Just the other day during my afternoon stroll down the long boardwalk to the river I encountered a new family fishing at the end of the pier. As always, I generally approach by greeting them and proceed to ask the same question as I’ve asked many others time and time again, “Have you caught anything yet?”. This usually turns into a short but very friendly conversation such as: “Are you here on vacation?” and continue with small talk about their visit to our beautiful beach side community. But there are those unique times when the conversation takes a different turn. On this particular day it went something like this: Me: “Is your son out of school?” Boy’s Mom: “Yes”. Me: “Our youngest son graduated from High School.” Boy’s Mom: “What is he going to do now that he’s graduated?” I then proceeded to explain to her that he works for Christian friends who are world traveling Evangelists and that our son (following after his older brother) creates videos for their ministry. I then continued to share that we are pastors and founded the first church in the history of our town (Ponce Church, Ponce Inlet, FL). I continued to share that our main emphasis, based on our new book, “The Main Thing” is to do what Jesus says in Mathew 25 and verses 31-46 where he emphasizes that the “least” the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, the one in prison and the stranger are Him, and that when we show mercy on them by meeting their need, we are doing it to Jesus. The young boys mother continued by saying, “Our son is going on his first mission trip”. Me: “Where?” Boy’s Mom: “In a local city here in the states.” Me: “Will he be helping with the poor in that city?” Boy’s Mom: “Yes, my friend is one of the leaders on this mission trip.” I then began to applaud the young man for his willingness to go help on this trip. We continued to chat a little more and then began to head home. As I was walking back the boy (about 12 years old) was a few paces in front of me at one of the pavillions trying to catch crabs. I took a moment to encourage him again about his trip and told him to make sure and read what Jesus says in Mathew 25, as I began to walk away, I said to the boy, “Remember to read Jesus teaching regarding the Sheep and the Goats.” Boy: “The Sheep and the Goats?” Me: “Yes.” Boy: “I will.” Me: “Bye now, have fun!” Boy: “I will, thank you.”
When I or my family share Jesus teaching about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked there is almost never a wall of resistance, especially with those who do not regularly attend church, a number of times I have seen them light up when we share that this is our main focus as a church. When this happens we find they are open to hearing Jesus words regarding our love for the poor and needy (read James 1:27 and James 2 the entire chapter). But sadly, many times when we share Jesus teaching in Mathew 25:31-46 with the believer, especially those who attend church regularly, they look at us like a cow at a new gate. Why? Because these verses are rarely taught if ever in the church as a whole. Many think and say, “Well, I’m saved by Grace and I don’t have to do anything except support my church and volunteer in some of the church’s ministries.’ Why is this? Because this is generally the “main” teaching within their local assembly. In fact it’s the main focus of almost all local churches!
Recently as I was reading James chapter two I came across a verse that I had read MANY times before, I even had pen markings around it, but this time it popped off the page at me: “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy to those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” As I read this verse the following is what stood out, “…remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.” As a church we sing songs that talk about how Jesus has set us free (thank God He has) BUT very few leaders if any teach their congregations that God himself will judge us by this same law! Yes, God has set us free from the law of sin and death BUT He has not set us free from keeping the Royal Law of Love for our neighbor (see verse 8) and when we read James chapter 2 we see that it is clear who our neighbor is: the poor.
When we stand before Jesus on that day where Jesus says in Mathew 25:31-46 that He will gather ALL nations and separate the sheep (If you are a believer in Christ and have the Love of God in your heart, this is you!) and the goats (Jesus says the goats are those who “refuse” to help the least, they show no love and no mercy for the poor) In these passages the only way Jesus recognizes who his sheep are, are those who bore the “fruit” of their faith in Him, and their fruit will be the fruit of “Love” for our neighbor, the least; the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and in prison and the stranger which includes the widow and the orphan. Are you saved by works alone? No. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “By Grace you are saved through faith, not of works lest any person should boast…” but most stop there and neglect to read, teach and demonstrate the REST of this verse, “…now you are created in Christ Jesus to DO good works (deeds) that God before ORDAINED that we should walk in them.” Simply put: You’re saved by Grace, and now you show the fruit of your faith by doing “good works/deeds” for others. (study James 2).
I do not believe that it is just a coincidence when I meet families such as the one I mentioned above, I believe the Lord directs our steps according to His plan, and because of His Love for all mankind, He will lead us to teach and demonstrate ALL the teachings of Jesus so that others will come to know of his saving grace and lead us to carry out his ordained plan to do good for others, “Let your light so shine that mankind will SEE our good deeds and Glorify our Father in Heaven.” Mathew5:16.