We look at a short yet powerful passage from the Sermon on the Mount today. Such verses should absolutely challenge us to look carefully at our lives and ensure we are truly following God and the Gospel.
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’Matthew 7:21-23 NLT
To be clear, these are words of Jesus Himself. As with everything the Lord said, we ought not to take it lightly.
Jesus tells us plainly that not everyone who calls Him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In other translations, I believe it says not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will be saved. This is vitally important, and tells us something about what it truly means to be saved. Many people call themselves Christians, and many would say that Jesus is Lord, but is He – really?
Jesus says that only those who do the will of the Father will actually enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Does this fly in the face of the Gospel of grace? It sounds like salvation by works doesn’t it? Calling on the name of the Lord is suddenly not enough, but we must do certain things too to “earn” salvation, right?
I think not.
There is a distinct difference between acknowledging Jesus as Lord and living so, and simply paying lip-service and saying the words. I may have said this before, but it is a good example… I may be a fully paid up member of the local gym, carrying my membership card and even wearing the T-shirt, but if I never go and lift weights, I may as well not bother.
In a similar way, we can go to church, sing the songs, carry a Bible around and more, and yet if our lives do not reflect holiness and obedience, we must ask ourselves if we have truly surrendered our lives to God.
#Salvation is more than just saying words, it is living a life of #obedience #Bible #Jesus #ChristianityTweet
When we encounter Jesus, it ought to change us. When we make Him our Lord, that means putting Him in full charge of our lives and not just tagging Him on to our current lifestyle. True submission requires obedience. There can be no other way. It is a silly example, but I cannot claim to be a man of peace if I am frequently getting into fist-fights in the local pub. Likewise, I cannot claim to be a Christian while completely ignoring God’s instructions.
Obeying God’s will, as Jesus sets out above, is not a means to salvation, but a result of it.
Obeying #God is not a means of #salvation, but a result of it #Bible #JesusTweet
The true Gospel is indeed a Gospel of grace, not something we earn through obedience. God’s grace is freely given, and we need not nor cannot do anything to work for it. However, once freely received, the resulting change in our hearts should be reflected in our lives. Once saved, we joyfully obey the will of the Father in response to His grace. Grace comes first, and the fruit of obedience follows.
Verses 22 and 23 send a shiver down my spine. On that final day when we all stand before God, not all who think they are saved actually are. Imagine that for a moment, imagine being one of those who are told by Jesus, “I don’t know you!” What a terrible thing.
I do not want that to be me, and neither do I want that to be you.
The defence of these people (which is really no defence at all), is that they have 1) prophesied in Jesus’ name, 2) cast out demons and 3) performed many miracles. These are not small things in and of themselves. What this tells me is that not every miracle worker knows Christ, or rather, is known by Christ. Not every prophet, nor everyone who delivers others from demons, is part of God’s kingdom.
So how can we tell?
This is not straightforward to answer in a short blog post. Clearly, the Bible does encourage the use of such spiritual gifts such as prophecy or the working of miracles. Yet my suspicion is that is less about the activity itself i.e. casting out demons, but the motive behind it. Of these three examples, all are very public things. I wonder if it is all too easy to start claiming the credit for a miracle, a prophecy or a demon-deliverance. These are gifts of the Spirit, but there is no mention made of the fruit.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!Galatians 5:22-23 NLT
Many seek the gifts of the Spirit, without seeking the fruit. Jesus said you will know them by their “fruit,” not by their “gifts.” (see earlier on in this very chapter – Matthew 7:15-20)
So what do we take from this?
Firstly, we do need to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. He is in charge, and we must recognise His rightful place in our lives. We must not seek Him as Saviour without also accepting Him as Lord.
If, indeed, He is our Lord, then we must do what He tells us. We will not get that perfectly right all of the time, but in response to the grace we have been given, we take His commands seriously. The better we come to know Him, the more we will want to do this.
We obey, not to earn His love, but in response to it.
When we do obey, it must also be for the right motives. We do not do it to be popular or to seek fame and fortune, but instead we do it for His glory.
As a blogger, I too need to be cautious with this. Do I write to bless people, or do I write to seek their favour? Judging by how often I check my stats, I need to check my motives! How about you?
These are challenging words from Christ, and I encourage you to pray over them in the coming days. I want you to know Christ, and I want Him to know you. When you stand before Him one day, I want you to have full assurance of your salvation. God’s grace is sufficient, and so let each of us respond to it in obedience. Amen