You Are Not A Goat, But A Sheep

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It will be a terrible sight to see for some eyes!  Yes, at the end of the age, eyes will see God’s angels and the great Judge coming in full glory, might, and power.  After the great Judge and angels come, individuals will be put on trial and the verdict of hell and destruction will be boldly proclaimed.  Power, beyond human imagination, will be wielded.  Indeed, all nations will be brought before the great Judge, every knee will bow, and there will be no room for resistance.  Truly, there will be a great reckoning when Jesus comes in uncovered glory—when He comes not as a suffering servant but as the powerful, mighty, Lord. 
Dear friends are you ready for this coming judgment, for it is coming?  I kid you not!  I ask you again, are you ready for that great and powerful day of glory?  Are you ready to meet the great Judge?
Maybe a better question to ask is this, “What must one do in order to be ready to meet the great Judge?”
Looking to our Gospel reading from today to glean answers to this question, we see that the great Judge addresses two different groups of people.  He praises one group of individuals for applying clothes, for giving food, and for compassionately caring for the sick.  These are the sheep. 
On the other hand, we see the Judge addressing a different group, not with praise, but with condemnation.  The condemned are those who did not feed the hungry, those who did not cloth the naked, and those who did not care for the sick.  This group is referred to as the goats.
These two separate groups and the Judge’s two different verdicts upon their actions may lead us to conclude that in order to be ready, we must make sure that our ethics are in line, our morality is in tune, and our humanitarian concerns are heightened, for we want to be sheep and not goats.  In other words, if we are going to stand before the great Judge, we could conclude that we have to have everything in order.  We do not want to be damned for our failure to do the right thing. 
Considering this great judgment that Jesus speaks of—this judgment where the deeds of the sheep and goats are recognized—certainly puts things into perspective, does it not?  This final judgment has a way of making us sober and alert as it demonstrates that we will be accountable.  It shows us that we truly exist in a morally significant universe.  Otherwise stated, all of our thoughts, and words, and deeds are not morally insignificant, that is to say, morally neutral.  Yes, these thoughts, words, and deeds have ramifications; they matter.  To put it another way, there is such a thing as right and wrong.  Even though we live in a morally gray world, the final judgment shows us that there is such a thing as black-and-white morals.  That means that even if a sinful choice or action is kept to oneself and does not impact anyone, it still is counted by the Judge.  The Judge knows all things, nothing is hidden before Him.  This means there will be no debating the judge nor will there be cross examination of our thoughts, words, and deed.  Rather everything thought, said, or done will be laid bare before the Judge and a sentence will be passed.  Mankind will have to give an account and the Judge’s hammer will slam down a heavy verdict without any exceptions.
Practically speaking, what this all means is that if there is no Judge and if there will be no final judgment, people can do whatever is right in their own eyes.  Bluntly stated, if there is no Judge and no final judgment, then people can do whatever the hell they want because this ideology indeed leads to hell and is hellish at its core.     
On the other hand, because there will be a final judgment and a final Judge, we can confess that what we do here and now matters and is important.  Things like: respecting authority and honoring parents - matters; preserving the gift of life - matters; honoring marriage and the sanctity of sex - matters; valuing the property of others - matters; defending a neighbor’s reputation - matters; cherishing God’s Word, respecting the Lord’s name, and having no other gods - matters.  It all matters because there is a great judgment coming and a great Judge who will indeed judge all things.  We live in a morally significant world, a world that will be brought to account for its thoughts, words, and deeds.    
We can affirm all of this, for Jesus promises that He will come back to judge the living and the dead.  We can even long for the coming Kingdom of God for justice will be served and things will be made right.  However, all of this talk of the end and being held accountable still doesn’t address the questions of,
 “Will I be ready to stand trial?  Will I be a sheep or a goat?  Have I adequately fed the poor, have I clothed the naked, have I helped the sick enough?” 
Without a doubt, considering the final judgment can most definitely incite fear in us as we too will face the great Judge at the final judgment.  In fact, we can rightly confess that we appreciate and want to uphold what is right and true according to God’s Holy Divine Ten Commandments, while at the same time confessing the harsh reality that we too fail in keeping God’s commandments.  As much as we want to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and cloth the naked, we simply do not do this to our fullest potential.
This can lead to only one conclusion:  we must be goats or quite possibly we are on our way to becoming goats.
Baptized Saints—you, who have ears, stop and listen—you are ‘not’ goats.  You are ‘not’ goats, but sheep! 
But you may say,
“Pastor, how on earth can I be a sheep?  I have not loved the way that I ought; I have failed in thought, word, and deed.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself!  How can I be a sheep for I have not done all of these good works to perfection?  What on earth will I be commended for?”
Baptized Saints, take a moment and consider the sheep’s reaction in our text when the Judge commends them for all of their good works:
·        They hadn’t counted or categorized their deeds.
·        They did not have their works in their memory nor were they aware of these good works.
·        These deeds were not done to gain honor among men or used as a bargaining chip at the great judgment. 
·        There was no pride in their works at all.
·        Essentially, they had no idea that they were serving Christ when they were doing these simple acts of love towards their neighbor.
·        Their works were completely unknown to them!
What does all of this mean? 
It means that at your baptism you were baptized into Jesus' death and resurrection; you were joined to the Lord.  Thus, like the sheep in today’s story, not a single sin of yours or mine will be mentioned or remembered by the Judge at the great judgment!  Not-a-single-one!  The reason why?  The one who will judge you also redeemed you.  Yes, your redemption is in Jesus and yes, it is perfect and complete.  As blood-bought-redeemed-and-ransomed-children-of-God you are forgiven and it is impossible for Jesus to judge you guilty, for the pronouncement of guilt was laid on Jesus already.  Jesus was judged and damned so that He wouldn’t have to judge and damn you!  Because Jesus was judged and damned, He can’t judge and damn you!
But what of all the good works that the Judge compliments the sheep for?  Get this, the Lord only remembers the good works of believers and does not remember their sin.  Yes, because the Lord has created good works for you to walk in and because the Lord forgives you of all of your sins and credits you the righteousness of Christ: what will remain at the great judgment is Jesus Christ crucified for you, as well as everything that the Lord enabled you to will and to do—everything that is good, right, and salutary. 
Baptized Saints, God the Holy Spirit enlightens you, keeps you, and sanctifies you as sheep.  The Lord creates good works for you to walk in, good works that follow you into eternity.  Like salvation, these are the Lord’s gifts to and through you. 
And as previously mentioned, the Lord will not remember your sin but will remember and commend you for every single good work that ‘He’ produced in you, as He led you and guided you. 
Baptized Saints, you who have not done anything; you who will be oblivious at the great judgment to the good works that the Lord is doing in and through; you will receive credit for good works that you did not produce and don’t remember. 
Furthermore, you will not be judged by a judge who is your enemy, but a judge who is your friend, one who bled and die—for you. 
Finally, you are not a goat who will someday accuse, bicker, and argue with the Judge that the goat has done enough; you are not a goat that will attempt to unsuccessfully justify ‘self’ unto damnation. You are not a goat, you are a sheep by grace; a sheep of the King.  That is who you are, which means that the Kingdom of God comes for you, and that is a very, very, good thing to anticipate and look forward to.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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