Sunday, October 27, 2013

Depart From Me

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’         Matthew 7:21-23  NKJV
This passage has always been one to grab and hold my attention for the stark warning it gives us all as true believers who have received the gift of salvation offered in the sacrifice of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Many have looked at these verses and asked the question “how can I know for sure if I am saved”?  That question may become even more relevant when you consider what we have been studying the past few weeks and the warnings Peter, Paul, and John gave us concerning false believers infiltrating the Church in the last days.

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.        2 Peter 2:1  NKJV
But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.       2 Timothy 3:13  NKJV

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.       1 John 2:19  NKJV
I believe the answer to the question as to who is really a true believer in the eyes of God can be found in the word “practice” which in the Greek is ergazomai, and is translated; to work or labor at, to do business.  Most of us have, or have had a job at which we work in order to make a living and to provide for ourselves and our families.  We also understand that working at a full-time job requires an investment of the vast majority of our time. Looking at this passage, and the definition of “practice”, it would seem we are being told to ask of ourselves do we spend the majority of our time “working” at our relationship with God?

In order to “practice lawlessness” one would obviously have to live in such a way as to ignore the commandments that God has given us. These verses make a clear distinction between people who “say” they are believers, and those who choose to “do” what God commands. In other words, obedience is what our Father is looking for when He examines our claims to be His follower. So it would appear that the question really becomes just what is your lifestyle?  Do you just “say” you are a believer or do you “submit” to God and obey His commandments?
Notice too that these people say to God that He should consider all the great and wonderful things they have done for Him during their lives as proof that they are true believers.  Yet notice what God has to say in response to them and their claim of doing so much good for Him; “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me,”.  The point God is making here is that no matter how much good you might do in this world and regardless of all the seemingly “Christian” service you might perform, if you are not a true believer everything you have ever done is worthless in His eyes.

If that seems harsh to you look closely at how Jesus explained it in these verses which immediately precede the passage we are looking at.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.      Matthew 7:15-20  NKJV

What Jesus is telling us here is that although a person might give the outward appearance of being a true believer, God knows the heart of a man.  People like this can look like a “good tree” and even do good things, but in God’s eyes the fruit of a bad tree is always bad no matter how good it might look to us.  Only good trees can produce what God considers good fruit.  God has made it perfectly clear what He expects from us if we claim to be a follower of Christ and that is obedience to His commandments to us.  It falls on us then to examine our own lives and ask the question “do I obey what God has told me or do I “practice lawlessness” by living a sinful lifestyle?
Do Christians sin? Of course we do, yet a true believer acknowledges his sin, confesses his sin, and repents or turns away from his sin.  A true believer knows what God has said, listens to what God has said, and obeys what God has said.  The unbeliever knows what God has said, but chooses to ignore it.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?         Luke 6:46  NKJV
What troubles me the most about this passage, and what I find to be the most discouraging is the word “many”.  Not a few, not some, but on that day of final judgment “many” will say “Lord, Lord”.  This is a terrible commentary on how effective Satan’s deception can be in that many people choose to live a lifestyle that not only practices but embraces sin yet still believe they are true followers of Christ.  You may know that standing on the train track is a bad idea, but if you don’t make the choice to get off and a train comes along what good was the knowledge?  Knowing what God expects from us is not enough; we must make the choice to do.  Anyone who says they are a believer, yet chooses to practice a sinful lifestyle will, unfortunately, one day hear the words “depart from Me”.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:       Matthew 7:24  NKJV
Keep watching.