Sunday, November 18, 2018

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year (Trinity 26)

Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Peter 3:3-14; Daniel 7:9-14

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
“With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” What does this mean? This does notmean that when the Scriptures state that God created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them in six days that we are to understand the word dayto mean millions of years. That is a clever sophism of the devil who delights in twisting and misapplying God’s Word in order to deceive you and to lead you into unbelief. Christians who are quick to appease the world and human reason are all too ready to embrace this Satanic teaching in order to somehow make evolutionary theory appear compatible with the Word of God so that they might not feel so uncomfortably out of step with the world and our culture. However, evolutionary theory and the Word of God are not compatible. In fact, to embrace evolutionary theory is to do extreme violence to God’s Word. It is, in fact, to overthrow it completely, insisting that the word daydoesn’t mean an ordinary 24 hour day, which, consequently, means that the word incarnationdoesn’t mean that God became a human man, that the word virgin birthdoesn’t mean that a virgin miraculously conceived and bore the Son of God, and that the word resurrectiondoesn’t mean that Jesus really and truly rose from the dead in a glorified flesh and blood body and that you will, likewise, be raised from the dead in a glorified flesh and blood body. No, that, to the Lord, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” does not mean that all of God’s Word is metaphorical and is not to be taken literally. Quite the opposite, these words mean precisely and exactly what they say.
The LORD does not experience time the way we do. How could He, for the LORD is the author and creator of time? The LORD is not part of time, or bound up in time, the way we are, but He stands outside of time and He views every moment of time at the very same time. That is what it means that He is “the Alpha and the Omega,” “the First and the Last,” “the Beginning and the End” – and truly He is everything in between as well. This is the LORD our God who has revealed His Name to be YHWH, “I AM,” which means something like, “I AM He who exists, or I AM He who is existence.” The LORD is the source and origin, the Creator and sustainer of all things. All things that areare, and continue to be, because of the ongoing creative and upholding activity of God through the power of His Word which has gone out from His mouth and will not return until He has completed all for which He was sent. This means that the LORD knows you intimately. It is He who created you and formed you and redeemed you, who knit you together in your mother’s womb, who has numbered the very hairs upon your head, who knows your sitting down and your rising up, in whose Book were written every one of the days formed for you when as yet there were none of them. Before you were conceived and born, the LORD knew you and loved you and set in motion a plan of redemption to purchase you back from sin and death and the devil in the holy, innocent shed blood of His Son Jesus. The LORD can do this because he sees all time at the same time, because to the LORD, “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
And so, let us keep this in mind as we consider today’s lections concerning judgment on the Last Day when Jesus returns in the flesh, in glory and with great power as King. In a very real sense, this judgment has alreadyoccurred. The LORD sees it now, before it happens, and He saw it beforeyou were made. Before you were conceived and born in sin, before you committed your first actual sin of thought, word, or deed, the LORD had redeemed you in Jesus. That is why Job could confess over 2000 years before Jesus’ birth, “I knowthat my Redeemer lives.” That is why Abraham was called and Israel was chosen – they were called and chosen in Jesus who, alone, is the Chosen and Elect One. All who are called and chosen, predestined and elect are called, chosen, predestined, and elect in the Called, Chosen, Predestined and ElectOneJesus Christ. That is why, when you show mercy and love and compassion to the least of your brothers you do it to Jesus, for they are called, chosen, predestined, and elect in Him even as you are. Likewise, if you refuse to show your brother mercy and love and compassion, so you refuse, neglect, mistreat, and reject Jesus who dwells in them. To reject your brother is to reject Jesus, and to reject Jesus is to reject His Father, your LORD and God, who sent Him. The end for those who reject their brother in whom Jesus dwells, who reject Jesus and who reject the LORD is eternal punishment in the “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Truly, the LORD’s judgment was rendered in Jesus’ death upon the cross. There, the LORD judged Jesus guilty and condemned Him to death for your sin, and my sin, for the sin of all people of all times and all places, for the sin of the world. Jesus satisfied that debt and its punishment until it was finished and was no more. Jesus’ death was God’s judgment of “Not guilty!” upon humanity in Jesus Christ, but onlyin Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Book of Life. Those whose names are written in Him were written there before the foundation of the world and will never be blotted out. Some falsely devise a doctrine of eternal securityor “once saved, always saved,”from this truth, but that is the result of rationalism and of man’s fallen reason. Eternal security and confidence are not to be found in your name being written in the Book of Life, but eternal security and confidence are to be found in Jesus Christ alone received through faith. Many who once had faith and believed nevertheless rejected Jesus and believe no more. Many others who did not believe were brought to faith in Him or will be brought to faith in Him. Either way, the LORD knew His own before the foundation of the world, and He called, chose, predestined, and elected them in His called, chosen, and elect One, Jesus Christ. Their names were written in Him, the Book of Life, and they will not be blotted out.
Thus, you are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. And, this is true freedom. Nothing is required of you. It is all grace, all gift, free and without strings or condition. Therefore, you are free to love and to serve your brother. Therefore, you must love and serve your brother, for the love and mercy, grace and forgiveness of Jesus has been given to you and fills you and flows through you. Loving and serving your neighbor should not even be something you have to think about, but it should be natural, flowing from you and through you because you are filled with more love and mercy, grace and compassion than you can possibly contain. But, there is a great temptation to be greedy and selfish, to be only self-interested and not selfless and sacrificial, because the deceiver deceives you into believing that the Lord is not coming, at least not soon, and that this life and its pleasures and pursuits is all there is. Don’t you believe it! It is a lie, and you know it! St. Peter warns you that scoffers will come in the Last Days with scoffing. They will say, “Where is the promise of His coming? Things only continue on as they have before.” And, you know that this is true. But, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Likewise you must be patient with your brother and your neighbor. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
What “will be exposed” are your works. But, you need not fear that embarrassment anymore than you should put your trust in your works, for your works are not meritorious, but they are the fruit of your faith in Jesus. Your works are, in fact, the work of the Lord performed through you. For, you are a branch grafted into the True Vine Jesus, and it is His lifeblood that flows through you to make you fruitful with His fruits, the fruits of faith which are all good in the eyes of the LORD. And, because your works are the fruit of the True Vine Jesus borne in you and through you, oftentimes you are not even aware that you are performing and bearing them, no more than an apple tree is aware that it is producing apples. It is simply what you do because you are a branch of the True Vine Jesus, because you are a Christian. That is why those on the right, the sheep, in Jesus’ prophetic parable do not recall feeding their hungry Lord or giving Him drink. They do not remember welcoming Him, clothing Him, or visiting Him. Yet the Lord replies that, whenever they did these things to the least of His brothers they did it to Him.
The point is that, when the Lord returns in glory on the Last Day to judge the sheep and the goats, they, we, are already sheep and goats. This is easily discernable to the Lord, though it is difficult for us to discern. The Lord will know His sheep by their works of love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness – sheep do sheepy things. However, the sheep are simply being sheep, doing what sheep do. Therefore, they are surprised when the Lord praises them and rewards them for simply being sheep. This is how it is for those in Christ: Doing good works, loving and serving your neighbor, forgiving and bearing with and enduring one another – this is simply what you do, without thinking of it, without counting the cost, without resentment or sense of loss. For, there truly is nothing to lose, for this world and life are passing away and are “stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” Just keep doing sheepy things, all the while being cared for and protected, fed and nourished and equipped by your Good Shepherd in the pasture of His Church.
The LORD sees you and He knows you. He sees and knows your works and your fruit. He sees and knows your faith and your trust in Jesus that make you fruitful. It is your faith that He sees and knows, which His Holy Spirit created in you and sustains even still, but the LORD did not predestine, call, choose, and elect you in view of your faith, but, rather, you have faith because you are predestined, called, chosen, and elect in the LORD’s Elect One Jesus Christ. For, once you were a goat, but the LORD has called you to be a sheep. And, the LORD’s sheep do sheepy things. They are meek and humble, they are selfless and sacrificial, they are gracious and merciful, just like their Shepherd. And, they are cared for and nourished, strengthened and protected in the goodly pastures of Christ’s Church, in which they are washed clean in holy water and His precious blood, are fed, nourished, and strengthened by His holy Word and body, and are equipped and sent by His Holy Spirit to be His hands and His heart, His mouth and His voice inthe world, but not ofthe world. Indeed, you have been predestined, called, chosen, and elect to dwell in His kingdom now, and to inherit it in Jesus Christ as an heir when the King comes in power and great glory on the Last Day. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Come.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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