On April 15, 2019, the world paused and gasped as an accidental fire set a blaze ripping through the beautiful architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France.
As sad as it was to see the beautiful art and history burn into flames, it’s even more painful to realize that ancient church congregations, like Notre Dame, that are supposed to gather in that building, have been burnt out for centuries.
Since its completion in 1260, somewhere along the way, the people that once met in Notre Dame lost their sense of urgency. They stopped using their resources to introduce more people to Jesus, and since they no longer gather, they seemed to stop focusing on others.
There’s a clear written example of what the church can do to be built to last centuries, and that answer comes from Jesus.
In Matthew 25, we see Jesus a few days from death. He had spent three years pouring into the lives of his twelve disciples, who he was now entrusting to carry the good news of salvation to the rest of the world and build his church.
Jesus tells them three stories that will show them what it looks like to be built to last.
1. The Church needs a sense of urgency & avoid complacency
In Matthew 25:1-13, we see Jesus share his first story about a wedding feast and ten bridesmaids. In this passage we can determine that the wedding feast represents heaven, and Jesus, the groom.
Jesus says a day is coming when the wedding feast will begin, and the door to heaven will be closed. But what we don’t know is when that day will be. Jesus says, “Be ready because you don’t want to miss out on that wedding feast – you don’t want to miss out on heaven!”
This story has to make us consider who in our lives can’t be left out of heaven. Is it a family member? A close friend? A neighbor? A co-worker?
As a church, we need to get their names in each of our heads and then do whatever it takes to introduce them to Jesus. If the church doesn’t tell others about Jesus, no one else will, and when the day comes when the door to heaven closes, Jesus says it is closed for good.
If we don’t do it, no one else will. Eternity hangs on the balance.
2. The Church needs to take wise risks and not hoard its resources
The second story Jesus shares in Matthew 25:14-30 he gives us another couple of things to know from this.
- What we have is not ours; God simply allows us to use it.
- The abilities, assets, resources, skills, or materials that God has given us are meant solely to spread the good news of Jesus.
It’s easy to start thinking that what we have is ours or that we are the owners and forget that all we have belongs to God.
In verse 29, Jesus says, “To those who use well that they are given, even more, will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”
The church will be held accountable for what we do with what God has given us. To waste, ignore or disrespect what God has provided is sinful.
3. The Church needs to care more about others than itself
In the final story from Jesus about his return, he describes the test that separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep represent his faithful followers, and the goats are imposters, those who claim to be his followers but are not.
It can be easy to see the difference between a church that genuinely follows Jesus and a church that is not clear and obvious. But sometimes it gets confusing.
What marks a true follower of Jesus? Is it their theology? Is it the style of music? Is it the way they dress? What about their political affiliations and convictions? How can you tell if a person or a church is truly following Jesus?
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus could not be more clear: It’s the way we love others, especially the “least of these” that matters. It matters because it makes the church distinct. It matters because this kind of love is how the shepherd distinguishes his sheep from the goats.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says point blank, “And the King will say, I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
For the church to be built to last, the people need to care more about others than themselves; it can’t have a shade of inward-focused desires.
As beautiful as the architecture of the Notre Dame cathedral is, it’s not the church.
The church is the people in it.
Through three stories and a charge to his disciples, Jesus makes it clear what it takes to be built to last.
As a church, we need to urgently tell everyone we can about the good news of a God who loves us and wants to spend eternity with us. We need to share the resources God has blessed us with and take wise risks, not leaving anything behind. Lastly, everything we do needs to be focused on others.
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