Matthew 25 v 31-45

 

William Carey said "Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God."  He founded the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) in 1792.  We held our BMS Sunday this week when we focussed on the work of BMS World Mission.  In the passage in Matthew, Jesus talks about people being separated out when He returns in glory, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He says that when He was hungry or thirsty some people gave him food or water; when He was a stranger they gave Him hospitality; when He needed clothes they clothed Him.  What He meant was that in giving food, water, clothes or hospitality to those who needed them, some people unwittingly gave to Jesus.  As He says "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  In Genesis 18, Abraham gave food and hospitality to three strangers and in doing so met with God.

 

At times, we can be interrupted by someone phoning us and we maybe help them with words of consolation or advice.  Maybe we speak kindly to a stranger in the street or a shop; maybe we help someone in our own family who is in need.  In all these ways, we may find Christ in these people.  If we neglect to do things for others, we may be refusing to help our Lord.  Are we ready to see Jesus in the stranger; are we ready to welcome Him to our home?  There is a tradition in the Greek orthodox church that we would do well to remember - you should never refuse to give hospitality to anyone - it might be God coming to you.  The choices we make in this life on earth have eternal consequences at the judgement day, when Jesus comes to judge the world.  We will be accountable to God for what we have done (or not done).  If we have read this passage in the Bible we cannot make the excuse that we did not know!  BMS World Mission seeks to help people in need through its work in many different countries.  We cannot all be missionaries in other countries, but we can support that work through our giving to the work of the BMS.  For more information about BMS World Mission, go to 

http://www.bmsworldmission.org/ 

 

 

Matthew 5 v 38-48

 

Jesus did not come to do away with the Old Testament law, but to enlarge on its teaching.  The first part of this passage was about people's reaction to being wronged; the law said "an eye for an eye".  But Jesus tried to tell people that kindness was the way to go, and that we could wait for the Lord to handle things and punish people.  Proverbs 20v22 says "Do not say, 'I'll pay you back for this wrong!' Wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you."  Jesus took what had always been there in the law and interpreted it. But we want our just desserts, retribution, our "day in court".  We forget that we were not meant to take the law into our own hands. 

 

This passage in Matthew is a message for 'you'.  The words 'you' and 'your' are used about twenty times in these few verses.  The greatest hindrance to anyone following Jesus is 'me', 'myself' and 'I'.  Concern about ourselves gets in the way of anything else.  The problems in people's lives lie in themselves and not anyone else.  It is much easier to forgive and love our neighbour if they are like us; they will probably forgive and love us back.  But Jesus said that we should love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us; we should go the extra mile for others.  This is much harder to do.  But we can control our response to our enemy.  We can refuse to be their enemy.  We need to be ready in principle to help them rather than to retaliate and get justice; to be ready to give generously and help another person.  

 

In Leviticus 19 v 9-18, holiness is practical.  These verses set out how people were to help others less fortunate than themselves and how they were to behave.  If we try to follow these rules for holy living, we will continue to grow and be completed in Jesus.  Matthew 5 v 48 urges us to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  God is universally kind to everyone.  He showed this by loving us before we even knew Him.  If we bless others, God will bless us and we will show love in a concrete way rather than in the abstract, and it will bring us to repentance.

 

 

1Corinthians 1 v 18-31

 

The cross as a symbol and as the message of the Gospel causes difficulties to various different people.  Because of the shame associated with a crucifixion, in Paul's day preaching about a crucified Christ was "a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles." (v23)  To the Jews anyone "hung on a tree is under God's curse" (Deuteronomy 21v23), so they could not see how this could be part of God's plan for salvation.  We have to remember that the cross was not the sanitized version we have in our churches, or wear as jewellery; it was a horrific execution that was scandalous to the Jews as it was carried out by their Roman enemies.  To the Gentiles it spoke of weakness for someone who was to bring in the kingdom of God to have been put to death on a cross.

 

It is still foolishness to some today who hear the Gospel message and they turn away from it and can get no further.  But without the cross there would have been no resurrection, and that is the core of the Gospel message.  We do not need to be ashamed of the cross.  It is at the foot of the cross, where our Saviour died in our place, that we come come with all our sins and ask for forgiveness.  The cross says that we cannot earn our way to heaven, but it is by the grace of God in allowing His Son to die for our sins that we can have redemption.  Without the resurrection and ascension, we could not have the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us and helping us in our daily lives.  The cross levels us all - our wealth, position, education or any other earthly attributes make no difference between us.  We have all sinned and need forgiveness at the foot of the cross.  The Gospel we preach is righteousness by faith in Christ.  Jesus was unjustly killed on the cross for us.  We need to be dead to our sins, to our own efforts, to our own worldly wisdom, and we must come to the foot of the cross for this is where our salvation starts.  God chose the so-called foolish things of the world to shame the wise and to show us the way to heaven because of His great love for us.