The Worth Of Our Works
Scripture: Matthew 7:21-23
We are all afraid of something. There is even a season of the year where people spend time focusing on things that scare other people. While I don't celebrate this holiday, and don't recommend that Christians do, I think that there is something about "scary" stuff that intrigues us. I want to speak to you today about some of the most frightening words a person could ever hear. First, however, we need to look at the context of this passage.
In the previous section, we discussed what it looks like for someone to be a false teacher. We found out that a false teacher was a wolf in sheep's clothing. Outwardly, they look just like any other Christian. However, inwardly, they are different. Their focus is not on God. Instead, they choose to focus on themselves. Rather than seeking God's glory, they seek their own. Rather than loving others as themselves, they love themselves and seek for others to love them. Rather than teaching what is faithful to Scripture, they teach what they want to teach. Rather than shepherding the flock of God, they feed on the flock. They do not lead people to Christ. They lead people away from Christ. Jesus warned us to stay away from such people. These are the individuals that are in focus in the passage in front of us today.
Jesus starts with what must seem like startling words to most Christians. Jesus declares clearly that not everyone who says that he is their Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This should be a warning to us that words are not enough. It is true that no one can confess Jesus as Lord without the aid of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). However, we must understand this as genuine confession, not insincere confession. Those who genuinely confess Jesus as Lord will be concerned with more than simply the words that are spoken, as though simply uttering a phrase will gain someone access to the Kingdom of Heaven. "Jesus is Lord" is not a password that, once spoken, automatically grants one access to the Kingdom of Heaven. No, Jesus must be the Lord of their lives in reality, not in word only.
How will sincere confession of Jesus as Lord make itself known? It will make itself known by the works of the person making the confession. A person who sincerely confesses Jesus as Lord will have a heart to do what Jesus wants, and by extension, what the Father wants. Those who confess Jesus as Lord will do the will of God. So what is the will of God? In this context, it is knowing his only begotten son and placing our faith in him. This will lead to outward works that are in line with the will of God, such as loving the way that God demands and serving the way that Jesus did. Since we do not see the heart condition of a person, this is how we can know a person (Matthew 7:20).
Jesus makes the point that there will be many who have called him Lord, yet have not entered the Kingdom of Heaven. Their response to Jesus is telling, and it shows how valuable mankind's works really are. Rather than appealing to Christ's grace or mercy, those who are in the spotlight here appeal to the things that they have done, including what they have done in Jesus' Name. Jesus is clearly using hyperbole here when he talks about what they have done. No human being can do a miracle or drive out evil spirits in their own power. This takes the power of God. The point is not the specific works that are done by these individuals (although this should serve as a sobering warning to anyone who pursues 'signs, wonders, and miracles,' while neglecting the more important aspects of the Gospel). The point is that these individuals pointed to what they had done rather than what Christ had done. They were not trying to enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on the grace that God offered. Rather, they were trying to enter based on what they had done, neglecting a relationship with Christ along the way. The true value of these people's works was zero.
Let me make this absolutely clear: Nothing you do can ever earn you favor with God. That may seem like bad news, until you realize how good God truly is. On the other side of the equation, if you are in Christ, nothing you can do will separate you from him. In all of this, God loves you and sincerely desires a relationship with you through Jesus Christ, and there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. So the question that is left for you today is simple: Are you going to do things your own way and in your own power, or are you going to trust Christ and what he has already done on your behalf? By God's grace, I hope that your answer is the latter.