Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven. But he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘ Lord, Lord’, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name? “And then I will declare to them,’I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)
On February 5th, 1996 this passage was cutting through my very soul. As an unbeliever I was pondering the Jesus described here and I was terrified of him. If the many religious people will be turned away from his presence what chance did I have as an indifferent church attendee? I did not want to meet Jesus in this way, I was afraid and rightfully so. For Jesus himself said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to kill both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) On that night, in a classroom, on my knees I pleaded with God for mercy and from that moment my life would never be the same. I met Jesus that winter evening and he warmed my cold heart with his grace, mercy and peace. I am no longer afraid to meet Jesus but I am one who eagerly waits for, and loves his appearing.
In this passage I was one of “the many” people who was on the broad road that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13) They cry Lord, Lord in terror pointing to their own good deeds that they did in the name of Jesus, but to their great shock the Lord judges them, condemns them and sends them away. This is why I was afraid to meet the Jesus in this passage. I couldn’t even put myself into the class of religious people who were doing good things in his name. What chance would I have in his courtroom being an indifferent Jesus watcher in the back row of a church? Oh sure, Jesus had been sprinkled into my life for my entire life. I was a church attendee and participated in youth group activities. I was raised in a Christian home and had Christian education, Jesus was everywhere around me except for the most important place, he had no place in my heart. I had no understanding that my passive stance actually put me in the enemies of God camp even though I never felt I was hostile towards him. Jesus leaves no neutral ground for men to stand on, he said you are either for him or you are against him. (Colossians 1:21-22)
My problem was the same problem as these Jesus professors in line waiting to meet him. What is their problem? There was no intimate fellowship with Christ from the heart in their religious profession, they did not know him. They offered lip service and religious activity to Jesus but lacked a heart for him. Jesus who sees their heart observes only sin within it. Why? Because a confession that trusts in ones own polluted righteousness while rejecting the perfect righteousness of Christ always falls short of a faith that saves. (Romans 3:23) Without this faith that God offers through his Son it is impossible to please him, regardless what we say or do in his name.
Many church people like the Jews of old (and today) are seeking to establish their own righteousness by dead works that have no power to save or any redeeming value. They are very zealous for God while ignorant and stubborn at the same time. Paul says of his own people, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3) Paul was once ignorant (of God’s righteousness by faith) and zealous (for his own righteousness by works) but was confronted by Jesus (like me in the classroom). When he met Jesus he chucked all his religious credentials and considered it manure, exchanging it for the righteousness of Christ by faith. How come Paul? “That I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness that is from God, through faith.” (Philippians. 3:8-10) We must all come the same way.
The apostle was zealous for God but not according to knowledge, he was opposed to the gospel of grace and became the greatest persecutor of Christians. Paul was an enemy of the cross of Christ, he hated Christians, he could have been the leader of ISIS today. This is the same evil and deadly spirit that controls all those who speak the God and Jesus lingo but their heart is far from him. Isaiah spoke of this and Jesus affirmed it in Mark 7:6-7, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Religious actors have empty worship and a heart far from God, they supplant man’s teaching and religious traditions for the word of God. All the violence ever dispensed on Christianity has come from the hands of the religious who hate Jesus. I might add that all who are on a crusade to destroy other faiths in the name of Christianity are not Christians at all. True Christian’s follow Jesus the Good Shepherd into paths of righteous for the sake of his name.
The persecution of Christian’s comes as no surprise to a Christian. Jesus said it would happen, “These things I have spoken to you, that you may not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues: yes the time will come that whoever kills you will think they offer God service.” And exactly why will they do these things? “And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.” (John 16:3) The haters of God are on the rise, persecution is in the news more and more. Why? Jesus says again, “But all these things they will do for my name’s sake, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also.” (John 15:21-23) Persecution of Christians is an evidence of hatred for God and his only Son Jesus, all this is done in the name of God. They cannot kill the living Christ, so they kill those who follow him and know him showing themselves as sons of hell. (Philippians 1:28)
Is an open confession of Jesus sufficient to give a person entrance into heaven? Is calling him Lord and reminding him of the works they had done in his name sufficient to him? No, they are not. Is an open confession of Jesus as Lord important? Absolutely! But the confession must come from a transformed heart, true salvation is two-sided. Paul affirms this, and it is simple to understand; it is the word of faith which we preach (the gospel), “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (side 1) and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead (side 2), you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (Romans.10:9-10)
These people described for us in Matthew 7 had an open confession but what did they lack? They lacked a heart that believed in the perfect atoning work of Christ and their need to trust in his righteousness alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. They despised his grace and established their own righteousness in which they could boast, but the boasting before men is only temporary for there will be no boasting of personal righteousness before Jesus. They will meet Jesus and sadly it will be the Jesus they never wanted to meet. I am so thankful to have met the Lord in that classroom so many years ago. For it was on that day that I first understood that, “When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (Jesus), not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:4-5) To God be the glory, great things he has done!
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” And a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who should be killed as they were was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11) How were they killed? They were beheaded for Christ. (Revelation 20:4) These are the martyrs at the end before Jesus returns to take back his earth; its going to get worse. Are you ready to meet him?