Last week we consider the “parable” of the Sheep and the Goats. Today, some more thoughts.
First, it isn’t really a parable. A parable is normally a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels. This discourse is more an explanation of the Judgment of the Nations. Jesus only mentions sheep and goats as he points out that the people will be separated like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
When we think of sheep and goats we think of two very different creatures. But in much of the world certain species of these animals really look pretty much alike. It might well take a shepherd to separate them. It is often pointed out that the sheep are rewarded because they treated the least like Jesus, feeding them, visiting them, and so on. But consider, the animals are separated not because of what they do, but because of who they are. Jesus calls the ones standing on the right, “blessed.” They are blessed because they are born again children of God. Yes, they cared for the least; but they aren’t blessed because they cared. They cared because they are blessed.
Consider that Jesus once said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35. When we become His, the indwelling Spirit makes us lovers, Lovers of a greater magnitude capable of agape love. That’s the kind of love that loves unselfishly, like Jesus loved. It’s the kind of love that compels us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit those in prison. The ones who are helped are incapable of returning the favor. We have nothing to gain by our acts, at least not in this world.
If, at times, you become discouraged and begin to doubt your relationship with Our Lord examine your heart. Has He filled you with love? Or you compelled to feed, give drink and visit? If so you’re doing fine. We can always do more, but if you have that love and compulsion to help, you’ve got the right stuff.
Like the sheep, you have a shepherd and are blessed.
Pride is the problem. Pride has always been the problem. It was pride that caused some of the angels to think that they could be God. It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to think that they could be as wise as God. It was pride that caused the Jewish leaders to believe that no good thing could come out of Nazareth. It is pride that makes men believe that they are better at running their lives than the God that created them. It is pride that makes men reject God’s plan of salvation. It is pride that leads men to conclude that God’s gift of salvation is too good to be true and that it requires more from them. It is pride that causes some to conclude that men who don’t worship as they do can not be Christians. It is pride that causes some Christians to conclude that they can become better men through their own effort. It is pride that causes some to believe that Christ’s death was just not enough and that their own effort is required for heaven. It is pride that causes men to say that faith in Christ is not enough, that you most do more. They can’t tell you how much more is enough. But you can be sure that what you’re doing is, for the prideful, not enough.
We often think of pride as a personal problem; but it’s more than that. It affects others. The joy of the Christian life is doing what pleases our Master out of love for Him and not a fear of being found inadequate. The Christian has a commission. He follows His Master’s call because that is what he, as a new man, wants to do. There is persecution and challenge in the Christian life; but there is also joy, peace and and assurance. Don’t let the pride of others rob you of that. Jesus didn’t die for that.
At 33, Jesus had become man, died for the sins of men, arisen from the dead and ascended back to his Father. These days at 33 many folks haven’t left home yet. Consider this one statistic: In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men completed all the major transitions into adulthood by age thirty. These transitions include leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child. By 2000, only 46 percent of woman completed these transitions by age thirty, and only 31 percent of men. In short, among thirty-somethings less than one-third are done with school, out of the house, married with kids, and have a job that pays the bills. “Adultolescence” is the new normal. These statistics come from Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, by Kevin DeYoung (Moody Press). Consider that these statistics are ten years old. I bet things have only gotten worse since them.
Now I realize these statistics may be skewed because today many are not getting married at all, or ever finishing school, or, for that matter, having a child. But really, isn’t it true that this generation doesn’t feel called to accomplish anything? When I was twenty-one, I was married, in the Navy and living more or less independently in California. Within a couple of years I had a couple of kids. Now I hadn’t really completed my education.
I know it isn’t always easy to make a decision. I was in the Navy for 11 years. I got to know a lot of lawyers and knew that I could do what they were doing, but being in the Navy was easy. The world outside seemed frightening. One day my wife and I just talked about it and decided “let’s do it.” We were more than half way to a comfortable Navy retirement. But we took a step. Rose got an education and supported us when I went to law school and became the Florida Gator you all love today. It took awhile to learn God’s will for our lives and, I guess to some extent, we’re still learning that. But the point is that you can’t just sit under a tree and wait for God’s will to become clear. We learn that discerning his will be starts and stops. We take a step, then maybe another. Sometimes we have to back track but at all times we are moving discovering what works and what doesn’t work so well. Lot’s of times it isn’t that his will isn’t clear… it just isn’t easy.
We are blessed in my church with lots of young people who seem to have it pretty much together: married with children and already an important part of the church; but they seem to be the exception. Here’s how DeYoung describes his generation: “We’re not consistent. We’re not stable. We don’t stick with anything. We aren’t sure we are making the right decisions. Most of the time, we can’t even make decisions. And we don’t follow through. All of this means that as Christian young people we are less fruitful and less faithful than we ought to be.”
Perhaps part of the problem is that as a society we have become obsessed with providing safety nets for everyone. If you don’t succeed, we (the government) will take care of you. We want to make sure everyone is “free to find themselves.” As DeYoung says, “Perhaps your free spirit needs less freedom and more faithfulness. Maybe your emerging adulthood should . . . I don’t know, emerge.”
My fear is this “Adultolescence” may be spreading, not just to the youngest of our society, but upward to the older folks as well. God has a specific plan and will for each of us. It won’t come in a letter, a blinding revelation or a prophesy spoken over us. It will come by doing something. He honors each little step of faith by making our direction clearer. But we have to take a step, sitting and watching others walk by won’t do it.
JUST DO SOMETHING and be blessed.
. Far from chastising me, He embraces me with love. He makes me eat at His table. He serves me with His own hands and gives me the key to His treasures. He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways. And He treats me in all respects as His favorite. In this way I consider myself continually in His holy presence.
This is Brother Lawrence’s description of how he is treated by His Lord. Compare your circumstances with those of Brother Lawrence: Brother Lawrence was born Nicholas Herman around 1610 in Herimenil, Lorraine, a Duchy of France. His birth records were destroyed in a fire at his parish church during the Thirty Years War, a war in which he fought as a young soldier. It was also the war in which he sustained a near fatal injury to his sciatic nerve. The injury left him quite crippled and in chronic pain for the rest of his life. He devoted most of his life to his monastery where he worked as a cook and in the sandal shop. Still He considered God “full of mercy and goodness.” He felt embraced with the love of God and a guest at the King’s table where God served him and delighted in him incessantly. He considered himself His favorite.
What is our real concept of God? Do we feel that close to Him and that loved by Him? Why did this monk in constant pain and living a life of servitude feel so honored by God?
Because his life was focused on the continuous acknowledgement of the presence of God. I believe our problem is that we live our life too much in this world and not enough in the spiritual. This world may seem like all that is real; but is it? Isn’t the reality is that we are sons of a King with a guaranteed inheritance and a promise of eternal bliss. If we can get hold of that reality, we can live like Brother Lawrence and enjoy the presence of God.
I receive about a dozen devotionals by email each day. I search them for ideas for this blog. It amazes me how often the same idea flows through many of the devotionals. It is the Holy Spirit at work. He works like the ocean waves affecting many at the same time. Similar ideas arise in different souls at the same time. For some time I have noticed the same idea arising not only in these devotionals, but in my Pastor’s sermons and in Glenn Beck’s Israel event yesterday. It includes don’t fear, get organized, go and make disciples. I think the best word for it is “mobilize.”
“Mobilize” is a verb or action word. It is defined as
1. Prepare and organize (troops) for active service.
2. Organize and encourage (people) to act in a concerted way in order to bring about a particular objective.
The opposite of mobilize is “frozen in fear,” or fearful, inactive, slumber. So the call is “Awake, Arise and Mobilize.” Satan has successfully frozen the people of God. We have all experienced situations in which fear prevents us from acting. In some cases this is good, we are prevented for foolish and dangerous activities. But in the matter of combating evil, Jesus encouraged us to “Fear not” and to “Go.”
The Holy Spirit when He moves doesn’t bring some new revelation, but rather He reminds groups of us of established truth. But He is a gentleman. He encourages and enables; he doesn’t robs of will. A movement occurs when men and women, of their own free will, respond to the call of the Spirit and act.
This call is for united action. We are asked to arise for our individual prayer closets, our pews, our classrooms and sanctuaries, united with others similarly call and move.
He is clearly putting out a call. Are you going to act or is the fear too debilitating? If you don’t act, keep your eyes open. Your going to see something great.
Awake, Arise and Mobilize.