Messages from Pastor Raddatz

November 26, 2023, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Houston TX, Other Texts for the Day: Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The Good and The Bad, Matthew 25:31-46

Grace, Mercy and Peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Dear People of God,

            Today is Christ the King Sunday!  It is the last Sunday of the Church Year.  Next Sunday we begin a new year in the Church with Advent: the preparation for the birth of Christ,

            It is appropriate, then, that today we hear about the last things or the last days.  The last day for anyone who is on earth when Christ comes is the judgement of all people.  Today we will call it separating the good from the bad.  So Jesus tells another parable about separating the sheep from the goats.  The goats go on his left and the sheep go on his right

NOTICE: The sheep do not become sheep because of what they do, but they are already made to be sheep, the same with goats.  The Sheep do sheep things, and the goats do goat things.  Sheep are those who welcome Christ and the goats rejected Christ.

            Some churches use the Athanasian Creed on this day.  The Athanasian Creed is the longest of the three Creeds, opposite the Nicene and the Apostle’s Creed.

And so the church teaches and confesses this doctrine of judgment according to works. The Athanasian Creed, after the familiar line about Christ coming again to judge the living and the dead, goes on to say: “At His coming all people will rise again with their bodies and give an account concerning their own deeds. And those who have done good will enter into eternal life, and those who have done evil into eternal fire.” This then is our church’s teaching–judgment according to works. Good works done will be cited as evidence when the righteous are rewarded. Good works not done likewise will be cited as evidence when those on the left are told to depart.

So our first two points about the sheep and the goats are these: First, there will be a judgment, a separation. And second, this judgment will be according to works. Then the third point: It is only faith in Christ that can produce the good works that righteous sheep do. Notice what the King says when he commends their good deeds, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,” and so on. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Everything is centered on the person of the King. If the work is done in connection with Christ, then it is regarded as a good work. If there is no connection with Christ, then there are no good works. You must be linked to Christ and his goodness–that divine, righteous goodness by which we sinners are accounted as good–in order for there to be any good works to speak of. Faith in Christ is the key as to whether your works will be judged as good or not.


So in the final analysis, it is faith that saves, faith in Christ. Faith alone, apart from works. Our works do not, in the slightest degree, merit our salvation. It is a free gift, pure grace. Only Jesus Christ and his work can earn our salvation for us. Jesus died on the cross to wipe the slate clean for us. His precious blood washes away our unfavorable record of sins. Those sins will not be brought forward when the books are opened. Christ’s righteousness is bestowed on us as a gift. His perfect holiness purifies our imperfect works, so they are then regarded as good works for his sake. Christ remembers only the good that we have done. And he sees in our poor little deeds of mercy, which we ourselves would never dare to plead, our Yes to him. -Summary of Lutheran understanding of Athanasian Creed, Rev. Charles Henrickson

Since we are saved by God’s grace through Christ, us continue in the faith.  The first good work is to believe, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit.  See John 6 below:

Do not work for food that perishes, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.”

28 Then they inquired, “What must we do to perform the works of God?”

29 Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” -Berean Study Bible

Reverend Frederick Buechner put it this way: Thus for Jesus the only distinction between men that ultimately matters seems to be not whether they are churchgoers or non-churchgoers, communists or capitalists, Catholics or Protestants or Jews, but do they or do they not love - love not in the sense of an emotion so much as in the sense of an act of the will, the loving act of willing another's good even, if need arise, at the expense of their own. "Hell is the suffering of being unable to love," (said old Father Zossima?) or, as John puts it in his first epistle, "He who does not love remains in death."

As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me. Just as Jesus appeared at his birth as a helpless child that the world was free to care for or destroy, so now he appears in his resurrection as the pauper, the prisoner, the stranger: appears in every form of human need that the world is free to serve or to ignore. weekly illustration online

Now may this peace, which passes all understanding keep your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting, Amen.  

Pastor John Raddatz



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