. They attacked us or they condemned us as Christians, and we lashed out in anger because their words pierced so deeply into our hearts. In our anger toward their attack, we ceased serving God through our failure to reveal a gracious attitude toward them because we were focused solely on our own indignation. Or worse yet, we were utterly unaware that the lost person had been offended. They ceased seeking Christ, and we unwittingly provided them the excuse for their unbelief.

I have no doubt that a multitude of lost people have used my own flaws and foibles as an excuse for why they were turning away from seeking Christ. And I am equally certain that some erstwhile followers of Christ have turned back from pursuing Him, using my own brokenness as the reason they turned away. I suspect that each of us is able to recall a time when we were less than righteous, having been called out by some lost soul who eagerly pointed out our failure while justifying their own presumed perfection. I’m grateful for those times that I was at least aware of the offence lost people experienced because of me and I took appropriate steps to at least confess my error. To be sure, each individual bears responsibility for his or her own response to the love of God revealed in Christ the Lord; but it nevertheless remains that we who know the Saviour provide plenty of excuses for the lost to reject Him.

It is essential that I emphasise that each individual is responsible for his or her own unbelief. There is no other understanding given when we see God’s assessment of the censorious attitudes of people. “Therefore, you have no excuse—every one of you who judges. For when you pass judgment on another person, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, practice the very same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who act like this is based on truth” [ROMANS 2:1-2 ISV].

Our sin is always with us, dragging us down. We read in the Word, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” [ROMANS 5:12-14].

If we questioned the assessment of our sinful condition despite the salvation that Christ has given, the dark spectre of death would purge the thought from our minds. Paul’s assessment of our situation as followers of Christ is both a blessing and a source of grief. He will, indeed, lift our hearts by exalting the Saviour because of the gracious work He has performed in our lives, saving us from sin and raising us up to share in His glory eternally. The Apostle will encourage us who have been redeemed, speaking of God’s kindness toward us, of the rich grace that He has showered on us, and the unquestionable provision of divine love that we now possess. Always and ever, Paul will remind us that because of all that God has done, we are to fulfil His will in this life. However, note that Paul begins by reminding us what we were when Christ found us.

“You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” [EPHESIANS 2:1-10].

Paul is speaking to followers of Christ. The people whom he is addressing are people who are followers of Christ, people who are freed from the condemnation of sin and accepted in the Beloved Son of God. What must never be forgotten is that each of the redeemed people of God were sinners when Christ found them. And the sins that condemned them are to a discouraging extent still dragging them down. They no longer love the sin that continues to contaminate their lives, but they know they are sinful still. And that is the situation for each Christian—though we are saved, we are still in the flesh. We have not yet been perfected. We sin, and we hate our sin.

A colleague with whom I shared teaching duties in years past, used to say, “A sheep may fall into the mud; but a sheep will never lie down in the mud.” We are saved. Christ has freed us from our sin. However, we are still in the flesh. Again, this is not to excuse our sinful condition; rather, it is acknowledging the struggle we face as part of this fallen race. If the lost wish to condemn us as hypocrites, it is a tragic truth that we supply them with plenty of ammunition by our actions, by our attitudes, and by the words that still populate our vocabularies. We are sinful people. Nevertheless, none of us enjoy the evil that continues to contaminate our lives. We struggle to be free of sin, and we find ourselves kneeling often before the Father as we ask forgiveness for our sinful choices.

How desperately I need the mercy of Christ the Lord. How desperately I require the cleansing from the filth that accumulates in my life. I don’t always know how to make right the offence that I have given. For that reason, I am often driven to pray for God’s forgiveness and for Him to work effectively. I do love the lost; and I do want to see them saved to the praise of Christ glory. Therefore, I am compelled to pray more frequently than I could ever imagine, asking the Lord to remove me from the scene so that His gracious Spirit can work without me being a hindrance.

THE CONDEMNATION OF THE LOST — “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” [1 PETER 2:11-12].

Here is a tragic statement that Peter makes. Notice that he pleads with Christians, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” This is tragic precisely because of a preposition translated as a conjunction. Don’t misunderstand, the translation is excellent. We are to abstain from the passions of the flesh, so that when the lost people about you speak evil of you, they do so seeing your good deeds. The lost are going to speak evil of you no matter what you do if you are one who follows the Risen Saviour. Again, this truth must be emphasised: that woman, or that man, who is set against Christ and His grace, are going to speak evil of you. It is not a question of “if” they should be offended toward you, it is a matter of “when.” They hate the Saviour, and they therefore are offended in you.

Let’s not attempt to sugar coat the situation for lost people. Those without Christ are not saved, nor can they please God through their own efforts. The Word of God is rather precise about the condition of the lost. Listen to just a couple of instances that point out this grievous truth. John writes, “Whoever believes in [Christ Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” [JOHN 3:18]. That seems rather precise. There is no wiggle room in what is written in that verse.

Here is another verse to weigh in this issue of who is saved and who is lost. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” [JOHN 3:36]. There is no room for accommodating nice people; the only thing that carries weight with God is faith in the Son of God.

The lost are … well, they’re lost! And that should break the heart of each follower of Christ the Saviour. Here is the tragic truth that needs to be etched on the heart of each of us who walk in the way of the Saviour: A day of separation is coming. We read in Scripture, “Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” [1 THESSALONIANS 4:14-17].

Christ is coming again to receive His people to Himself. At that time, the unsaved, including those whom we have loved despite the fact that they rejected the Saviour, shall be left behind to face the awesome and terrible judgements God shall unleash upon the earth. I cannot tell you when that day will be, but I can tell you that it will mean a great separation of those who love the Lord from those who have never known Him.

Jesus spoke of that day, teaching, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” [MATTHEW 24:36-43].

God will pour out His wrath on an unbelieving world throughout the days of the Great Tribulation, after which, Jesus Himself will return to judge the nations of the earth. Our Master spoke of that return and the continued sifting of the lost from the redeemed. Jesus has taught His people, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” [MATTHEW 25:31-46]. At His return, those who are opposed to Christ will be eternally removed from His presence. Their supposed goodness will not suffice to assuage His wrath. Their rejection of Him and the offer of salvation that He holds out to them places them in the place of condemnation.

Paul testified, and we confess with Him, “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” [2 CORINTHIANS 5:11a]. We believe with a perfect faith that Christ shall come, and at His coming, the lost shall pass into a time of severe judgement. Knowing Christ, and knowing what is coming, we are moved with compassion for the lost. We are especially moved for our own dear families, for our beloved friends, for those with whom we interact on a daily basis. We pray for them, asking the Lord to bless them with His salvation, opening their eyes to His mercy so that they will be saved. We seek opportunity to tell them of Christ’s mercy and that He stands ready to receive them, forgiving them of all sin even as He receives them into His family as His own children.

Though some now speak ill of us, we understand that it is not us whom they hate, it is our Saviour that rouses their rage. We know that they are blinded and unable to see the glory of Christ displayed throughout the world. Therefore, we forgive them of the harsh things they have spoken against us, and we pray that our Father will give them His mercy, revealing His grace as He opens their hearts to life in the Beloved Son of God. Each of us who are saved plead with each one who listens to this message today, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” [ACTS 16:31a].

Perhaps you listen today, or perhaps you have found this message after the redeemed are gone and you’re left to face the wrath of God. It is never too late to believe the message of life, receiving the grace of God and the forgiveness of sin. Jesus, the Son of God died because of your sin—He tasted death for all people because we are sinners. He was buried, but the grave could not hold Him. The Lord is risen, and now calls you to believe in Him. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016. Used by permission. All rights reserved.