Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Not Everyone Who Says "Lord, Lord"

Lord Lord

By Dennis Pollock

Perhaps the most famous sermon ever preached or read would be the sermon of Jesus we know as the Sermon on the Mount.” There are pieces of it in Mark and Luke, but it is Matthew who shares it in the greatest detail. He takes a full three chapters to list the various statements and exhortations of Jesus that make up this amazing sermon. It is not, however, a sermon in the classic sense, with points and subpoints, all focusing on a single topic. Nor does it contain any significant information about how to become a Christian. There is little reference or even hint to salvation by grace or justification by faith.

This is not a how-to-get-saved” evangelistic message. It is rather a declaration of how we are to live once we are saved. This is our user s manual” for the Christian lifestyle. However, Jesus does take a little time to share a warning for those who think they are saved, but in fact are not. It seems to me that most pastors these days don t preach on this passage as much as they used to, or quote any of Jesus words from it. The words of Jesus here are a bit troubling and uncomfortable for many. He dares to suggest that some may be quite surprised on Judgment Day. Let s take a look at it.

Jesus starts by declaring:

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 (Matthew 7:21).

A Religious People

Note that Jesus uses the word Lord” twice – not just Lord,” but Lord, Lord.” These people are religious people. They know about Jesus, they are quite familiar with the gospels, they are associated with the church, and they refer to Jesus as Lord. They clearly think of themselves as believers, and in some sense, they are believers. Had you gone to them in their life on earth and asked them who they supposed Jesus was, they would have given all the right answers: Lord, Messiah, Son of God, God manifest in human flesh,” and so forth. They would have passed a theological test about Jesus and Christianity. Jesus was to them Lord, Lord.”

But there was a problem, and this was no minor problem. It was a serious problem. They do not do the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus continues:

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?

This is getting more and more serious. He does not say, Some will say to Me in that day…” or A few will say to Me in that day…” He says, Many will say to Me in that day…” And what will they say? We have been busy throughout our lives doing your work, Jesus – proclaiming Your word, casting out demons, doing wonderful things in Your name.”

These are church people, people who strongly identify with Jesus, who talked about Him, and engaged in various religious activities as Christians.” Now it is their time to stand before Jesus and have their lives reviewed and they are in for a surprise, or I should say they are in for the greatest shock of their lives. Jesus tells us that when these many people” begin to enumerate all the good works they have done in His name, He will declare to them: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:23).

Never Had a Relationship

What a shocking statement: I never knew you.” There was never any relationship between them and Jesus, even though they had surely assumed that there was. They were not born again, they were not true followers of Jesus, they had no covenant relationship with God – in short, they were not Christians, despite their Christian t-shirts, Christian bumper stickers, and the fact that they constantly went around saying Praise the Lord,” and God is good – all the time.”

We are not left to wonder what the problem was. Jesus tells us plainly, referring to them as you who practice lawlessness.” These people were religious enough, but they had made no effort to live the godly life which Jesus demands. They didn t just slip up once in a while; they practiced” lawlessness,” they sinned frequently, flagrantly, and without even a twinge of guilt.

They had probably assumed that grace means you don t have to change your behavior. Only believe” had been taken to such ungodly extremes that it had become to them a free pass to live wicked, depraved, angry, sexually immoral lives. Despite a thin veneer of Christianity, underneath was a great big layer of carnality. They had freely lied, perhaps stolen, and had assumed that any sex, all sex, and lots of sex was perfectly fine. After all, nobody s perfect; we re all just sinners saved by grace. And had they been challenged about their licentious lifestyle, they would have replied that salvation is by grace, not works, and therefore nobody should judge them. In their minds they were believers. Their lifestyle was their own business.

But now, with no one around to debate except Jesus, the One who is un-debatable, they were being told that Jesus did not know them and had never known them. Their Christianity was a pretend Christianity, a sham and a fraud which included all the right sayings and trappings but was negated by their flagrantly wicked and rebellious way of life.

Jesus Demanded Change

There is a sizeable group of Christians in the church today who have so magnified the idea of believing” that they are convinced lifestyle and behavior do not matter at all. They of course have a problem with Jesus because He hammered home the theme of godly living all the time. He said things like:

  1. “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)
  2. “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.…” (Matthew 10:38)

Divorcing Jesus
Message from Paul s

Amazingly, in order to match their philosophy of only believe-and-live-as-you-like” they suggest that what Jesus taught in the gospels was not for Christians, but was only for the Jews of His own times. They insist that when Paul came along, he brought a different way of salvation which was based on grace. In their minds, Jesus teachings were based upon law. So, according to them, you should ignore Jesus and embrace Paul s teachings. As they see it, Jesus taught obedience to God and Paul taught grace.

This concept is so riddled with errors that if I had never heard of it before, I would not believe it would be possible for anyone to accept it. Even now, having heard these doctrines often, I am still amazed anyone could believe them. First, although Jesus emphasized obedience, He proclaimed grace again and again. When Jesus was asked what must be done in order to do miracles like He did, He replied: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). And in the most famous verse in the Bible, it was Jesus who announced, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You cannot get any more grace-oriented than this verse. Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but have eternal life. Not: whoever helps little old ladies cross the street,” not whoever prays six hours a day,” not whoever goes door to door evangelizing every Saturday, but whoever believes on Jesus will live forever.

In Matthews gospel Jesus declares, The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The idea of Jesus dying on the cross as a ransom for our souls is as grace-oriented as you can get. We do not go to heaven because of our goodness, but because Jesus died for us to pay the ransom price which we owed to the justice of God.

Jesus Preached Faith – And Paul Demanded Holiness

So Jesus was not merely an obedience-preacher.” He preached faith. Nor did the apostle Paul proclaim only believe” and refuse to ever speak about the need to live godly lives. Paul talked about this subject continually. In speaking of hypocrites in his epistle to Titus, Paul writes: They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). Just before this he calls these people defiled and unbelieving.” Yet in the next verse he says that they profess to know God.” These folks were not atheists, they were not agnostics, they were not Hindus – they thought of themselves as Christians. In their minds they had believed.” They professed to know God.” But Paul says they were defiled and unbelieving.” Perhaps they assured themselves that all was well with their souls because they were told to only believe.” And that is what they had done: they had believed” without repenting, they had believed” without turning away from sin and selfishness, they had believed” with a weak, anemic, impotent, insipid, feeble faith that was really no faith at all. It was a mental acknowledgement of Jesus but not a genuine heart-faith that turned them away from sin.

To the Romans, Paul writes: But now, having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” To the Galatians, he asks, But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not” (Galatians 2:17). And in his first epistle to the Corinthians, he boldly declares that neither the sexually immoral nor the idolaters, nor drunkards, nor thieves, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Paul, the greatest preacher of grace and faith the church has ever seen, clearly felt that faith will always be accompanied by upright living, and that without a godly lifestyle, your faith is invalid, counterfeit, illegitimate, and worthless. No matter how hard you have tried to only believe,” if that only believing” has not resulted in holiness, you are in trouble. In Hebrews we read, Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

The Same Message

To sum up, Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul are not on two different teams. If they were, then of course we should side with Jesus and not Paul. But they are not sharing two contrary ways of salvation. Jesus preached grace and Paul preached grace. Where do you suppose Paul got his message, if not from the words of the Lord Jesus? As Paul was getting the revelation of the grace of God through Jesus, he was surely getting it from the Holy Spirit as he meditated on the gospel accounts and the words of Jesus.

But while both Jesus and Paul preached salvation by grace through faith, they also both insisted that this salvation of grace be accompanied by godly living. And Jesus powerful words about many people coming to Him at the Day of Judgment, calling Him Lord, Lord,” and then being told that He never knew them, and that they were workers of iniquity” surely testifies to us that along with our faith there must be an accompanying lifestyle change. If our idea of only believe” is that we only believe” but continue lying, stealing, lusting, fornicating, and screaming at our spouses, we have totally missed the point. Or to use Paul s own words, How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2).


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