Stuck by Decisions (Matthew 25:1-13)

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The United States government has three different branches of government: Judicial, Legislative and Executive. The Judicial Branch is responsible to make decisions based on all matters of state laws. The court system is tiered for handling the variety of cases with the District Courts having local county jurisdiction; Circuit Courts decide over more serious offenses; Courts of Appeals & Special Appeals. These lower courts may make all kinds of declarations and decisions. However, some cases are not satisfied staying in these lower courts and are able to appeal to the highest court or our country: the Supreme Court of the U.S. If the Supreme Court hears a case it does not matter what the lower courts have decided. All other courts are irrelevant and pale in significance to the decisions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the highest amount of power and authority.

Today we are entering the highest court of authority – the kingdom of God. Many times our lives are ruled by the lower courts:

–          School teachers make a judgment on your child and it becomes domineering and defining for your child’s future.

–          A coach declares a team philosophy that contrasts your personal views and perhaps faith convictions and you feel trapped under his authority.

–          An employer rules you will never be promoted or has dismissed and blackballed you so that your financial and future goals feel humiliated, threatened and deflated.

–          Perhaps a doctor has pronounced a terminal sentence upon your life.

Today we are appealing all our decisions to the supreme court of authority and influence – the kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is the most important topic in Jesus’ teaching.[1] The word “kingdom” in Matthew’s Gospel appears 54x, in Mark 20x, in Luke 45x, in John 5x. So, Matthew’s Gospel presents a full picture for what is the kingdom of God. You could define the kingdom as the place where God reigns and rules as King and Lord. The kingdom of God contains God’s presence and God’s people, whereas the kingdom of this present world does not carry out God’s complete rule.

You may not accept the kingdom of God as the supreme authority. When you hear that God’s kingdom is associated with words like “authority” you want to avoid it, or the word “power”, you even may want to puke or rebel. But the Bible’s view of God’s kingdom is different.

God’s Kingdom is a place where beauty is comprehensive. When God designed and built creation, “it was good” (beautiful, repeated 7x). Therefore, God is the basis for beauty. People have value because we were created in God’s image. The earth’s environment matters and we are to be caretakers of creation because it belongs to God.

God’s kingdom is where love reigns. God intended people to exist in harmony, marriages to be permanently united, and families to care for one another.

God’s kingdom will be a world of freedom. Freedom from temptation; freedom from trials and struggles; freedom from tension and conflict in relationships.

God’s kingdom is where the broken find redemption. Those who fail find grace. Those who hurt find healing. Those in the dark find light and hope. Those who have disease and death find hope beyond this world. Cancer will not exist in heaven. Funeral directors will be out of employment in God’s future kingdom.

In God’s kingdom there will not be planes flying into buildings; there will not be bombs under cars or at race events. There will not be murders, molestations, or kidnapping of 300+ girls from Nigeria.

God’s kingdom is full of sweet dreams. Hope will be more than a hallucination but a reality. Faith is certain. Christ is unmistakable. The Spirit of God is full and satisfying.

The kingdom of God beyond our imagination. “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Corinthians 2:9)

So, when we speak about the kingdom today and in future messages, realize that as a believer that this is a [or type of for unbeliever] world that you want to be a part and citizen of this community.

EXAMINE   Matthew 25:1-13      Title: Stuck By Decisionsstuck sermon logo 2

Decisions are common (Matthew 25:1).

Jesus teaches about the kingdom of God through a variety of parables. Each of these are ordinary and everyday occurrences: sowing seeds among different soil types (Mat 13:24-30); mustard trees (Mat 13:31-32); leaven and flour (Mat 13:33); finding treasure in a field or a pearl of great value (Mat 13:44-46); gathering fish with a net (Mat 13:47-50); or forgiving debts (Mat 18:23-25); or laborers in a vineyard (Mat 20:1-16); or children who obey/disobey (Mat 21:28-32); or people at a wedding feast (Mat 22:1-14); or people investing money (Mat 25:14-30).

In this passage Jesus teaches about ten bridesmaids. The Groom’s friends would travel in procession to pickup the bridal party (John 3:29). Shouts and singing would go forth in the streets saying gladly, “the bridegroom is coming!” (Isaiah 62:5; Jeremiah 7:29; Revelation 18:23). The procession would often occur in the evening or at night so the bridal party would carry torches or lamps. The entire occasion would be a happy experience.

µ     Today graduates and family of the grads, this experience is filled with joy and gladness. Your church family celebrates this milestone with you. You have invested 13+ years in school with readings, writings, and arithmetic. Family you have worked alongside your graduate with words of encouragement, prayers of perseverance and perhaps a few minor bribes along the way J.

µ     Today there are many others who are not graduating but have similar ordinary or even outstanding decisions that are being made in your life. You can look at the past year, the past month or week and see the decisions that have piled up and had impact on your life.

Life is filled with these moments. How does God want you to view these moments?

–          Have fun. One biblical author experienced a variety of life moments wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:1, 12-13 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven… I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as you live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”

o       God and His kingdom is not a no-fun zone. When we delight in God, He enjoys the privilege to bless His children with the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4; Luke 11:13).

–          Have faith. Another biblical author who had a variety of experiences wrote in Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” decisions_2

o       God and His kingdom is about faith. Finding God’s will is not a mysterious or impossible problem to solve. We do not have to shake a magic 8-ball, search a horoscope, pull the right paper tag from a Chinese cookie or any other sort of strange mix to make good decisions. God has orchestrated the world and given humanity a brain, the Bible for His revelation, and the blessing of learning that we can take risks, fail and succeed all to His glory.

 

Decisions will be critiqued (Matthew 25:2-4).

In this parable Jesus teaches that there were 10 bridesmaids who went out to meet the groom.

5 were foolish and did not take oil for their lamps. The word used for foolish here (μωρός) implies dull, dense (stupid), empty minded (we get English word moron). A torch well soaked with oil would last about twenty minutes.[2] These bridesmaids were foolish and short-sighted to not bring extra oil.

The other 5 were wise (φρόνιμος; practical and sensible) who took flasks of oil for their lamps with them. They understood that a little logic, some forethought and planning can go a long way in decision making.

µ     Our decisions are constantly being critiqued and evaluated. This happens by our parents whether we are young or older and out of the house. This happens by our peers and also with professionals in the workplace. Critique is a critical part of learning the lessons of life.

ð     Receive criticism as constructive coaching.

o       I am concerned by people who cannot take criticism. To be fair, speaking the truth without love is unnecessarily harsh. However, speaking love without truth is unhelpful. Back to the point, when Christians who love each other offer a critique the first response should not be to leave but to learn.

  • Younger generations, the older generations (and your parents) have wisdom to pass on and you must listen and learn.

○       Proverbs 13:1 “A wise child listens to a parent’s instruction but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.”

  • Graduates, you are about to leave a place of shelter and enter the world of stewardship. Just because you graduated high school does not mean the teaching and correction ends. Your decisions will start carrying greater accountability and impact. You must keep learning and accepting critical feedback or you remain immature and incomplete for what God desires with your life.
  • Older generations, the younger generations have creative insights and perspectives that go beyond “we’ve always done it this way”, toward greater impact and more effectiveness. You must listen and learn.

ð     And more, your decisions, your character and your life is under examination by the Lord. Since every decision is critiqued, how should we live?

o       From 1Cor 8-10, Will my choice worship God? Will my choice weaken others? Will my choice widen faith in the gospel?

o       If everyone were doing what you’re doing, how would you view the world?

o       If children and people you respect knew what you were doing, would you still do it?

o       4 Christians:If you never had faith in Jesus, how would your life be any different?

o       Today’s generation is under watching eyes in increasing ways than previous generations due to social media. The internet may be a place for your individual expression but it is not without public evaluation.

Proverbs 15:2 “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

– Illus: I point up in the sky and ask one of my daughters, “Where does God live?” She says “Up in heaven.” Then I ask, “When God looks down, is there anything that He cannot see?” She rightly responds “No.” Then we discuss the foolishness of every lying to God or others.

 

Decisions have consequences (Matthew 25:5-13)

Ultimately Jesus uses this parable to teach the consequences of our decisions; especially the reality that earthly decisions have eternal impact.

vv.5-6

The bridegroom is delayed and all the bridesmaids became drowsy and slept. The same is said on the return of Jesus Christ. His return seems slow to us – why is He taking so long? what is the holdup?

The Bridegroom has His own timetable. Jesus gave us advanced warning that His return would be delayed. Jesus speaks of a delayed return previously in Matthew 24:48-50, then here in 25:5-6 and will repeat it again in 25:19. Much tribulation, trial and persecution will come into effect before Jesus’ return. Jesus’ apostles addressed the subject similarly saying, “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” . . . But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9)

Side Note: It is unnecessary for Christians to debate and divide over eschatological doctrines. If Jesus said “But concerning the day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36), AND “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority” (Acts 1:7); THEN how dare believers today conflict over end time charts and predictions.

– So, when someone predicts the date just ask them to sign over their bank account to you but don’t believe their predictions.

But at midnight (an unexpected time), there was a cry – “Here’s the bridegroom; Come out to meet him!”. Jesus says, “he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather his elect” (Mat 24:31; 1Cor 15:52; 1Thess 4:16)

à Be encouraged this is coming one day!

vv.9-11

Then the wise bridesmaids trimmed their lamps and inserted more oil. However, the foolish bridesmaids begged the wise to share. However, they could not or they too would be without. The meaning of the parable is not that the wise were being selfish but that preparation is not retro-active and beliefs cannot be borrowed. Each person must have their own faith encounter with God and be saved by His grace.

à Believe and be saved while there is still time!!!

The oil of the foolish did not last through the night… We need a faith that will last through dark and desperate times, through hardship, persecution, suffering, and perhaps through a tribulation period. We need faith that will hold strong in STORMS AND STUCK circumstances of life.

µ     Reaped profits or penalties are a result of decisions sown.

µ     We must make present decisions based on future desires.

o       If you want music you can actually listen then decide not to have PZ & PD sing

o       If you want meal you can actually eat then decide to follow recipe or select experienced chef

o       If you want rewarding life then pattern your life according to Scripture and godly examples.

o       If you want mind-blowing life filled with spiritual growth and supernatural phenomena – pray!

 

APPLY/THINK

µ     On that day there will be no wedding crashers. See below tips for recognizing them (adapted from knot.com)couple_1

o       He’s with grandma [those people pleasing church attenders for family or friends]

o       His stories keep changing [those religious people who reveal little vulnerability of their own sin]

o       He’s larger than life – a faker [those religious hypocrites who talk but do not live/act the faith]

o       He came in late… or is first eating the food [(self-explanatory in most cases)]

o       He doesn’t have an assigned seat so is always roaming [religious people not actually serving in ministry but just taking up space]

o       He never came to the ceremony [person never was converted and followed in believer’s baptism]

 

What this passage really reveals is the difference between those who have the light and life of Christ and those who do not.

–          The bridesmaids knew about the groom. They knew about Jesus.

–          The bridesmaids showed up in the bridal procession. They attended church.

–          The bridesmaids brought torches and sang the songs. They had the outward appearance.

 

à Many today look the part with the religious form but do not have spiritual power.

à They have candles but no matches. They have lightbulbs but no electricity.

à They have tree branches but no fruit (John 15:1-8).

à They have appearance of godliness but not affection for God or the power of God (2Timothy 3:5).

à Pandemic problem in world of Christianity – people who have prayed prayers, walked aisles, dunked in baptism, attended religious events all without encountering the living God and experiencing the life changing power of the gospel.

 

àà Jesus is saying the eternal consequence of your commitment may be shocking.

àà Jesus wants us to avoid shock from “Lord, Lord” to “I do not know you”

 

[1] Leon Morris. The Gospel According to Matthew, Pillar NT Commentary, p.52-53.

[2] RT France, Matthew, Tyndale Commentary.

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