Turn Alongside Your Words[This article is part of the series, Turntables]
In the previous article, Turn Using Knowledge, we’ve discussed that it’s possible to believe in God without possessing a saving faith, as demons do. True faith, which comes from God, is on the inside of us and must show itself on the outside of us through works, such as repentance. In this article, we move on to a discussion, whereas works and profession are both present, yet an internal change is missing. Repentance is ultimately a matter of the heart. It is not enough to simply declare that Jesus is Lord; we must submit to him as Lord.
Few passages in the Bible, if any, are more scary than this one—Matthew 7:21-23.
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.” (ESV)
On a lighter note, I’ve always pictured the Office scene where Michael Scott “declares bankruptcy” by standing in the middle of the office to shout, “I DECLARE…… BANKRUPTCY!!!!” Oscar provides correction by explaining that you can’t just say the word bankruptcy and expect anything to happen. Michael responds, “I didn’t say it; I declared it.”
That Office scene is a great example of what the spirit of Matthew 7:21 is. Confession does not equal possession. Just because you call Jesus your Lord doesn’t mean that he really is.
So what do we do with this? Well, I would submit that we must examine our heart. It’s possible to simply go through the motions. Are the words that we speak lining up with what’s really on the inside? Is our profession (words) reflecting a true possession (faith)? Are the works that we do merely external, or are they done out of a genuine relationship with Jesus? Repentance is not just an external work; it involves the heart. When we use the word repentance we must involve the mind and heart as well.
This stuff should feel challenging. It’s one thing to preach it and agree with it, and another to live it out. If we are going to preach a message of repentance, we must actually turn from our sin habits. “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Romans 2:21–22).
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 are challenging. What he did was expose a false follower. Many false disciples exist. People today claim to know God, follow God, perform miracles, cast visions, and spread teachings that are not from God. They show outward works, but lack a true relationship with God. These people can often be identified by the fruit their life is producing. As for those who produce bad fruit, Jesus sends them away.
Let verse 22 be a testimony that none of those things will qualify you to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Nothing you can imagine doing for God is good enough to pay for your past, present, or future sins. God qualifies us to share in the inheritance; we don’t qualify ourselves (cf. Colossians 1:12). Don’t think for a second that anything you’ve done for God will help you get into heaven. Verse 22 is a clear rebuke of that hope.
I think Jesus takes offense to this false disciple because God doesn’t need us at all. We aren’t doing God any favors by working or speaking. In fact, he can use a donkey or raise stones to proclaim his glory (cf. Numbers 22; Luke 19:40). He spoke creation into existence and made us from dirt. Nothing is too hard for him to accomplish his purposes. Who are we to think we can do God any favors?
We’ve got a very serious, severe problem. The problem is sin. And it’s severe enough to send us to hell. It is far more powerful than our behaviors, works, or words. The good news is that we have been rescued. Salvation is the act of the living God making dead men alive. Any work or profession that we make is not powerful enough to wipe our slate clean. Only the blood of Jesus is that powerful.
Needless to say, our words should honor God. We should profess Jesus to the world. Only, our hearts must be repentant as we preach repentance. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus rebukes someone who had a Christian resumé, but Jesus didn’t know him. This person had never truly turned to Christ. A loving relationship between them was nonexistent. It was only an act. When we have the right words, but lack the right relationship, our words won’t amount to anything.
We cannot simply call Jesus our Lord; we must turn to him as Lord. What you say doesn’t compare to where you stand. Where does your heart stand? Where does your relationship with Christ stand? We must turn to him alongside our words.
Standing at heaven’s gates, we shouldn’t rely on what we have accomplished on earth to get us inside. The only possible way we are getting into heaven is if the owner lets us in by his kindness. We’ve been bashing and trashing the owner our entire life. We’ve turned our back on him and ignored him. Now we want to live in his house because we think we have the right to do so?
The Lord Jesus will not let us through the gates of his Kingdom because we used his name around town. We could do many mighty works in his name, and accomplish this or that using his name, but unless we know each other we will not be spending time together in his house, according to what he said in Matthew 7.
There must be genuine repentance in every true believer. It is not enough to simply use Jesus’ name, accomplish Christian works, or even defend Jesus’ name. We must know him to be our Savior, and he must know us as his people. The passage we have discussed involves Jesus rejecting a false disciple, who professed Jesus as Lord but never possessed a true saving faith. May we examine this example thoroughly so that we may understand what it means to know Jesus and be known by him.
View another Turntables article here.