Let us pray: Dear Savior, although we seldom think about it, we all know that a final judgment awaits us at the end of our lives. We know we will have to stand before You and give an account of all we’ve said, done, or thought—throughout our entire lives. Lord, that’s very sobering. None of us measures up to Your standard of perfection in all things. And yet, if we plead Your mercy and believe in it, we will be found to be perfect in Your sight. Re-inscribe that truth upon our hearts today. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR FINAL JUDGE
TEXT: Matthew 25: 31-46
Dearly Beloved in Christ:
What percentage of Americans are in debt today? I couldn’t find hard figures on that, but I can make an educated guess. First, we know that 50 million Americans are currently receiving food stamps. My deduction would be they also have personal debt. Then we have all those students who owe college loans. That’s many more millions. Don’t forget the big enchilada: your mortgage. That’s probably 2/3’s to ¾’s of all citizens. And, of course, credit card debt seems to be omnipresent with most folks. I don’t need to mention the debt our government, or us, owe. It’s huge, currently at: 17 trillion dollars. Debt is omnipresent. The entire economy is based on debt. Doesn’t anyone pay their bills anymore? Doesn’t anyone live within their means?
Eventually, all debt has to be paid. You cannot put the bill collector off forever. It’s always painful when it occurs, too. And so it will be on judgment day, when we are all expected to pay our debt to God Almighty. So, today our question is:
HOW WILL YOU PAY YOUR DEBT TO GOD?
All of us owe a debt to God. It comes with being born. It is the debt of our lives. Everything we do, everything we say, everything we ever think should reflect and is expected to reflect our obedience and thankfulness to God for giving us life. Recall the passage: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Our perfect God demands perfection from His created human beings. This is where the problem arises: we’re not perfect and so our debt to Him has grown exponentially with each passing day. We’re sinners who are dead broke and can never pay it off.
Some just resign themselves to this fate and give up—living for the moment, enjoying their lifestyles of sin and making believe that the Debt Collector will never come to their door. But He will. Judgment Day will come. And then they will be put into the debtor’s prison of hell. Others actually try to pay their debt to God by trying to live out the 10 commandments. Outwardly, they might even seem to achieve this goal. But their attempts are never perfect. And so they fail.
During Holy Week, Jesus took His disciples aside and gave them this word picture of the final judgment that awaits. Surely the disciples would reap the glories of heaven, after all they had labored for Jesus and been loyal to Him. If they couldn’t be saved by their own efforts, no one could. And yet, Judas was in that group and we know they he was lost. Peter was in that group and we know that he had rashly rebuked Christ on one occasion being told: “Get behind me, Satan, you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.” Likewise, in a few days, Peter would blatantly deny His Lord. All the disciples were as imperfect as we are. None could ever pay the debt of love they owed God for their lives.
“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 nations, and he will separate people, one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
Sheep look distinctly different than goats. On judgment day saints or sheep, will also look different than goats, or unbelievers. Saints will have perfect glorified bodies whereas unbelievers will have bodies which show the results of their alienation from God’s goodness.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, (the sheep), ‘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.'”
The sheep are humble. They know just how often they failed in all these avenues of life. They know they did not “love the Lord with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, nor did they love their neighbor as themselves.” And so the sheep ask: “When did we see you like this and do these great acts of love?” In other words, the sheep never plead their own good deeds before God but always are humble. And the King’s answer to them?—”Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
The Christian faith isn’t about us, it’s about God. It’s about living for His glory. It’s about bowing to His will. It’s about putting on His robe of rightness and throwing away our own. It’s about believing and trusting in His goodness to cover all our imperfections. It’s about being forgiven and living that forgiveness every day. It’s about pleading His mercy and acting on it because our mercy is pathetic. It’s about trusting in His grace to cover our shame. Grace that He won for us on Calvary’s cross.
The goats will be asked the same questions and they will give similar answers. However, the goats will be cast into debtor’s prison because they loved themselves more than they loved their Lord. They refused to wear His robe or rightness with God, preferring their own. In short, they don’t have Christ’s perfect life of love to cover their imperfections and that is why they are grotesque in God’s sight. “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
How Will You Pay Your Debt To God? My friends, we never can or will. But Jesus Christ has! He perfectly kept every commandment in our place. He lovingly died to buy us back from sin and Satan’s power. Jesus appeased God’s anger over our debt by paying it for us. And when we plead His mercy in all things, well, since the debt of death has been canceled, eternal life is the only alternative.
A few of us here today have no monetary debts. We’re solvent and it feels good. It’s very liberating. Most of us only dream about that day. But dream no more when it comes to the debt of love you all owe God! It’s yours through faith in your Savior. And so, for you, judgment day will also be your day of ultimate liberation! Amen