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Sunday, March 10, 2013

the least of these

   Tonight, I spoke for a few minutes at Sheets Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington, NC.  I shared with them about the foster care program where I help license foster homes.  I shared a passage in Matthew 25 that I first really noticed back in 1997.   In Matthew 2:3-46, Jesus is telling his disciples what will happen when Jesus returns.  It says that he will separate the people like sheep being separated from goats.  The sheep will be on his right and the goats on his left.

    It says that he sys to the sheep, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and YOu came to Me."  The righteous ask Jesus when they did that for him and he responded "to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine; even the least of them, you did it to Me." 

     I shared with them how sometimes those who Jesus described as the "least of these" are people who you may not like, they may not be gracious or grateful for the help you provide.  They may not be the most attractive or well educated.  You may find that you don't like them very much.  I know I have felt that way sometimes about people I have helped in mental health.  But, Jesus said when we do it for the least of these it is like we are doing it for him.

      It may appear then by saying this that we are saying that salvation is by works.  The passage doesn't say that, but it does say that works are important.  James talked about this in his little book when he said "But are you willing to recognize you foolish fellow; that faith without works is useless." James 2:20.  In other words, if you have real faith then it will demonstrate itself in real ways.  If you don't have faith then it will not bear fruit.  Recognize in the passage I mentioned earlier in Matthew that those who were condemned were very surprised that they were condemned.  They thought that they had been good enough.  But, Jesus accused them of turning away from those in need and by doing so neglecting him also.

      In Ephesians 2:10, it says, "for we are HIs workmanship, creatd in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  What this passage says to me is that God has given us tasks to do to further His kingdom and to please and honor Him.  We each have different gifts, personalities and strengths, but God has singled out works that he wants you to do.  Not doing them, is demonstrating a lack of faith.  Walking in them, pleases him and bears fruit for him. 

     God has given each of us tasks he wants us to do.  These tasks may require for us to walk by faith and to trust him.  By taking that step of faith and doing what he commanded, we honor Him and bear fruit for eternity.  These tasks are unique to who we are and to who he has made us to be.  It incorporates our gifts, personalities and the passions and calling he has given us.  None of us are called to the sidelines, to sit and soak and not to do the Father's work.  All of us are called to put our hand to the plow and to be busy at our task until he comes again.

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