They say that confession is good for the soul. So here goes: I confess that I’m feeling terribly conflicted about the passage we discuss in this PODCAST.
On the one hand, this is as sober and serious as it gets, Jesus’ climax to His signature sermon.
Yet on the other hand, I find myself strangely comforted by His words. Comforted because they explain SO MUCH of what we see done today in Jesus’ name.
You see, Jesus said this at the end of His Sermon on the Mount:
21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
For obvious reasons, this is one of the toughest passages for any teacher to preach on.
So, who better to allow to teach on it than the Apostle Paul. We see in 2 Corinthians 13:5 a similar passage as he taught the church Christ’s message:
5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
So, why would Paul write these words to this congregation – a group of committed Christ followers, many of which he personally led to Christ, in a church he personally founded?
We see that this church is on the right track in 1 Corinthians 12:13:
But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
And yet, in his next letter, we see him instructing them to examine themselves. Why that warning?
Because at the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave this warning:
21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
To which I say, “Wow.”
To say the least, I feel conflicted at the somber and sobering thought that there will be people who attend church regularly, serve mightily in their church’s ministries and even could point to a day when they recited the “Sinner’s Prayer”, but in reality never had a relationship with Jesus Christ and at the end, He will say “I never knew you.”
But on the other hand, I am strangely comforted by Jesus’ words. Comforted because they explain so much of what we see around us today.
So, here’s the take away: It’s a fact of life that rightly or wrongly, there are so many people today for whom it is nearly impossible for them to separate in their minds what some “Christians” have done to them, even in the name of Jesus, and what Jesus would do if He were here walking with us today.
In other words, the Jesus that so many people reject does not in any way resemble the irresistible Jesus that is described in the Bible. Instead, the “person” they reject is the poor reflection they too often see presented by those who claim to be His followers.
That is a sobering reality.
This, in my opinion, begs this question: What if the Jesus that the Jews of our world reject is not the Jesus as described in the New Testament, but rather the “Jesus” of the Crusades, the Holocaust, and so many other persecutions that they have endured throughout history in the “name of Jesus”.
It makes me wonder if God will hold them accountable for rejecting this version of Jesus that was presented to them by those whom Jesus says will be turned away.
I honestly don’t have an answer to that one.
Therefore, all this puts this heavy responsibility upon each of our shoulders: You may be the only version of Jesus that some people are exposed to. As we are called to “Live Jesus”, what portrait of Jesus are our lives painting? Is it as irresistible as the New Testament describes?
Perhaps if we spent our lives living like Christ described in the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, we would be able to, as Paul prescribed, examine ourselves and pass the test:
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. (Matthew 5:3-12)
If you know of anyone who has some mental obstacles to understanding who Jesus is, perhaps THIS is the message for them to hear. Because life is tough, people are so fragile, life is so short, and eternity is forever.
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