Scripture: “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.'” Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
Observation: While verses 15-20 deal with counterfeit prophets, in the above verses, Jesus addresses false disciples. The logical flow of thought would indicate that such imposter disciples have followed in the footsteps of their fake prophets (in the broader sense, their religious leaders). Jesus’ emphasis on his title, “Lord,” draws attention to his superior position as king of his heavenly kingdom—which his disciples likely missed in magnitude until his resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, given Jesus’ excoriation of false prophets and religious leaders, his followers would have understood that one’s outward appearance and behavior must be matched by trust in and love for their Lord.
“On that day,” verse 22 above, refers to the Day of Judgment (see Malachi 3:17–18; Matt 25:31–46; Luke 10:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–10; 2 Timothy 1:12; 4:8; Revelation 16:14) and lays claim to Jesus’ sole authority to decide who enters his kingdom. Thus, it introduces his later claim recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Takeaway: As theologian Michael Wilkins contends, “Jesus never emphasizes the external as being the highest sign of authenticity. He demands our inward allegiance to God’s will, which will produce the fruit of a changed life (The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, p.325). While we can do all the right things and even invoke Jesus’ title “Lord,” if we continually act hastily without seeking his will, or if our hearts are far from God, we will not experience the transformation that bears godly fruit (click here to read yesterday’s Daily Focus).
That’s the negative side of Jesus’ stern warning. From a positive standpoint, if we prioritize time away from the chaos of our world to connect with our Lord, his Holy Spirit will deepen our knowledge of his grace that assures us:
- There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1)
- Nothing can separate from his love (Romans 8:38-39).
- He is working all things for our good (Romans 8:28).
- We will rise above tribulation because we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:36-37).
So even if we misstep and succumb to the teachings of false prophets or pretentiously do good deeds for our glory, grace abounds for those who love Jesus. Indeed, we can count on his Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins and lead us to repentance, where we find restoration for our souls and a deeper understanding of his grace and love for us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, our Savior and Lord, who has prepared a place for us in your and his heavenly kingdom. Would you please foster a deeper understanding of your grace in us that inspires us to seek his and your will so that we might do good works that glorify our Lord and grow his kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling