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God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for others

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Read: Matthew 25

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’
“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.'” (Matthew 25:10-12)

Reflect:

This chapter has three parables that Jesus told to warn people that they would be judged by God at a certain time for their deeds on earth. Judgement is not a popular idea today, or, I imagine, in Jesus’ day. No one likes to be told that their present way of life doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standard. But Jesus told at least three parables warning of coming judgement, so I need to take notice.

In the first parable, the virgin brides are judged on whether they are ready to receive their groom.

In the second, the servants are judged on the way they managed their master’s money in his absence; on whether they were faithful or not with the tasks that he gave them.

In the third parable, the people are judged on how they responded to Jesus in his “distressing disguise” (as Mother Teresa described it); how they responded to the sick, poor, hungry, thirsty, needy, imprisoned.

crux:

God will judge people on their response to his Son, their faithfulness with his gifts and their love for their neighbours.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are the Good Judge, the Just and Fair Judge, the Righteous Judge.

You have the right to judge because you are our Creator and King.
You have the right to judge because you are Righteous and True.
You have the right to judge because you are Steadfast and Sure.
You have the right to judge because you are Love and Light.
You have the right to judge because you are God, the only God.

Please grant me mercy LORD, for I am a sinner, guilty before you, in need of the forgiveness won by your Son for me.

Please enable me to keep watch; to stand firm in faith and be ready to receive Jesus Christ when he returns to claim his kingdom. Please help me to be faithful with the gifts you have given me through your Spirit; please help me to use them wisely and generously to equip your saints for the good works you prepared. Please help me to care for my neighbours, especially my family and my church.

Amen.

Miraculous

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah

Read: Matthew 11

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see.” (Matthew 11:2-4)

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. (Matthew 11:20)

Reflect:

Having spoken to his twelve chosen disciples and completed their Basic Training (Matthew 10), Jesus now faces the responses of other people to his teaching and preaching.

Word had spread to John the Baptist, imprisoned for his own politically incorrect preaching. John, perhaps not unreasonably given his circumstances, had begun to doubt his own prophetic ministry. Had it all been a mistake to preach repentance and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ?

Jesus said John must not look to his own situation, but instead look to Jesus and see in Jesus the fulfilment of John’s prophetic message. As John found out more and more about the miraculous deeds Jesus was performing, he would stop questioning his own downfall and start appreciating Jesus’ glory. This is good advice for anyone who doubts God because of the issue of suffering: look instead to Jesus and you will find comfort.

On the other hand, Jesus condemned the people who had witnessed his miracles and yet had not put their faith in him. The more someone knows about Jesus, the more God will hold them accountable for their rejection of him. This doesn’t mean that people who haven’t heard the name of Jesus will be held guiltless – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But “woe” to those who have heard and seen, yet not repented nor believed. Their judgement will be even more dire.

It might seem harsh, but you, dear reader, need to know that this applies to you as you read this blog and see Jesus proclaimed here. It applies to anyone who has ever attended a church service, a Bible study, a Sunday School class, a Youth Group devotion time, a Scripture in School class, a Christmas Carols service. It applies to everyone who ever glanced at a Christian pamphlet handed to them in the street, or turned the other way when they caught the words of the street-corner preacher. It applies to people who grew up with Christian parents but went their own way when they left their parents’ home.

If you know even a smidgeon of the truth about Jesus and have chosen to reject him, then woe, indeed, to you.

crux:

The miracles of Jesus prove that he is the Messiah.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for making it plain and obvious that Jesus was your Son, your anointed King, the Messiah who was to come. Thank you for showing this truth to Matthew, to John the Baptist and his disciples, to the unrepentant towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin – and to me and to the readers of crux.live.

May your glory, the glory of Jesus the Messiah, be known through all the earth.

Please answer my doubts by your Word. Please calm my fears by your Counsellor. Please show me the sins of which I still need to repent.

Please keep my eyes on Jesus, so I will follow him as I marvel at his miracles. Please keep me faithful in my faith and unwavering in my belief, in my everyday ordinary life through all the hours, days, weeks and years until I die or Jesus returns.

Amen.

Discern

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right

Read: Matthew 7

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matthew 7:15-16a)

Reflect:

Jesus’ words hold a conundrum. He tells the crowd not to judge. Yet he follows this up with a series of instructions for godly discernment.

Jesus says we need to judge ourselves, examine our own faults and failings before eradicating them. Only when we judge ourselves may we judge others in ways that help them. Jesus says we should judge others enough to determine if they are “dogs” and “swine” (words which may possibly have been cultural slurs for Gentiles and religiously unclean people). Then when we’ve judged we can decide whether the sacred would be wasted on them. Jesus says we should judge prophets, people who claim to speak God’s message. We are to judge them by their “fruit”, the results of their life and ministry. When we have judged them, we’ll know whether to listen to their words or reject their message.

All this judging is perhaps more correctly described as discernment – distinguishing between right and wrong, righteous and unrighteous. In all this discernment, we must be careful, because God will judge us just as harshly and strictly as we judge others.

crux:

It is wrong to be judgemental, but discernment is right.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You have set a plumb line in the heavens. Your Son said, “No one comes to the Father, except by me.” You say through the apostles, “No other name is given to men by which they must be saved.”

Your Son spoke of ferocious wolves, of weeds planted among wheat, of rootless plants that flourish briefly before falling away. Not all who claim to know you and say they speak truth do so. Please make me faithful, honest and righteous in all I say and do to glorify your name.

Please grant me discernment to know when to listen and when to block my ears.
Please grant me discernment to know when to agree and when to disagree.
Please grant me discernment to identify the planks in my own eye as well as any false prophets in my own denomination.
Please enable my discernment to be godly and wise.

Amen.

Standard

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness

Read: Matthew 5

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)

“…I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” (Matthew 5:22a)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Reflect:

Jesus sets the bar extremely high for entry into heaven’s kingdom.

Granted, John the Baptist declared the Pharisees to be a “brood of vipers” (3:7) which is possibly akin to calling them “sons of Satan.” But to the Jewish layman, the Pharisees must have seemed the strictest, most actively religious Jews around. Yet Jesus said even their upright behaviour was not enough to get them into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus took a few strictures from the Law and drew them tighter still. Don’t murder: don’t even call a fellow believer a nasty name. Don’t commit adultery: don’t even think lustful thoughts; and don’t divorce your wife thinking you’ll be free to remarry, because that will bring even greater condemnation upon you.

Then Jesus expands on the positive commands of the Law. Fulfil your vows: and when you say even a simple “Yes” or “No,” keep this as an absolute promise. Just recompense may be sought lawfully: but extravagant generosity, reckless kindness and radical hospitality are even better. Love your neighbour: and love your enemy as well.

Jesus sums it all up with an impossible standard. “Be perfect” in the same way God the Father is perfect. How is this level of righteousness possible? Humanly, it isn’t.

But through his death on the cross Jesus Christ swapped his righteousness for my sin. This is called imputation. My righteousness can only surpass that of the Pharisees because God has credited me with Christ’s righteousness. I am made perfect with Christ’s perfection.

crux:

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

O Perfect One, you are good, you are glorious.
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.

Your anger and wrath is always deserved, always righteous. You are never malicious or capricious in your judgement, unlike me – forgive me, please.

You are faithful, keeping your promises forever. You never leave your people, though I may turn my back on you – forgive me, please.

You are extravagantly generous, gracious and merciful. You never reject your people’s needs though in your mercy you frequently refuse to grant my sinful desires – forgive me, please.

You are loving, indeed you are love. Without you there is no real love. In you is perfect love which casts out fear and enables me to pray for the good of my enemies. Bless my enemies with love for you, LORD, please.

LORD, you are perfect and so clearly I am not. Please justify me with Christ’s righteousness. Forgive my sin. Renew me and make me a new creation in Christ my king.

Amen.