Matthew 7:21-23, NLT
“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.’
I profess to be a Christian and have done so since I was 9 years old. I made my profession of faith in March of 1958. We were in revival at my home church, the Sardis Springs Baptist Church in the central part of Limestone County. John Crawford was my pastor and John Ingolf was the visiting evangelist. I have been blessed indeed. Bro. Crawford was an encouragement to me right up till his departure in 2011. Bro. John Ingolf is a retired IMB missionary and a member of Central Baptist Church in Decatur. I have tremendous respect for both men.
Jesus made it clear that professing to be saved and being saved are two different things. The passage above has always unsettled me. It appears that Jesus is discounting grace and a lot of emphasis is being placed on works…Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter…and… We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name. You do recognize of course, that the works below were not accepted and that includes exorcism and miracles which of course I cannot perform. I use to think, “These people did miracles and could not get in so how will I get in?”
So what is Jesus thinking? What is He communicating? Do we earn our way to heaven by being perfectly obedient to the Father? If that is true, who other than Jesus can be saved? I have always wanted to know what Jesus was saying or what He meant and recently the LORD gave me an insight that has really helped me get a grasp of this passage. Before I share this simple insight, as to what it takes to get into the kingdom, let me tell you what will not work.
I. LIP SERVICE WILL NOT GET US INTO HEAVEN
Knowing the language of Zion will not be enough. Empty profession will not get the job done. According to polls, 78% of Americans consider themselves Christian. This includes Mormons, Jehovah Witness, Catholic, Greek Orthodox and many others. Simply stated, the 78% includes those who do not attend church but they identify with the Christian church. Their parents may have been Christians and basically what many of them are saying is, “If I were going to attend a church, it would be a Christian Church.” You and I both know that 78% of Americans are not Christians. Not even 78% of those who attend Christian churches on a regular basis are not Christians.
Being a pastor of a church on a main thoroughfare, we have folks drop in wanting money for gas, this, that and the other all the time. To be frankly honest, I have a hard time being kind to these folks. Some believe that profiling is wrong but I cannot help it and I have a profile on these folks:
- They all smoke cigarettes or use some form of tobacco. They may be pulling an oxygen tank behind them but they smoke.
- They all have cell phones. I don’t look to see if they are Apple or Smart Phones but I assure you they have a cell phone.
- At least 98% of them have cable TV somewhere: they may live in a camper, they may live in the back seat of their car but they have a TV and Cable.
- About 95% claim to have some kind of physical disability which is why they can’t work.
- All of them are Christians…All…I have not talked to a beggar in years that professed to be lost, they all tell me without hesitation, “O, I am a believer” and I have even had them quote me scripture. I dealt with one a decade ago who knew bible better than I did. I was quoting him a verse and he interrupted me and said, that is not how it goes and he proceeds to quote it verbatim. I had to think fast. I said, “Yea that is King James, I was quoting New American Standard.”
Profession is important but profession alone will not save us.
II. WORKS, EVEN CASTING OUT DEMONS AND DOING MIRACLES WILL NOT GET US INTO HEAVEN
For years I struggled with assurance. One preacher would preach and I would think I was saved and then another would preach and I would think I was lost. I just could not get solid assurance that I was saved. I was trying to gain assurance by the things I did for the LORD. I thought, if I can witness to another person, that will prove I am saved but that doesn’t work. You will never get assurance through what you do in Christ behalf. Unfortunately, many have build their assurance on their works. You are not going to heaven because you taught Sunday School for 40 years. You are not going to heaven because you preached the gospel for so many years. You are not going to heaven because you tithed. Some folks keep detailed records of all they have done for the LORD but it will not matter. You are not going to heaven because of what you have done for the LORD. You go because of what He has done for you.
III. TO GO TO HEAVEN…YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN [a radical change in nature]
True conversion is marked by repentance and faith. Repentance of sin and faith in the LORD Jesus Christ. The result of true conversion is a radical change of nature. Before we are converted, we have the rebellious nature of a goat. When we get saved, we have the nature of a submissive sheep. I believe that this is exactly what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7 when he says that the ones who will be saved are those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
A young man in our church has been struggling with assurance. He has been under attack. The devil is shooting those fiery darts of doubt and one minute he feels OK and then next he feels horror thinking that maybe he is not saved. In a recent conversation I asked him, “Do you have a desire to please Christ? Do you have a desire to obey Him?” Some people trust Jesus to save them from hell but do not trust Him on a daily basis. That would be like having insurance on a car that does not run. God cannot be mocked: He does not provide insurance on a faith that doesn’t work. If your faith isn’t working; it is time to get a new faith. It is possible to have a car with insurance that runs. The spirit of obedience is in every child of God.
Dr. Adrian Rogers once said, “I can sin all I want but I don’t want to sin.” I agree, I do sin but I don’t want to sin. The difference between being saved and being lost is that they we cannot sin without it a making us miserable. I can sin but I cannot enjoy sin. Deep down I want to please Christ not grieve Him. What Jesus is saying in the sermon on the mount is that all God’s children have that desire to be obedient. If we are not serious about obedience, we are not saved. If you say in your heart, “I will do as I please”, you are not saved. When you have the spirit of a rebel, you are not saved. You should not have a goats nature. Listen to what Paul says to the Ephesians…
Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
If you are still ruled by the spirit of disobedience, you are not in Christ. If you have burning desire to do the good things He planned for you, to be obedient to Christ, to honor and love Him, you are saved. So examine your heart tonight. It is not about decision in a revival or VBS, it is not about an experience whether it be a vision, dream or goose bumps. The question is: Do you have a desire to obey Christ? You either do or don’t and that is the issue.
- Is there a deep desire in your heart to please and to honor Christ?
- Have you put your faith/trust is something other than Christ? [an experience, feelings, good deeds, baptism, church membership, etc]
- Is Jesus Christ LORD of your life?
Caution Flag! Jesus is not an insurance plan to keep us out of hell. If He saved you from something [Hell] He is saved you to something [Heaven] and for something [Humble servanthood].