Sunday, March 13, 2016

Does Jesus Know You?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’" Matthew 7:21-23It appears to me that in our evangelibubble we often speak of getting people to make a commitment to Christ, whether that be in personal evangelism encounters, or an altar call, or a VBS meeting, or a Facebook meme. If we can get people to say 'yes' to Jesus then we've done our duty as faithful disciples of our King...Or so we think.Obviously, it is true that people must come to Christ. They most close with Him in faith and surrender their lives to His Lordship. I don't mean to downplay a 'commitment' to Christ in the least. However, if we think mere professions of faith make a person a Christian, we are sorely mistaken, and we haven't really been reading our New Testaments very well to be frank. In fact, I even heard a man who once said that if any person 'comes forward' and says they are a Christian we have 'no right' to think otherwise. Certainly we don't want to fall in to the trap of being unduly harsh! But as we see in the text above, we must face the sobering reality that not everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven...So, I want to offer Five observations about the above confession in an effort to help us think through our own walk with Christ and in helping others understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. 

It is a:

1. Proper Confession - 'Lord'

I think in the context of this passage the Greek word 'kurios' is being used as more than just a mere formality. They aren't just saying 'sir'. They are confessing Jesus as Lord. In fact, 'on that day' is when many will call Jesus 'Lord'. It appears they recognize Him not just as a good teacher, or a moral man but as Lord.This is a confession all Believers do make.  This is why it is so sobering. While all true Believers do confess Jesus as Lord, not everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord is a true Believer. 

2. Personal Confession - 'Lord, Lord'

It appears that not only are they calling Jesus Lord, but by repeating His name they are perhaps appealing to Jesus as 'my Lord.' Often times in the Bible a name repeated twice is evidence of intimacy. For example, God called to Samuel 'Samuel, Samuel' and Jesus Himself said of Jerusalem 'O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem.'These false confessors weren't just saying Jesus is Lord in the abstract but they were saying Jesus was their Lord. Their 'personal Lord and Savior.'It is not enough for one to simply 'believe' they have a personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, Jesus speaks on a relational level when He says in verse 23 "I never knew you." It's obvious that the Lord of the Universe knows everybody on an intellectual level. But regarding a relational level (in the sense of a saving relationship) it is clear that Jesus does not know everyone. If you believe you have a personal relationship with Jesus, but He says He doesn't have one with you, that's very problematic.

3. Pleading Confession - "Lord, Lord, did we not...?"

These false confessors are appealing to Jesus. It's as though they do clearly recognize Jesus as the Judge of all the Earth and they plead with Him to make an exception on their behalf. This reminds me of the passage at the end of John 2. Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.We've come to think in evangelistic encounters that if a person just says a certain set of words and 'really means it', then Jesus is obligated to 'accept them' into the fold. As if Jesus is required to bring His salvation on our terms instead of His. Or even worse, as if He 'owes' us something, which completely turns grace on its head. Pleading with Jesus doesn't necessitate His allowing you entrance into the Kingdom.

4. 'Productive' Confession - "Did we not do...many mighty works in your name?"

It's not as though these confessors merely gave lip service to Jesus and did nothing to back up their claim from the human perspective. They lived a life filled with many mighty works. Many mighty works. Many mighty works.

They are essentially arguing with Jesus. "But wait! We are giving you the proper confession and what's more look at all we've done!" It's actually quite alarming to me at how many 'righteous deeds' a person is able to do without being born again. The list in Matthew 7:22 is impressive. These people weren't just saying Jesus is Lord but they actually worked hard not to go to hell.

Perhaps we might draw the line directly to Southern Baptists (my own denomination). They were good pastors (Yes, it is possible for even pastors to be deceived). Good deacons. Good Sunday School teachers. Good laypersons. They preached in Jesus' name. Prayed in Jesus' name. Taught in Jesus' name. Gathered regularly in Jesus name. Volunteered with the youth in Jesus' name. 

And it was all for naught. Leading me to my last observation...

5. Pointless Confession - "Depart from Me you workers of lawlessness."


I don't mean to say this tritely either. This is sobering. Their works have been weighed in Christ's holy balance and found wanting.You can say "Jesus is Lord!" (or even "God is good, all the time!"), you can sing "O How I Love Jesus", you can tell Jesus you're sorry, you can 'go to church' (a lot), and it can all be for nothing. In fact, it can be for worse than nothing. Like, all of your pretending is only heaping up more condemnation! It's that you did a lot of good things but Jesus doesn't count it. No, those 'good things' are described by Jesus as lawlessness. And it's a travesty that their whole lives were lived under the deception that they were truly in right standing with Christ (see the argument 'did we not').
So what do we do?
Actually, Matthew 7:21 could not get any clearer on who gets into the Kingdom of heaven: the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. I know. We immediately want to offer 1,000 qualifications here about how we don't 'work' to get to heaven. And while I emphatically don't deny that, I do want us to see here that Jesus doesn't offer these qualifications. He simply states the truth: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven...But what exactly is the will of the Father? Two things I will say:1. Repentance. In Matthew 4:17 Jesus says "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand." I think this helps us frame the Sermon on the Mount in context.  Also, in Matthew 21:28-31a Jesus says: A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”This is essentially what repentance is. To think differently. To 'turn'. To have a change of mind. In fact, God commands all men everywhere to do this: Acts 17:30.I don't mean to suggest that repentance is 'merely' changing one's mind, but that it's a change of mind so radical that it actually results in a changed life. And what will this changed life look like?2. The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is intense. It is radical. It is counter-cultural and counter-Pharisaical. But it is not pie in the sky idealism. The Sermon on the Mount is how Jesus' followers really live because they are aided by the very power of Christ within them. They recognize their spiritual bankruptcy (5:3) and hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only those in Christ can obtain (5:6). Their righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees (5:20) as they have entered the narrow gate (7:13) and built their house on the rock of Christ's teachings (7:24). Of course we know this change of mind is only produced by the power of the Holy Spirit. Suppose I asked you to 'change your mind' from not hating spinach to now loving spinach. Could you do that? Obviously not! (If you really hated spinach). You would need your very nature changed. And this is what is necessary for the human condition. We don't need to just say 'Lord, Lord' and then try to be more moral than we are now, or even more religious. We need a heart change, and this is only possible through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.So what must you do? You must heed this gospel: Jesus' righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection alone can merit us right standing before God. No, you can't manipulate the Holy Spirit to do His work any more than you can ride a tornado. But you are commanded to repent and Believe the gospel! And this is a repentance and belief that isn't merely a 'one time decision' but one that results in a life (and lifestyle) of repentance and belief.Notice by the way that's not a 'perfect' lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of repentance and belief. Constantly running to the mercy and grace of Jesus for our sin and trusting that His Sacrifice is enough. That when He said 'It is finished', He meant it. That you aren't accepted based on your worthiness but His. This is the motivation and power for living holy lives. So what will you do with this message?Will you rely on a confession that may be proper, personal, pleading, productive, and yet pointless? Or will you be one who does the will of the Father? There is a wide chasm between the two. 
It is the difference between 'depart from me' and 'well done'. It is the difference between a lake of fire and an eternity with Christ and His people.  It is the difference between you claiming to know Jesus, and Jesus knowing you...

You can listen to the sermon (which follows a different outline) by clicking here.

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