************ Sermon on Matthew 7:21-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 18, 2001
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 we realize we have been living with a false sense of security. We just assumed the "friendly skies" of United were safe. We just assumed that here in North America we were under no danger of attack from foreign terrorists. We just assumed that hijackers would always negotiate for money or prisoners. We just assumed that the FBI and CIA would always give us advance warning of danger. We just assumed that towering skyscrapers were almost impossible to bring down. Then came September 11 and we realized we had a false sense of security.
I'm afraid that it isn't just a country or a people that can have a false sense of security. Those within the church can be this way too. Jesus tells us this evening that those within the church can have a false sense of eternal security.
(Mat 7:21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Our Lord speaks here of self-deception and false security. He says there are people who rely on false evidences of salvation. They think they are saved but they apply the wrong standard for salvation to their own lives.
I The Wrong Standard
A We must handle our text very carefully. There are people who conclude from the words in front of us this evening that confessing Jesus as Savior and Lord is not important.
(Mt 7:21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.They look at these words and say that only doing counts. In that way, they diminish the value of doctrine and put all the emphasis on practical Christian life. However, Jesus does not say that confessing Him as Savior and Lord is unimportant.
There are two important but different points that Jesus is making in verse 21. First, Jesus declares that only those who say "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven; those who don't make this declaration will not and cannot enter. The fact is, to be a Christian you need to confess certain things about Christ. So Jesus is NOT criticizing people for saying: "Lord, Lord." Everybody should say: "Lord, Lord." Everyone should be saying and confessing the right things about Jesus. All should be acknowledging Him as the eternal Son of God, Who took on our flesh, Who died on the cross for our sins, Who arose triumphant from the grave, Who now sits at God's right hand in heaven. We must believe this and confess this. There is no such thing as Christianity apart from this. Listen to these words of our Lord:
(Mat 10:32-33) "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.You need to confess Christ as Savior and Lord or you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven – that's the first point we find in front of us.
(Rom 10:9) ... if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
B Second, Jesus also declares that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven. These words are chilling, to say the least. There is the terrible possibility that some who acknowledge Christ for Who He is will not enter into heaven. We know, for instance, that Satan and his devils know Who Jesus is. They believe – and shudder (James 2:19; cf Mt 8:29; Mk 3:11) – and will never enter into the kingdom. Jesus, however, is NOT speaking to the devils in the Sermon on the Mount; He is speaking to us. He is talking about those who have read the Bible, accepted and believed its teaching, maybe even taught the truth and argued against heretics.
Some of these people have a false sense of security. They think that just because they have made the right kind of confession about Jesus that they are eternally safe. Isn't this the kind of danger we face in Trinity United Reformed Church? Our children and youth have been brought up in a Christian home and atmosphere, many have attended a Christian school, they have always heard about Jesus, and in a certain sense they have always believed and said the right thing; but they still may not be Christians.
Furthermore, these people are not only believers of the truth, but they can also be fervent and zealous believers. Notice, they not only say "Lord", they say "Lord, Lord". There is an element of feeling and emotion involved. But what we need to remember is that great enthusiasm does not necessarily imply great spirituality. It certainly didn't with the people Jesus had in mind.
C What is the problem? They know correct doctrine. They are fervent about the Lord. Yet, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says that only that person "who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" will enter the kingdom of heaven. Here is the problem. They have not done God's will. They know the Bible but they have not lived its teaching. They say "Lord, Lord" yet do not obey Him as Lord.
We have a name for this: antinomianism. That is a Latin word that means "against the law." Antinomians say that as long as a man believers in Jesus it does not matter what he does. If a woman is saved it does not matter what kind of a life she lives. Antinomianism says that the moment you concentrate on behavior you are putting yourself back under the law. Believe in the Lord Jesus, it says, and all is well with your soul.
The trouble is that this faith is only intellectual. It is in the mind. But it has never gone down to the heart. Intellectualism has always been a danger in the Reformed faith – more so with us than with any other tradition. Too often I have seen and heard heated discussion without a living faith which results in true Christian conduct. I came across a poem this past week that speaks to this:
Topic: ChristianityMarguerite Provost wrote this about her grand-daughter in Today's Christian Woman:
Subtopic: Characteristics of
Title: What we practice
It is not what we eat
but what we digest
that makes us strong;
not what we gain
but what we save
that make us rich;
not what we read
but what we remember
that makes us learned;
and not what we profess
but what we practice
that makes us Christians.
Topic: ObedienceThat's the problem with many Christians. They hear the message but they don't obey.
One day my three-year-old granddaughter, Beverly, was playing with her toys. Her mother, who was folding laundry across the room, noticed Beverly's shirt was dirty and needed to be changed. After calling two times with no response her mother gave her the full three-name call: "Beverly Elizabeth Provost, did you hear me?" Beverly answered, "Yes, Mama. My ears did, but my legs didn't."
II The Ineffective Plea
A I said earlier that some people look at verse 21 and conclude that confessing Jesus is not important; only doing counts. In verse 22 Jesus looks at works a person may do and still be outside the kingdom.
(Mt 7:22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
To prophesy means to deliver a spiritual message. It is possible to proclaim the Word of God in the name of Christ and still be an outsider.
This is something that is taught frequently in the Bible. Consider Balaam – the man with the talking donkey. He delivered the right message as far as the Lord was concerned and the wrong message as far as Balak, King of Moab, was concerned when he blessed rather than cursed Israel (Numbers 22-24). Or, consider King Saul. The spirit of prophecy came upon Saul (1 Sam 10:10) yet he too was outside the kingdom. Or consider the marvellous statement written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:
(1Cor 13:1-2) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge ... but have not love, I am nothing.Paul says, in effect, "I may preach like an angel, I may be eloquent, I may be considered by people to be the greatest speaker on earth, and yet I may be outside the kingdom."
B But there is more. In Jesus" name they not only prophesy but in Jesus' name they also drive out demons. You can do that and still be outside the kingdom. Remember the time Jesus sent out His disciples? He gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness (Mt 10:1). When they came back they reported, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Lk 10:17). Even Judas was given this power. But he was outside of the kingdom of heaven.
C Jesus comes to the climax when He mentions those who, in His name, do many miracles, wonderful works, works of power, amazing things, incredible things. In spite of this, they are still outside of the kingdom. Remember the heathen magicians of Egypt? No matter what Moses did, they were able to do the same things. Moses threw down his staff and it became a snake; those magicians threw down their staffs and they became snakes (Ex 7:12). Moses turned the water of the Nile into blood; the magicians were also able to turn water into blood (Ex 7:22). Moses made frogs cover the land of Egypt; the magicians also made frogs cover the land (Ex 8:7). In Matthew 24 Jesus talks about false Christs and false prophets.
(Mt 24:24) For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.These too are outside of the kingdom; yet, they are able to do great signs and miracles. And, of course, the Anti-christ will do great miracles too (2 Thess 2:8).
In other words, a person may be able to point to great works and wondrous miracles and so on, and yet they may signify nothing.
D Jesus tells us, or warns us, about those who go through the motions. They believe the right things. They do the right things. But it means nothing when they stand before the judgment throne of God. They can point to their prophesy, their exorcisms, their miracles, but their plea will be ineffective. Because none of it was real. Jesus says there will come a time when they will have to face the music.
Topic: False ProfessionIn the realm of Christian service, many professing believers go through the motions, but they are only pretenders. Someday they will be called upon to stand before the Judge of heaven and earth, and their deception will be revealed. God will then separate the "phonies" from the real Christians. Each will be made to "face the music."
Title: Can You Face the Music?
The expression "face the music" is said to have originated in Japan. According to the story, one man in the imperial orchestra couldn't play a note. Being a person of great influence and wealth, he had demanded that he be given a place in the group because he wanted to "perform" before the emperor. The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra, even though he couldn't read music. He was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, he'd raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He would go through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound. This deception continued for two years.
Then a new conductor took over. He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player personally. One by one they performed in his presence. Then came the flutist's turn. He was frantic with worry, so he pretended to be sick. However, the doctor who was ordered to examine him declared that he was perfectly well. The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly he had to confess that he was a fake. He was unable to "face the music."
To keep things in perspective, we should remember what Jesus said to His disciples when they came back from their successful missionary trip.
(Lk 10:20) However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."Do you know what is important? Not that you can cast out demons, not that you prophesy, not that you perform miracles. What is important is that you are a real, born-again Christian. What is important is that you truly love the Lord Jesus. What is important is that you have surrendered your whole life to King Jesus. What is important is that your name is in the Book of Life!
III Final Rejection
I want you to notice what Jesus says to those whose faith is not real and sincere.
(Mt 7:23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
When Jesus said these words, He spoke words that sounded familiar to His Jewish audience – especially to the Rabbis and their students. The Jewish writings tell us of a time when a student said or did something wrong. A very scholarly Rabbi said to him, "I never knew you." Upon saying that he did not speak to the student for a period of 30 days. He gave his student the silent treatment, the cold shoulder.
In our text we see Jesus, the greatest Rabbi of all times, using this formula against those within the church whose faith is not real and sincere. It was a word addressed very pointedly to the Jewish leaders who knew the Scriptures and looked for the Messiah but rejected Jesus. It was a word addressed to Judas who had preached and cast our demons in Jesus' name.
All people who are Christians with their mouths only, and whose religion is only lip service, are warned by this text.
When Jesus says to them, "I never knew you," it will not be for 30 days, but forever. Paul echoed this word when he finished his first letter to the Corinthians by saying, "If anyone does not love the Lord--a curse be on him" (1Cor 16:22).
IV Make Sure
A Finally, I don't want anyone here to think these words of Jesus do not and cannot apply to them. What is clear from the words of our text is that many people are going to be surprised on the day of judgment. They have assumed that they are safe, and seem quite sure of their salvation. They point to their belief, their fervent confession of Jesus as "Lord, Lord". They point to their works of prophesy, exorcisms, and miracles. From the outside, at least, they seem highly regarded by God and man. On the day of judgment they point to their record. They point to all they said and did in His name. And Jesus says, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers."
There can be no doubt about it, the day of judgment is going to be a day of many surprises. But then, Jesus does not judge as man judges. Man looks at the outward appearance, but Jesus looks at the heart. Man looks at what he sees and hears, but Jesus looks deeper, at what is within.
B So make sure, my brothers and sisters. Make sure that yours is not a false sense of eternal security. Make sure that "your names are written in heaven" (Lk 10:20). Make sure that you really do believe.
There is only one way to make sure: give your heart and your life to Jesus. Serve Him in all of life Who in death served you. As Paul put it,
(Rom 10:9) ... confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, (and) you will be saved.
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