"VERBAL PROFESSION AND THE SHOCKING VERDICT"
Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?'"
"And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS'" (NASB).
Gary Thomas writes in Christianity Today: Thinking about eternity helps us retrieve [perspective]. I am reminded of this every year when I figure my taxes. During the year, I rejoice at the pay-checks and extra income, and sometimes I flinch when I write out the tithe and offering. I do my best to be a joyful giver, but I confess it is not always easy, especially when there are other perceived needs and wants.
At the end of the year, however, all of that changes. As I am figuring out my tax liability, I wince at every source of income and rejoice with every tithe and offering check—more income means more tax, but every offering and tithe means less tax. Everything is turned upside down, or perhaps, more appropriately right-side up. I suspect Judgment Day will be like that.
In our message today, I will like us to consider: “Verbal Profession and the Shocking Verdict.”
I. THE INADEQUACY OF MERE VERBAL
PROFESSION V. 21
In last week's message, Jesus warned us about the existence of false prophets. In the present text, He is dealing with not only false prophets but also mere verbal profession of faith in Him. Verbal profession of faith in Jesus Christ is indispensable. The Apostle Paul wrote that in order to be saved, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10). However, a true profession of Jesus as Lord is impossible without the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).
On the surface, the kind of profession of faith Jesus is talking about in “The Sermon on the Mount” is admirable. To begin with, it is polite, because it addresses Jesus as Lord. Next, the profession is orthodox. Third, it is fervent, for it is not a cold or formal “Lord” but an enthusiastic, 'Lord, Lord,' as if the speaker wishes to draw attention to the strength and zeal of his devotion. What can be wrong in calling Jesus, “Lord, Lord”? Because your fruit reveals who you really are (7:20), then it follows that simply calling Jesus “Lord” is not enough. It is not wrong to call Jesus, Lord. After His resurrection that was the appropriate title the disciples addressed Jesus, Lord. What Jesus is clarifying is that there is a distinction between mere lip service and real discipleship. It is much easier to profess Christianity than to possess it. Jesus is saying that to call Him “Lord” is not enough. However, when you do the will of the Father, who is in heaven, then, you become a recipient and an heir of the kingdom. To do God's will implies, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ; the ability to communicate with God, know His will, and be able to perform it. Such fruit reveals a person who will enter the kingdom of heaven.
What Jesus is saying to you and me is that He is not impressed by thoughtless and heartless piety. Superficial religion might satisfy the casual observer, but Jesus demands obedience from the inside out. Saying mere Lord, Lord without really obeying Christ simply breaks the third commandment: “You shall not use the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Many who claim to follow Christ are tempted toward pretense and dishonesty. A shell of spirituality may preserve your reputation with others, but it undermines real growth. You are deluded if you think that God might be fooled by fake holiness. God desires “truth in the inner parts” (Psalm 51:6). There are some of you who profess to be Christians, but what are the tangible things you are doing to prove that your profession is real? Some of you have good jobs but you do not pay your tithes and offerings. Are you being honest to Jesus Christ when you do not contribute financially so that the Great Commission will be fulfilled? It is not what you say that matter to Christ but what you do. What does God find under the surface of your life? Do your actions live up to your words? What Jesus is telling you and me is that the criterion to entering the kingdom of heaven is practical obedience, not a verbal appeal to Jesus as Lord, however urgent (Matt. 25:11-12).
Words are cheap. The reason for the rejection of these people is that their profession was merely verbal, not moral. It concerns their lips only, and not their life. They called Jesus “Lord, Lord,” but never submitted to His Lordship, or obeyed the will of His heavenly Father. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus asks a penetrating question: “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” The vital difference is between saying and doing. In the choir of life, it is easy to fake the words—but someday each of us will have to sing solo before God.
II. THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF FALSE SPIRITUALITY V. 22
The fourth point is that it is a public confession. Some have even prophesied in Christ's name, daring to claim as they preach on some public occasion the authority and the inspiration of Jesus Himself. More than this, the profession is even at times spectacular. Jesus cites the charismatic gifts that are still the fascination of many Christians today: prophecy, exorcism, and miracles. Jesus does not doubt the truth of their claims, because the Bible predicts that “great signs and wonders will be performed even by false Christs and false prophets" (Matt. 24:24; 2 Thess. 2:9-10). Once when I visited Ghana, I asked some young believers, “How do you determine the authenticity of a dynamic believer?” In unison they said if he could cast out demons and performed miracles. I asked them from what source do you make such an assertion? Show me from the word of God. They could not show me. I then showed them two passages from the New Testament (John 13:34-35; and Galatians 5:22-23).
In the research for my doctoral dissertation, I discovered that one of the areas in which Christians are being deceived has to do with signs and wonders today. It is wrong to assume that every miracle is from God. God can and does use signs and wonders to confirm His word, but the Bible cautions, “For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray” (Matt. 24:24). Satan can also perform signs and wonders, but he does so to direct worship away from God to himself (1 Tim. 4:1-2). Why do some African ministers travel to India? Do they go there to evangelize? Or do they go there with ulterior motives? You be the judge.
In verse 22 what is wrong with these people's claim? They claimed that they performed these things in Jesus' name. They were appealing to the wrong things for their entry into the kingdom of God. When Jesus sent the seventy-two in Luke chapter 10, and they came rejoicing that even demons submit to them in the name of Jesus, what did Jesus tell them? Let us find the answer for ourselves (Luke 10:18-20). Jesus told them not to confine their joy to the spectacular, but to make sure that their names were written in heaven. The reason why Jesus rejects the claims of these verbal professors, false prophets, and miracle workers is that they do not have a personal relationship and fellowship with Him. They were merely using Jesus' name for their selfish interests. Charismatic activity is no substitute for obedience and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Once, I asked a Seminary friend, “Do you believe that when Jesus sent the disciples to go heal, cast out demons, and set captives free Judas Iscariot performed some of these supernatural things?” He admitted that it was a thought provoking question, but did not answer me. I pose the same question to you for your consideration. I do not limit this to only false prophets and false miracle workers. This includes preachers, authors of Christian books, composers of Christian songs, Bible commentators, and many others. Do you do what you do because you know Jesus Christ and He has gifted you to serve Him with those gifts, or you do what you do for fame, money, power, prestige, and recognition? If there were nothing like the Day of Judgment, then false prophets and deceivers could get away with everything they do, but thank God that there will be a day of reckoning (A Pastor has about seven cars, while some of his associate pastors do not have a bicycle. However, he would not give them some of his many cars.
III. THE INEVITABLE JUDGMENT V. 23
Now on the surface what better Christian profession could be given? Here are people who call Jesus “Lord” with courtesy, orthodoxy and enthusiasm, private devotion and in public ministry. What can be wrong with this? In itself nothing is wrong. Yet, everything is wrong because it is talk without truth, and profession without reality. Jesus will say to these false prophets and mere professors, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” The word “never” is very strong. Jesus is saying that you have used my name freely, but I never know your name. In other words, there is no record of your name in the Book of Life. The Bible says that Jesus knows those who are His. The reason Christ will banish them from His presence is that they are evil doers or those who practice lawlessness. They may claim to do mighty works in their ministry, but in their every day behavior the works they do are not good, but evil. Of what value is it for such people to take Christ's name on their lips? The Apostle Paul provides the answer: “Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19). He is not talking exclusively about pastors, evangelists, and prophets, but also everyone who claims to be a Christian.
“On that day” means the Day of Judgment. On the Day of Judgment only your personal relationship with Christ—acceptance of Him as your Savior and Lord and obedience to Him will matter. Notice that Jesus placed Himself as Judge—many will say to Me. Here is a claim of Jesus' messiahship. Many people think that if they are good people, attend church like ours, and say religious things God will have to reward them with eternal life. Here Jesus is not speaking to Muslims, Buddhists, idol worshipers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, or even New Agers. He is speaking to those who claim to have used the same Bibles we use, sing the same songs we sing, pray, and do things in the name of Jesus. The only difference is that they did not give their heart to Jesus like Judas Iscariot.
On the Day of Judgment, there will be some who claim to be Christians who will be turned away from God's kingdom. They will be like counterfeit money when it reaches the bank. Suppose you are given a counterfeit bill in change at the store. Thinking it is genuine, you use it to pay for some gas. The station owner uses it to pay for one of his employees, who use it to buy groceries. From there it goes to the bank where the teller says, “I am sorry, but this bill is counterfeit.”
The bill may have been used to do a lot of good while it was in circulation, but when it arrived at the bank, it was exposed for what it really was and put out of circulation. A counterfeit Christian may do many good works, but still be rejected at the gates of judgment.
My question to you is simply this: Is your profession of faith in Christ real? Are you just talking the talk, or walking the walk? It is one thing to say that you know Jesus Christ. It is another thing for Jesus to say you belong to Him. Jesus provides us with this powerful truth so that none of us who claim to be Christian would be disappointed on the Day of Judgment. The bottom line is that on the Day of Judgment your genuine faith in Jesus Christ is what will count, not necessarily what you used His name to accomplish.
INVITATION TO COME TO CHRIST
1. Good person, but not saved
2. Attend church but not sure whether you are saved
3. Attend church on regular basis but your claim does not match your practice
4. Those looking for a quick fix. Give your life to Jesus and let Him take control. Walk by faith and not by sight.
5. Surrender your life completely to Christ
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Kennedy A. Adarkwa, PhD
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