Sheep and goats: our churches are full of both. On the outside, they often look the same, but one day, the “Heart-Knower” will separate the two. The sheep to everlasting glory. The goats to everlasting punishment.
We will all live forever—somewhere! Do you know for certain where you will spend eternity? And what about other people you know? Are there some who profess to be Christians, yet whose lives haven’t changed?
Exodus 31 & 32
Sheep, Goats & Eternity
The “Heart-Knower” Will Separate the Two
32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
Sheep and goats: our churches are full of both. On the outside, they often look the same, but Jesus said they’re not.
Last month when we read through the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5, 6, 7), we talked about 7.21-23:
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Notice in verse 22, “Many will say …” These people were doing “Christian” things. They were sitting in our pews, part of our small groups, serving in ministry … but Jesus will say, “I never knew you …”
How is it possible that people can sit in churches week after week, attend Bible studies, even serve in ministry and not know God? How would we know if that’s us? And, if we want to truly love and serve others, are there red flags that we should look for in their lives?
Lest you think, I’m talking about becoming overly focused on what others are doing or doing it in a harsh or unloving way, please hear me out. But, too often, we’ve been taught that we are never to judge others based on Matthew 7.1. Certainly, we have to be careful. We can’t know anyone else’s heart. We barely know our own (Jer. 17.9).
But in Luke 6 Jesus also said:
43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
You can’t read the gospels and Jesus’ interactions with the Scribes and Pharisees without realizing this “good fruit” isn’t so much outward or religious acts in themselves. The good fruit talked about here must come from a changed heart.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Matt. 12.35).
A person with a changed heart will sometimes fall short. As Christians we sin, sometimes in grievous ways. But, as genuine believers, we should be convicted when confronted with the truth about sin (1 Jn. 3.9-10). As new creations in Christ, we should have a desire for God’s Word and to live in ways that are pleasing to Him (2 Cor. 5.9). And there will be fruit, in varying degrees, but a changed heart produces changed desires and a changed life.
So, we have a dilemma. First, is it even loving to look at the fruit in someone else’s life? Some would say, “no.” And, if we can’t know someone else’s heart, what would we judge when looking for “good fruit”?
Let me address the question of whether or not it’s loving. Most of us have been taught that we’re to report child abuse when we’re aware of it (rightfully so), even though the perpetrator might not call it loving.
If we saw a blind man stepping out in traffic, we would surely grab his arm. Many of us would even stop to pick up a stray dog out of fear they’d be struck by a car.
Yet, there are people in our church families who are on their way to hell and we say, “I don’t want to judge!” Or, “Who am I to say anything?”
I want to emphasize that we are not to set ourselves up as judge or final authority over the lives of others. Also, we can’t definitively know whether someone else is saved or not and we always need to examine our own lives and motives before we consider addressing other people’s issues (Matt. 7.3-5).
But we all have people in our circle of influence whose lives don’t match what they say they believe. We know others who have life dominating sins or who are making unbiblical choices like living together. All while professing to be believers. Could some of them be the “many” Jesus talked about?
As a counselor, people come to me looking for help to solve problems: marital problems, parenting problems, and personal issues like depression and anxiety. As a biblical counselor, I believe that God’s Word is sufficient for all the issues of life (2 Pet. 1.3-4; 2 Tim. 3.16-17).
Both believers and unbelievers sit across the desk from me or my husband and me when we’re counseling together. When they come from outside the church or it’s clear they aren’t believers, we share the gospel with them. Many are saved during those first few weeks of counseling.
I’ve seen the severest anxiety and depression changed by the power of God as people begin to process life biblically and respond accordingly. I’ve seen broken marriages restored and parents grow in their ability to parent biblically.
I’ve also seen people quit counseling because it “wasn’t working.” The truth is many people really want a counselor to wave a magic wand over them like Naaman with his leprosy (2 Kings 5.11). Or they see their spouse or someone else as the real problem and only want you to “fix” them. They don’t want to grow and change themselves.
Others come, professing to be believers, yet it soon becomes apparent that they simply don’t have the power to change. They have no hunger for God’s truth and no desire to please God (2 Cor. 5.9).
I don’t start telling them their not saved, but I begin to weave the gospel into my sessions. I talk about how change is possible if we know Christ and have the Holy Spirit to help us. I may, also, give them homework designed to help them evaluate their relationship with God.
Often, there’s a turning point where they begin to change and grow. I know they have been born again by the Spirit of God, even though I may or may not have formally made an invitation for them to accept the gospel. It was simply the Spirit of God working through the Word of God.
We’re All Counselors!
“That’s easy for you to say, Donna, but I’m not a counselor.” I would beg to differ with you. While you may not counsel formally like I do, you are counseling all the time. You counsel your children. You counsel your friend with marital problems. You counsel your spouse when he or she asks for your input. And we should. It’s part of the one anothering (Heb. 10.24) we are all called to do in the body of Christ.
As far as I am concerned about you, my brothers, I am convinced that you especially are abounding in the highest goodness, richly supplied with perfect knowledge and competent to counsel one another (Rom. 15.14 Williams).
I understand it can be challenging, even risky, to speak the truth into someone else’s life. We run the risk of offending or losing a friendship, but the consequences of not speaking the truth can be eternal.
God has called us to get our hands dirty and run the risk in a loving and appropriate way.
¹ Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
How Does It Happen?
Is it possible there are “many” in your church and mine who don’t know Christ? How does it happen and could it be even more prevalent than we imagine?
Today there is a great deal of focus on making church relevant and appealing to those outside the church. It’s not wrong to speak in contemporary language. And music styles can change.
But we cannot neglect or dumb down the “preaching of the cross.”
¹ And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
But sadly … many churches are more concerned that people feel comfortable and are not offended by strong teaching. So, the Word is not preached with power and authority. Weak teaching and preaching equal weak, anemic spiritual lives. It, also, makes it possible for people to come week after week without coming under conviction for sin and seeing their need for Christ.
2 Timothy 4 says:
¹ I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
In the meantime, our job is the same as Timothy’s.
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4.5).
One day, the “Heart-Knower” will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep to everlasting glory. The goats to everlasting punishment. We will all live forever—somewhere! Do you know for certain where you will spend eternity? And what about other people you know? Are there some who profess to be Christians, yet whose lives haven’t changed? How would God have you pray? Is it possible God is calling you to lovingly warn them?
Today’s Other Readings:
Exodus 31 & 32
Out Came This Calf!
Moses had been on the mountaintop communing with God. As he’s preparing to come down to the people, God tells him the people have turned away from Him and begun to worship a golden calf. Not only are they worshiping a pagan god, but they are having a drunken and, probably, sex-filled party. God in His perfect justice and sinless anger is ready to destroy them for their wickedness.
But Moses as a type of Christ intercedes for the people.
Just a sidebar, don’t you just love Aaron’s statement about how the golden calf was created!
The people said to me, ‘Moses led us out of Egypt, but we don’t know what has happened to him. Make us gods who will lead us.’ So I told the people, ‘Take off your gold jewelry.’ When they gave me the gold, I threw it into the fire and out came this calf!” (32.23-24 NCV).
As if it just jumped out of the fire!
But as with so many things we see in the Old Testament, we’re not so different:
“I don’t know how I got into this affair, we were just friends … and out came this calf!”
“I don’t know how we ended up living two separate, parallel lives, we just quit communicating little by little … and out came this calf!”
“I don’t know how I ended up feeling so far from God, I just missed a few services. I was really busy and just couldn’t find time to read my Bible. I pray as I’m running out the door. I just go out with my friends for a few drinks, but I witness to them when I get a chance … and out came this calf!”
How Not to Slip, Totter, or Fall
Verse 7 says, “For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.”
Because the king trusted in the Lord and because of God’s mercy or unfailing love, he would not be moved. That word moved in this context means “to slip, totter, or make random motions which may result in an object falling.”
Think about that. When we put our faith and trust in God, in His love for us, He will not allow us to slip, totter or fall. What a mighty, loving God we serve!
She Has Cast Down Many Wounded!
This chapter closes with a final warning by a father to a son about the dangers of sexual immorality.
Verses 26-27, “For she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men.”
Of course, this is not just a warning to men. Women, too, can be led astray or tempted by a seducer. We don’t want to be on either side of this sin.
In the coming days, we’ll talk about what it really means to be a friend of God, how to rate yourself on biblical love, offering God your best, the importance of defending your faith, and pose the question, “Could you be raising little hypocrites?”
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Today’s Featured Resource:
How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur
The Bible is the Word of life. As such, studying the Bible is crucial to the life and growth of every believer. In this revised work, John MacArthur examines various Scripture passages in the Old and New Testament to answer both the “why” and the “how” questions of Bible study.
How to Study the Bible can be used alongside or apart from the audio series available from Grace to You in either a personal or group study.
- Corresponds with the audio message series available from Grace to You
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- For personal or group study use