As a recently saved college student, I sat in a church audience one Sunday morning. The preacher pointed to the passing cars out on the road and asked the crowd, “Where are all those people going?” Hmmm… Where were they going?
Some of them may be making some stops a long the way, but most of them are headed to hell. I cringed at the thought. But he was right.
“The Son of Man will come again with divine greatness, and all his angels will come with him. He will sit as king on his great and glorious throne.All the people of the world will be gathered before him. Then he will separate everyone into two groups. It will be like a shepherd separating his sheep from his goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’
“Then the godly people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you with no place to stay and welcome you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’
“Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’
“Then the king will say to the evil people on his left, ‘Get away from me. God has already decided that you will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever—the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels. You must go away because when I was hungry, you gave me nothing to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me nothing to drink. When I had no place to stay, you did not welcome me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me nothing to wear. When I was sick and in prison, you did not care for me.’
“Then those people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty? When did we see you without a place to stay? Or when did we see you without clothes or sick or in prison? When did we see any of this and not help you?’
“The king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you refused to do for any of my people here, you refused to do for me.’
“Then these evil people will go away to be punished forever. But the godly people will go and enjoy eternal life.” Mt. 25
These days in religious circles I hear doctrinal debates on everything from the form and fashion of baptism to how often a church offers communion or what style of worship they engage in. Maybe there is a day to discuss those things, but Jesus is seems to be much more concerned about “weightier matters” like “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Mt. 23:23). The Master is abundantly clear on the things of eternal consequence. He is pretty straight with us on what will send us to hell. And strangely enough I hear little conversation about those.
- Not feeding the hungry
- Not giving a drink to the thirsty
- Caring for the homeless
- Clothing those without
- Visit prisoners
Jesus says if we don’t do this the weakest among us, we don’t do it for him. If we don’t serve others, we don’t serve him. And we don’t just do those things as a matter of self-preservation. We do them because we actually believe what Jesus says. We do it because we love. We do it because heaven and hell matter.
There was a time that I didn’t do much to accomplish any of those things. But that nagging voice kept reminding me. “Where are they going? They are going to hell.”
Way back then, I asked God to help me. I asked him to equip me. I felt like a failure. I felt in totally over my head. I didn’t know where to even start. So I asked him to help me obey all his commands, including the ones to get out of my own selfish world and go serve someone.
Funny, I have found out he really likes to answer those requests. Now, twenty years later, he has opened the doors for me to feed the hungry at a local soup kitchen, offer water and snack packs to beggars, provide spiritual counsel for homeless women, give away free clothes and to enter the gates of two prisons to worship with the church behind bars.
Now, I’d like you to meet my friend Charlotte. She is a recovering addict and struggling single mom. She is laden with burdens, grief and guilt. I met her for the first time a month ago. In a homeless shelter. Today she is my new sister in Christ. She gave her life to Jesus last week. Today she was baptized into Christ. Tomorrow she moves into a home where she can be reunited with her daughter.
I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I don’t feel ill-equipped. I feel like an obedient disciple of Jesus. I feel like so much grace has been lavished on me that it is overflowing. I feel like my life with Jesus as Lord tastes so good (even after the death of my son) that I can’t shut up.
It all started with hell. It changed my life.
You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. -Jesus