Matthew 25:14-30 January 2009

OPENING THE BOOKS

In chapter 24-25 of Matthew Jesus was talking about His return and He made two very strong points about His return.

It will be sudden and unexpected and it will expose those who are His true followers and those who are not.

I shared with you last week that we cannot earn God’s forgiveness, acceptance and eternal life by trying to live a good life and do good works, we are saved by the grace, the undeserved kindness of God through trusting in Jesus Christ, it is God’s gift to us and to receive this gift we are must turn from our wrong beliefs and behaviour and put our faith and trust in Jesus.

Although we are not saved by our own efforts and good works, the proof that we are saved, the proof that we are genuine followers of Jesus will be seen in the way we live.

I also pointed out last week from John’s first letter the marks of those who are genuine followers of Jesus. In fact John wrote his first letter as he said in chapter 5:13 so that those who believe in Jesus may know that they have eternal life.

What are the marks of a true believer?

They uphold the truth, Desire to obey the Lord, Aspire to be like Jesus, Love their fellow believers, Reject the godless system created by man under Satan’s direction, Desire to do God’s will, Seek to do what is right, Do not habitually, deliberately and continually go on sinning, Believe that Jesus is God come to earth in human flesh, Believe that Jesus is God’s Messiah, They have God’s Spirit in them, Have the inner assurance that Jesus is God’s Son.

Jesus made it clear that there would be many who claim to be His followers who are not and when He returns they will be exposed as frauds.

In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins Jesus shows that when He returns, those who are not true believers will be exposed because they will not have what it takes to enter the Kingdom. A genuine relationship with Jesus and real faith that expresses itself in Christ like attitudes and behaviour.

In this parable we read this morning Jesus shows that when He returns, those who are not true believers will be exposed because they did nothing with the truth of God they heard and received. They had nothing to show for all that God had given them.

THE RESPONSIBILITY v14-15

The Master in this parable went on a journey and entrusted his servants with his money –expecting them to use it for his purposes and his interests. This has been called the parable of the talents and some people have assumed that the word talent here means our gifts and abilities. This word is nothing to do with our gifts and abilities. A talent was an amount of gold or silver that was used to buy and sell things. One talent of gold or silver would be worth thousands of dollars in today’s terms. So lets use the term a bag of gold. One servant was given 5 bags of gold, the other 2 bags of gold and the other one bag of gold. And they were all responsible to their master for what they did with His money.

In Luke 12:48 Jesus said “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

What is the bag of gold we have been given by God?

I believe it is God’s truth, revelation – its all here in the Bible. This is the only truth that can lead people to God for forgiveness, acceptance and eternal life and God has entrusted us with this truth. It is an amazing privilege to have heard and received this truth.

Ill. A well to do businessman in China had been searching for the truth all his life and had not found it in the religions of China. One day came into a CIM mission, heard the Gospel and found what he had been searching for. A While later he asked Hudson Taylor, “How long have you had the Good News in England?” He was ashamed to tell him for several hundred of years. “What! several hundred years and only now you have come to tell us? My father sought for this truth for more than 20 years and never found it. Why didn’t you come sooner?”

But with the privilege comes responsibility.

Ill. Elie Wiesel was a Romanian Jew who with his family was deported to the Nazi death camps during the war. Both his parents were murdered and his younger sister. For some reason Elie survived and he felt so privileged to be given the gift of life that from that moment on Eli lived for one thing – to give back to others what had been given to Him. He taught as a professor at Boston University, and travelled extensively, sharing the wisdom gained from his life experiences. A question he often asked young people was, “What will you do with the privileges you have received in life?” As he tried to guide them he shared his sense of responsibility: “What I receive I must pass on to others. The knowledge that I have must not remain imprisoned in my brain. I owe it to many men and women to do something with it. I feel the need to pay back what was given to me. Call it gratitude”

We have been given the amazing privilege of hearing and receiving the truth of God that leads to eternal life, what are we to do with this truth?

NB. In the parable each servant was given as much as they were capable of handling. Their master did not expect anything more than what he knew they were capable of. It’s the same with God. He doesn’t expect anything more from us than what He knows we are capable of –that’s why when God tells you to do something, He knows that with His help you can do it/

There are some people who have only heard and understood a little bit of God’s truth and there are others who have heard and understood a lot of God’s truth.

Ill. During the communist reign in Russia, Bibles were banned and in some churches there was only one Bible or even one book of the Bible to go around the congregation. Some could only get hold of a page of a Bible – I heard of one pastor who only had one page from the NT to preach from for a number of years and yet with that they were able to apply the truth it contained to their lives.

Ill. Wallamo people – A rough translation of Johns Gospel.

Ill. Tom Marshall said that he believed NZ Xs were some of the most spiritually well fed Xs in the world, because we have had so much teaching from God’s Word over the years. Because of that we have a greater responsibility for what we do with it.

THE RESPONSE V16-18

The first servant used his 5 bags of gold to make 5 more bags for his master which was 100% profit.

The servant who had been given 2 bags did the same but the servant who was given 1 bag buried it in the ground.

As I have already said, we have been given the amazing privilege of hearing and receiving the truth, the Word of God that leads to eternal life, what are we to do with this truth?

Like the first two servants we can put it into practice, apply to our lives, obey it, share it with others and as we do that truth, that word will produce fruit in our lives and in the lives of others.

God’s Word, the message of Christ is the most powerful agent for change and spiritual life in all the world.

Hebrews 4:12 us that God’s Word is living and active. Jesus said, “The Words which I speak are spiritual and life giving.” God said in Isaiah 55, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

When you believe Gods Word and act upon it – it is life giving, it creates, it changes, it heals, it delivers and it saves.

Don’t ever, ever underestimate the power of God’s Word. We believers need to have great confidence in the Word of God. When you apply it to your own life, when you act upon it, obey it,– God’s Spirit will take that Word and produce a deep lasting work of change and growth and healing in your life.

And when you share God’s Word with others – God Spirit will take that word like a seed and cause it to work away in that person’s heart and when the conditions are right that seed will germinate grow and bear fruit.

Ill. During the last war the people of Coventry cathedral were preparing for a harvest thanksgiving service placing all their produce at the front of the church. That night Hitler’s bombs devastated the cathedral leaving nothing standing. Next spring at the front of thr churcgh where the altar had been wheat plants began to appear and grow.. Not even Hitler’s bombs could destroy the potential life in those wheat seeds. God’s Word is like seed that when planted in the human heart will produce fruit and nothing and no one will be able to destroy it. Isaiah 55

Ill. Martin Niemöller was a German pastor who was arrested by the Nazis because he draed to publicly spoke out against there evil regime. Before the Nazis executed him Martin was kept in solitary confinement for many years. He was allowed to keep his Bible. A small vent in his cell opened into the exercise yard and each day prisoners would walk past that vent, and as each one passed Niemuller would read a Bible verse them through the vent. And many of those prisoners found hope, forgiveness and eternal life through the Word of God that was planted in their hearts in the exercise yard.

Ill. Ten-year-old Maria lived in a village in central Chile. When her mother died she took over the job of looking after the family. One day as she was making her father’s lunch she slipped a little gospel tract she had been given by a missionary into his lunch box. Her father worked in a local coal mine and that very day the coal mine collapsed. When the rescue crew broke through into the shaft where the miners had been working they found Maria’s father and 7 other miners dead. They had all suffocated. But they also found the little Gospel tract sitting in his lap and somehow he had managed to write these words on the back of it, “My dear Maria, by the time you read this, I’ll be with your mother. I read your little book, then I read it several times to the others while we waited to be rescued. Our hope is fading for this life – but not for the next. We did as the book told us and prayed, asking Jesus to forgive us and come into our lives. I love you very much, and one day soon we will all be together in heaven.”

God has entrusted us with His Word, His truth – so that we might apply it to our own lives and plant it into the lives of others and when we do it will bring forth fruit.

The first two servants speak of those faithful followers of Jesus who hear and read God’s truth, Word, apply it to their lives and share it with others.

The third servant speaks of those unfaithful, disobedient people who may even call themselves Christian and go to church. They have heard God’s Truth, God’s Word, they may even have read it, memorised it, quoted it, but they never applied it to their lives, they never acted upon it, never obeyed it, they never did anything about it – they simply buried it. The result was that God’s Word did nothing in their lives or in the lives of others – no growth, no fruit.

THE RECKONING V19-27

The Master returned and wanted to know what they had done with His money.

The first servant was able to return the 5 bags of gold with 5 more and the second two with two more – they had made 100% profit.

And their master said to them, “Well done good and faithful servants you proven to be trustworthy and responsible in handling my investments, I will now trust you with greater responsibility.”

Do you realise that our responsibilities in the Kingdom of heaven are determined by our faithfulness in this life.

Some people have got the idea that in heaven we will all be sitting around on clouds playing harps and getting bored.

They couldn’t be further from the truth. In God’s eternal Kingdom we will serve Him. That is obvious from what we read here and when speaking about heaven John writes in Rev 22:3-4 “No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will serve him.”

But some will have greater responsibility in the Kingdom of heaven than others – this is nothing to do with importance or equality, it’s simply a matter of service and responsibility.

When the master asked the third servant what he had done with his one bag of gold he said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

He didn’t know his master

This servant didn’t even know his master. He accused him of being harsh and of taking things that didn’t belong to him, in other words stealing.

This is a mark of those who are not true followers of Jesus. They do not know Him. They do not have a personal relationship with Him, they haven’t got to know Him through reading the scriptures or through allowing Him to lead and direct their lives.

When you don’t know the Lord you will always misjudge Him and misunderstand Him.

There are a lot of so called Xs who have turned their backs on Jesus because they said, “He let them down.”

It wasn’t Jesus who let them down it was their wrong beliefs about Jesus that let them down. They didn’t really know Him at all.

He acted out of fear instead of faith.

I was afraid and buried your talent of gold.

This is a person who might even claim to be a X but who is afraid to really trust Jesus, afraid to act upon His Word, afraid to allow Jesus to lead and direct their lives.

The opposite to fear is faith – There are a lot of people who are afraid to give their lives over to Jesus, afraid to completely trust Him. They still want to hold onto their old ways and false securities. They are afraid they might lose out if they really and truly commit themselves to follow

Jesus and so they never really do.

They might go to church and call themselves Christians and do a lot of religious things, but they want to run their lives their own way and be the boss. They are not willing to allow Jesus to be in charge.

Jesus said to these people once, “Why do you call me Lord, Boss, Master, but you don’t do what I tell you to do.”

There are a lot of so called Xs who have prevented God from working in their lives and through their lives because they are afraid to take Him at His Word and really trust Him. Their lives are not governed by faith and trust but by fear.

Well the master called this servant wicked and lazy.

Wicked because he accused his master of being a harsh, dishonest thief and lazy because he could be bothered carrying out the responsibility given to him.

His master said to him, “If you thought I was I was harsh and dishonest, you should have at least done something. You could have put the money in the bank and at least get some interest on it.”

THE RETRIBUTION v28

Now his master said, “Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of gold. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away.”

The greatest tragedy of mankind is that God has given us many opportunities to seek Him and find Him, to hear His Truth and receive it, but most people have chosen to let those opportunities go by.

Ill. Paul Holmes and his team were conducting an interview on the east Coast just north of Gisborne. As they flew by helicopter back to Gisborne, the helicopter ditched in the sea at Anaura Bay in the pitch black of night. Holmes was trapped inside the helicopter as it sank under the sea and was using the name of Jesus Christ more as a exclamation than a prayer. He says that although many would not believe it, he saw a blue light above him and moved towards it only to discover a hole in the body of the helicopter. He squeezed through and rose quickly to the surface. There wasn’t a light in sight, the sky was overcast and it was night time. To this day he believes it was something supernatural. When he finally reached shore a Maori minister asked if he could pray with him. He was so deeply touched by the man’s prayer that he named his son after the minister. In spite of this God given opportunity Holmes did not turn to the Lord.

This servant was given privilege and opportunity, but he refused to do anything with them and so the privilege and the responsibility was taken from him and given to him who had been faithful and trustworthy and he ended up in a place of darkness, misery and frustration.

I believe the greatest cause of misery and frustration in hell will be knowing that God gave people the opportunity to hear and receive His truth that leads to eternal life but they did nothing with it. They will carry a huge sense of disappointment and regret for all eternity because they could have had heaven but ended up in hell because they chose to do nothing. No wonder Jesus describes it as a place of darkness where there is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Everyone of us in this room have received an input of God’s Truth, God’s Word. We have heard, read and received that truth –some more than others, but we are all accountable to God for what we do with it.

We can like the unfaithful servant bury it, ignore it, let it go in one ear and out the other, or we can believe it and apply it to our lives, share it with others – the choice is ours.

This parable tells us that whenever God speaks to us through his Word or through His Spirit – we decide what we will do with it and God will hold us accountable for what we do with it.

This year, why not make a conscious choice that whenever God speaks to us through His Word or through His Spirit in our conscience that we will not bury it, put into practice, to act upon it, apply it to our lives and situations – ask God’s Spirit to help us follow this through.