The Final Judgment

The Final Judgment

Sheep from the goats

Are you religious or secular? Faithful or enthusiastic? Sheep or goat? Are you both at different times?

Malachi chapter 3, our sermon text for today, reminds us how the church is full of believers and unbelievers. Oh, they don’t openly deny Christ; it’s not that obvious. Rather, the unbelievers’ enthusiasm is focused on the flesh; striving to be better and do good. Their faith is placed on Jesus helping them become a better person; not understanding that He already did the good work that we could never accomplish.

Works-righteousness is an easy trap to fall into. Do good. Feel happy. Be a better person. It seems logical. But it’s fatally flawed.

Mankind is religious. We are just made that way. The law is written upon our hearts, and we are born with a sense of right and wrong. When we hear a phrase like “The Final Judgement” it seems obvious that we must be talking about some kind of accounting of all the good things that we did and comparing it to all the bad things that we did, right? To ignore those things would just be unfair.

It turns out that Jesus does not judge us that way. Jesus took away the sins of the entire world when he was on the cross. In heaven, there is no list of bad things that we did to compare against.

So how is it that some people will end up in the book of remembrance and some will not? How will it be that some people have good works accounted to them, but others do not? After all, everybody is nice once in a while, right?

The difference is simple. If I do something nice because I expect to be rewarded for it, I haven’t done a good deed. I’ve done a selfish one. Any “good works” that I do in order to show that I’m worthy to stand before God are described by Isaiah as “filthy rags.” The only way I can do something that is genuinely good is if I do it out of love.

Let’s be clear; not just any kind of love will do. Romantic or brotherly love are blessings but they can be conditional or at least have some limitations. The love that we desire, that we ultimately need is the unconditional, undeserved love of our Savior. The kind where we love Him because He first loved us.

Thanks be to God for loving us when we were unlovable!

Here is today’s sermon text from Malachi 3:

13 “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”

The Book of Remembrance

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.

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