Is there a more alarming passage in the Scriptures than Matthew 7:21-23? As He is concluding the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,
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.’
On that day of judgment before the throne, many who thought they knew Jesus will really meet Jesus. But they will miss heaven.
The scary part is being self-deceived is a real problem for some professing Christians. And one of the most disturbing things about being self-deceived is that you don’t know you’re self-deceived, otherwise you wouldn’t be deceived!
But from this passage, I would like to consider four improper responses to Jesus in an effort to keep every person reading this post from the danger of meeting Jesus, but missing heaven.
Four Improper Responses to Christ:
Just knowing about Jesus
These people confessed that Jesus was Lord. They are making an orthodox confession. They are rightly seeing Jesus as the Lord and Judge of all the earth. But there will be many people who profess that Jesus is Lord who Jesus will turn away at the Day of Judgment.
You may have a doozy of a testimony. You ran down an aisle calling on Jesus to save you, professing Him as Lord, crying, slobbering, you even felt chills run down your spine. You even threw away all the beer! But to just know about Jesus, and to simply profess that He is Lord, and to have felt conviction or sorrow for your sin is not enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven according to Jesus.
Merely Claiming a Personal Relationship with Jesus
Notice that these people refer to Jesus as ‘Lord, Lord’. Throughout the Bible, we see that using a person’s name twice is often a means of communicating deep personal intimacy. Think of the Lord calling to Moses or Samuel for example (Exodus 3:4, 1 Sam. 3:10).
These people in our text addressed Jesus in a personal way. They felt they knew Him well enough to refer to Him as “Lord, Lord.” In a sense, they aren’t just professing Jesus as Lord, but that He is “my Lord!”
But according to Jesus, this is not enough. Lots of people know Jesus. Lots of people, in their own minds, know Jesus is a personal way. We’ve told people, “You just need to ask Jesus into your heart.” Or “You just need to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
But these people actually think they have a personal relationship with Jesus and He is still going to send them to Hell! “Well, yeah, but I just really feel Jesus in me. I just know I have Him as my savior.” You do? How do you know this?
Is it possible that your own love of self has actually deceived you into a false sense of security? That even your reading this post today is part of the grand scheme of self-deception whereby you are able to feel better about yourself because you have performed your quota of religious duties?
Religious Activity with an Unregenerate Heart
This is actually an impressive list in Matthew 7:22 isn’t it? Prophesy! Exorcism! Many mighty works!
And again, whose name are they claiming to do them in? Jesus. These are people claiming to preach in Jesus’ name. These are people claiming to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. These are people claiming to do many mighty works in Jesus’ name.
But Jesus calls these people workers of lawlessness. These people have not been born again. They have not been made new by the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit. They have not been regenerated.
It’s actually amazing and alarming at how many outwardly righteous deeds people can do without being born again. Your being born again is not dependent upon you but on God. If you think you will just manipulate God to regenerate your dead heart sometime down the road when you’re ready, you’re sorely mistaken.
You cannot be born again via religious activity.
Claiming to be Born Again without Doing God’s Will
It is very clear here. It is so plain. Who enters the kingdom of heaven? The one who does the will of the Father.
I affirm that Christ does dwell in believers’ hearts. And I affirm that believers do have a personal relationship with Jesus. But do you realize it is not our mere profession that matters as much as Christ’s declaration concerning us? Many who have professed Christ will be sent to Hell.
So, who actually goes to heaven? The one who does the will of the Father. The will of the Father is that we would change our minds (see Matthew 21:28-32).
This is the essence of repentance. The heart of repentance is not that I would be sorry or feel bad. Yes, these are included but the essence of repentance is a change of mind.
The unconverted must see that he is a sinner. Born in sin. Choosing to go his own way. He doesn’t love God. He may go through religious motions but doesn’t actually have a heart cleansed from sin.
Then he is confronted with this gospel: With the fact that if he will but look to the cross in faith he can be fully assured that Christ’s crucifixion has satisfied God’s wrath against him.
And so, as he is confronted with this gospel, the question is, will he change his mind?
Not will we ask Jesus into our hearts. Not will we try harder next time. Will we change our minds? Will we change our minds on who God is? Going from hating Him to loving Him? Will we change our minds and rest in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins?
But, don’t you see, changing our minds is more than some one-time decision isn’t it?
We are wholly dependent on God to change our minds and when God does that you can rest assured that our minds are changed about all of life.
This will result in more than simply calling Jesus ‘Lord, Lord.’ This will result in a change of mind in our daily life.
To believe in Jesus isn’t just to think nice thoughts about Jesus or to sing nice songs about Jesus or to pray to Jesus or even just to read Jesus’ words periodically.
To believe in Jesus is to live an entire life that is oriented toward the chief end of the glory of Christ in all things.
If you look at the entirety of this Sermon on the Mount, and you changed your mind, feeling brokenness for your sin, and resting in Jesus for forgiveness, and you actually have the real desire to live as Christ commands knowing it is His power fueling you to live joyfully and obediently under His Lordship – then you are doing the will of the Father who is in heaven, you can be confident of your entering the kingdom of heaven.
Anything less than this, dear reader, and it might just be you meeting Jesus, but missing heaven.