Twenty Six Sermon
There can be no
right and wrong if God has not determined what is right and wrong.
God is the only One who has the right to decide what is right and
what is wrong. We live
during a time of moral relativism. Everyone decides for himself what is right and wrong, good
and evil, true and false. But
if I can decide what is right for me, and you can decide what is right
for you then there really isn’t a right or a wrong.
There are only human opinions that can change. And they do.
When I was a boy
abortion was a crime and abortionists were criminals.
Homosexuality was a shameful perversion to which nobody would
admit publicly. Good boys
and girls kept their virginity until they married.
It was not considered funny to see a child showing disrespect to
his parents. Cursing and
swearing were wrong. Parents,
teachers, and others in authority condemned cheating, stealing, and
lying. There was a general
consensus in our country about what is right and what is wrong.
People debate the
question of whether or not America is a Christian nation. In one sense it is obviously not a Christian nation and it
never was. After all, the
Constitution of the United States forbids the establishment of a
national religion for America. On
the other hand, the Christian religion has had a profound influence on
our country. It has not
been until recently that the standards of right and wrong that are
taught in the Holy Scriptures – specifically in the Ten Commandments
– have been rejected by a significant portion of our country.
But this has most certainly happened.
The permanent standards of right and wrong determined by God
Himself are no longer the standard for our country.
If there are no
objective standards of right and wrong that cannot change there can be
no Judgment Day. By what
standard could anyone be judged if there is no unchanging standard that
applies equally to everyone? When
people no longer believe that God has set down permanent standards of
right and wrong their view of God changes radically.
No longer is God the Judge of the human race.
No longer is the Day of Judgment a real event in the future for
which they must prepare themselves.
The biblical warning to be ready for Judgment Day does not
resonate with people who no longer believe they can know the difference
between right and wrong.
As we come to the
close of the church year we consider Judgment Day.
We know that right is right and wrong is wrong.
We know that the God who made us in His image and who justly
requires that we obey His law has every right to judge us according to
our works. To deny this is
to deny God, His law, and the very concept of justice.
While the moral relativists deny Judgment Day, their denial will
no more prevent this judgment from occurring than denying gravity will
enable a man to fly. Everyone
will stand before the Judge on the last day.
Those whose bodies lie in the grave or have utterly dissolved
into dust will be raised from the dead.
They and those still living will be brought before the Judge.
The God to whom everyone must give an account will judge this
world in righteousness. Everyone
will stand before the Judge to be judged.
Jesus Christ will
be the Judge. Jesus is the
Son of God. He is also the
Son of Man. He is the Son
of God because He was begotten of His Father before time began.
He is true God. There
has never been a time when He was not the Son of God.
He is the Son of God from everlasting to everlasting. He is the Son of Man because He is the true God become a true
man. While He received His
divine nature from His Father from eternity, He received His human
nature in time from the Virgin Mary.
He became the Man to represent mankind.
He is the one and only Man to live the life all of humanity was
required to live. No one
but the Son of Man was the true man in every respect.
He is the one true Man.
Since Jesus is both
true God and true man it is appropriate that He should judge all of
mankind when this world comes to an end.
God will judge. The
perfect Man will judge. He
is one and the same Person. Who
else but the Righteous One should stand in judgment of all flesh?
He is the King of kings. He
purchased His kingdom by shedding His blood on the cross.
He was the suffering Servant.
Who could see in His suffering the eternal and glorious kingdom
that He now enjoys? He did
not appear to be so very glorious.
He looked like no kind of king at all.
He appeared to be weak and helpless.
He humbly endured mockery and slander.
He suffered the curse of God against all sinners.
But in His holy suffering, he defeated all of the powers of hell.
He gained the victory of mankind over the devil.
He crushed the lying head of the serpent. He, the promised Seed of the woman, took away from Satan his
power to accuse God’s children. When
Jesus died His suffering was finished forever.
He descended into hell to declare His victory over the devil and
his demons. He rose from
the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits in glory at the right hand of
the Father. On the final
day of human history when the time has come for everyone to stand before
God and to give an account, Jesus will sit on the throne of His glory
and He will judge this world.
While the religious
left had given up on Judgment Day altogether, the religious right has
embraced the ancient Jewish heresy of an earthly thousand-year reign of
the Christ before the end of the world.
But the Bible knows nothing of the various millennial myths that
preoccupy people’s imaginations and sell millions of books.
Think of the time and money wasted promoting elaborate theories
about pre, post, or mid tribulation raptures, millennial kingdoms,
battles of Armageddon, interlocking obscure passages from the Book of
Revelation with events unfolding in the Middle East.
It’s enough to give the study of the end times a bad name!
In fact, the Bible describes the end of the world very simply.
On a day known only to God, Jesus will return to judge.
He will divide the righteous from the unrighteous.
The righteous will go into eternal life.
The unrighteous will go way into everlasting punishment.
Millennial fantasies notwithstanding, the Apostles’ Creed says
it the way it is: “From thence He shall return to judge the living and
the dead.” The righteous
will go to heaven and the unrighteous will go to hell.
Jesus calls the
righteous His sheep. He
calls the unrighteous the goats. The
sheep belong to the Shepherd. The
goats do not. This is what
Jesus says about His sheep.
hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish;
neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no
one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
I and My Father are one.”
The sheep do not
become sheep by what they do. They
don’t make themselves into sheep.
They are sheep because God has chosen them.
What does Jesus say? “Come,
you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world.” You
don’t choose your own inheritance.
It is chosen for you. The
sheep are of God. Since
they are of God they hear God’s words.
Since they are sheep, they listen to their Shepherd’s voice.
In hearing the gospel that gives them the forgiveness of sins,
God brings them to faith and keeps them in the true faith.
They believe what they hear.
They trust in the Shepherd’s voice because it is the voice that
gives them eternal life. It
is a voice of pardon. They
follow that voice because it is the voice of life.
If you hear the voice of the Shepherd and trust in His gospel you
are a sheep of the Good Shepherd and you are righteous.
If you do not hear the voice of the Shepherd and do not trust in
His gospel you are not a sheep of the Good Shepherd and you are not
righteous. There are only
two kinds of people who will be gathered before the Judge on the last
day. They are identified
here as the sheep and the goats. The
sheep belong to the Good Shepherd.
They serve Him. The goats do not belong to the Good Shepherd.
They do not serve him.
The Good Shepherd
knows His sheep. He
identifies with them. That
is, He joins His identity to them when He makes them Christians.
He shows them the Father. He
serves them. Not that He
can be placed under their authority.
No, the Christians remain under Christ’s authority.
But His authority is exercised in His ministry to them. He rules over them by serving them. This is not like the authority of the world where rulers talk
about being servants of the people while grasping at more and more power
over them so that they can get more and more money, prestige, and job
security. Jesus has no need
for what we have to give. He
has all He needs. He serves
His Christians by washing them clean of their sins in Holy Baptism.
He serves them by teaching them and preaching to them. He sees them falling into sin, false doctrine, and foolish
errors. He loves them.
He seeks them out. He gently corrects them.
He tells them His gospel again and again and again.
He feeds them with His own body and blood by which they were set
free from sin. He does this
so that they can know without any doubt that they belong to God as
God’s dear children. The
sheep of the Good Shepherd love their Good Shepherd.
They love Him because He loves them so much.
These sheep cannot
see Jesus, their Shepherd, but they can serve Him.
They serve Him by serving His Christians. So tightly does Jesus bind Himself to His church that he
regards any good thing we do for His brothers – that is, for His
Christians – as being done for Him.
Before Saul became Paul he persecuted Christ’s church.
Jesus called to him from heaven and said, “Saul, Saul, why are
you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Jesus
is the head and the church is His body.
Whatever we do for those who belong to Christ we do for Christ
Himself. Whatever love we show to our brothers and sisters in Christ,
we show to Christ.
Was not Jesus
hungry in the wilderness and didn’t He cry out in thirst while
suffering for our sins? Was
he not rejected as a stranger even when He came to His own people?
Was He not stripped naked and shamed and nailed to the cross? Did He not bear all of our sins and sicknesses as well?
And wasn’t He suffering the prison of hell itself while bearing
in His holy body and soul the sin of the whole world?
All this He did out of love for us all, to redeem us from sin and
death and the power of the devil. This
is why Christians care for their brothers and sisters.
Christ wants us to see Him in His Christians.
No, they don’t look like Him and they don’t act like Him. But when we show the love described in these words to the
least of Jesus’ brothers, we are feeding Jesus and quenching His
thirst. We are providing
Him with hospitality even when His own people denied it to Him.
We are clothing Him, caring for Him, and visiting Him in His
need. He, who has no need
of any good work we could ever do accepts and praises our feeble works
as being of the greatest value. He
who cannot be repaid for what He has given because the price is
infinitely too great has condescended to accepts the service we render
to our fellow Christians as being given to Him.
The goats, who care
nothing for the forgiveness of sins won by the bitter suffering of
Jesus, can hardly understand what is so precious in these Christian
offerings to Christ. They
think nothing of Christians because they think nothing of Christ.
They do what they do for the reward they get in this life. Whether they are the self-righteous Mason, Jew, or Muslim
working their way to heaven or the self-indulgent hedonist who worships
at the altar of temporal pleasure, they belong to the same class of
people. They think they
have no need of Christ offering up His holy precious blood and innocent
suffering and death for them. They
are not sheep of the Good Shepherd.
They do nothing for Christ or for His Christians.
And because they will not know Him, Jesus will not know them.
He will disown them before the whole world and send them to the
hell prepared for the devil and his angels.
How do we prepare
for the unknown hour of Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment?
We listen. We listen
to the voice of the Good Shepherd. That voice is the heavenly manna of Christ’s flesh and
blood that feeds our souls. It
is the water of life that springs up within us forever quenching our
thirst. It provides the
home of God’s own eternal hospitality.
It covers us with the robe of the blood-bought righteousness of
Jesus Christ that cannot fail us in the Day of Judgment.
It provides the spiritual health that lasts forever.
It delivers us from prison and brings us into heaven where we
will see face to face the Jesus who served us and who graciously
accepted the sin-tainted service we offered to Him.
When you know the Judge of the living and the dead as your Savior
from sin, you are ready for Judgment Day.
So we pray, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly!
Rev. Rolf D. Preus