“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
Are we getting a little uncomfortable yet? Don’t fight it. It’s good for us to undergo a healthy self-examination every now and then. Today’s devotion is a continuation of last Thursday and Friday’s sections of the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus introduced the narrow, difficult way to life with God. He also said there are few who go that way.
But Jesus is still giving the invitation for all those who will come to Him in simple faith. He is calling people from false religion to the true kingdom. The path to life with God, the path devoid of human works and effort, is the complete opposite of religion. This path requires going through alone and naked, taking no possessions, no works, no pride, and no self-righteousness.
According to Jesus, many who are on the broad, religiously popular way think they are alright with God and will be surprised one day when God does not accept them into heaven. Now please don’t get this wrong here. Jesus is not talking here of wicked, vile, horrible people who wanted nothing to do with God while on earth. He is not speaking to irreligious people, to atheists or agnostics. He is speaking specifically to people who are devotedly religious. They were probably going to the temple every day, offering the finest of sacrifices while the priest did his duties at the altar, thinking everything was good. Our Lord says they are deluded in thinking they are on the road to heaven when they are really on the broad road to hell. Jesus says they are suffering from self-deception.
The New Testament gives many warnings about spiritual self-deception in regard to salvation. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells of the five foolish virgins who pretended devotion to the bridegroom but missed meeting him because of their unpreparedness (vv. 1-12), and of those professed believers (symbolized as goats) who are surprised that the Lord rejects them because they never truly served Him (vv. 32-33, 41-46).
The Bible encourages healthy self-examination. We are told to examine our lives and our motives (1 Cor. 11:28). The Apostle Paul tells us, “Test yourselves to see if your are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).
Certain things we do may foster self-deception. One can be an unwarranted concentration on religious activity. Attending church, hearing sermons, singing songs of the faith, reading the Bible, attending Bible studies, and many other perfectly good and helpful activities can actually insulate a person from the very God he is supposedly worshiping and serving. Those things can cause a person to think he is being faithful and obedient, when in reality he may not be; and they can cause a person to think he is right with God, when in reality he is not.
Another cause of self-deception is what may be called the fair exchange, or balancing out, approach. Instead of confessing and asking forgiveness for his sins, a person may give himself the benefit of the doubt and rationalize his salvation by thinking that the good things he does balance out the bad, that the positive cancels the negative. But in the first place, apart from God it is impossible to do anything that is truly good, because “there is none who does good, there is not even one,” Paul tells us (Rom. 3:12), quoting David (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3). In the second place, it is the sin itself—not an excess or imbalance of it—that separates us from God and brings death and damnation (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Whatever good we might somehow accomplish would not cancel those consequences of sin, any more than eating right and exercising will save the life of a person infected with a deadly disease. His only hope is in receiving a cure for the disease, not in trying to balance off its deadly effect by keeping his body otherwise healthy. Isaiah said that the best deeds of men before God are as “a filthy garment” that is, a menstrual cloth (Isa. 64:6).
Possibly the question that should be consuming you right now is, What about me?To determine the answer, the following questions may help:
· Have I chosen the correct gate?
· Am I traveling the right road?
· Does my tree bear the right fruit?
· Am I following those who teach the truth?
· Is my faith being demonstrated in good deeds?
· Do I truly know God through Jesus Christ?
If you have not already done so, I urge you now to turn to Him in simple faith. Not faith in religion. Not faith in your church. Not faith in your heritage. That my friend is religion. I’m referring to a real relationship with the Savior. An authentic inner transformation brought about through vital faith in Christ.
Simple faith begins with Jesus.
Have a Great Day!