Pleasing God, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ

The Separation of the Sheep and Goats

MATTHEW 25:31-40 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

THEME OF THE DAY: THE SEPARATION OF THE SHEEP AND GOATS.  Today’s scripture is part of Jesus’ last public sermon.  It is known as the Olivet Discourse. There is much to ponder, digest, examine oneself by, and apply.  The exhortations and instructions are to be heeded with a serious reflection.  None more important than what provides the theme of today’s nugget.  Perhaps your Bible has the heading before the text like The Final Judgement or Judgment of the Nations.  What Jesus is describing is the separation of the sheep from the goats, or the true followers of Him (sheep) and those who are not (goats) but might think they are.  Before we look at the distinguishing mark between them, let’s identify one thing that is not a mark separating the sheep from the goats.  It might surprise us.

First, our identity as true sheep in the Lord’s pasture will not be by mere external service of works or using gifts and talents. Now don’t lose me. Works, gifts and talents matter but those are not the first and foremost marks in true Christians.  Jesus exposes the deception in those who think they are – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23). In order for works, gifts, and talents to count before the Lord they must be motivated by love, done in faith, for God’s glory, the good of His people, and without any thought of “what is in it for me” percolating in our hearts.

Now the true mark in God’s people. I want us to discover this together.  Go back and read how Jesus describes sheep.  Okay, now that we are back, what did we observe?  Kindness. Sacrificial acts of kindness meeting the needs of those who could not meet their needs.  We might even call these needy people “the least of these” easily forgotten in the world.  And pay attention to the surprise on those doing this sacrificial service – “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?”  These acts of service were a normal part of their lives. They didn’t pay attention.  It was just who they were. Why?  When the love of Christ controls His people, true ministry occurs; ministry that loves, ministry that is all about people, and doing them good (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

So, sheep or goat?  We will be there.  The Lord will separate us too.  Where are we going to line up?  Sheep or goat side?  Not difficult to determine.  Just look at our lives and how we are serving the least of these as a normal part of our lives.

PRAYER: “Father, help me not to be deceived over what is acceptable in Your eyes. Let me put people first, always.”

QUOTE: “Jesus identifies His sheep by acts of kindness and service to the least of these not our talents or gifts.”

In the affection of Christ Jesus,

Pastor Jim