Matthew 7:21-23

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
Warnings. We have such a love/hate relationship with warnings. We need them, yet we sometimes are annoyed by them. It’s that 25mph speed limit sign that goes on for miles. It is parents telling their kids over and over again to not go past the sidewalk into the street. It’s the mail letting you know you need to pay the dentist bill. All of these things seem annoying, yet we need these reminders. We need these warnings. The same is true of this warning from Jesus found in Matthew.
When we read these strong words of Jesus, our first reaction is to put this warning on trial. Is Jesus really going to do this? How exclusive is Jesus actually going to be? What does it even mean to do the ‘will of my Father’? What if I’m one of those he doesn’t know? As we question, we face the temptation to doubt, to be defensive, or to ignore the words we just read. Yet within this warning, there is an immense amount of grace.
There is nothing we have done, can do, or will do that will result in Jesus accepting us into his kingdom. Nothing. Even the things we do with Jesus in mind are not sufficient. No amount of serving at church, or time spent reading the Bible will be enough. Jesus is strongly warning us that we cannot save ourselves. We cannot enter the kingdom of God on our own. We need his grace. ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ (Eph. 2:8)
Doing the will of the Father is realizing and then believing that we are utterly incapable of entering the kingdom of God apart from Jesus Christ. That is God’s will for us, to anchor ourselves in the work of Jesus and not our own.
Let’s be encouraged by this but also know that this is not a pass to pursue life change. This isn’t supposed to encourage us to stop putting in effort in our daily lives or in our pursuit of loving God, our spouse, our families, or our neighbor. No, our works can’t save us, but let’s allow the saving grace of Jesus to motivate us as we do good. Dallas Willard sums it up well: ‘Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.’
Garrett Crown | Student Ministries Associate

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