Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Books I Read in 2019


I've had a tremendous year for reading books.

If I get a chance (no time this week!), I'll write more about the good stuff I got to read, list my "top books of 2019," and share some of the things I've been learning, but here's the full list and a few links to short reviews I produced along the way.

Matt’s Books Completed* in 2019:
1. Palace Council by Stephen L. Carter
2. The Civil War As a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll
3. Creation and Doxology edited by Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson
4. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie
5. Don’t Just Send a Resume by Benjamin Vrbicek [my review]
6. The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis
7. The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
8. Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers
9. Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges
10. Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness by Dale Ralph Davis [my review]
11. The Reckoning by John Grisham
12. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
13. Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie
14. Jesus and the Future by Andreas Kostenberger, Alexander Stewart, and Apollo Makara
15. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
16. The Souls of Black Folk of W.E.B. Du Bois
17. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
18. The Grass Widow’s Tale by Ellis Peters
19. Contemporary Theology by Kirk MacGregor [my review]
20. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
21. Point Man by Steve Farrar
22. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop [a sremon this year inspired by reading this book]
23. Unstuck by Tim Lane [my review]
24. The High Window by Raymond Chandler
25. So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger
26. Black City by Boris Akunin
27. Anger: Calming Your Heart by Robert D. Jones [my review]
28. None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett
29. The House of Green Turf by Ellis Peters
30. Feels Like Home by Lee Eclov
31. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers
32. Psalms 1-72 by Derek Kidner
33. Mourning Raga by Ellis Peters
34. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin
35. Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammet
36. God Is by Mark Jones
37. Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry
38. 7 Myths About Singleness by Sam Allberry [a big help with this sermon]
39. Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition by Craig Carter
40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
41. God and the Transgender Debate by Andrew Walker
42. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh
43. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon
44. The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin
45. Quietly While They Sleep by Donna Leon
46. In Sunlight and Shadow by Mark Helprin
47. A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon
48. The Nursing Home Murder by Ngaio Marsh
49. Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
50. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
51. J-Curve: Rising and Dying with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul E. Miller [my initial thoughts, my final evaluation]
52. Fearing Others: Putting God First by Zach Schlegel
53. Death and Judgment by Donna Leon
54. Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace by Paul Tautges [my review]
55. The Eighteen-Carat Kid and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse
56. Acqua Alta by Donna Leon
57. The Knocker on Death’s Door by Ellis Peters
58. A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon
59. Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles by David Powlison
60. Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang
61. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi Hinn
62. Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon
63. Beyond Authority and Submission by Rachel Green Miller
64. God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology (Vol 1. God and the Works of God) by John Webster
65. Radically Different by Champ Thornton [my review]
66. Friends in High Places by Donna Leon
67. The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse
68. Psalm 119 for Life by Hwyel R. Jones
69. Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
70. The Blessed Hope by George Ladd
71. The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon
72. Pornography: Fighting for Purity by Deepak Reju
73. Suffering and the Heart of God by Diane Langberg
74. Open Season by C.J. Box
75. The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry [pungent quote and evaluation]
76. Wesley on the Christian Life by Fred Sanders
77. The Best Gift Ever by Ronnie Martin
78. The Triune God by Fred Sanders [second reading, one of my top books of 2017]
79. Uniform Justice by Donna Leon
80. The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams
81. The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller
82. Psalms 73-150 by Derek Kidner
83. Psalms (Tyndale Old Testatment Commentaries) by Tremper Longman


***

* As in previous years, these are books I finished reading (or had read to me in Audible) in 2019, not the ones I started or the ones I didn't get done. That list would be a LOT longer! I read a bunch of them for escapist fun, a few for/with my family, and a lot of them just to learn and grow. They aren't listed (perfectly) in the order I read them. Some of them I am reading for a second or third time (or more!).

As I say each and every year--I'm not endorsing these books just because they are listed here. Some of them are really good and some are really bad. Most are somewhere in between. Read with discernment.

Here's the article where I explain why I post these.

Lists from previous years:

2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008 (first half, second half)
2007 (first half, second half)
2006 (first half, second half)
2005 (first half, second half)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

"When Did We See You?" [Matt's Messages]

“When Did We See You?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 29, 2019 :: Matthew 25:31-46

For the last month and a half, we’ve been following Jesus up to the Mount of Olives where He has been teaching His disciples about His return. Chapters 24 and 25 are often called “The Olivet Discourse” because of the location of this teaching, and they are all about Eschatology or the doctrine of Last Things. We often call them the “End Times.” This is Jesus’ most concentrated teaching on the End of the World.

And today we’ve reached the end of that. The end of Jesus’ teaching on the End.

Starting next week, we will continue through the remainder of the crucial events of this Passover Week in the first century when Jesus was crucified.

So what have you learned these last several Sundays as we’ve listened to the Lord Jesus teach about His return?

There has been a lot to it, hasn’t there? There are a lot of facets to this teaching, too many details to repeat this morning.

But all along we have noticed two main things.

One is the identity of Jesus. This is the Gospel of Matthew, after all, so we have to keep our eyes on the ball.

Who is Jesus? He is the Son of Man from the book of Daniel. And the Son of Man is going to come in glory and receive His kingdom at a time known only to the Father.

That’s been important, hasn’t it?

When is Jesus coming back? We don’t know!

Jesus said that we will not know until it happens.

The Son of Man will come at a time when we do not expect it.

He may come earlier than we expect.
He may come later than we expect.

So we have to stay ready.

That’s the second major thing we’ve seen. That Jesus’ focus on eschatology is always a focus mainly on application.

How we are to live in light of His sure and soon but unpredictable return.

We don’t know when, but we sure know Who and because of that we know How to live while we wait.

Jesus has been hammering this point for more than half of this teaching.

He’s been telling us how to live while we wait.

How to, as He says, “Keep watch.”

And He’s told several stories to teach us how to keep watch.

Several parables that feature a group of people who have to be ready for something to happen at an unspecified time.

A thief surprising a homeowner in the night.
A boss returning to check on some employees.
A delayed bridegroom picking up the wedding party to go to the wedding feast.
A master returning from a long journey to reward His good and faithful servants and punish the wicked and lazy ones.

All at time that they did not know.

And so they had to be prepared.
And they had to be patient.
And they had to be busy doing what the master had left for them to do.

Well, Jesus has one more story to tell.

But there aren’t as many story-telling features in this one. It’s not as much of a parable. It’s much more straightforward.

This is basically how it’s going to be.

And this isn’t a story so much about how we don’t know when.

That’s presupposed. Jesus assumes that we’ve gotten that part of this teaching by now. We don’t know when the Son is going to return.

But it is about how we are to live while we wait.

We are to live lives of love in light of the Lord’s return.

Jesus tells one more story. And it’s a story about what happens next.

After the Son of Man comes.

He is coming. Jesus is coming back!

And when He does, this is going to happen:

Like most of Jesus’ stories, this story has a twist. It has a big surprise in it.

In fact, it has two very similar big surprises that you don’t see coming.

But the surprise in this story is not about the timing of Jesus’ return; it is that there have been a number of “Jesus sightings” that the characters in the story didn’t know were “Jesus sightings!”

The whole story turns on this question, “When Did We See You?”

“Lord, when did we see you?”

“Because we didn’t realize we did.”

Matthew 25:31.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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.” Stop there for just a second.

Do you see how this advances the story? How this is what happens next?

This is not about WHEN will it happen. It’s about what will happen WHEN it happens.

And it’s quite a picture, isn’t it?

All of that glory?  Don’t miss all of this glory!

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and [how many of the angels?] all the angels with him [heaven is going to be emptied, and they will all be there, we can’t imagine this glory!], he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.”

See that glory? Heavenly glory on earth.

This is the “most public event of all time” (O’Donnell).

This is what is sure to happen after the events of chapter 24, verses 29 through 31.

The coming of the Son of Man.

We don’t know when it’s going to happen.

But that it’s going to happen is unquestionable.

The Son of Man will come in (whose glory?) HIS glory.

And what’s He going to sit on? HIS throne. Do you see how this is all about Jesus?

Keep your eye on the ball! Don’t just look for yourself in Jesus’ stories. Look for Jesus. Look at Jesus!

The Son of Man from Daniel 7 has approached the Ancient of Days and has received His kingdom, and now He’s come to bring His Kingdom.

And that involves judgment.

Verse 32 says that some of the nations will be gathered before Him.

No. It says, “All of the nations.” No one escapes. No one gets passed over. It’s not just Israel that will face judgment.

“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.”

Jesus is going to sort out everybody.

He’s said that before, earlier in the Gospel of Matthew. We’ve seen it again and again.

There will be a complete and total sorting. And people will either go on His left or on His right.

Like (this is a simile) a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats.

They might look the same from a distance, but they are not the same. And they go to different places. Perhaps a shepherd separates them to keep them straight or to care for them differently at nighttime. Goats apparently need more warmth because of thinner coats. I think it’s likely that in this story, he is pulling off the sheep to go to pasture and culling off the goats to go to slaughter.

I don’t think we need to read too much into the two different kinds of animals except to note that there are only two.

There are only two kinds of people in the end.

Just like there were two kinds of virgins at the midnight cry, wise and foolish.

And there were two kinds of servants when the master returned, faithful and wicked.

In the end, there are only two kinds of people. The sheep and the goats.

And Jesus knows which is which.

They’ve been together all of this time, but now there is a reckoning, and there is a separating before the Shepherd King.

In the story, the King begins with the people on his right.

And listen to the glorious thing He says to them! V.34

“Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

Oh! Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

It’s like the last two stories. Those wise bridesmaids entering into the wedding feast.

Or those two faithful servants being given more responsibility and invited to come enjoy the master’s happiness!

We can’t imagine how good this is.

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

That’s what’s coming!

For the sheep.

Now, the sheep did not earn this.

This was done for them long before they even came into existence. “Since the creation of the world!”

It’s an inheritance. That’s something that is given to you based on what family you are in, not something you’ve done. This is a gift from the King’s Father.

The sheep did not earn this.

But it’s only for the sheep. The people who are like the sheep, placed on the Shepherd King’s favored right hand.

But the King knows which ones were to go on the right.

How does the King know? He knows from how they lived. He knows from what He observed in their lives. He knows from the evidence of His eyes. V.35

“For I [the King] was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

He knows who they are because of what He saw them do.

They fed Him when He was starving.
They gave Him water when He was dying of thirst.
They gave Him shelter when He was lost.
They gave Him clothes when He was destitute.
They gave Him medical care when He was sick.
They went to see Him when He was in prison.

He knows who they are because of what He saw them do.

So here’s where they ask the question. Because they are surprised by what they have just heard. V.37

“Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

We don’t remember that part!

They aren’t surprised to be welcomed so much as they are surprised at why.

When did this happen?

When did we see you?

Verse 40. “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

So, who are these brothers of the king?

That’s an important question, isn’t it?

Because when these people cared for these brothers of the King, they were caring for the King Himself.

Let me tell you who I think they are.

I think they are simply other Christians who were in real need.

Good Bible scholars have had various takes on this in the history of the church.

Some people think that these brothers of Jesus are Jews, Jesus’ brothers according to the flesh. And that’s possible.

And some people think that these brothers of the King are just anybody in need. And that makes some sense, too. I don’t think we’re supposed to narrow this down and say, “We are only supposed to help Christians who are in need. Nobody else need apply!”

But in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has said again and again that His true family are His disciples (ex.12:47-50). And He’s said that His disciples, as they go out on their mission to make more disciples, are going to encounter trouble.

Remember the Birth Pains in the last chapter?

“You will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophet swill appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and the end will come” (24:9-14)

Sounds like trouble to me.

And if you help someone like that in their trouble...you are helping Jesus.

Notice that it doesn’t just say, “These brothers of mine.”

The King says, “the least of these brothers of mine.”

The people who are the least glorious.
The least powerful.
The least attractive.
The least able to pay you back.

The least able to scratch your back.

If you help them, you are helping Jesus.

That doesn’t mean that those people are literally Jesus in disguise.

It means that they belong to Jesus in such a way that if you hurt them, you are basically hurting Him. And if you help them, then you are basically helping Him.

We are His Body, are we not?

So when you love Jesus’ Body, you are loving Jesus.

That’s quite a thought, isn’t it?

By the way, there is a hidden message here about how much Jesus loves us.

Jesus loves you and me so much that He identifies with us.

So that when you or I are hungry, or thirsty, or lost, or destitute, or locked up, Jesus is right there with us.

So that if anyone helps you or me, they are helping Jesus.

We often think about ourselves as a sheep or a goat in this story (and we should), but sometimes we need also to realize that we could be the least of the King’s family.

And the King loves us so much that when we hurt, it hurts Him so to speak.

And when we are helped, He says, “Thanks for helping Me!” 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

That’s how the King can tell who goes on the right.

They acted like a person who goes on the right.

They acted sheep-like! Not sheep-ish but sheep-like.

And they weren’t play-acting. They weren’t doing this to get brownie points.

This folks are not trying to impress the Lord with their good works.

They are just doing good works because of the people they have become.

They are given the kingdom because they are obviously kingdom citizens!

They were not earning the kingdom, because you cannot earn the kingdom (unless you are the King).

They weren’t even trying. They were just living out the values of the kingdom, and the King couldn’t help but notice.

These actions were the genuine evidence of a genuinely transformed life.

And we know that because of how unselfconscious they were about it.

“When did we see you? When did we do that?”

“Well, you didn’t see Me, but I was there. And I saw you.”

But the opposite was also true. And these are scary and sobering words. Verse 41.

“Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer [same question], '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?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Same story but the opposite way around.

These people saw the same followers of Christ in the same desperate situations, and they didn’t lift a finger to help.

They claimed to love Jesus or at least to call Him, “Lord,” but they had nothing of the sheep about them. They were actually goats.

They were fakes, weren’t they?

If they had known that these actions were the ones that would open the door of the kingdom to them, then they would have done those actions and those alone.

They failed the hypocrisy test. They were fakes. And we know how Jesus feels about fakes!

Jesus already taught on this at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

He said, “[B]y their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

You didn’t help my family when you weren’t getting any publicity for it.

You might have racked up some public “ministry,” but your sins of omission told the real story.

“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire that [wasn’t originally made for humans, but humans have insisted on getting into it, the eternal fire] prepared for the devil and his angels.” To eternal punishment.

No second chances. The door is shut. The decision is final. And it is forever.

So that’s how Jesus ends His teaching on His return.

What should we make of it?

How should we apply it to our lives in the last few days of 2019?

I thought of three:

#1. REJOICE! THE LORD IS COMING!

We can’t miss this glorious fact, that the Son of Man is coming in His glory and is going to set everything right.

Everything in the world is going to be set aright.

He will judge justly!

Everything will be returned to the way it should be.

And He shall reign.

“He will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.”

That should thrill our hearts.

We’ve been singing it the last several weeks for its 300rd birthday:

Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare Him room, and heav’n and nature sing!

No more like sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Rejoice! The Lord is coming in His glory with all of His angels!

And for His people, He says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”

That’s every reason to rejoice!

I can’t hardly wait.

Jesus tells us His disciples all of this to whet the longings of our hearts for His return and His kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

Rejoice! The Lord is coming!

#2. REPENT. THE LORD IS COMING!

The second half of this prophetic story is scary.

And it invites all who hear it to repent of their lovelessness.

To repent of selfishness.

To repent of fakeness and hypocrisy.

To turn away from sin and trust in the Savior.

Because you don’t become a sheep by doing sheep things.

You become a sheep by turning from being a goat and being transformed into a sheep.

You become a sheep by the Lord changing your heart.

The passage doesn’t say how to change. The rest of the Bible does.

In fact, the very next chapter of Matthew is going to show us what it took for us to be saved. The New Covenant in Jesus’ blood.

But this story shows us our need for change. Our need for repentance.

Our need for a transformation from the inside out all the way to our actions.

And if we don’t, then we can see what happens next.

“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...Then they will go away to eternal punishment.”

Repent. The Lord is coming!

#3. RESPOND. THE LORD IS COMING!

And by this, I mean respond in love to the needs of struggling Christians around you.

Show mercy, show compassion.

Care, help, serve, love.

Feed them.
Give them water.
Invite them in.
Clothe them.
Nurse them.
Visit them.

This list in verses 35 and 36 is not exhaustive. These are examples of ways that genuine loving Christians can help genuine hurting Christians.

See a need and respond in love.

Because the point of this story is not to see Jesus in needy people, but to serve Jesus as you serve needy people, especially Christians because we are Jesus’ family.

Galatians 6:10 says, “[A]s we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Not to earn our salvation, but to live it out.

This is what faith looks like in action.

It looks like love.

That’s the last thing that Jesus wants to share with His disciples in His teaching on eschatology.

The Lord is coming.

The Son of Man is coming at a time when we do not expect Him.

And so we need to keep watch.

Expectantly.
Patiently.
Busily.

Doing the things that He left for us to do.

And here He names them.

Feed them.
Give them water.
Invite them in.
Clothe them.
Nurse them.
Visit them.

Show mercy, show compassion.

Care, help, serve, love.

Respond in love to the needs of struggling Christians.

Serve in love while you wait for the return of Christ.

Because He’s coming in all of His glory and He will invite us to come and enjoy that glory, that blessing, the blessing of His father, His inheritance, the kingdom prepared for us since the creation of the world...eternal life!


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch
67. Well Done!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the Mitchells!

All together in Victoria, B.C., August 2019

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

"Waiting for the Messiah to Come" Christmas Eve Message 2019

Waiting for the Messiah to Come
Christmas Eve Candlelighting Service
December 24, 2019

Advent means “coming.” Christmas is coming...tomorrow!

Jesus has come and is coming again.

We say that every year, don’t we?

And with good reason. Because that’s what the Advent season is all about, focusing on the coming of the Christ.

“Waiting for the Messiah to Come.”

That’s the whole point of Advent.

This year has been very special because we’ve been focusing on the similarities between the two comings of the Christ.

The first coming and the second coming.

Not only are they the two comings of the same Christ, but the waiting for both comings is also very similar.

If you have your Bible, do something for me. Or grab one of the Pew Bibles in the rack in front of you. And find the Gospel of Matthew. That’s the first book of the New Testament. It’s the one we’ve been studying as a church for the last two years on Sunday mornings. We’ll be back at it this Sunday at 10am, and we’d love to have you join us.

What I want you to do is to pinch the Old Testament with your left hand.

Put your index finger on the outside of your Bible or at Genesis 1 and put your thumb at Matthew chapter 1.

Feel that?

That’s a whole lot of waiting for the Messiah to come.

Everything in your left hand is under the shadow of waiting for the Messiah to arrive on the scene for the very first time.

Now with your right hand, I want you to pinch the New Testament from Acts to the Revelation. So find Acts with your thumb and put your right index finger on the back of your Bible.

Except for the four gospels between your thumbs there, just about everything in your Bible pulsates with anticipation of one or the other of the comings of Jesus Christ.

And that’s how we’re living today.

Let’s think about how the left hand believers waited and how we as right hand believers should we waiting today ourselves.

On the First Sunday of Advent, Abe & Jordyn lit our first candle, and said that it was a Candle of Confidence.

Faithful believers have always fully trusted in God's promise of a Messiah.

The Old Testament there in your left hand overflows with strong and mysterious promises of a ruler who will come to rescue his people. And throughout the centuries his people waited with full assurance that he would come and bring each promise to fulfillment.

When Jesus met the woman at the well, she declared her confidence.

She said, "I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” And Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he."

But His first coming was not His last.

Jesus has told us that He is coming again. So now like the men and women of old, we wait with confidence in His promises which are certain and sure.

We’ve been reading about that on Sunday mornings in Matthew 24 and 25. When He prophesied of His return, our Lord Jesus assured us, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Do you have confidence that Jesus is coming back?

Because sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. I mean, it’s been 2000 years since He ascended to the Father.

On the Second Sunday of Advent, Bob & Sylvia lit our second candle and said that it was a Candle of Patience.

Though God's people had confidence in God's promises, their confidence was often tried and tested. They had to wait a long long time for the Messiah to arrive!

Think about your Old Testament. All of those pages in your left hand.

Centuries passed. Kings came, and kings went away. Some kings brought some rescue, but all kings disappointed in many ways. For thousands of years, the Messiah did not come. And yet the people of God waited patiently.

The psalmist expressed this heart of patience in Psalm 130.

He said: “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”

And that patience was rewarded. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. And He brought redemption through His blood.

And yet now we are called again to wait patiently for His return. Many centuries have passed once more. We wait in anticipation like watchmen for the morning for the return of Christ. We know that He is coming, but we do not know when.

Do you know when?

No. So we wait, and we wait some more.

Are you waiting patiently for the coming of the Messiah?

Now, don’t get me wrong.

“Patient” does not mean “passive.”

The waiting that we are supposed to do is a very active waiting.

On the third Sunday of Advent, two friends Amy and Renee lit our third candle and called it a Candle of Diligence.

Hard work. The very opposite of passiveness.

The waiting that we are supposed to do is a very active waiting.

It was for the lefthand believers, wasn’t it?

While they waited for the Messiah in the Old Testament, God's people did not sit idle. Prophets, priests, kings, and ordinary kingdom citizens continued to faithfully do the Lord's will and work.

The lefthand side of your Bible is full of purposeful activity!

Waiting in anticipation of the Messiah is never an excuse for laziness but instead a motivation for persevering in hard work. That’s what we’ve seen the last two Sundays in Jesus’ teaching about His return.

He said to stay busy:

Matthew 24:45&46, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.”

What do you want to be doing when Jesus comes back?

I don’t know about you, but I want to be busy doing what He left for me to do.

So while we wait, we work.

While we wait, we work.

What kingdom work are you doing with diligence while you wait for the Messiah to come?

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Kristofiti (that’s the plural of Kristofits, the Kristofi) lit our fourth candle, and told us that it was a Candle of Exuberance.

Which is just a fancy word for “joy.”

The people in your left hand, in the Old Testament always believed that the coming of the Messiah would usher in incredible joy.

Here’s one of my favorite verses in the whole Old Testament.

It’s from Isaiah 51. I’m going to be focusing on the Book of Isaiah in my devotions in 2020.

Listen to this. Isaiah 51:11

“The ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

“Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

And so it was. On that first Christmas, what did the army of angels announce to the shepherds?

“Good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Good news of great joy.

Do you have that?

Yes, we do. But there is more to come.

This is not all of the joy that there is.

Believe me!

The apostle Peter said, “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

There is so much more to come.

One day “sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

There will be no more sorrow or sighing.

Can you imagine?

Christmas is hard time of year for many people. Because we feel the loss of so many of our loved ones.

Who is not at your Christmas table this year?

Who is not at your Christmas gathering?

Who is not here at church with you this year who always used to be?

That’s sorrow and sighing.

But when the Messiah comes again, gladness and joy will overtake His people, and “sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Everlasting joy will crown our heads!

Joy to the world because the Lord is come!

How do you respond to that except to pray for and long for Jesus to come?!

Our last candle is the Christ Candle, and it’s a candle of expectance.

Confidence.
Patience.
Diligence.
Exuberance.

And expectance.

And by that, tonight, I mean longing.

Do you long for the coming of the Messiah?

Do you long for the return of Christ?

Do you long for Jesus to appear?

Because it’s all about Him.

Jesus is not only the reason for the season.

He’s also the focus of our expectation.

Hebrews 9:27&28 says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people [That’s the gospel!]; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin [this time], but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Are you waiting for Him?

With confidence, patience, diligence, and exuberance?

At the end of his life, the Apostle Paul said, “[T]he time has come for my departure.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Are you longing for Jesus’ appearing?

I think we often can’t wait for Christmas to come, but we are indifferent to the second coming of Christ which is so much more important!

If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then you will long for Him to come and bring His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

We don’t know when it’s going to be.

So we trust.
And we wait. And we wait some more.
And we work while we wait.
And we believe.

But we also long for that joy to come in all of its fullness.

And we long for our Savior to come and rescue us from all evil.

And we even pray for it.

Do you know what is the last prayer in the whole Bible?

If you still have your right hand pinching the New Testament, look the last page by your right index finger.

Second to last verse of the Bible. Last prayer. What does it say?

“He who testifies to these things [Jesus] says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ [And here’s the prayer:] Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

That’s our prayer. “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

Sunday, December 22, 2019

“The Wonder Of It All” [Matt's Messages]

“The Wonder Of It All”
December 22, 2019
2 Corinthians 9:15

Just for a second, imagine being Mary that night after Jesus was born.

Skip past giving birth. Some of you know what that is like. Many of us will never know.

But imagine being there after giving birth.

And knowing yourself that it was a great miracle. Because you are a virgin. And a angel told you all of this was going to happen.

And you’ve swaddled the baby boy in cloths and placed Him in a manger because there was no room for you in the inn.

And then these shepherds show up with an astonishing story about a skyfull of terrifying angels singing gloria in exclesis deo, “Glory to God in the highest.” And then they’ve sought ought you and your little boy. And then after finding you both, they run out into the countryside to spread the amazing word of what they had been told about this little child.

Imagine being Mary.

What does she do then? After all that?

What do you do when all of that has been thrust upon you?

You wonder at it, don’t you?

Luke chapter 2, verse 19 says that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

She pondered them in her heart.

She turned them over and over again and considered them and wondered what did they mean.

There is a popular Christmas song called, “Mary, Did You Know?” and basically the answer to that question is “Yes.” She did know.

The angel told her.
She heard it with her own ears.

And if you read her song, traditionally called The Magnificat, you can tell that she did know what was happening to her. She predicted it a lot of it herself. She was a true prophet and an amazing theologian.

Mary did know.

But she pondered.

She turned these things over and over and over again in her mind and heart.

Because who could know what was going to happen?

Not really. Even if you did know intellectually, how could you understand what you did know? How could you comprehend this story?

Because nothing like this had ever happened before or would ever happen ever again!

It was totally unique and strange and fantastic and marvelous and...wonderful.

O the Wonder of It All!

Just like Mary we need to take some time and ponder these things in our hearts.

That’s one of the benefits of holding a holiday of Christmas.

Just stopping and thinking about the wonder of the incarnation.

Have you taken time yet to stop...and to ponder this season what has happened that God became Man?

I think that’s what the Apostle Paul did when he erupted in praise in 2 Corinthians 9:15. He pulls “a Mary” and ponders just how amazing is the gift of Jesus Christ.

In the context of this letter, Paul is writing to encourage the believers at Corinth to participate in a missions love offering that was intended to go to aid the poor and suffering believers in Jerusalem.

They were taking up an offering and sending the money with the missionaries to help those other Christians in need.

And Paul was sure that they were going to participate, and he gave them some good reasons for it.

The biggest reason? God had been so gracious to them. They should be gracious to others.

God had been generous to them. They should be generous with others.

You know how just about every week, the guy who prays for the offering here says something like, “In this offering, Lord, we’re giving back just a small portion of what you’ve given to us.”

And that’s exactly right. Because God has been so good to us, we can be so generous to others.

That’s one of the reasons why we give gifts to each other at Christmas. To remind each other of the greatest gift that was every given to us.

And that’s where Paul goes with this last verse of chapter 9.

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

The key word is...“indescribable.”

Which I looked up in the dictionary, and it means, “You can’t describe it.”

Which does not mean that we shouldn’t try. There are words to describe God’s gift, but there aren’t enough words to do it justice. Does that make sense?

The King James Version has “unspeakable gift.” Which might give you the idea that it’s forbidden to talk about this gift. Speak not of this gift!

And that’s clearly not what Paul means.

But the King James also might give you the idea that there just aren’t words to use.

It’s unspeakably good.

The ESV, the English Standard Version says, “inexpressible” gift.

You almost get the idea from the ESV that you not only run out of words to describe this gift, but you run out of words all together.

Have you ever been left speechless at a gift?

A few years ago, I bought Heather a plane ticket to got Europe and visit her sister.

And she had no idea it was coming.

And on Christmas, when she opened up the gift, she just started crying and shaking her head.

My kids were worried there was bad news in that envelope!

“What is it?”

And she still couldn’t say.

Because it was just so good.

I’ll probably never top that one. And I probably shouldn’t try.

The Wonder Of It All!

Just think about this gift of Jesus Christ.

By the way, can gift be a Person?

We got a great gift on Tuesday when we went to the Pittsburgh Airport, and there was Robin Joy Mitchell!

Certainly a person can be a gift.

And the greatest gift ever is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, don’t miss those two alternatives at the end of that verse.

“Perish” or have “eternal life.”

Those are the two opposite realities hanging over every single human being.

And the default destination is perishing.

That’s where we are all headed unless something diverts our path.

Thankfully, God’s indescribable gift is just such a thing to divert our paths.

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...”

And He didn’t just give Him to walk with us but to die for us.

A new friend of mine said on social media this week, “Our treason is the reason for the season” (Tim M. Shorey).

Jesus came because we were hellbent on our rebellion and needing a Savior.

And so He came.
And so He lived.
And so He died.
And so He lived again!
And so He ascended.
And so He is coming again.

Because the Father gave Him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The Wonder Of It All!

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

The New Living Translation paraphrases our verse, “Thank God for his Son–a gift too wonderful for words!”

Does God’s gift leave you speechless?

If it doesn’t, why not?

I know that we talk about it all of the time.

One of the downsides of having a holiday every single year is that we can kind of get this on repeat like a broken record, just looping the same recycled thoughts every year.

Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Manger, Wisemen.
Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Manger, Wisemen.
Mary, Joseph, Angels, Shepherds, Manger, Wisemen.

But this is incredible stuff.

Don’t let it get “old hat” with you.

What do you need to do to cultivate a sense of wonder over God’s indescribable gift?

O, the wonder of it all.

On Wednesday night, I asked the kids what do you do when someone hands you an awesome gift? There are two main things.

The first is to receive it.

To take that gift and make it yours.

Have you done that with God’s indescribable gift?

The Bible says that not every does.

It says, Jesus “was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. [Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him [who received the indescribable gift!], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...” (John 1:11-12).

Have you done that?

If you have, what’s the second you do after you receive a truly great gift?

You say “Thank you.”

Which is what the Apostle Paul was saying in 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Thanks be to God...
Thanks be to God...
Thanks be to God...

"...for his indescribable gift!”

Fourth Sunday of Advent: A Candle of Exuberance

LEFC Family Advent Readings: Waiting for the Messiah to Come
Isaiah 51:11, Luke 2:10, 1 Peter 1:8-9 :: December 22, 2019
Week #4: Exuberance


“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we are pondering on how faithful believers have always waited for the Messiah and how we should anticipate His coming today.
           
[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our first candle was a candle of confidence. God’s people throughout the ages have always been able to fully trust in the coming of the Messiah because God’s faithful promises will never pass away.

[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our second candle was a candle of patience. God’s people have had to wait a long long time for the Messiah to arrive. Like watchmen waiting for the morning, they have patiently scanned the horizon.

[LIGHT THIRD CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our third candle was a candle of diligence. While they waited for the Messiah, God’s people have never sat idle. We work while we wait, staying busy until the Master returns.

[LIGHT FOURTH CANDLE.]

Our fourth candle is a candle of exuberance.

God’s people have always believed that the coming of the Messiah would usher in incredible joy. The prophet Isaiah predicted that on that day:

[READ ISAIAH 51:11.]

And so it was. When Jesus was born, the angels announced “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” And that joy remains with us today even while wait for the greatest consummation of that joy still to come.

The apostle Peter says, “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

May we be filled with exuberant joy while we wait for everlasting joy to crown our heads.

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Well Done!" [Matt's Messages]

“Well Done!”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 15, 2019 :: Matthew 25:14-30

For the last 4 messages in our “Following Jesus” series through the Gospel of Matthew, we’ve been studying what Jesus taught about His own return. Matthew 24 and 25 is often called the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives, and it’s also called the Eschatological Teaching, because Jesus is teaching here on the doctrine of Last Things, on the End of the World, and on His return.

After Jesus predicted the desolation of the temple, his disciples asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

And so Jesus launched into this eschatological teaching. I won’t try to reconstruct it all for you this morning. If you are interested in all of the details, you should go back and read the sermons on my blog or re-listen to the recordings.

Marilynn puts them all up on our church website and also makes CDs of them back there at the bulletin board. I think I saw 2 copies of each of the last 4 messages that you could play in your car, but don’t fall asleep while driving!

It’s okay to fall asleep in the pew while I’m preaching, but don’t do it when I’m preaching in your car!

I won’t give all of the details again, but I do want to emphasize again what Jesus emphasizes again and again, and that is that you and I don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

When is Jesus coming back?

We don’t know!

Why then do we keep acting like we do?

Last week, we saw that Jesus said that He might come back sooner than we expect.

We have to be ready. We have to “keep watch.”

Jesus said in chapter 24, verse 42, “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” In verse 44 of that same chapter, He said, “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

And He gave multiple illustrations of that concept. He said that He would come unexpectedly like a thief in the night. It could be sooner than you expect, so be ready.

It might be today.

But we also saw that He also said that He might come back later than we expect.

Remember the foolish virgins with their lamps but no oil?

They had all of that time, but they still were not ready for the bridegroom. They were not prepared and so they did not get to enjoy the wedding feast.

And what they weren’t prepared for was a long wait.

We don’t know when Jesus is coming back.

Do you know when Jesus is coming back?

Soon! Yes! But on God’s definition of “soon.” And it’s already been 2,000 years.

Jesus said in chapter 24 verse 36 that not even the angels in heaven know when He is coming back.

And He even said in that very same sentence that at that time He didn’t know when He would return.“Only the Father.”

We don’t know.

So, right now, we’re learning how to wait.

We’re learning to be ready.

We’re learning how to be watchful.

And it turns out that being watchful is a potent mix of constant expectancy and constant longanimity. [That’s a fancy word for “patience.”]

Expectancy and patience.

Patience and expectancy.

Constant expectancy and constant longanimity.

And, we’re going to find out today: constant industry.

Busyness, industriousness, the word in our Advent reading today was diligence.

Not just vigilance but diligence.

Or because of vigilance we practice diligence. Industry.

Because you see, there are different kinds of waiting, aren’t there?

The watching and waiting that we are supposed to do right now before the return of Christ is not at all passive.

While we are waiting for the return of Christ, we are not supposed to just lean back and lay around. It’s not that kind of waiting.

It’s not like waiting at the bus stop or the airport terminal. Where nothing’s happening. You just sitting there until your ride comes.

Some people in the Bible were like that. Some of the men at Thessalonika had quit their jobs and were just waiting around because they thought the return of Christ was right around the corner.

In 19th century America, some people thought they knew the day and the hour of Christ’s return, and they gave away their possessions and just waited around to be taken. “Beam me up, Lord Jesus!”

And then it didn’t happen like they expected, and they didn’t have anything left. How disorienting would that be?

What did Paul tell those men at Thessalonika? Get a job!

Get to work.

This “being ready” or “keeping watch” is not a passive thing like watching paint dry; it’s an active thing.

There are things to be doing while we are waiting.

We saw that last week with Jesus’ parable about the wise and the foolish servant at the end of chapter 24.

And now in the middle of chapter 25, Jesus tells another parable with a very similar set of characters and a very similar point, but He takes it much further.

And He puts these wonderful words into the mouth of the master when He returns and rewards His good and faithful servant:

He says, “Well Done!”

“You have waited well.

You have kept watch the right way.

You have stayed ready for my return.

Well done!”

I don’t know about you, but I long to hear that said to me.

And I long to hear it said for all those I pastor.

“Well done!”

Let’s start in verse 13. It goes with the preceding parable, but it’s ringing in the disciples’ ears when He launches right into this one.

And He’s just emphasizing His main point once again. V.13

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Do you know when Jesus is coming back?

No. You do not.

It might be sooner than you expect.

And it might be later than you expect.

So you have to keep watch.

And while we watch, we work. V.14

“Again, it [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Now that word “talent,” in the 1984 NIV and the 1611 KJV can be a little confusing for us because it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

A “talent” in those days was a weight of valuable metal. It was the basic amount of metal a soldier could carry on his back. It was about 70 to 100 pounds of precious metal such as silver or gold.

So it was a sum of money. We actually get our word and idea of “talent” from this story here, so that our natural gifts and “talents” are abilities that we have been entrusted with by God.

And that’s a good application of this parable, but in the story, it’s a sum of money.

In fact, it’s a large sum of money. All three of these are.

A talent was roughly equivalent to 6,000 days of wages for a day-laborer.

So 16 to 20 years of wages.

How much money will you make in 6,000 work days?

Let’s say you make $35,000 a year.

If you worked every single day of the year, that’s about $95 a day.

$95 times 6,000 is $570,000. That’s one talent, give or take.

I think the 2011 NIV just says, “bags of gold.” That’s actually more like it.

So this guy is going away, and he’s doling out his fortune and entrusting it to his servants.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize who everybody is in this parable.

The master is?  Jesus.

The servants are?  His disciples. Or at least His supposed disciples.

Us. The servants are us. V.15

“To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.”

Now, here’s point number one of three, marching towards hearing, “Well Done!”

#1. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY.

You and I have been entrusted with great responsibility while we wait for the return of Christ.

What do you think these bags of gold stand for in this parable?

They are obviously important, because the story turns on them.

What are these bags of gold?

I think they are all of the resources and responsibilities that the Lord has entrusted into our care while we wait expectantly and patiently for His return.

So it is our talents.

It is our gifts.

And it’s also our money.

Whatever we have been given, large numbers or small.

And it’s also our opportunities. We all have different opportunities.

And it’s our callings and our work. I preached this exact parable four years ago when I was preaching on our work as our worship unto the Lord.

It’s also our privileges.

Do you know how privileged you are?

Every privilege is also a responsibility.

Every blessing is also a stewardship.

It’s everything we know. Our knowledge.

It’s our health. It’s our energy. It’s our lives.

We have been given these things in trust.

They are not our own. They are the Lord’s.

Because we are the Lord’s!

And it’s the Great Commission, too.

It’s everything that our Master has entrusted to us to take care of while He’s away.

What has He entrusted to you?

What’s in your garage? What’s in your bank account? What’s in your house? What’s in your pocket? What’s in your brain? What’s in your hands?

What has He entrusted to you?

Now, notice that the servants don’t all get the same responsibility.

They get different responsibilities based on what the Master determines is their abilities. So we shouldn’t worry about other people’s responsibilities.

We shouldn’t worry about what’s in other people’s hands.

We should just be concerned with what’s in ours.

And remember even just one bag of gold is a major responsibility!

What has He entrusted to you?

Because in this story, we’re supposed to do something with what we’re given.

While we wait, we work. V.16

“The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.”

Uh oh. You can tell that’s not going to end well.

But the first two do really well.

They put the money to work. That is probably they enter into business. They buy and sell. Perhaps real estate. Maybe commodities. They buy something, fix it up and then resell it for a profit. They don’t just invest it. They work it.

The point is that they put the money to work. They discharge their responsibilities.

They do something with what they were entrusted with.

What are you doing with what you are entrusted with?

It’s not yours.

It’s on loan.

What are you doing with it?

Are you investing it for the Kingdom?

For example, our Celebration Choir has the same number of Thursdays as all of the rest of us, but they have invested the last dozen or so to practicing for their ministry of music next Sunday.

What have you been given? And what are you doing with it for Jesus’ sake?

You guys filled 114 shoeboxes. You put together 30 gifts for 15 children in our community.

What are you doing with what you have been given?

What are you doing with what you have been given?

Elementary kids. What do you have?

What talents do you have?

Are you good at sports, at music, at art, at writing, at making things, at fixing things, and running things, at leading things?

Are you investing all of that for Jesus?

We have been given great responsibility.

Do you feel that?

Do you know how blessed you are?

Those blessings, every one of them, are bags of gold.

... The last couple of weeks, we’ve emphasized the question, “What do you want to be found doing when the Lord returns?” Because you don’t know when that’s going to be.

This story asks the question, “When Jesus returns, what will you be found doing with what you have been given?”

Because there will be an accounting.

#2. WE WILL GIVE AN ACCOUNT.

In this story, it happens in verse 19.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.”

Now, don’t miss those first four words, “After a long time...”

Notice again that Jesus left open the chance that His return may seem delayed to us.

Just like the bridegroom in the last story, this guy takes longer than you might expect.

Remember, Jesus Himself did not know when He was telling this story how long He was going to be away!

He knew so much, but He didn’t know that.

And so He prepared His disciples for Him to be gone potentially a long time.

But He will sure return, and when He does, there will be a reckoning.

We will all have to give an account.

The Master will ask, “What did you do with what I left in your hands?

How did you invest your life? Your gifts and your assignments?”

“Did you stay busy and active for the kingdom while I was away?”

"What did you with the kids I gave you?”
“What did you do with the spouse I gave you?”
“What did you do with the friends gave you?”
“What did you do with the free time I gave you?”
“What did you do with the education I put in your hands?”
“What did you do with the church I placed in your hands?”
“What did you do with the freedoms I gave you?”
“What did you do with the jobs I placed in your hands?”
“What did you do with your retirement?”
“What did you do with role in your community?”

“What did you do with what I left in your hands?”

We will give an account. V.20

“The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' [A 100% return on his investment. That’s great. And look at what the Lord says to Him. This awesome. V.21] His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

The man with the two talents also came. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.' [Another 100% return on his investment.] His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'”

This is point number three.

 #3. WE WILL BE GIVEN A REWARD.

We have been given a responsibility.
We will have to give an account.
And if we have been faithful, we will be given a reward.

Look more closely at the Master’s words and soak them up.

Notice that the Master says the same thing to both faithful servants.

It doesn’t matter how much they were given. It just matters that they did something with it while it was in their hands.

Again, don’t get caught up in looking at other people’s bags of gold.

Jesus will say the same thing to all of His faithful followers whether you are a big name Christian or a no-name Christian.

V.21 “His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'”

First, the well done.

The attaboy.

That’s reward all by itself, isn’t it?

I love it when someone says to me, “Good job.”

It happened to me a number of times this week, and I can name all of them, and so I’m just lifted up today.

But all of those “good jobs” that people have said to me will fade, and I’ll be looking for another one.

And if I live for other people’s approval, I can be controlled by them.

But if I am living for this, “Well done!” then I will be controlled by this Master.

And that’s what counts!

And His “Well done!” will never fade!!!

Imagine that.

Are you living for that “Well done!” ?

I think so often we live for someone’s else approbation.

We live for someone else’s praise. Including our own praise of our own selves.

But while wait, we should work for the praise of this One.

But these two receive more than just His praise.

They receive more responsibility. V.21 again.

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.”

That’s something, isn’t it?

This tells us something more about eschatology.

This tells us something more about what the kingdom will be like.

What it will be like in the new heavens and the new earth.

In eternity, we will not have less responsibility, but more responsibility.

There will be more work to do in the kingdom!

Now, it will be work with no curse, so it will be wonderful. Imagine work with no curse to put frustrating friction on what we can achieve.

But we won’t be just sitting around for ever, either.

Heaven will not be boring!

Anything but.

Part of our reward is more responsibility.

Are you living for that?

Are you being faithful right now so that you can be given more to do when the kingdom comes?

“You have been faithful with a few things [how every many I gave you]; I will put you in charge of many things. [And then the biggest reward:] Come and share your master's happiness!'”

He said the same thing to the second servant, “Come and share your master’s happiness.”

That sounds unimaginably good.

I don’t know how much joy the master in this story had.

But I do know that Jesus has limitless joy.

The kingdom is party.

It’s like the last story, of being invited into in the wedding feast.

The greatest party ever.

And we who are faithful get to enjoy His joy!

What a reward!

Are you living for that reward?

This gives us something to live for by God’s grace.

Notice how much grace is here. They are given these bags of gold and then they are given the master’s reward. This is all of grace and not legalism.

But grace is not opposed to effort.

Grace is opposed to earning, not effort.

Grace empowers effort.

So we who have been given much grace are empowered to give much effort.

So that we will see much reward.

Are you living for that reward?

Are you living for Jesus’ “Well done.” ?
Are you living for Jesus’ “Here’s more to do.”
Are you living for sharing in Jesus’ joy?

If you are, then you can expect a reward.

But if you are not, woe to you.

Because the opposite is also true. V.24

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'”

He seems mad at the master, doesn’t he?

“Why did you give me this job?

I don’t love you or trust you. I’m just sacred of you. So I disobeyed you.

Here’s your stuff back. I didn’t do what you asked.”

Jesus’ stories often have crazy endings, don’t they?

This servant doesn’t obey in the slightest.

He doesn’t know the Master’s heart.

He views the Master as a “vicious tyrant” (phrase from Grant Osborne).

He views the Master as harsh and unfair.

And so he rationalizes his disobedience away. He refuses responsibility.

And he does absolutely nothing.

Do not sympathize with this man in this story.

And do not be like him.

Do not be lazy with what the Lord has given to you.

V.26. “His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? [You think that I exploit people, do you?] Well then [if you are so scared of me], you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers [at least!], so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.”

You didn’t have to have ten talents.

You didn’t have to have 4 bags of gold.

Two would have been enough.

1.5 would have been enough.

1.03 would have been enough if that was today’s interest rates.

But you did nothing!

You didn’t risk anything for my interests.

Friends, don’t be like this man.

He refused to take any risk for His master.

The master’s been gone a long time, and this guy has nothing to show for it.

Just an assignment that he didn’t lift a finger to do.

And so for him there was no reward. No praise, no more responsibility, no joy.

What a scary phrase to hear from the Lord Jesus, “you wicked, lazy servant!” You sluggard, you slacker, you have been worthless.

He actually calls him “worthless” or “useless.” v.28

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The same thing He said in the last verse of chapter 24.

The condemnation of the judgment.

Unbelievers will lose the life and talents and assignments and treasures and all kinds of other gifts that they have received in common grace if they will not trust the Lord Jesus and show that they trust the Lord Jesus by obeying the Lord Jesus.

But those who do believe Him and trust Him and put their faith in Him will show it by being faithful to Him.

“For everyone who has will be given more and he will have an abundance.”

That’s what I want for all of us in this room.

Abundance. Now and forever.

And it comes as the fruit of faithfulness.

If we are faithful, we will be rewarded.

Because there are not three kinds of servants in this story.

There are only two.

There are wicked and lazy so called servants.

And there are good and faithful ones.

Which one are you?


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage
51. Drop Everything
52. First and Last
53. The Suffering Serving Son of Man
54. Shouting for the Son of David
55. Expecting Fruit
56. Come to the Wedding Banquet
57. Whose Image?
58. Acing the Test
59. What Do You Think About the Christ?
60. How Not To be A Leader
61. Malignant Religion
62. Fakes and Snakes
63. Birth Pains
64. The Coming of the Son of Man
65. No One Knows
66. Keep Watch