by Pastor Donald J Gettys
Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.
What is True Religion?
I would like to talk to you this morning about True Religion, or it could be called, The Sheep and the Goats. Let me tell you that there won't be any goats in heaven! Come with me to this fascinating story that was our scripture reading today - Mt 25:31-40 - beginning with verse 31, The story of the sheep and the non-sheep, the goats.
Part 1: JESUS is COMING Notice verse 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.
Someday for sure, Jesus Himself will come. He will come in Glory. Quickly filling the skies with brilliant magnificence and splendor. Billions of bright shining angels will be with Him. Why are the angels there? Well, this is a picture of the judgment, so what part do the angels play? You've been watching the trial of President Clinton and the Senate and the House. What part do the angels play? They are the witnesses in the up and coming trial. They witness everything that we do.
Jesus, when He comes, will be sitting. He will not be standing. He will be sitting on His awesome throne. This throne is not the first time. Jesus actually sits on the throne three different times. The first was prior to His incarnation. Then after He ascended He was once again enthroned. The final coronation as King of the universe will happen at the close of the millennium. The KING of the universe Arrives on planet earth.
PART 2: JUDGEMENT - verses 32 and 33. 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. Jesus is the Shepherd of shepherds. we are the sheep, or the goats. Here we see the future fully opened before us in a lofty panorama of the Great Judgment day. All the nations will be there. EZEKIEL 34:17 As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats." So He's going to separate them.
Verse 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Where will you be? Where will I be? There will be a holy segregation as He separates these two.. A separation of every human being into one of just two classes. The right and the left. The righteous and the wicked. The sheep and the goats. Every person is classified as one of two animals. We are His flock and He is our Shepherd.
Come back here to Zechariah in the Old Testament. Oftentimes God classifies His people as animals. ZECHARIAH 13:7 says: "Awake, O sword against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!" declares the Lord Almighty. "Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones." He is the shepherd, we are the sheep.
Every one of us is either a Sheep or a Goat. At the time of the judgment Jesus separates the sheep and the goats from each other. Whose job is it to separate them? Is that the nominating committee, or the church board? Does that belong to you, or to me? No! It belongs to Jesus Christ. He is the separator. In Bible times, and even today you can see sheep and goats often mingled together in one flock. They don't keep them in separate flocks.
So it is obvious that both the sheep and the goats are mixed together until the judgment. They coexist at the same time. Even in the same church. They sometimes live together in the same house! There can be sheep and goats. In fact, you might even be married to an old goat! In fact, if the truth were known, you might be the old goat, and think you are one of the sheep!
Adam and Eve thought their first born was a sheep, but Cain turned out to be an old Billy goat. He daily butted heads with Able.
Before we go to part 3 which describes the rewards of these two animals let us make sure we know the difference between a sheep and a goat. Do you know the difference between a sheep and a goat? You say, "well, sure I do." Are you sure? Many shepherds have to be very careful that they don't get them mixed up.
They have many similarities.
The Palestinian Sheep have loosely hanging ears, so do the goats.
The sheep have a split hoof and are clean animals. So are the goats.
Both animals chew the cud.
Both can be sheared to provide a useful material from which many things can be manufactured for human use.
Both go in flocks and eat grass from the pasture.
Both can have horns.
Both can be the same color.
Both have about the same life-span.
Now, there are some distinguishing differences between sheep and goats. One is their tail. The Palestinian sheep have broad fat tails. One tail can weigh from 10 to 15 pounds, even 20 pounds! But the goat's tail is short and sticks up. And their temperament is different.
Sheep are timid, defenceless, patient in suffering, vulnerable to danger, trusting, easily led, they want to follow the Shepherd, gentle, quiet, innocent, kind. What about the goats?
When I was a boy we had two goats. Minnie and Winnie. They were pets, so I can tell you a little bit about goats. I can tell you from experience that goats are PUSHY. They want to horn in on you. We had a small hill in our yard that consisted of dirt that had been excavated when our basement had been dug. I can tell you that goats spent a good deal of time on top of that little hill. They always seek the highest place. They want to be the top dog, or the top goat. Many a time those goats butted us kids down that hill. I'll never forget that.
Goats have quick short tempers. Have you ever heard the expression: "You get my lamb!" No. But how often we hear: "You sure get my goat!" Goats are self sufficient. Goats are selfish. They don't like to follow. They would rather lead. (Jeremiah 50:8) They're head-strong. A goat always has to be right. They don't require so much care as sheep. Goats are naturally quarrelsome. They even smell bad. Excessively ill-scented! Try drinking goat's milk some time. Hold your nose. Goat's milk is not bad. It's good for you, I understand, if you are a milk drinker. And Goats are still a contemporary symbol of occultism. No wonder Satan is represented as an old goat. The wicked in the last days are represented by the goat.
Now that we know the difference let's go to part 3: the rewards are given to these animals.
PART 3: THE REWARDS ARE GIVEN
Matthew 25:34 "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.'" Now notice how we get the kingdom. It is not legalism. It is not given to the sheep that produce the most wool. Eternal life is INHERITED! It is a gift that is bequeathed or handed down to the sheep. All that is required is that Jesus is your Shepherd and you are His sheep. Now, He's not your shepherd if you're not following Him, of course. You follow someone you love.
Ever since the days of Creation God has been saving back, holding back your inheritance, and He will give to you at the great judgment day, at the end of the world.
When push comes to shove, the one YARDSTICK that we will be measured by is what we have done for others. You can notice this here as we read these verses here in Matthew the twenty fifth chapter. God will judge us according to our response to the needs of other people.
You see, sheep give while they live. They are always shearing the sheep. And you might think that the only reason I exist is to be sheared. Well, that might be true. Sheep don't mind giving. That's a characteristic of a sheep. They live to serve the master. Their very covering is shared with others. Notice how Jesus compliments His sheep:
"Our eternal destiny will be determined by what we have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering." Desire of Ages, p. 637 - EG White I want to give to the poor and the suffering. Sheep don't begrudge their giving role, they give willingly.
Notice how Jesus compliment His sheep. Matthew 25:35, 36 "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, 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."
The sheep inherit eternal life, because of their love for their Shepherd. That love causes them to be willing to lay down their life to serve others.
Notice the simple things in these verses that God's true followers do:
I was hungry and you gave me food. Now, that's nothing fancy, is it? It doesn't say you prepared a banquet before Me. You brought over all kinds of exotic things. It doesn't say that. The next one says
I was thirsty and you gave Me water. Is that very hard? "But you did give it to Me. You gave Me water. You cared for Me. You gave me something simple." There's nothing fancy that's required.
I was a homeless stranger and you provided a place for Me. You invited Me in.
I needed clothes and you clothed Me. That's what the sheep will do. That's what God's people will do.
I was sick and you gave Me help, you brought Me a card, you prayed for Me, you called Me, you visited with Me, you just sat there and I appreciated that, you looked after Me.
I was in prison and you came and visited Me.
The best proof that we love God is our love for those who suffer. James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. That's pure religion. You're going to go out and help somebody else.
True Religion is more than going to church. It is not rites and ceremonies. True religion is displayed in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to those who suffer needs, in acts of genuine KINDNESS. If you hear of somebody's family is about to go on the rocks call them up and help them. Invite them over to your house. Minister to them. Help them, they need help. These genuine acts of kindness will be done by God's sheep.
John 21:16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He (Peter) answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep." The evidence that you are a true Christian is the fact that you care for somebody else. That's the evidence. Not in the tithe records, Not in the attendance at church, not in your bible study or your Sabbath School study, although all those things are important. Do you love people that are hurting?
SHEEP help SHEEP! When you care enough to help by providing food, water, shelter, and clothing you are caring for others in the manner Jesus talked about here in Matthew 25.
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. James 1:27 KJV
When somebody's is about to get their electricity cut off because of a lack of money, help them.
When someone is about to get evicted, help them.
When someone is in the hospital, visit them. Pray for them, send them a card or flowers. Show your love for them. Try to meet their needs.
We call this disinterested Benevolence.
I John 3:14 Here's how you know that you're saved: We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. That's how you know that you're save. You have life, eternal life IF you love your brother. The sheep minister to the needs of the destitute. The goats do not care or don't take the time to care. The goats in fact can be somewhat responsible for the condition of the poor and distressed. Old goats seem to have very little mercy for others.
Notice in Romans 12... I'm immersing you in scripture so that you can see that this is a theme of God's Word. And I think that every sermon needs to be preached from God's Word. That's where the power is.
Romans 12:18-21 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. So you don't have to go out and hurt somebody. That's God's job to revenge and repay. "On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. There's a chance you'll convert that person by doing something nice to him.
Are you aware that when you feed the hungry you are feeding Jesus? When you deliver a load of firewood to the cold house of the poor you have just warmed Jesus! You're actually helping the Savior by helping somebody else. The sheep do not realize that to help the needy is to serve Jesus.
Matthew 25:37-40 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "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.'"
Lets roll up our sleeves and help people. Let's get connected with Jesus, and we will be helping people.
Misfortunate. Loss of work, fire, disaster
Sickness. Cancer, MS, flu, Parkinson's....
Death. Widows. Orphans. Widowers.
Invalids. From accident or sickness. Shut-ins.
Go out and help them. Bankruptcy, they're getting a divorce: help those people.
The acts that were praised by Jesus were not big or spectacular projects, just little simple acts of human love. Love flowing from unselfish hearts. It doesn't take much to help somebody. If you don't have the thousand dollars, just go out and pray with them. Love, flowing from your unselfish heart will be felt.
I want you to know that everybody in heaven cares for everybody else. They're all going to be sheep.
Every deed of kindness that you do to uplift a fallen soul is accepted as being done personally to Jesus Christ himself.