Saturday, June 26, 2010

God’s Litmus Test

I have been immersed in prophecy for quite some time and was recently studying Matthew 25:31-46. This passage speaks about Jesus’ second coming when he will divide the believers (sheep) from the unbelievers (goats). As I began to look at this text more closely, God’s barometer for faithfulness is not what most Christians would imagine.

Many of us, myself included, get caught up at times in the rituals of Christianity. We have organized our life to ensure we have time in the Word, time in prayer, time for church. But as we come to Matthew 25, Jesus tells His followers that the faith they placed in Him was demonstrated practically in their lives as they ministered to people’s needs. He never mentions what a devout Christian they were in terms of how often they attended church, Bible studies, or revival meetings, but instead focuses on how they loved and met the needs of others.

It is interesting to also notice that Jesus commends them for their service to the brethren or fellow believers. He tells them that when they ministered to the needs of other believers, they had ministered directly to Him. Given the Holy Spirit resides within each believer, Jesus Himself was affected every time one of these people helped their fellow brother or sister in Christ. This is a powerful thought, isn’t it? I Corinthians 6:17 states, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." Galatians 2:20 says, “Nevertheless, I live yet Christ lives in me.” This theme of Christ residing within in us through the Holy Spirit is emphasized over and over again in the New Testament. Therefore, we can conclude that what is done to me as a Christian is done to Christ and what I do to another believer is also done to Him.

I also wanted to mention, lest anyone believe salvation is attained by good works, that the deeds these people performed did not impart righteousness to them. They already had God’s imputed righteousness through Jesus Christ which is made clear in the preceding verse (34), “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” They have already been blessed by the Father. They are heirs of the Kingdom because of Christ’s sacrifice on their behalf. The good deeds that are described in the following verses (35-36) are just a description of the kindness that flowed out of them during the daily routine of life. It is these very acts that reveal their genuine salvation.

And the acts that are commended are not earth shattering in nature, are they? Christ speaks of giving water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, shelter to a stranger, and visiting the sick, lonely or imprisoned. These are acts we all can do regularly in the normal course of life no matter our status, education, or geographical location. Christ did not say, “When you founded a church, surrendered to the missionary field, or built a school, you did these things to me.” He said a cup of water given to someone in need was given to Him. What an amazing thought - a cup of water, some food, a bag of clothes, shelter for a stranger, time spent with the sick or lonely. These are the demonstrable acts of a life that is completely lost in Christ.

So, this brings us to the most important question, what are we doing to minister to the brethren? Are we doing something? Anything? You know, I have had many Christians tell me over the years that they find it easier to minister to unbelievers because there is no expectation or judgment on their part. What a tragic statement in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew. The Lord never promised the walk would be easy which is why the Scriptures tell us to not forsake the gathering of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:24-25) and to encourage, exhort, and rebuke one another (Titus 2:15). It is precisely because the walk is not easy that we must minister one to another.

So often in the Bible we read how the disciples, especially Paul was discouraged by fellow believers that he himself had led to the Lord. But Paul never quit or lost hope because his focus was always on who he was ultimately serving – Christ. I believe that is the whole key to this passage. These people had the love of God in them that overflowed one to another. Now notice their humble response to Jesus as they ask, “Lord, when did we do these things to you?” They did not say, “Thanks Lord, we already know how great we are.” But that is the mark of true servanthood, isn’t it? It is a completely selfless love that never begs to be noticed or requited. Such is the love of Christ and it is the ultimate litmus test for everyone that claims His name.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

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