It is amazing how much easier it is to talk the talk than to walk the walk. We sometimes become frustrated at people who say all the right things when it comes to church and being a Christian, but whose lives never match up with the words. What makes it all the more unnerving is that it is quite often the ones who are the very best at the talk, that at the end of things don’t do well at all with the life part of it. In Jesus great Sermon on the Mount he very clearly laid out the life that one is to live to be a faithful follower of His. He even warned of those who would pretend to be teaching his way and actually leading people away from him. One thing that makes this whole sermon so powerful is that he covered all the bases. Near the end of chapter seven and the sermon as a whole he said, “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.”
These three verses from Jesus are huge. They cover a wide gamut of topics that plague the people of God in all generations. So, it is vital to look closely at how Jesus handled the whole topic of those who say all the right things but whose lives don’t match up with their words.
Saying “Lord, Lord” is a good thing. Luke pictures Jesus on another occasion asking, “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord, and fail to do the things I say?” The word means one who is the master, the ruler. If I call someone my lord I am declaring that I follow their lead. My very becoming a child of God involves my willingness to make Jesus the lord of my life. In Romans 10:9-10 it says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart may believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” The whole notion that I can have Jesus as my savior without submitting to him as my lord completely misses the mark of God’s teaching. Jesus knew there would be those who were ready to declare his lordship but would never follow the teaching he laid down, so he made it abundantly clear that you don’t get into the kingdom of Christ with such claims. Remember the whole point of being in the kingdom of Christ is that we have made Jesus king of our lives. One couldn’t claim to be part of the Roman Empire and reject the rule of the Emperor. Neither can one be in Christ’s kingdom and reject him as king, as lord in your life.
What makes this passage all the more revealing is that Jesus pictures these people coming before him in the judgment still very much believing that they are right with him and will be ushered into his heavenly realms. They were shocked to find that calling him lord and doing lots of things in his name didn’t cover the bases for them. They had the wording right and they were doing lots of good things in his name. Look at their list of great works they were doing in the name of Jesus. They were prophesying in his name. The basic meaning of the word prophesy is to “Speak forth God’s revelation.” It most often referred to a miraculous speaking of God’s revealed will. God often referred to the Old Testament prophets as “Men of God”, a phase only used in the books of I and II Timothy in the New Testament. In I Timothy 6 Paul spoke of Timothy as “O man of God.” and in 2 Timothy 3 he talked about the scriptures as furnishing the man of God completely for what he needs to preach and teach God’s will. Most likely these were people who strongly believed that God was giving them special revelations of His will for them to share with others. So, when they faced judgment they felt secure, believing that God had often revealed his will to the world through them. Yet, they were wrong! They weren’t right with God at all.
The next group felt secure in their salvation because they had cast out demons in the name of the Lord. Remember there were many who believed they had the ability to cast out demons. When the religious leaders accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub the price of demons, Jesus pointed out to do so would have Satan casting out Satan and his kingdom would fall, but then he asked them if he was casting out demons by Beelzebub, by whom were their children casting them out? Exorcising demons has been part of different religious work in multiple areas and they believed strongly that if they could cast the demons out then surely they were right with the Lord. Yet, they were mistaken. I don’t know if they were really able to cast out demons or only believed they could, but either way what was done led them to the wrong conclusion. Their actions didn’t demonstrate that they were right with God.
The third group weren’t so specific in their claims. They simply said they had done many mighty works in the name of the Lord. We can’t be sure what kind of things they had in mind. It may have been great service projects that helped lots of people deal with problems in their life. It may have been some glorious project that was intended to bring lots of people to Jesus. All we know is that in their estimation, they had done mighty works for God in the name of Jesus. Surely if you are out working for God and giving him the glory for your good deeds in the world, then when you face him in judgment you will be praised for you good deeds and invited into the eternal kingdom to be with the Lord forevermore. But, surprisingly Jesus said that these too would be told that He had never known them and that they must depart from him. Think of the implications of Jesus saying to them, “I never knew you.” It is very different from saying, “I don’t know you.” His point to these people that felt so good about their spiritual lives was that they had never been right with him.
He then called these very people who thought they were right with him and doing his work in the world, “workers of lawlessness.” The powerful lesson is that no amount of saying the right thing or doing good works will take the place of submitting to the Lord and doing His will in our lives. It isn’t up to us to come up with some magnificent way we can do great things for God. It is up to us to follow Jesus and do what he calls us to do. Judgment is coming for each of us one of these days and Jesus longs to invite every person that stands before him to come on in and enjoy the blessings of his kingdom that has been prepared for us from the foundation of the world. But only those who submit to him as lord will actually be welcomed into his kingdom forevermore.