25 August 2013
Profession or Conversion
"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 ESV)
This is a disturbing passage and anyone presenting the gospel needs account for the consequences of a false profession. Jesus says that on that day when God's elect are separated from the condemned, that some people will be taken by surprise thinking they would inherit the kingdom but in reality they have been deceived.
Throughout the entire Sermon Jesus has again and again referenced the Kingdom of Heaven, this week He looks at it in particular by showing us who enters that kingdom.
There is quite a connection here to the last few portions of the Sermon. We have just talked about the Narrow way and False Teachers and next week we will look at false foundations. It is natural for teachers try and simplify a message but the problem is that some will take a single salvation verse and oversimplify the conversion process. If you look at historical times of great evangelism the word frequently used is "converted", but sometime in the later part of the 20th century the message seemed to change from "be converted" to "profess your faith and do righteous works". And righteous works would change depending on whose teaching you were following. Some emphasized baptism, others had classes like confirmation, and others will say you must speak in tongues. But the common thread was profession + righteous works = salvation. Romans 10:13 says "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved". So if you just had Romans 10:13 and looked at this passage in Matthew 7 you would struggle to explain why "many" who say "Lord, Lord" are not saved, as Jesus said.
This week I post the following paragraph on Facebook:
The message of the gospel is very direct. Being made aware of your status as a sinner by the preaching of God's Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, you repent (change your mind) and believe (are persuaded to trust) that Messiah (Jesus) has come and offered himself as the atonement (sacrifice to turn away punishment) for sin, to reconcile (reestablish the relationship) you to God, so that you may be converted (return to worship), through confession (to concede or surrender) and faith in God's mercy. This is completely an act of God's loving grace, and in no way dependent upon any righteous works we may do or attempt. No one can earn this salvation; it is a gift available by invitation only. Any person so converted is regenerated (reborn) in spirit and released from the guilt of sin (forgiven) receiving a new nature, desiring to worship God, being liberated from the control of habitual sin. (Acts 3:19, Mark 1:15, Romans 10:9-10, Titus 3:3-7& John 10:27-30)
Acts 3:19 Repent (change your mind) and be converted (return to worship God), that your sins may be erased.
Mark 1:15 Repent (change your mind) and believe (be persuaded to trust) the gospel (Messiah has come).
Romans 10:9-10 Confess (concede) and believe (be persuaded to trust)
"For with the heart a man is persuaded to trust in Christ's righteousness, and with the mouth he concedes (surrenders) to salvation."
John 6:40 "this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes (persuaded to trust) in Him may have everlasting life".
So contrast those who profess Jesus to whom he says "I never knew you" with John 10:27-28 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand".
There are 3 kinds of people in the world; trespassers who uses the blessings of God's creation while refusing to acknowledge Him, posers who profess to be Christians but do not follow Jesus, and true followers who experience Jesus as the good shepherd leading his flock of faith in all grace and mercy.
Profession without conversion produces posers, false Christians who are themselves deceived by their own self-righteousness, demonstrated by righteous works. When I posted my paragraph on the gospel this week Stephen Hayes one of our former worship pastors sent me a note saying that my narrative was a great fit for a graphic they had introduced to teach Christians how to tell their story.
The following lesson will look at this text and present four applications and four truths, but we must see these three verses as one unit of thought. That unit of thought creates the reality that what and man believes and what a man does are connected to one another and have eternal consequences.
Don't be Deceived; Hell is Real
The first thing I think we need to notice about this passage is that Hell is real. We covered this already with the Narrow Gate, but we need to make sure people know about it. In our 101 class we teach at Hallmark there is a section on what we believe, one of those beliefs is about eternity. It states,
People were created to exist forever. We will either exist eternally separated from God by sin, or eternally with God through forgiveness and salvation. To be eternally separated from God is Hell. To be eternally in union with Him is eternal life. Heaven and Hell are places of eternal existence.
There are many Scriptures that support the idea of eternity in heaven or hell:
Matthew 18:8-9—"And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire."
John 3:16—"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
John 14:1-3—"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
2 Corinthians 5:10—"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10—"They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed."
Revelation 20:15—"And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Eternity is real and the places of eternity, Heaven and Hell, are real as well. However, this is a reality we like to think about only so often. It is an uncomfortable one especially for those who do not know for sure that Jesus is their Lord. Notice I did not state those who know they are going to heaven. This is an important distinction, for many people think they are going to heaven because of something they have done and not because of Jesus.
This may seem like simple, no brainer, basic Christianity. However, we cannot assume that people are believing correctly. There is too much at stake. Hell is real, but we also must not be deceived. Just like we need to watch out for false teachers we must watch out for false teaching. Anyone who teaches that there is no Hell or that we will somehow be saved from it apart from personal repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord is providing false teaching and it is deceptive. We must not be deceived and we must proclaim this reality, uncomfortable as it might be.
Don't be Diluted; Belief Matters
The second thing we need to see in this passage is the emphasis on belief. Belief matters in faith. There is right belief and there is wrong belief, but there also are half-truths that people believe. These half-truths are definitely wrong, but they seem to be correct. This passage is addressing those people who think they have been following God. They have called Him "Lord" so they think they know Him, but He knows them not. This is like someone who has a person they idolize, say a movie star. This person has watched every movie, read every biography, knows details that few know about this person that most do not know. In addition this person has even been in the presence of the movie star a few times and gloats about shaking a hand or taking a picture with them. However, if we were to go to the movie star and ask them if they knew this person we would find they have no idea who that person is. Though they knew all about the star, the star knew little about them, and that makes all the difference.
The problem is that so much of what we believe has been diluted, that means it has been watered down to what someone thought was the bare essentials. These people often are false prophets who promise the blessings of God for small sacrifices from us. "Come forward and repeat after me and you will be saved." "Give to my ministry and you will be blessed."
Don't be Distracted; Actions Matter
Jesus said "my sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me". Following Jesus is evidence of your conversion. To hear his voice is both to respond to the gospel call and to love his words as a believer. Also his sheep love being a part of the flock, they love the church family, and they love being led by Jesus.
Christians will be active in their faith. Though we are not works-based, we are works demonstrated. I believe this is exactly what James what combating when he said, "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18) The Christian that is living the life will have a life that is doing the work of the kingdom, that is, doing the will of the Father. Though we have just learned that we will know a False Teacher by his fruit, the same can be said of a Christian, we will know him or her by their fruit, which is the work they are doing.
Don't be Discouraged; Jesus has Overcome
In conclusion, we must not be discouraged. It can be quite a downer to talk about Hell and wonder if we are truly going to Heaven or not. But the encouragement that we must look for is the Gospel itself. Jesus has overcome and those who believe in Him truly have found Heaven and then will truly do the will of the Father. But none of that will happen unless we know Jesus as our Lord. When we do know Jesus as our Lord in that final day we will say "Lord, Lord" and His reply will not be like this passage, but "Well done my good and faithful servant."
For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
So if you were asked by Jesus for the testimony of your hope of heaven; would it be profession plus works or would you describe your conversion saying something like this?
"Lord, did you not call me; did you not die in my place; was I not convinced of my sin; was I not persuaded to trust you; did I not surrender to your grace when I cried out for mercy, do you not lead me as Lord"? That is a faith in salvation as the work of Jesus, not the self-righteousness of man.