Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus emphatically taught that carrying out God’s purposes and desires was a condition for entering the kingdom of heaven. This certainly does not mean that we can earn spiritual salvation by our own efforts or works. This is true for the following reasons:
God’s forgiveness comes to us through faith and repentance (i.e., admitting to God and following His purposes). It is made possible by the grace and sacrificial death of Christ, who gave His perfect life to pay the ultimate penalty for our sins.
The obedience to God’s will demanded by Christ is an ongoing condition for salvation; it does not save us, but it is a response and result of true salvation. Yet, it is still God’s power and grace (i.e., undeserved favour, love and help) that enable us to live by His standards. This means that we must continually pray for that grace, receive it and put it into action by true faith and devotion to Christ. Note the Lord’s Prayer and the many challenges and warnings directed toward Christians, telling them to put sin to death (i.e., to rid their lives of sin and not respond to its appeal) and to present themselves to God as living sacrifices.
Because of the gift of gift of God’s power and grace, we are capable of doing God’s will and living right as we follow Christ with all of our heart. God’s Word says that “by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…For we are God’s workmanship” – Ephesians 2:8-10.
God always gives us the strength and ability to obey Him and overcome sin. That is part of the full salvation He works out through those who have entrusted their lives to Him and have been restored to a personal relationship with Jesus. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” – Philippians 2:13. Yet God’s gift of grace – His favour, help and mercy that we do not deserve – does not cancel the need for action on our part. We must respond positively to God’s gift of obedience. We are always free to reject God’s grace, refuse to depend on Christ and refuse to pray for and accept the life of obedience.
MANY WILL SAY…LORD, LORD
Jesus clearly states that there will be “many” who believe they are serving Him and who appear to do great works for Him, yet in reality they never had a true personal relationship with Christ. To escape the temptation and deceit that will be very common in the end times, church leaders (or any follower of Christ) must be totally committed to the truth revealed in God’s Word. We must consider outward “success” or results from ministry as the standard by which to determine our relationship with Christ. Each of us must strive to know Him deeply and to live by the instructions and guidelines in God’s Word.
I NEVER KNEW YOU
Christ makes it unmistakably clear that people may speak about Him and even be involved in powerful, supernatural activity, such as driving out demons and performing miracles, though in their hearts they have no genuine personal relationship with Christ.
Scripture teaches that what seems to be great preaching, strong belief, enthusiasm for God and the working of miracles can be performed even under the influence and power of Satan. Unlike us, Satan obviously has supernatural abilities and will use them to deceive people inside and outside the church. Paul warns that “Satan himself masquerades (walks about in disguise) as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, that many of his servants masquerades as servants of righteousness”. Paul makes it clear that what might appear to be a powerful gift of ministry can be “the work of Satan”.
Many times God overrides Satan’s activity in false preachers in order to bring genuine spiritual salvation or healing to those who truly respond to God’s Word. This means that if the message is true – even when the minister is not – it can still have the proper godly effect on people’s lives. It is always God’s desire that those who proclaim His message are in a right relationship with Him. Yet, when an evil or immoral person preaches God’s Word, God can still work in the heart of those who receive the Word and trust Christ. God does not give His approval on any unrighteous minister or teacher, but He does honour the truth of the message and will save all who accept it in faith.
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