No Surprises

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" “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” " (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV)



Church needs to become more than a Sunday drive.

I don’t want to be surprised when I stand before God.  I don’t want to discover that the things that I considered to be so important were of no eternal consequence.

Scripture in Matthew tells us of some surprised people who stood before God.

In Matthew 25 there are 3 parables.  They are the parable of the ten foolish virgins, the parable of the talents, the parable of the sheep and goats.

Group #1, the righteous the scripture calls them, were surprised at the eternal significance of their actions.

They had no consciousness of the good that they did.  It was a life pattern most likely.  Something that they did from their very nature.

Record keeping – these people were not record keepers.

They were not transactional in their relationships.  If you cannot do something for someone without and expectation of return then you are really not acting out of kindness – you are acting out of selfishness.  If by an act of kindness I find myself feeling obligated to “pay back” then I am merely being placed in a position of obligation.  Jesus talks about “one-handed” giving.

Commend Neighborlink volunteers.

Dave the UPS driver.

Group # 2 - the cursed, were shocked at the eternal significance of their inaction.

Self-absorbed and unconcerned for the needs of others.  They were guilty by virtue of what they failed to do.  There are many good reasons to excuse yourself from this

To him who knoweth the good that he ought to do and doeth it not to him . . .

Group #3 -  is represented in Matthew 7:15-23.  They were surprised at the eternal insignificance of their actions. 

They had done things that you and I may never do.  Miracle working, casting out demons.  The more spectacular sorts of things that we tend to offer as the presence of God working mightily in the church.

The great tragedy is that we fail to see Jesus and greater still that he is a stranger to us.

It’s that “Be Thou My Vision Thing” – we can’t be like Jesus if we don’t know what he’s like.  It’s an even worse statement from the Matthew 7 account – I didn’t know you.

Only one life – so soon it will pass – only what’s done for Christ will last.

Two little lines I heard one day,
Travelling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in that day my Lord to meet,
And stand before His judgment seat;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me, Father, a purpose deep,
In joy, or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

It was a quiet December evening on Ward C43, the oncology unit at Georgetown University Hospital.  Many of the rooms around the central nurses' station were dark and empty, but in Room 11 a man lay critically ill.

The patient was Jack Swigert, the man who had piloted the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 and was now Congressman-elect from Colorado's 6th Congressional District.  Cancer, the great leveler, now waged its deadly assault on his body.

With the dying man was a tall, quiet visitor, sitting in the spot he had occupied almost every night since Swigert had been admitted. Though Bill Armstrong, U.S. Senator from Colorado and chairman of the Senate subcommittee handling Washington's hottest issue, social security, was one of the busiest and most powerful men in Washington, he was now visiting this room night after night as a powerful politician.  He was here as a deeply committed Christian and as Jack Swigert's friend, fulfilling a responsibility he would not delegate or shirk, much as he dislikes hospitals.

This night Bill leaned over the bed and spoke quietly to his friend "Jack, you're going to be all right.  God loves you.  I love you.  You are surrounded by friends who are praying for you.  You're going to be all right."  The only response was Jack's tortured and uneven breathing.

Bill pulled his chair closer to the bed and opened his Bible. "Psalm 23," he began to read in a steady voice. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...."

Time passed.  "Psalm 150," Bill began, then his skin prickled. Jack's ragged breathing had stopped.  He leaned down over the bed, then called for help.  As he watched the nurse examining Jack, Bill knew there was nothing more he could do.  His friend was dead.

Politicians are busy people, especially Senate committee chairmen. Yet, it never occurred to Bill Armstrong that he was too busy to be at the hospital.  Nothing dramatic or heroic about his decision -- just a friend doing what he could.  Holiness is obeying God -- loving one another as He loved us.

   -- Kingdoms in Conflict, by Charles Colson


[1]  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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