The parable of the sheep and the goats that Jesus told in Matthew 25:31-46 seems to convey a simple message. And why not. Jesus was and is known to make things simple. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus used this parable to clear up any ambiguity in an earlier point that He made: “Love your neighbor as yourself”.
As you read through the parable (the sheep and the goats), you will notice that as Christians and as a society in general, we are charge with the responsibility to care for the less fortunate. Further, according to the parable, every crying voice for help that we ignore will be held against us when we stand before the righteous Judge.
New International Version (NIV)
The Sheep and the Goats
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, He will sit on his glorious throne. 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, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters 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, ‘Truly I tell you, 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.”
Who is my neighbor? Many Christians struggle with this question. We know the answer, yet it is difficult for us to accept anyone outside of our family, religious, political and social circles as neighbor. Still, this backward thinking is not a new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, that is exactly how the religious leaders of Jesus’ time felt. They were wrong then, and you are wrong now.
Jesus was and is the ultimate teacher. He knows how to break things down so ordinary people can understand. Hence the reason He used the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer an expert in the Mosaic Law, when he asked: “Who is my neighbor?”
Here is how Luke describe the encounter: Luke 10:25-37, “25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus said to him, “What does the law say and how do you interpret it?”
27 The lawyer answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 And Jesus said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to prove himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Every reasonable human being will admit that we are living in perilous times. And those of us who strive to walk in Jesus’ footsteps can sense that the end is near. Still the Bible tells us: “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
That we do not know when the end comes should motivate us to be ready like the five wise virgins were, unfortunately, that is not the case. Many Christians continue live their lives as they did on the other side of the Jordan.
Brothers and sisters, now is the time for those of us who have lagged behind in our Christian life to step up the pace. We should do this, whether we think the end is near or not. It is the right thing to do. There is no telling what tomorrow brings. Proverbs 27:1 states: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day brings”.
Life is a Marathon, and you do not know how long you will be able to run it. ” Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
Life is short, and many people do not realize how short it is until it is too late. Just as a runner trains and prepares for a race, so must every human being prepares for eternity.
What if you die today?: Where would I go? Heaven or hell?
Friends, according to Matthew 7:13-14, you have two choices. You can choose the narrow gate which leads to heaven or the choose the wide gate with all its glitz and glamour and end up in Hell.
I urge you to, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it. But narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”.
Jesus said in John 14:6, ““I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”.
Temptation is something we all face as Christians, no matter how long we have been following Christ. There are a few practical things, however, that we can do to grow stronger and smarter in our struggle against sin. We can learn how to avoid temptation by practicing these five steps.
Recognize your tendency toward sin.
James 1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own natural desires. The first step toward avoiding temptation is recognize our human tendency to be tempted by our own fleshly desires. Temptation is a given. Do not be surprised by it. Rather, expect to be tempted. Be prepared for it.
Run away from the temptation.
I love the New Living Translation of 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says, “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it.”
Whenever you are faced with temptation, look for the way out that God has promised and then run as fast as you can.
Resist with the Word of truth.
Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is living and active. Did you know you can carry a weapon that will make your thoughts obey Jesus Christ? If you don’t believe me, read 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 One of these weapons is the Word of God.
Though it can be helpful to read God’s Word when you’re being tempted, sometimes that’s not practical. Even better is to practice reading the Word daily, so that eventually you have so much of it inside, you are ready whenever temptation comes. If you are reading through the Bible regularly, you will have the full counsel of God at your disposal.
Refocus with praise.
How often have you been tempted to sin when your heart and mind were fully concentrated on worship to the Lord? Praising God takes your focus off of self and puts it on God. You may not be strong enough to resist temptation on your own, but as you focus on God, He will inhabit your praise. He will give you the strength to resist and walk away from the temptation. May I suggest Psalm 147 as a good place to start?
Repent quickly when you fail.
In several places, the Bible tells us the best way to resist temptation is to flee from it (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Yet still we all fail from time to time. We fail to flee. Notice I didn’t say, repent quickly if you fail. Having a more realistic view—knowing that, at times, you will fail—should help you to repent quickly when you do. It is not the end of the world when you fail, but it is very dangerous to persist in your sin. Going back to James 1, verse 15 explains that sin “when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
This article was originally published on http://www.onewaystreetministries.org
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.