How Do I Make the Cut?

As part of our current sermon series, The Gospel, I invited our church to read through the gospels over the next 40 days. In today’s reading (Matthew 24-25), Jesus is teaching on His return with vivid imagery and language.

In chapter 24, He describes the suffering and tribulation that will precede His return and reveals the nearness of His return. Then, in chapter 25, He tells a series of parables to encourage His disciples and others to be prepared for His return.

Pretty intense stuff. Someone should write a series of novels about Jesus’ return and then make a movie about it with Kirk Cameron starring. Oh wait… 🙂

For many of us, when we read Jesus’ words here, our panicked thought is, “What must I do so I make the cut when Jesus returns?” At first glance, it appears Jesus answers with increasing clarity in chapter 25.

He starts off talking about virgins and a bridegroom. Most of us say, “Huh?” Then, He talks about servants multiplying their master’s investment in them. Okay. “Still don’t get it,” we say. “Just tell us the answer, Jesus!

Then, it appears He gives us the silver bullet answer. In v. 31-40, it looks like Jesus says, “serve those in need and you’ll make the cut.” Ah ha…that’s it!

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give out bottled water
  • Donate clothes to Goodwill
  • Invite the lonely guy down the street over for dinner
  • Visit prisoners and sick people

So, we get to work. But, it’s not long into doing this work that we miss an opportunity…maybe lots of opportunities. And then we start to worry…“Am I going to make it? If Jesus comes back tonight, will I get in? Have I done enough?”

The good news is, Jesus never said, “Get to work so that when I return, you’ll make the cut.” His point here is the exact opposite: those who will be with Jesus do not get in because of what they have done for Jesus, but because of what Jesus has done for them.

The righteous are not welcomed into God’s kingdom because of their works of compassion; rather, their works of compassion are evidence that their hearts have been and are being transformed by Jesus. The righteous are declared righteous because they have trusted Jesus and His righteous life, wrath-bearing death, and victorious resurrection on their behalf.

As we abide in Jesus and His love for us, His heart, compassion, and life are reproduced in us. We live with compassion for others not so Jesus will accept us, but because we have already been accepted by Him. He lives in us and His life is reflected in our lives.

Those who are welcomed into Jesus’ kingdom are surprised at Jesus’ commendation for their compassion (v. 37ff). Weren’t they keeping score? Weren’t they totaling up all they had done for God so they could show Him they are worthy of Heaven? Nope. They were just living out the new life that comes when Jesus moves in.

I love that Jesus said, “When you served others, even though you didn’t even realize it, you were doing it for Me.” You don’t realize it because you don’t serve to gain God’s approval, but because you already have His approval.

So, how do you make the cut? Repent of your works, good and bad, and believe the gospel of Jesus. Then, rest in His love for you and live out the new heart He has given you knowing you are already accepted, approved, and secure in His kingdom.

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