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"(31) When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (33) He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
(34) Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (35) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, (36) I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
(37) Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? (38) When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? (39) When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
(40) The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
(41) Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (42) For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, (43) I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
(44) They will also answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
(45) He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
(46) Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
The Scriptures speak clearly of existence after death - people will spend eternity in either heaven or hell. Yet many individuals consider this truth inconsistent with other facts about the Lord. While their objections are understandable, the Bible provides the answers:
How can the Lord be good if He lets people spend eternity in hell? God is love (1 John 4:8), and He doesn't want anyone to live without Him (1 Timothy 2:4). According to His plan, every person can turn from sin and receive the Savior, enjoying His presence both now and throughout eternity. Some, however, reject Jesus Christ and live apart from Him all their days. Unless they change that tragic decision, their separation from divine love will continue eternally.
Why would God create certain individuals, knowing they'd never turn to Him? To some, this seems unloving. Yet God so values our free will that He won't force anyone to go to heaven against his or her will. Doing so would amount to creating robots who are unable to truly respond, love, and worship.
An endless penalty seems unfair, especially if a non-Christian never heard the gospel. As long as unbelievers are alive, the heavenly Father goes to great lengths to keep them from eternal punishment - except He won't violate their free will. He gives enough time and evidence so that nobody has a valid excuse for rejecting the one path to salvation (Romans 1:20).
Jesus wants you to spend eternity with Him. So do you know Him as your Lord and Savior?
"(9) For we are co-workers in God's field, God's building. (10) By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. (11) For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (12) If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, (13) their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person's work. (14) If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved - even though only as one escaping through the flames. (16) Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? (17) If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for God's temple is sacred, and you together are that temple. (18) Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become "fools" so that you may become wise. (19) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness"; (20) and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise are futile." So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, (22) whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - are all yours, (23) and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God."
"(1) This, then is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. (2) Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. (3) I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. (4) My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It i the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise form God."
Have you ever thought of your life as a building project? That's how the apostle Paul describes it. Although He is specifically referring to the church as a whole, the principles in today's passage also apply to our personal life. But unlike a physical structure that is visible, this one is spiritual, and as such, the quality of the building materials are not immediately discernible. However, there will come a day when the Lord will evaluate what we have built on the foundation of Christ.
None of us want to get to heaven and find out we've used materials that have no value in eternity and will go up in a puff of smoke. Although in our sinful human condition we can't know exactly how God will evaluate our life, there are some guidelines in Scripture to help us live in a manner worthy of Christ's reward.
If we use worldly wisdom to build our life, we will be disappointed. Paul says we are deceiving ourselves if we think that the wisdom, values, pursuits, and ambitions derived from a world ruled by Satan can be used to accomplish God's will. Reliance on anything other than the Word and Spirit of God is wasted effort. Instead, we should make it our ambition to be faithful stewards of all God gives us and to live with a clear conscience.
Are you living as God desires - turning from sin and progressing in holiness? Does His Word fill your mind and shape your thoughts, behavior, and attitudes? Are you yielding to the Holy Spirit so He can produce His fruit in you? Each day is an opportunity to build for eternity.
"(16) Therefore confess you sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (17) Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. (18) Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
Toward the end of James' epistle is a statement that should increase our confidence in God: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (5:16). What a comfort to know that the Lord hears and responds to the petitions of the righteous.
The Greek word for "accomplish" is the one from which we derive our English word energy. The prayers of God's people don't merely drift into space but are avenues through which God does His amazing work on earth. However, He cannot be manipulated into unleashing His power - there are no prayer formulas or perfect words that cause Him to act.
What does James mean by "effective prayer"? 1 John 5:14 gives us a hint: "If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Therefore we can define effective prayer as that which is in accordance with God's will.
What is required for us to pray effectively? According to James, effective prayer requires a righteous life. If we are harboring sin, pride, and self-reliance, it's doubtful that our prayers will align with God's will. We can't hang onto our unrighteousness and expect to offer effective prayers, because sin hinders our relationship with God. Before coming to the Lord with our petitions, we must first confess our sins and turn from them.
Prayer is an amazing privilege by which God involves us as He accomplishes His will in our lives and in the world. During hardships and trouble, we come to Him in weakness and helplessness, asking for His aid, strength, and guidance. Then He answers according to His good and perfect will.
"(7) Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. (8) I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. (9) He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here. (10) My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him. (11) Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. (12) Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (13) I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. (14) Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. (15) Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (16) After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read int he church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea. (17) Tell Archippus: 'See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.'"
Every word of Scripture is profitable for us, and that includes today' passage - the final greetings and instructions at the close of Colossians. Although reading a list of names may not seem edifying at first, doing so provides a lesson on living with a committed Christian community. The people Paul mentions are all examples of faithful servants of God.
For instance, Tychicus (vv. 7-8) brought Paul's letter from Rome to Colossae since the apostle was in prison. The distance is about 900 miles as the crow flies, but it was much father for Tychicus, who had to sail around Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea before traveling through Asia Minor on foot. Yet he faithfully endured the hardship in order to bring Paul's letter to the Colossians - and to us, since the epistle is now part of the New Testament.
Onesimus (v. 9) exemplifies a life transformed by Christ - this runaway slave was a valuable servant not only to his former master but also to Paul. Then Epaphras (vv. 12-13) was a faithful intercessor for the church in Colossae, and Luke was a committed companion to Paul during the apostle's travels and imprisonment. And Nympha is acknowledged for hospitality is opening her home as a meeting place fore the church.
In the New Testament, we're instructed to be faithful stewards, life transformed lives, pray for one another, serve humbly, and practice hospitality so Jesus' love is apparent to those who don't know Him. As the people in today's passage show, your actions can reflect Christ even more than words do.
1 Timothy 2:1-8
"(1) I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - (2) for kinds and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior, (4) who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. (7) And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle - I am telling the truth, I am not lying - and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. (8) Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing."
When we observe the godless condition of our nation, we readily recognize the need for change. but the biblical solution for our predicament is surprising. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul instructed his protege to establish some priorities int he church, including prayer "for kings and all who are in authority" (1 Timothy 2:2). Our petitions help us live tranquil and godly lives and thereby provide opportunities to tell others about the Savior (1 Timothy 2:2-4).
Paul would never have given this command to Timothy is he didn't believe that the church's prayers made a difference in achieving God's purposes for their nation. Our problem is not with the Lord's promise or power, but with our doubt. By focusing on the enormity of the problems or the power of those in office, we lose sight of our sovereign God, who listens for our please that He intervene.
Political policies and legislation are not ultimately determined in conference rooms and governmental chambers, but in prayer closets. The voice that shape the direction of a nation are not necessarily those that loudly ring out in legislative halls, but those that approach the throne room of the heavenly Father with bold faith (Hebrews 4:16). As the church believes and prays, the Lord will respond.
Knowing that God can change a country, you may be wondering why He has waited so long. But He is likely already working in ways we don't recognize or understand. Every authority on earth can be touched by the power of prayer if we are willing to ask and believe God.