The Truth Ultimately Wins Out

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

Commemoration of Elizabeth of Hungary

November 19, 2017

Matthew 25:31–46

Why do people lie? Why do they deliberately mislead people? Sometimes we lie because we think that telling the other person the truth will hurt them. Sometimes we do it to build ourselves up. Sometimes we do it for gain. Where did this conscious decision to lie come from? Some people will tell you that this is the way we evolved. Much in the same way animals will camouflage themselves for preservation they say we adapted the ability to deceive in order to gain something. Some people think it’s just the way we are.

The truth is that God is the source of life and lying entered the world when the Father of Lies spoke to Eve and misled her by asking her, “Did God really say?” When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree forbidden them they immediately knew that they were naked and suddenly experienced something new: shame. They knew they had put their trust in themselves over-against God and tried to cover up their shame with plant leaves. And they hid. Imagine trying to hide from God, the creator of the universe. Human beings have been lying ever since.

Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life. God does not lie. Many don’t believe in God. When you don’t believe in Him you are saying that He is a liar. They will come up with reasons of why we lie, even believing that it is a natural part of being human. But lying is the result of original sin. We lie because we are sinful. But it’s not just a matter of being sinful and so we lie. It’s a matter of the First Commandment, You shall have no other gods. In the Catechism we learn that this means that we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

We don’t. And that is the worst lie of all. Like the Father of Lies, we lie and say that we know better than God. We do not fear Him alone, we do not love Him fully, we do not trust in Him categorically. Now if you don’t believe in God the Father this will not mean anything to you. But if you do then you will recognize the truth of it and our continual need for repentance. Yes, we lie. Yes, we do not trust in God as we ought. And yes, we need to repent. This is the truth.

It is also the truth that our God forgives us. He not only forgives us, He blesses us abundantly as if we had never sinned. We know this because He gave us His Son. His Son feared, loved, and trusted in His Father above all things. And yet the Father sent His Son to become sin in our place. Paul says in 2Corinthians 5, “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The great truth of history is that God loves the world in this way, He made His Son to be sin and we instead of being dead in sin are alive in righteousness.

All sin is a repudiation of that. Christians sin, there’s no question. But we repent. We daily see that we are unworthy of God’s grace in Jesus. We daily ask for forgiveness and a renewed mind and heart. We constantly battle temptation and our own sinful flesh. We are looking forward to the new heaven and the new earth, the day when Christ will return in glory to take us home.

In the Epistle reading the apostle Peter says people will scoff at this. They will lie and it will sound convincing so that we will believe their lies. It has been two thousand years and your Christ has not returned. What makes you think He is still coming back? You believe in fairy tales. It’s eerily reminiscent of the first lie, “Did God really say?” And Adam and Eve began to wonder if God had been holding out on them. Maybe God wasn’t being completely truthful with them. Maybe Jesus was speaking figuratively when He said He would return on the Last Day in great glory and with a multitude of angels.

There is the truth and there is the lie. The truth is that God has kept every promise He has made. The lie is that He is not the true God. The truth is that Jesus is returning again on the Last Day. The lie is that He is not even God. The truth is that He is Lord and He has accomplished salvation. The lie is that it’s a dog-eat-dog world and you should just make the best of it. The truth is that we do not have it within us to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The truth is that our only hope is to be saved by grace. And out of this great truth is the blessing of living in His eternal care. Of course in heaven it will be in pure glory.

Here on earth it’s a struggle. And so Peter says that since it’s true that Christ is coming again in glory to bring us home what sort of lives ought we to be living? Jesus gives a wonderful picture of this in the Gospel reading. I was hungry and you fed Me, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. He says this to those on His right, who are being welcomed into the eternal glory of heaven. But they don’t understand. When did we see You hungry and thirsty and sick and all those other things? He says, When you did it to one of the least of these you did it to Me.

This is the beauty of grace. When you stand before Christ the Judge on Judgment Day and He tells you all the ways you loved Him and helped Him you are not going to understand what He is talking about. You know your sin. You know do not live fully as He calls you to live. On Judgment Day you are not going to have your list of good things you did ready to show Him. No, you are going to wonder what He is talking about when He gives you the list of all the good things you did. Because you will know, as certain as ever, that you are saved by grace. You will see as clear as a bright day that the one you are standing before is the one who was made sin and yet who knew no sin so that you could be the righteousness of God.

You will know that when He first says to you, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world” you will not be able to contain your gratitude that you are blessed by the Father of Jesus. That you are inheriting the Kingdom, that it is purely a gift given to you. That it has been prepared for you—for you!—from before the foundation of the world. From before you were ever born, before you ever had a chance to do any good work or even have some sort of notion that you could earn your way to heaven, that your good works somehow are the reason you’re getting in.

Let these words of your Lord soak in. It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing, not of works, so that no one can boast. Paul wrote these words because it is what was taught him by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge who Himself received the judgment for sin upon Himself. We have done nothing, we can do nothing. But we live in this grace. We serve our neighbor. We love the least of these. We help them in their needs. This is even by grace. Because here our sinful flesh still gets in the way, where we think about what good people we are being, how God must be pleased with us, how we are even satisfied with how good we are doing and with how much.

You are saved by grace and you live by grace. This truth eventually wins out. Let the scoffers scoff. Their lies will crumble to dust and the Son of Man who has come in glory will send them to eternal torment and welcome us into eternal life. Amen.