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Sheep or Goat?

November 26, 2017

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Last Sunday                               Trinity Lutheran Church

26 November 2017                  Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Matthew 25:31-46


Judgment Day is separation. Dividing. Division. Sheep from the goats. Believers in Jesus from unbelievers in Jesus. It’s really that simple. Believers in Good Friday Jesus rise to eternal life. Unbelievers to eternal condemnation. Sheep on the right. Goats on the left. Jesus is the dividing line between them.


The sheep, believers, on Jesus’ right hand hear nothing but blessing. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared FOR YOU from the foundation of the world.” They receive a gift that has been in the works since before the beginning of the world. God was at work preparing the gift of salvation in Jesus for them before they were born. Salvation in Jesus is an INHERITANCE. Pure gift. Not wages in exchange for work. Not worth based on merit. An inheritance is a gift based not on what you do but on the good graces of the One who is giving out the gifts.


This is the Bible’s teaching of election in grace. God has been working for your salvation since the foundation of the world was laid. He made His promise to Adam and Eve in the garden FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION. FOR YOU He called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. FOR YOU He guided Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness to the Promised Land. FOR YOU He caused His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, the Son who suffered, God Friday-ly died and Easter-ly rose again. FOR YOU God brought you to holy baptism. FOR YOU He preaches the good news of salvation. FOR YOU He brought you here today to eat and drink His Son’s Good Friday body and blood. Everything has been worked out so that Jesus could hand you the kingdom on the Last Day and say: “Here, it’s all yours. Your Father has been working on this for a long time.”


Because the sheep believe in Jesus their works will be judged as good. As righteous. Did you hear what I said? Better say it again. Works are only good in God’s sight when they are done via FAITH ONLY IN JESUS FOR SALVATION. Faith in Jesus frees believers to love others. That’s God’s good use of His believers as they live their lives before the Last Day comes. Saved in Jesus the sheep just naturally help people. Serve them. Love them. The hungry, thirsty, foreigner, naked, sick and the prisoner. The shape of the Christian life is twofold: faith in Jesus (that’s what saves) and love (not for salvation but for the sake of those in need).


Faith is a good tree that bears good fruit. Faith in Jesus does what comes naturally. Like an apple tree bearing apples. Pepper plants producing peppers. The believer does exactly what God wants done in the world. And from the right motivation: works of love are done not to get saved but because you are saved. So, faith feeds the starving, gives a bottle of water to the parched, clothes to the uncovered, welcomes the stranger, visits the sick and incarcerated. Simply because people need your love. The believer is like Jesus. We live not to be served but to serve and to live our lives sacrificially – for the sake of others.


Today, the Lord’s parable provokes the big theological question. ARE YOU A SHEEP OR A GOAT? Are you a believer or are you an unbeliever? Are you at the right or the left?


Well, the answer AT THE MOMENT is: YES! I’m both right now. Yes, that’s right. I meant what I said. It’s true. Our sinful nature and the Ten Commandments tell us that we are undeniably goats by nature. We have neglected the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned. In our own families, congregation and community! And whatever we have tried to do is not nearly enough. It doesn’t measure up.


However, Good Friday Jesus and His Good Friday wounds and blood proclaim that we are sheep of the Good Shepherd’s flock. You have been branded with His cross in holy baptism. You have been given His Good Friday seal of forgiveness and adoption by the Holy Spirit. In Christ’s mighty absolution the Lord raises up sheep – you who trust in Jesus and not in yourself. The Lord buries the goat your old sinful nature in His Son’s Good Friday death because He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. The Lord raises the sheep in the life of the Lamb who lives.


Daily dying to sin and daily believing in Jesus is what your baptismal life looks like. Scripture calls it REPENTANCE AND FAITH! Repentance and faith are what the parable intends to work in you today and every day until either you die or Jesus returns in glory – whichever comes first. The parable is to turn goats into sheep by turning away from your sin and turning toward Jesus who is your Savior. Every day the sinner, the goat, must die. Every day the believer, the sheep must rise. Only God does this through His Word!


Before I quit preaching this morning, just a few more remarks. Are you ready? Good. Here goes. Repentance means to be turned around in your thinking. To be changed in your mind. To have a new identity and a new way of looking at yourself. Once you saw yourself a goat with Jesus as your condemning Judge. Now because of the gospel of His Good Friday forgiveness given to you today you see yourself as a sheep with Jesus as Your Savior Shepherd King.


Remember, (are you listening?) on the Last Day you will not be judged by what you do but rather by WHAT YOU ARE! You do not do works to inherit God’s kingdom. You do works of love because God’s kingdom is already yours through faith in Good Friday Jesus.


You don’t feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and imprisoned in order to be sheep at Christ’s right hand. You do those things because YOU ARE SHEEP at His right hand. And there is the wonderful promise from Jesus Himself: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”


In the Name of Jesus.

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