“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
Matthew 25: 31-33 (NIV)
Without question, the Book of James is my favorite of the Bible. I love his honesty and directness; his “no excuses” mentality. However, when it comes to being the most challenged… hands down, Matthew 25:31-46 wins the prize. For those of you unfamiliar with the Sheep and Goats Parable, let me break it down:
When Jesus returns, all nations will be gathered before him. He will then separate the people into two groups: sheep and goats. He will tell the sheep that they may take their inheritance (enter into heaven) because they took care of the hungry and thirsty; gave shelter to the stranger; gave clothes to the needy; looked after the sick; visited those in prison. He will then turn to the goats and say “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” for they did not do as the sheep. The response of the goats is this, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” To which Jesus will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
The reason this is so unsettling to me is due to the response given by the goats. They acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus. They were expecting to be sheep. But, instead, they are sent to the eternal fires of hell. And I can’t help but think, especially in light of their response to Jesus, that they were completely blindsided. In this parable, Jesus underscores the importance of loving our neighbors. However, he also boldly states a glaring truth that many of us have chosen to ignore: God will judge us not only for the wrong we have done, but also for the good we have failed to do.
If that wasn’t enough to cause great pause… maybe Matthew 7:21-23 will:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (NIV)
In a commentary provided by John MacArthur, the following conclusion is drawn: “[There are] no more serious words for people who profess Christianity than these because our Lord says there will not be a few but many who are mistaken about their future destiny. He points out in this passage, for our consideration, the folly of empty words, and then the tragedy of empty hearts... But it’s a far more sobering and stunning and shocking thing to realize that there are many who are going to say, ‘Lord, Lord,’ to Jesus Christ, there is a confession openly of some attachment to Him that has been carried so far that they have actually functioned in His name only to hear that they will not at all enter heaven. One’s final destiny…is not about profession, it is about obedience” (Saved or Deceived, Part 2)
And this is why I don’t like the goats and the sheep. These Scriptures require me to acknowledge where I am with Jesus. They force me to evaluate whether my actions match my words… if they match my heart. They force me to face this undeniable reality: There are eternal consequences to an unrepentant heart, to blatant hypocrisy and complacency. There is a very good chance that many of us consider ourselves to be sheep, when in reality, Jesus would deem us goats.
This is a hard devotional to read… believe me, it was a hard devotional to write. Please, don’t let Satan weasel his way in on this one… because he will try. We must take an honest account of our hearts and our actions. If the Holy Spirit is pricking… there’s a reason for it! I have been reminded time and time again the past few weeks that iron sharpens iron. And, my friends, I know this iron has been dull for quite a while. Spend time with Jesus on this one. Ask Him to reveal the truth of your heart. Be ready to listen!