Dr. Jim Goodroe — Stranger Things Will Happen

Stranger Things Will Happen

Dr. Jim Goodroe, Director of Missions, Spartanburg County Baptist Network

Main Text: Matthew 25:31-46

Big Picture: What determines whether you will be called out of heaven, or be safe to get in?

  1. The Context: Matthew 25:31-46
    1. Who: the Son of Man, which Jesus uses to describe himself thirty times in the book of Matthew. (Matthew 25:31)
    2. When: the future, at the end time. (Matthew 25:31)
    3. What: judgment, specifically eternal judgment to punishment or life. (Matthew 25:46)
    4. King Jesus judges into heaven those who welcomed the stranger, and into hell those who did not.
  2. HARD to UNDERSTAND
    1. One reason that it may be hard to understand is found in the common name for this text: the “Judgment of the nations.”
      1. How could you send a whole nation to an eternal heaven or hell on a “group policy”?
      2. Not geopolitical entities, but ethno-linguistic groups. This is the delivery system that gets everyone to the judgment. None are excluded from the judgment.
      3. They will leave as individuals – some to eternal punishment, others to eternal life.
      4. Heaven will include people from every nation (Revelation 5:9)
    2. A second reason this passage is hard to understand is that it SEEMS to teach salvation by works, that people go to heaven or hell based on whether they were kind and responsive to people in need, or ignored them.
      1. Faith without works is dead, because we show our faith by our good works. (James 2:14-26)
      2. Start with the faith, and add the works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
      3. We demonstrate our faith in God by DOING God’s will. (Matthew 7:21)
      4. The story of the rich man who did NOT do this, and went to Hades. (Luke 16)
    3. Yet another reason this text is hard to understand is the identity of WHOM Jesus means are “his brethren” (25:40) or “these brothers of mine”?
      1. Two interpretations:
        1. All humanity in mind, speaking as the “Son of Man”.
        2. Those who HAVE come to faith in HIM and joined the Christian family and community, as in Mark 3:31-35.
      2. The strangers whom we are called to love
        1. Strangers to the extreme include refugees and immigrants.
          1. Both groups include higher percentage of Christians than the general population
        2. Immigrants strangers in the U.S. are also likely to be Christian, and are the fastest growing sector of the North American church.
        3. Show compassion to people whether they are already Christian or just potential believers. (Galatians 6:10)
  3. HARD TO UNDERTAKE
    1. We have a short perspective. We forget where we came from.
      1. The Pilgrims who settled this New World would not have survived the first winter had not some friendly Native Americans like Squanto and Chief Massasoit welcomed these strangers, and taught them how to plant corn.
      2. We should treat immigrants humanely because they are human, and because we were once them.
      3. God commanded his Old Testament people to welcome the stranger because THEY themselves had been strangers in Egypt. (Leviticus 19:34)
      4. Jesus remembered the immigrant strain in His family tree.
        1. Rahab the Canaanite, Ruth the Moabite, and Bathsheba the Hittite.
        2. His parents fled with Him to Egypt because a hostile regime was committing infanticide.
        3. Christ was the ultimate stranger, who migrated from heaven to earth so we can one day make it from earth to heaven.
      5. Remember the times in our personal and family stories when we were strangers.
        1. Personal changes in schools, jobs, cities.
    2. Strangers are strange people. Webster includes: odd, unusual, irregular, distant, foreign, alien, estranged, not one’s own, not pertaining to oneself or one’s belongings.”
      1. The Bible has the word xenos from which we get the word xenophobia, the fear of strangers. We fear the unknown.
        1. We must move from xenophobia (fear of strangers) to philaxenia (love of strangers) (Hebrews 13:1-3)
  4. HOW to UNDERTAKE Welcoming the Stranger – some ABCs on how to get started:
    1. All Around us are people who are strangers in various ways.
      1. “A stranger is a friend whom we have not yet met. “ – Will Rogers
    2. Begin Branching out by acts of hospitality to internationals here who speak English and want to meet Americans and would love to be invited into your home for a simple meal.
    3. Continue by Crossing the language barrier.
      1. Simple training to teach ESoL, volunteer with refreshments, childcare, or transportation.

Conclusion: Today’s text was Jesus’ sermon on the Sanctity of Human Life, his take on which people are safe to enter heaven or out into eternal punishment. Most of us here today know that we are safe for heaven, but on earth we are out of step with Jesus’ standards for welcoming the stranger. We have our reservation for heaven, but we’ve had reservations about welcoming the strangers in our corner of earth. If the Holy Spirit has convicted you of something specific, you may come to the altar and pray, or there at your seat tell the Lord that you will take the specific steps He shows you to start welcoming the stranger.

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