What does it mean when you call Jesus “Lord”? Would it be appropriate to refer to anyone else as “Lord”? The primary word translated “Lord” in the New Testament means “Might, mighty, lord, principal, ruler.” It is interesting that when Jesus or any of the New Testament writers quote Old Testament Scriptures that use “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” that it is normally translated “Lord”. It is obviously true that the word itself can be used simply as a respectful greeting such as we might use in calling someone “Sir” or “Mister” but it is just as obvious that Jesus was using the term for himself in a higher sense than just a respectful greeting. His challenge to the disciples was, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do the things that I say?” To Jesus, referring to him as “Lord” carried with it the idea of submission and obedience.
As Jesus continued his discussion in the Sermon on the Mount, his use of the word “Kingdom” becomes all the more pointed. He has noted that the kingdom is for those who humbly come to God in submission back in the beatitudes. He has pointed out that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the religious leaders of the time we can’t enter the kingdom of God in Matthew 5:20. He immediately explains the areas in which we must exceed them in the remainder of chapter five as he uses the phrase, “You have heard it said by those of old time……but I say unto you.” He wasn’t telling us we had to look more righteous or spend more time in study or prayer. He wasn’t saying we had to give more than they did to be right with God. He was pointing out that we had to see beyond the mere words of the law and see what was behind them. For example, it wasn’t enough to see the law against murder as not allowing us to premeditatedly kill another person. It went further to forbid the kind of anger or revenge that leads to murder. The law against committing adultery doesn’t just mean it is wrong to have an affair after we are married. It means we aren’t to lust after other people. It clearly forbids things like pornography that leads to lust that leads to adultery. When we release ourselves to lust it leads to leaving our mate for another person and thus committing adultery in our heart in lust, with the person we are lusting after and against the innocent partner in the marriage as we divorce them and finally we commit adultery against the one that later marries the innocent wife that was divorced so you could go to another. Exceeding the religious leaders means we don’t look for ways to get around the teachings of the Lord on swearing by making nitpicking rules about what really matters but we change our hearts and use the words, “Yes” and “No”.
The point of that chapter goes on to apply the exceeding to things like an eye or an eye and to love for all people instead of just the ones who look and talk like us. We noted in the last article that kingdom living means we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and what was involved in that seeking.
Today let’s focus on chapter 7 in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus forbids a judgmental spirit and challenges us to treat other people the way we want to be treated. He points out that one must strive to enter the way to life, to live in the kingdom, because the gate is narrow and the way to travel is difficult. If I want to take the easy road that demands nothing and allows me to do my own thing it is the broad way that is very easy and leads to eternal ruin. He then warns about false teachers that are coming. They will look good but inside they are all messed up. You can recognize them by the fruit or the outcome of their work.
Then in verses 21-23 Jesus makes the point I wish to look at today. “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God. But he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. For many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in your name, in your name cast out demons and in your name done many miracles.’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
From the context we can learn that entering the kingdom of God and living in the kingdom means that we aren’t judgmental in our attitudes but see and correct the beam in our own eyes before looking at the speck in our brother’s eye. We treat other people as we would like to be treated. We enter and walk the narrow way that leads to life. We aren’t false teachers either in the sense of teaching what is not right or not as the Lord teaches or in the sense of teaching the truth but not living it. Think about the fact that no one was closer to the basic teachings of Jesus than the Pharisees yet there wasn’t anyone about whom Jesus spoke more severely in his criticism than the Pharisees. They said what was right but their lives didn’t match at all the heart of Jesus. They were arrogant, condescending, separatist when Jesus was humble, lowly of heart and spent time with the tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus conclusion to the whole sermon was in this statement in verses 21-23 and in the final story he told about the two builders. Both were making the same point but one in declaration and the other in story form. He wanted more than anything for us to get the message. He wasn’t aiming for a dissertation to be placed on the shelf in some university library never to be touched or seen again. He was aiming for the hearts of the people who were hearing him and for all who would read this sermon through the centuries to follow.
The point is simple. If you want to enter and live in the kingdom it can’t be some show that says all the right words but never changes the heart. “Lord, Lord” is a good statement if you are ready to make him the Lord of your life. If you are calling Jesus Lord and continuing to sit on the throne of your life doing as you please rather than submitting to him your whole faith is a farce. Far too many thought then and still think today that if they can just get before the Lord in judgment and give him a list of all our accomplishments there will certainly be a welcome home for me. It sounds great to say “We prophesied in your name. We cast out demons in your name. We did many miracles in your name.” But all the great things we have done are worthless if we have not submitted to Jesus as the Lord of our life. What does that mean? It means that we intentionally submit to what he says in becoming a Christian and in living for him each day of our lives. Will we fail along the way? Certainly we will. But our plan or intention is to be completely obedient to the Lord. When we claim to be in the kingdom of the Lord and intentionally do and say things that violate his teaching, we are only calling him “Lord, Lord” and it is a cruel joke! Every pretending Christian who claims to be a Christ follower and intentionally goes on in a sinful practice will be rejected by Jesus in the judgment and all the credits they have claimed for themselves will be exposed as nothing.
Kingdom living means that when we hear the words of Jesus either as he spoke them in the gospel accounts or as His Spirit led the writers of the New Testament or as the Spirit of God leads us today in serving him, we submit and strive to live that life all the time. The wise man who builds his house with a firm foundation that can stand the winds, the waves and the storms of life is one who “Hears these words of mine and does them.” To listen intently to the words of the Lord and then go out to live a different life is to build my life on the sandy ground of hypocrisy. Get real if you want to live in the kingdom of God. Our Lord sees deeper than our actions and knows our hearts. Live for Him rather than for what any other person may think or say.