Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Time: Last Judgment (November 12, 2017)

MATTHEW 25:31-46

THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGE 
IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

In the name + of Jesus.

     If you have ever had a conversation with anyone who told you, “My Jesus would never send anyone to hell,” you can tell them that their Jesus is a fraud.  Some try to reduce the Lord to a fuzzy plush toy.  The Bible does not know any god like that, not even the false gods.  The prophet Nahum reminds us that the Lord is not harmless, nor is he one to be toyed with.  Nahum wrote, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.  The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)  This is a God who judges, and he will damn the guilty.  And if Jesus is Lord, this means him.
     The Christian Church confesses week after week that Jesus “will come again to judge the living and the dead.” (Apostles' Creed)  There is a day of Judgment when the Lord will declare to all the world who his redeemed people are.  Jesus said, “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 the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-32)  Jesus will come to judge all nations—whether living or dead, great or small, famous or anonymous.  At this judgment, the Lord will bring his redeemed to heaven, but all others he will condemn to hell. 
     To the righteous, Jesus will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  Then he will proceed to speak of the good which is credited to the righteous.  What is remarkable is the response of the righteous.  They will not say, “That sounds about right.”  They will not boast that they were better or accomplished more.  In fact, the righteous are fully aware that we do not deserve praise from God.  We strive for holiness, but we know that we are not holy.  We are aware of the times we turned a blind eye to those in need or showed people scorn rather than mercy.  That is why the righteous respond, “When did we do these things?”  The righteous do not boast about anything in the Lord's presence or asked to be judged based on their own merits.
     The reason we do not take pride in our works is because we know that even the best we do for the Lord is tainted.  We apply to ourselves the words of Isaiah the prophet: “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)  Even the best we have to offer has been corrupted by sin; and God cannot be pleased with anything that is sinful.
     Our hope is not in our merits or efforts.  That is why the righteous do not appeal to them.  Rather, our hope is in the name of the Lord.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  Jesus has removed every stain of sin from us.  The blood Jesus shed is what purifies us from every sin.  He not only gave his holy, innocent life as a sin offering for us.  He also clothed us in that holy innocence.  He wrapped us in a garment of salvation and gave us credit for his merits.  That is what saves us.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  That is why we can be confident of God's judgment upon us.  Our righteousness comes from Jesus and not from ourselves.
     By contrast, the wicked demand to know why God would regard them as wicked.  When Jesus condemns them for their lack of good works, the wicked want to know, “When did we not do these things?”  Now to be fair, there are many unbelievers in this world who are nice, generous, and charitable.  They may even be able to boast that they have done more good in this world than you have.  But remember what God says about the righteous acts of sinners: “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)  God cannot be pleased with sin and wickedness.  Outside of Christ there is no righteousness.  Outside of Jesus Christ, there is only sin and wickedness.  Nevertheless, the wicked want credit for what they perceive to be good works.  They want to be rewarded for their merits.  But Jesus does not and will not accept their works.  No man shall boast on Judgment Day he has earned a place in God's glorious kingdom.  It is by grace you have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no other way.  The curse remains on all who are outside of Jesus.  Outside of Jesus, there is only death and damnation.
     If people want to insist that God would never send anyone to hell, it is probably because people would rather deny the horrors of hell than flee from them.  Even Christians get uneasy speaking about Judgment Day and the end of the world.  Some of the imagery that our Lord uses is unsettling.  But you, dear Christians, need not fear.  The prophet Nahum warned us, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.  The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)  But the prophet Nahum also declared: “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum 1:7)  
     The Lord Jesus Christ is your refuge in the judgment.  The righteous judge is our righteousness.  He takes away all sin and guilt from you.  If these are gone, then God's anger is removed from you as well.  Jesus purifies you and clothes you in his own righteousness.  If you are holy and blameless in God's sight, then he must be pleased with you.  And he is.  Judgment Day has no fear for those who already know their verdict; and you do.  You are pardoned of all guilt.  You are Christ's redeemed.  You are marked for eternal life.
     When the Last Day comes, you will be gathered before your Lord and Savior, and you will hear him say: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  You will inherit the kingdom.  Now, you know how an inheritance works.  What do you have to do to inherit something?  Nothing!  Inheritances are not earned; they are given.  Someone who knows you and loves you writes your name into a will.  He bequethes to you something that he owned.  You do nothing to get it; it is simply given.
     Of course, you know how the rest of it works, too.  To get your inheritance, someone has to die.  And someone has.  Jesus suffered and died for you.  His innocent life was given on behalf of sinners.  We don't need to work on resumes, trying to convince God why he has to let us into his heavenly kingdom.  Jesus Christ has won this glorious kingdom for us.  The righteous judge is our righteousness. 
     Jesus Christ has written your name into the Book of Life.  He who suffered and died for you knows you and loves you.  He has recorded your name in his blood to make you a child of God.  And if you are a child of God, you are an heir of his kingdom.  Jesus who suffered and died for you is risen.  He lives and ascended to heaven to prepare a place for you in God's heavenly kingdom.  And since he has gone to prepare a place for you, he will come back to bring you to be with him.  That day is Judgment Day.  If you still fear that day, then flee to Jesus. He is your refuge from God's wrath.  He is your righteousness in God's presence.  He is your Advocate, your Defense, and your Savior.  He comes to you now to bring you forgiveness and blessing.  And he will come again to bring you to the kingdom which God has prepared for you since the foundation of the world.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.