Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Loving People Like Jesus, Ministry, Awareness, Service

THE YEAR OF THE TOWEL – The Towel That Identifies Us as Disciples of Jesus

Matthew 25:31-46 (pg. 695) January 24, 2016


We live in a state where we wear a lot of blue and white or black and red. I spent almost 15 years in Louisville, Kentucky wearing a lot of blue and white amid a sea of black and red.

I used to tell my Cardinal loving friends that blue and white were the color of Heaven and black and red were the color of Hell. It made me really popular...lol.

[It’s like the old joke that has Rick Pitino dying and going to heaven (I know, but just pretend...it’s a joke) and as St. Peter ushers him around he is shown amazing things. Finally they arrive at his mansion...it’s beautifully decorated in Cardinal red with black trim, one or two banners and other awards. Rick says, this is gorgeous...but as they continue down those golden streets they come to a mansion that’s 5 times the size...It’s decorated in Royal blue and with 8 national championship banners...and Kentucky Wildcat paraphernalia that just doesn’t stop...Rick looks at St. Peter and says, “How come Calipari gets a house like that?” and Peter says...“Oh No...that’s where God lives.”]

It’s pretty easy to identify Kentucky Wildcat fans and Louisville Cardinal fans.

But it’s gotten a whole lot tougher to identify Christians these days...sure we could put on T shirts with Christian quotes. Maybe wear a cross or two, or put an “Icthus” (fish) license plate on front of our car...but those are just superficial decorations.

The large majority of Americans still identify themselves as Christians according to a recent Gallop poll...77% of the adult population make that claim. 52% who are Protestants or some other non-Catholic Christian religion, 23% who are Catholic, and 2% who affiliate with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 18% claim no religious identity and 5% identify with a non Christian religion. These results came from a random sample of 326,271 adults 18 and older living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In the 1950s 95% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. As recently as 8 years ago it was over 80%.

So, that’s great right? 275 million Christians wearing Jesus’ jersey and trying to score for God’s kingdom.

There’s a problem though right? Clearly not all those who make the claim fit the Biblical definition of a disciple and there are 7 billion people in this world and only 2.1 billion make that claim...33%. The percentage of those who are living born again, Christ following lives is much much lower.

So, how do we identify those who have really picked up “His towel?” It’s important to realize:


Jesus tells us a story about trees and fruit. He says every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:19-20)

And on the heels of this analogy He says:

MATTHEW 7:21-23 (p. 679)

In both Matthew 25’s story about sheep and goats and in Matthew 7, people call Jesus Lord...“Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did...or did not help you.” “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons, and in your name perform miracles?”

The Greek word for Lord, used in both places here and 665 other places in the New Testament...“Kurios, literally means “He to whom a person or thing belongs.” Master...“Owner.”

The Matthew 7 group use it and then list all the stuff they’ve done...The Matthew 25 sheep and goats use it...unaware of what they’ve done or haven’t done.

But the connection is about “who” not “what.”

The first group does a lot of stuff “in Jesus’ name.” But he says “I never knew you.” The 2nd group says “Lord when did we see you?” And Jesus says...when you loved the least of these...or didn’t...you loved or didn’t love “me.” It’s the relationship that’s central to Jesus, not the words or activity.

“Kurios” or Lord, Master is a matter of the heart and soul...Even if you do stuff, if you haven’t really surrendered to His ownership...His plan...His authority...it’s just words...like the religious Pharisees...you can be outwardly obedient and inwardly arrogant and self focused.

Doing stuff can make us feel good...like we’ve earned Jesus’ grace...but relationships are harder...they take humbling ourselves, becoming open and transparent, they take time, effort and understanding...they’re risky...and sometimes very costly. But Something we’d better consider when it comes to our picking up the towel in 2016 is Jesus’ new command that followed him washing feet...“a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples. If you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

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