“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.’
– Matthew 7:21-23 (Jesus speaking; our 25th segment of the Sermon on the Mount, all caps is quote of Psalm 6:8)
In this passage, Jesus is reinforcing the passage just before it – the one we read yesterday in which He warned about false prophets.
Remember that the central theme of Jesus’ teaching is the kingdom of God (sometimes called “the kingdom of heaven” and sometimes just “the kingdom”). The Jewish people had been primed for centuries to be ready for this kingdom, and first-century Jews were acutely sensitized to it. It is only natural that some people would falsely claim to have a place in this kingdom so as to take advantage of the opportunity it gave for power, prestige, or money.
Such people think there are shortcuts to success with God. They think by vigorously engaging in religious activities, they can impress others that they are close to God. Yet God is more interested in our character than in our religiosity.
Notice that the contrast Jesus gives here is between lawlessly doing a bunch of religious stuff and doing the will of God. What good is doing a miracle for a crowd if you’re not faithful to your wife? What good is prophesying to the world if you don’t discipline your children? What good is casting out a demon if you don’t keep God’s commandments?
The Sermon on the Mount is about learning the will of God so as to do it. Jesus surely remembered what the prophet Micah had said:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
– Micah 6:8
This is the will of God. And those who do His will find their way to His kingdom.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, let me always seek and accept Your forgiveness, but never use it as a license to go on sinning…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)