Sermon for Dec 18

By on December 18, 2016

The Gift of a New Style of Living

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC on 18 Dec 2016

Matthew 25:31-46

NIV Matthew 25:31 ¶ “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

Christmas is a transformational season!  Look around, no other season throughout the year causes us to this extent to change our music, put lights on our houses, decorate our homes, and of course, partake in gift giving.  In the church calendar, only the season of Lent and Easter rivals Advent and Christmas in terms of preparation.

 

Even amidst our cultural celebration, there are stories about transformed lives.  Who can forget Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic, A Christmas Carol, and its Dr. Seuss counterpart, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In each story, a seemingly incorrigible character finds the true joy of Christmas and then has a changed life expressed in showing love to people by good deeds.

 

For religious people, there are morals in these Christmas stories that speak to us.  Jim Moore has two pithy sayings in his book: “unless religion changes your life, it is a farce” and “creeds need to be translated into deeds.”

 

In our scripture text for today, Jesus spoke of his second advent, when he comes in his glory, not as a baby, but as righteous judge to assess the faith of those before him.  What we see is Jesus expects a compelling, contagious, and convincing faith that fully lives the commitment to love God and love people.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

Once again, we face a text in our series that is not a traditional Christmas text.  But if the Christian gospel is that we would learn to love God and love neighbor because of the Christ child’s coming, then this text is very relevant to our understanding of the Christmas message.

 

The point of Jesus’ teaching is very clear.  Our faith must cause us to not only love God, but show love for our fellow humans.  Jesus describes the very needs of our existence and it becomes a charge for us to keep.  Jesus describes the acts of providing food, clothing, visitation, and comfort as the usual practice.  Jesus can proclaim that we’ve done these things to him as we have done them to others.  What is striking is that those who deliberately do not show compassion to others are counted as with the wicked.  What Jesus is teaching then, is an authentic faith that is more than assent; it informs how we live our lives.  It leads to a new style of living.

 

Into Our Experience

 

As we break down this faith, we begin with the idea that it is a compelling faith.  A compelling faith is one in which our faith is translated into action.  We understand this.  Our faith is why we pray.  Our compelling faith prompts us to give generously as individuals and as a church.  I’m proud that our giving as a church is over $4,000 for missions and benevolence which is roughly 15%.  Our faith turned into action continues to supply food for the needy and will soon be expressed with helping those who need medical equipment.  We’re not just talking about it, we’re doing it!  That is compelling faith.

 

When people see a compelling faith coupled with love, they witness a contagious faith.  God set the example for us in the birth of Christ, for God so loved the world that he sent his son.  Why isn’t faith contagious then?  Jim Moore answers that the most effective argument for Christianity is a real Christian.  He echoes what John Wesley preached and taught.  Real Christianity takes seriously the two aspects of love: to God and neighbor.  It takes seriously the call to holiness without condemning judgment.  It puts into action the proclamation of God’s gift of salvation for eternity as well as God’s people meeting the social needs of the day.

 

When people practice and witness a compelling and contagious faith, it becomes a convincing faith.  What does it take for faith to become convincing.  Jim Moore illustrates this with the story of a badly burned boy.  He was expected to recover, but had become depressed and unresponsive, just lying there waiting to die.  However, a tutor came by to teach him all about grammar.  And the next day, he began fighting for his life and responded to treatment.  He later told the tutoring teacher that he didn’t believe he would live, despite what the doctors had said.  But after her visit, he figured if they were going to tutor him in dangling participles, well then he wasn’t going to die.

 

See the point of the story.  Telling him he was going to live didn’t convince.  Neither did reassurance.  It took action.  We see the same parallel with Christmas.  God’s creation and revelation help to tell us of a loving God.  The prophets and the scriptures contain God’s word.  However, it is the gift of Christmas that convinces us beyond doubt that God loves us and desires for us all to be saved.

 

Today’s sermon challenge is for us to demonstrate compelling, contagious, and convincing faith at Christmas and beyond.  Where can we make a transformational difference?  Jesus says, when you show tangible love and helps to the least of these, you have done it unto him.  May God grant us grace so that our actions compel and convince someone of the power of God’s love so that it becomes contagious!  Amen.

 

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