Jump Start # 2256
Matthew 25:33 “and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.”
Our verse today comes from the chapter of Matthew that gives us three pictures of the coming Jesus and three images and principles about the judgment. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins illustrates that they did not know when the groom was returning and the need to be ready at all times. The parable of the talents illustrates that the judgment is based upon what we have done with what the Master has given us. And, in the final picture, how we have treated others is the focal point of that principle. It is here that we find our verse today. The separating of the sheep and the goats.
The sheep represent the righteous, those going to Heaven. The goats are those who are not going to Heaven. There is a separation that takes place at judgment. Here, we live and move among each other. But on the other side, it’s all sheep or it’s all goats.
That’s fairly simple to see. Sheep and goats are not the same. They don’t look the same, nor do they act the same. Goats are more aggressive and more independent than sheep. Goats are used for their milk, sheep are used for their wool.
But within this is an interesting thought, as we become Christians, we change from goats to sheep. Our nature changes. The principles that made us goat-like are replaced with the qualities that make us sheep-like. Jesus warned about wolves who went about in sheep clothing. I wonder, if it is possible for some to pass themselves off as sheep, yet they remain as goats.
How does one change from being a goat to a sheep?
First, there are limits to parables and illustrations. Goats are goats and sheep are sheep. I expect there has been some cross breeding through the years, but beyond that an animal that is born a goat will remain a goat the rest of it’s life. There is no changing. This is how this illustration is limited. Because we can change. We can please God. We can become a part of His family. We, indeed, can be part of God’s kingdom, God’s flock. The goats can become sheep. And, more than that, when it’s time for separation, at the judgment, the now, new sheep, can be included with God’s people.
Second, all of us have been goats at one time. We are not goats and sheep by nature, but rather by choice. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All have been disobedient. There is none that is righteous, Romans tells us. Independent. Stubborn. Not listening. That’s goats and that’s been us. The image of a Billy goat digging his heels in while some boy is trying to pull him, or a Billy goat charging someone with his horns is the stuff of cartoons, but is typical of the nature of goats.
Third, the transformation from goats to sheep takes place when Christ fills our hearts. Isaiah gives us the picture of a lion and lamb resting together, or a lion eating straw like an ox, the natures of those animals changed. Isaiah wasn’t talking about the zoo. He was referring to us. This is what happens when the rule of the Messiah touches our hearts. We are changed. We make better choices. We live righteously. We become holy and the people of God.
The point is that we change. We have changed from the inside out. We are no longer the way we once were. Aggressive, mean, selfish, independent—that’s the way goats live. We now live for Christ. We become followers. We control our emotions and spirit. We are patient and forgiving. We don’t bully, push nor demand our way. We trust the shepherd and now are in need of a shepherd. We’ve become disciples of Jesus.
This is the interesting aspect of this goat to sheep change. Some have become Christians but they haven’t changed much at all. They are merely goats who are going to church on Sunday. Outside the church house, they are still aggressive, independent, stubborn and not following the Shepherd. They become a constant burden in the congregation, because they will not forgive. They are impatient with others. You’d never know that they are a Christian other than where you would find them on Sunday. Just as a wolf in sheep clothing is wrong, so is a goat who thinks that he is a sheep. He must stop being “goat-like” and put on the attributes of being a sheep.
Finally, in the end, the Lord knows who are the sheep and who are the wolves and the goats that are mixed in the flock. We can often fool others, but we’ll never fool the Lord. He knows all and He sees all.
We once were goats, but now we are sheep. Fascinating concept. A true transformation. We ought to look different. Sheep are upbeat, confident and trusting, they are Heaven Bound. Goats are just goats. They don’t want to follow the Shepherd. They don’t know nor do they trust the voice of the Shepherd. It’s their loss. Come judgment, the sheep and the goats will be separated. The sheep will be with the Lord, the goats won’t.
Are you working on being more sheep-like in your nature?