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Ready or Not - The Reckoning

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/8) Introduction

Just about everyone or every home, has something that is never used because you are saving it for, "good." This could be clothing, china, even a room, or furniture, or something else. What is it in your house or in the home you grew up in? Ours was a room. It was the good room, rarely were even afforded the chance to look in that room, let alone going in there. Rarely did my mother open the door to that room for anyone to go in there. In our cabinet are the good dishes. They are there for special occasions. What is it with you? (Field responses)

Did you receive anything as a gift and you felt it too good to use, so you are saving it for good? Why do we do that? Our life lesson today is something like that. It is about receiving gifts and not using them. But let’s go back and review for a moment.

I. A Review (Ch. 24) Our last two lessons, in our Words in Red series,

are from Matthew 25. But coming out of 23, we find our Lord rebuking the religious leaders for their outrageous hypocrisy. His heart breaks because He came to redeem His people and they didn’t want Him or His redemption. As He leaves the temple, the 12 remark about the beauty of the temple stones, but He can see the day when the temple will be destroyed (as it was and remains so to this day). He tells them of that day. They assume it must be part of the process that would lead to Jesus stop being Clark Kent and becoming Superman and restoring the glory to Israel as He rules over the world and ushers in the golden age. So, they ask Him when this would happen.

His answer implies that it would not be for a while, and when it does happen it will be after a few years of hell on earth. The preparatory purging process of the planet. The Great Tribulation would have to occur, the time of Jacob’s trouble. Book of Revelation stuff. Nobody knows when, but everyone is reminded to be ready, the King could come at any time. Just like no one knew when the waters would be unleashed in Noah’s day, no one knows when the King is coming and it is foolish to try to establish a date. It is proper, however, to be ready, watching, praying, and busy about the King’s business. Look at Matthew 24:44.

II. A Reminder (Ch. 25) Chapter 25 begins with a reminder of something that

Our Lord has taught all along. In the congregation of the righteous will be those who claim a relationship with Jesus but really don’t know Him. Jesus taught this in the parables of Matthew 13. There were 4 kinds of soil, but only one produced fruit. There were wheat that had tares in in the field. Tares looked like wheat but was empty, no grain in the heads. There was the net of fish, that included carp, and other creatures not fit for table fare and were thrown away. In every congregation, it is possible that there are people who talk the talk and know the stuff, but have never really received Jesus as their Lord, never made disciples, or fished for men, never produced fruit. So it is with the parable of the ten virgins. They were chosen to be part of the wedding party but five of them never made sure that they were ready to meet the bridegroom. And just like no one can go to heaven or be forgiven based on their parent’s or spouse’s relationship with God, these foolish virgins, with no oil in their flasks for their lamps, could not shine unless they themselves were prepared. Another lesson here, is that you must not think that someday I will get ready. Your day of reckoning could happen today.

So, it is with the characters of our story from verse 13 and on. Building on the sad note of verse 12, our Lord reminds these guys to Watch, for they would not know the day nor the hour of His return. He then tells them another story which brings us back to our introductory thoughts. Back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, the return of the Lord and prophecy was the big topic of the church. There were prophecy conferences and the movie series, A Thief in the Night, along with its follow ups, were the big thing in a lot of churches. Some were even selling or giving away all of their stuff, because they were convinced that the Lord’s return was so close.

III. The Responsibility (Vv. 14-15)

Verse 14 begins our story. "Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming, for the Kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country who called His own servants and delivered His goods to them." Let’s pause for just a second, and notice that He called His own servants. These were His chosen people, the ones serving in His household or business, and He entrusted His stuff to them. These are not to people in general. These are chosen people who had been entrusted with His stuff.

Verse 15 reminds us that the amount of stuff given was proportionate with their individual ability. The point is that each one was capable of using what he was entrusted with. Based on past performance or realized potential, each had the ability to do something great with what he had been entrusted with.

The stuff belonged to the wealthy Lord. These 3 servants were entrusted with the opportunity of a life time. All of the, "if onlys," they had ever said was here. Have you ever said, "If only," "If only I had a better education; if only I had an understanding spouse; if only I had an opportunity to prove myself; if only I had a little money to invest; if only I was born at a different time or place; if only I had studied harder; if only someone would have given me a chance," and on and on. These three had their "if only" right there in front of them.

A talent was the weight of money. Depending on whether it was gold, silver, or copper, one talent could be ten, twenty, or 50 years’ worth of the average wages. 5 talents was more than most people would ever see in their lifetime. Two talents would be a lifetime or more. The master’s treasure was entrusted to them. Wow! This was their golden opportunity to secure their future and prove their ability.

IV. Receiving Gifts – It is here that the story begins to get intensely personal.

The Lord is telling us here that the servants are us. All of us. These three received a treasure, and so do we. We have received the gifts of life, forgiveness, grace, peace, adoption, and eternal life, the Holy Spirit of God Himself residing inside of us, and we have all received the ability to serve each other in a special way. We refer to this last one as a Spiritual gift, a Charisma, a gift of grace. He has given you the gift of an education, of resources, money and possessions. You live in America. Every person here is wealthier than 90% of the world’s population. Many of you have been given an ability that comes natural to you. You can design, or build, or create art, or make music, or write, or organize, or teach and so much more. You are gifted. The Gospel message is itself a wonderful treasure.

Sometimes I marvel at the tremendous advancements in medical ability and technology. 11 years ago, I had a condition called an Atrial Flutter. Something in the upper right part of my heart was causing the electricity in my heart to run in circles instead of firing like a spark plug. My Dr. sent me to Union Memorial hospital, where Drs. sent a wire up both of legs into my heart and somehow, with a joy stick, they burned the interrupting tissue out of my heart and thus allowed my heart to fire normally again. And I came home the same day. What a gift! It was called a Catheter ablation. Without it I was headed for a stroke. This gift saved my life for a time; however, I am still going to die someday. But God has given you a gift that has enabled you to live for eternity. Paul says it is a treasure and God has chosen to place this treasure in clay jars in 2 Cor. 4:7, a reference to ordinary people like us, (some of which are cracked pots). Listen to these verses:

• But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, gave gifts to men. (Ephesians 4:7-8)

• But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all… But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:7, 11)

• For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: (Romans 12:3-6a) (and 1 more)

• As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11) Say this out loud, "I am a very gifted person!" (Say it again).

Everyone is different, there are 5 talent people, 2 talent people, and 1 talent people, but there are no un-talented people in God’s church. But, the question is, what are you doing with His gifts, His treasure, and your talents? The New International version, says that the 5 talent and the two talent guys went at once, or immediately began to manage the talents they were entrusted with. They invested, traded, and made the most of their gifts for the master, doing what He knew they were able to do. And they did good! But the one talent guy did not. He buried his talent. Some of you have received gifts that are still in the box on a shelf, in a closet or drawer, because you are saving it for good. The giver grieves because he or she gave it to you to be used, and enjoyed.

Let’s pause for just one second and remember where Jesus is going with this story. He is the master who has gone away, and He has entrusted His treasure with His people to use, invest, and manage on His behalf until He returns and return He will! And He grieves when His gifts are not used!

V. The Risks – What are the risks of taking the gift out of the box?

It could get broken, soiled, or lost. It will not serve the function for which it was designed or crafted if it stays in the box. That’s the tragedy of the unused gift. These guys could have made bad investments, and lost the money. For many years George Herman (the Babe) Ruth held the home run record in baseball (714). But he struck out 1330 times. Nearly two strikeouts for every home run. Mr. October, Reggie Jackson struck out twice that many times. They knew that there will always be risks. You might strike out, but you can’t hit the ball if you don’t swing the bat.

VI. The Return of the Lord (v. 19a) "After a long time the Lord of those

Servants returned…" Look back at 24:44 and 25:13, this is the point, Ready or Not…. Has He been gone a long time? Yes! 2000 years is a long time, but as He kept His word and came the first time, He is coming back. And while we are instructed not to set dates, we are instructed to be ready, and to use the gifts He has given us for His glory. They were not given to hoard, to be put on a shelf, or in the attic, but to be used because there will be a day of reckoning.

VII. The Reckoning (v. 19b) "After a long time the lord of those servants came

and settled accounts with them." The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in several places. Listen to these:

• For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God."12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:9-12)

• Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:9-10).

• And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. (Col. 3:24-25; cp. 1 Cor. 4:5, Eph. 6:8)

For those who don’t know Jesus, their time will be after He returns and is recorded for us in Rev. 20. It is referred to as the Great White throne Judgment (Next week’s lesson). There the only things to be determined are that their names are not recorded in the book of life and the intensity of the torment of wasted opportunities, unopened gifts, and self-centered living.

VIII. The Reasons for Burying the gift. We will come back to the first two guys

in a second, but let’s look at the one talent guy. He didn’t use the gift. He buried his talent (v. 18). Vv. 24-25 says, "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ When the Lord comes back, He is going to ask, "What did you do with the gifts I gave you to use for me?" What excuses will we give Him? "Honest officer, I didn’t see the speed limit sign." "I thought my speedometer was broken." "I didn’t know that was the law." "This woman you gave me…." "If I had more time…." "If my health was better…" "If I lived in a different neighborhood…." "If I had more money." Notice:

A. He makes accusations about the character of the Lord. He accuses Him of being hard, or unmerciful. The Lord was a mean school principle, or the police officer that is looking for you to mess up like Harry Callahan waiting for you to make a wrong move and make his day. (Many of you don’t know Dirty Harry). He is the boss that seems to have a chip on his shoulder toward you. He is the abusive parent looking for any excuse to strike you. And always looking to acquire what isn’t His. Many don’t serve God or use their gifts because they see God as uncaring, unmerciful, not concerned with their well-being, looking for law breakers to punish. Is that you?

B. Maybe He thinks His Lord isn’t fair. Maybe He thought He should have had the 5 or at least the 2 talents. He is just as able and qualified as the 2 talent guy, and yet he only gave me one. I am angry because the Lord isn’t fair. I am jealous. I deserve to have 2 talents or 5. Why did they get it and not me? In this case, pride and a false sense of superiority led him to say, I’m not going to do anything. But:

C. He says He was afraid. Fear may be the number one reason people don’t use their gifts. Fear is a tremendous motivator.

• Why do we hoard instead of give? Fear that we won’t have enough.

• Why do we lie? Fear of the consequences of truth.

• Why don’t we obey God? Fear that He won’t keep His promises.

• Why do we not get involved when we see a wrong? Fear that it will costs me in some way.

• Why do we flatter people? Fear that they won’t like me if I don’t.

• Why do we remain silent when we should tell people about Jesus? Fear they will reject not only Jesus but me.

• Why don’t we serve? Fear that it will take my time.

• Why do we stay in the boat when Jesus is standing on the water and saying, come to me? Fear that we could sink.

• Why don’t we give our lives completely to Jesus? Fear that He will want me to step out of my comfort zone and go to Africa.

• Why don’t we gather to pray in the evening? Fear of missing the ball game or our show on TV.

• Why do we put the gift back in the box and in the closet? Fear that it might break or get dirty or…?

• Why don’t we wash feet? Fear of giving up our pride.

• Why don’t we open our home to hospitality? Fear that we will be judged by the people whose homes are perfect.

Listen to me, many times when God called someone, they were afraid. Look at Moses, Gideon, Joshua, Esther, Jeremiah and more. But God never calls or commands you do something that you are unequipped to do, and He always promises to be with you and to never leave you. Your gifts are according to your ability and He will be with you. But we will never do anything worthwhile if we don’t swing the bat, or take the gift out of the box and use it.

But what if I mess up? Good question. Answer is, that it isn’t a matter if but when. Do you ever say to a child, "Honey don’t try to walk because you might fall down?" "Honey don’t try to feed yourself, because you might get some on the floor or your clothes or your chin." "Honey don’t try to ride that bike, because you could fall and scrape your knee." "Honey don’t play little league because you could get hit by the ball or strike out." "Honey don’t try to get a license to drive because you could have an accident." "Honey, don’t go to college, because you might fail a course." "Honey, don’t get a job, because you might get laid off or fired." We do none of these things though they all have risks. We encourage our children to conquer their fears and grow and live their lives.

XI. The Rebuke

Notice with me, that the servant is going to be judged, not for doing bad things, but for doing nothing. (More on this next week). The Lord doesn’t judge him for his accusations of His character. But notice what the Lord says. "But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest (Vv. 26-27).

John MacArthur says that the Romans had a banking system much like our own. Borrowers paid around 12% interest and investors received about 6%.

Jesus calls Him wicked. What did he do that was wicked? Nothing! He had a gift that he received from his Lord and He did nothing. Does it surprise you that wickedness isn’t always what we do, it could be what we don’t do?

Jesus says He is lazy. Included in the lists of 7 deadly sins (largely from Proverbs 6) is that of being slothful or lazy. But slothfulness didn’t necessarily mean physical laziness, it meant to be spiritually lazy, failing to exercise and use your spiritual giftedness. The early church understood that to not use the gifts God has given us for His glory is the same as robbing God. It is not fulfilling your purpose, and not being concerned about the welfare of others. It is sitting back and saying someone should do something while you yourself do nothing. Paul says that knowing He has to give an account at the Bema Seat of Jesus is terrifying. Not because Jesus is a hard judge, but knowing how much grace he had received and how little time we have to invest it for Him (2 Cor. 5:9-11). People who have near death experiences often talk about their lives passing before their eyes. Well, one day it will, one day, we will watch a DVD of our lives before our Lord. I wonder if he will let us see what could have been if we would have used our gifts. John Greenleaf Whittier is the one who wrote, "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’"

X. The Reward. More on this Next Week. (vv. 20-23) "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

A. The Commendation- "Well Done, good and faithful servant." Just hearing those words will be enough for many people. It’s what I hope to hear. But there is more.

B. The Promotion – For those who think that the Kingdom of heaven will be a large eternal retirement community, you are wrong. It will be a place with the responsibility of managing part of God’s creation. How you use your gifts now will go to determine what position you have in His Kingdom. But it will not be burdensome, it will be joy. It will be the Joy that my dad, had every day that he worked his farm. It will be the joy that God envisioned for man when He placed Him in the Garden. It will be the Joy of the smile on Jesus’ face that will put a smile on yours. It will be life as it was meant to be, and you will be fulfilling the purposes for which you were created.

C. But it could also be the honest revelation, that you never really had a relationship with God at all. It scares me to think that there are people who go to church and listen to the words, and know the language, but have never bent their knee to the Lordship of Jesus. True Christ Followers produce fruit, make disciples, use their gifts for His glory, are growing in His grace, and want to glorify Him in all they do. For some like the foolish virgins of verses 11-12, and the people of Matthew 7:21-23, He will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you." Look at verse 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." (Next week)

Conclusion. Ready or Not Jesus is coming back. Are you ready? How are you using the things He has entrusted to your care? I challenge you to make an inventory of the physical and spiritual gifts have been given and then write how you are investing them for Jesus.

Then be honest and write down your fears and then ask God for the faith to trust Him in spite of your fears. Ask God for the places and the people to invest the gifts which He has placed in your care,

If He would return today, would He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant," or depart from me I never knew you?"

One last question. Do you know for sure that you have submitted yourself to the Lordship of Jesus? Have you received His grace and committed to following Him in everything? Would you like to make sure and do that now?

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman