Matthew 24:36 - Matthew 25
Well, today is graduation Sunday. We had a chance to congratulate our graduates and will continue to honor them by eating lots of pulled pork and ice cream at their parties the next several weeks. In today’s teaching I wanted to share something that those who are entering a new phase of life could really use, some practical life advice. But as I got into it I realized that these are principles we all need. And that’s because these principles are about how to Live A Life Worth Living. And I think we all want to live a life like that. A life of meaning and substance—a life that produces transformation in the world around us and pleases the heart of God.
I’ll be up front with you there is a ton of scripture today, but I don’t think I can say things better than Jesus. So if you are good with having lots of scripture and needing to jump right in say “Bring it on” Bring it on.
Great, well if you have your Bible, smartphone, or tablet with you we will be in Matthew chapter 24. Again that’s Matthew Chapter 24 and we will be starting in verse 36.
But first some context:
Toward the end of Jesus' earthly ministry we find Him in the Temple denouncing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Jesus has absolutely zero tolerance for religion without an honest heart to support it. Upon leaving the Temple an interesting conversation gets started. The Disciples notice how beautiful the Temple is and Jesus explains that a day is coming when every stone of it is going to be thrown down—the destruction of Jerusalem. The Disciples then ask a two-fold question "When will the destruction of Jerusalem happen and also what will be the sign of the end of the age?" Jesus goes on to explain the answer to the first question about Jerusalem which you can study for yourselves in Matthew 23. This prophecy was fulfilled as Jesus said it would be 30 years later. But we come to our topic today as Jesus explains the answer to the second question regarding the end of the age—that is, the return of Jesus and the end of our current world system.
We read in verse 36:
Matthew 24:36-25 English Standard Version (ESV)
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
So that is pretty clear. We can't know the when. However, Jesus doesn't leave us without a great deal of information on how to live in light of His return—information which we will draw or principles and inspire you to live a life of meaning and adventure.
I've outlined the rest of chapter 24 and all of chapter 25 with seven principles you can use to Live a Life Worth Living. And I encourage you to hear and heed these principles realizing that this is more than some good tips. Rather, this is truth spoken from Jesus the Son of God regarding the way we must live our lives to be found faithful upon His imminent return. So on to principle one.
Principle One: Hear and Obey God's Voice
For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Commentary: The most frightening part of this principle is Jesus’ words “they were unaware until the flood came” However there was a man who was not unaware: Noah. He heard God’s voice and acted upon it. This not only affected the trajectory of his life, but the entire human race.
What might God be speaking to you about your Ark? Are you listening? To Jeremiah God said “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3). The same Holy Spirit who inspired Jeremiah inspires us. Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 19:27). How can we be following Jesus and fulfilling our purpose if we aren’t listening to His voice?
I was taught how to listen for God through my involvement over the years with the missions organization YWAM. When I first joined the Boston, MA base we had no idea where God would send us to go on our outreach overseas. So we would pray again and again and again, following simple guidelines like silencing the enemy, asking God to quiet our thoughts, meditating on Scripture, and expecting an answer. Over time many of us all heard the same thing—Scotland and Northern Ireland. In fact during prayer I once thought I was daydreaming—like a lot of us struggle with that during prayer. I was on what felt like a roller coaster going up and when I reached the tippy top I looked and saw a gray city with a clock tower and a large bay. I shared it with the group and didn’t think much of it. However when we arrived in downtown Belfast, Northern Ireland we saw a Ferris wheel attached to the City Hall. If you ride it to the top you will see the gray city of Belfast, the Albert Memorial Clock, and the great bay which the Titanic once set sail. Of course God doesn’t always speak through mini-visions during prayer. He speaks through a still small voice in your heart, circumstances, the counsel of others, and of course through meditating on Scripture.
Principle Two: Influence rather than be influenced
Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
Commentary: Jesus is saying that a lot of life is going to be ho hum—working the field and milling the grain. However, in those moments we are more than likely with people of varying beliefs, values, and persuasions. And since researchers show you will likely spend—get this—90,000 hours of your life at work you ought to consider how to INFLUENCE OTHERS instead of BEING INFLUENCED. After all, two people are going to be taken and two are not. Same job, same gender, same community—different relationships with God. 90,000 hours equals out to be 3,750 days, that’s over ten years. Do you think that spending that much time with someone could make a difference in their lives? Set out from the get go to be an influence on others, but don’t only think short term—think long term. Invite them over to your home, be there when they are hurting, offer sound advice when asked, and never be shy about your beliefs. When I was in high school I became a Christian. I lost most of my friends. I asked a girl once, how come we don’t hang out anymore? And she said “Because you got all Jesus Freak on us.” But a few years later, once the drama of high school was over and gone I got a knock on my door. It was one of these friends at 3am—drunk and in tears. He thought he had gotten in a serious fight and was afraid he was going to kill somebody. A year or two after that I had a voicemail from another friend—again drunk and crying telling me how he had just gotten in a drunk driving accident and is scared. Why were these people getting a hold of me? Because I held a lasting influence on them. Take some time to memorize 1 Peter 2:12, it really helped me out: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12 NIV) This verse gives me hope that my good deeds over time will equal them coming to know Christ and even glorify Him when He returns.
Principle Three: Protect your dreams from being stolen
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Commentary: Jesus’ point is quite clear, we are the homeowners and He is the thief. We don’t know when He is coming so we must always be ready. But I want to extrapolate another point here. This idea that we must always be ready for a thief reminds me not only of Jesus, but of the enemy. Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) In this life we are living Jesus desires for you to give your utmost for His highest—a famous line by Oswald Chambers. St Irenaeus echoes this thought by writing “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Did you ever consider that God is well-pleased when you are living out the desires of the heart that He gave you? “Delight yourself in the Lord…” the Psalmist wrote, “…and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV). I share this with you because instead of living out of this God-given passion, the enemy will seek to steal your Kingdom-dreams through distractions, detours, and doubts. So my call to you is to be focused and cast off the distractions. And if you get detoured from your dream for a year, or 15 years, that’s OK! Get back on the track. And finally when the doubts about God’s ability to use you come, root yourself again in the Word of God. Prepare your house to stand against the thief!
Principle Four: Use power and influence to serve
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. NEXT SLIDE
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Commentary: If you have given your life to Christ, that means you have submitted to Him as Lord—as Master. And as Master He is the One who has planted you in the place you are in with the gifts that you have. He is shaping your personality, He is the provider of your finances and your free time. So the question is how are you using these gifts and how are you using your influence? Young ladies, you have great influence over young men—how are you using that influence? Young men, you have great influence over young ladies—how are you using that influence? All of us in this room have people around us—whether younger brothers and sisters or our own children or co-workers we see every day. Do we use what we have to bless, to serve, to honor the Master who made us and provides for our every need? Or are we living out lives selfishly—Ask yourself… are you throwing away your money, manipulating other people to lift yourself up, wasting your time on pleasure when you have an urgent mission at hand? Nobody gets out of this—we have been entrusted. Jesus said “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV). If you do this, you will find that not only are you living a life worth living, but Jesus will know that He can trust you with even more power, influence, and resources for His glory.
Principle Five: Keep the oil of the Bible, other Christians, a local church, and prayer to stay on the path of life
Matthew 25:1-13; Acts 2:42
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ NEXT SLIDE
Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ NEXT SLIDE
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Commentary: Here again Jesus is making the point that we do not know when He is returning so we must remain ready. It was custom in the time of Jesus for the groom to go and prepare the home and then come get his bride so they could all go to the wedding celebration together. Some of the bridesmaids prepared and had enough oil to light their way. But the other bridesmaids didn’t make a plan, they were just wrapped up in the moment. After Jesus left the followers of Jesus committed themselves to four things: the Apostles’ Teaching, the Breaking of Bread, to Fellowship, and to Prayer. These are the necessary components for every Christian to stay on the path and be found ready by Christ. The Apostle’s Teaching is found in the Bible, the Breaking of Bread refers both to eating together and traditionally it also refers to the sacraments of Baptism and Communion—which are found in a good local church, Fellowship refers to the sharing of life and resources together, and prayer refers to both prayer and worship together. If you are going into the world without a plan to implement this oil in your life, I fear what oil you leave with will not be enough and your lamp will go out.
Principle Six: Trust God's heart as you invest your gifts, personality, money, and time.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away…Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ NEXT SLIDE
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ NEXT SLIDE
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man…so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! …cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Commentary: The lazy servant believed God to be a harsh man. He lived his life cowering in fear that if he did something wrong that the Master would hurt him. But that isn't our God. Jesus shows that God ought to be trusted. That He is not harsh but kind—not impatient, but patient. He is on our side. If only we could see picture that is painted in this parable is two men who had varying levels of gifts from God running out into the world, ambitious for their Master’s glory! These men model what I shared earlier: that the glory of God is man fully alive and that if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will grant us the desires of our heart! Do you trust God has given you His Kingdom dreams? Do you live in the freedom of God’s faithful, everlasting love and pleasure as you bless others? Or do you see Him falsely as a harsh master dictating your every move—ready to strike you down if you make a wrong turn?
Principle Seven: The measure of a Life Worth Living is one thing... tangible love.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory… the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ NEXT SLIDE
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me… Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Commentary: Jesus ends with a description of what a Life Worth Living Looks like: tangible love. Just as Jesus explained not long before this current discourse, all of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets hinge—depend on—these two commands: Love God with all you are and love others (Matthew 22:35-40). If your life is not hinging on this two things, you are missing out on the Life Worth Living—the life Jesus not only offers, but requires. The Master has entrusted you and He is returning again—will He find you faithful?
Well, in addition to graduation Sunday, the way things have worked out is that this is also Building Pledge Sunday.
This is a very special time once a year where we take an opportunity to honor God with our finances and manage them well. He has provided us with this building which is being used to reach the lost and broken of our community and bring them into a transforming relationship with Him. And so I would like to invite Pastor Ron up to share with you how this tradition works and the way we can leverage what God has given us to continue to do great ministry.
Pastor Ron, would you please come share with us?