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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ye Must be Born Again, pt 3

Part 1
Part 2

Onward we go, to actually answer the question at hand. In the third part of this blog, we go to Jesus Christ speaking in the Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 7. If you have never read this passage of Scripture, you will be surprised to see how heavily it has influenced modern figures of speech. The specific verse we are considering is:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.


(Mat 7:21)
However, it would be impossible to accurately study that verse while ignoring the context. What does this verse say? What does it not say? Let us dig in by jumping back a few verses to see what Jesus is talking about in general.
 
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.


(Mat 7:13-14)
Christ begins with a teaching that is as simple as it is offensive. This man, so widely accepted as a kind and loving teacher, flatly tells us that most people will go to Hell. You cannot accept all world religions, you cannot accept any doctrine you wish, you must find the narrow way and step through the small gate. All other paths lead to utter destruction. Is this the sanitized Jesus of popular culture? Or is this a real man, teaching a real, logical religion where actions have consequences and right and wrong are absolutes laid down by the God of the universe? Christ was not practicing 'gentle' or 'feel-good' preaching here. He knew that the issue was too serious to disguise. People's eternity was and is at stake.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits.


(Mat 7:15-20)
He then calls teachers who are hypocrites (clearly a shot at the religious elite present) ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing. They appear to be kind and innocent, but really they desire to devour you. Christ tells us we will know them by their fruits. If a teacher lives in flagrant disregard of God's Word, we will know they are false teachers who are luring us off the path of righteousness. Many 'evangelical' writers who have predicted the rapture at a date now passed have been divorced many times and their private lives already revealed their true colors before their prophecies failed. Look a few of these men up and you will see Jesus was not making idle chatter.

But He goes farther still. If someone is good at their core - transformed by God- their lives WILL reflect it. Jesus Christ knows nothing of backslidden Christians. He knows those who spoke His name externally and were never saved at all, but never one who is saved and can leave the faith. The Lord says that a good tree CANNOT produce bad fruit, not can a bad tree produce good fruit. This is not such a statement that should be understood to mean that a single sin proves someone is not saved and should be understood within the lens of inner spiritual warfare (which I have written on before, and may again). But without digging deeper into it, Christ's shocking point is clear. If you bear bad fruit, it is because you are a bad tree and bad trees will be thrown into the fire. This is how we will know those who claim to teach us (note that we are not given similar latitude in judging other believers, only those who would try to acquire followers). The good tree is not spared from the fire because it has good fruit. The good tree is spared from the fire because it is a good tree! That it has good fruit is merely the indicator of this internal fact.

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.


(Mat 7:21)
So here Jesus tells us that not everyone who claims to be His follower will be allowed into heaven, but only those who actually bear the fruit His followers WILL bear.

"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'


(Mat 7:22-23)
They may perform miracles, but they also perform lawlessness which taints anything that may have been done with lip-service to God. They never had a personal relationship with Christ. He clearly says "I never knew you." Not "I knew you but then you left." Or "We never knew each other very well, what with you fishing on Sundays and all."Christ simply tells those who did not bear real fruit that He never really knew them. And then He banishes them from His presence into the outer darkness and fire. By their lawlessness (their bad fruit) it is apparent they were bad trees all along. God looks into their heart and He knows.

He closes with a parable:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. "The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall." When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.


(Mat 7:24-29)
The house built on the sand may have been great with the name of Christ and wonderful works in it. It may have housed the poor and the needy and been filled with all sorts of good things. But there was sin in that house too. And no matter how great the house, if the foundation is false, it will fall. If your foundation is not the salvation that comes from sincerely calling upon the Lord of Hosts, what you build upon it is meaningless. That is the hard teaching our God has for us. If e do not build our lives on Christ, we are fools and all we have ever done will amount to nothing. The sooner we abandon our lifelong castle on the sand and move to the Rock, the more time we will have to build a new one which will withstand every storm.

Then are good works a part of salvation? No, no - a thousand times no. But they are the inevitable fruit. If we are truly saved, we will do the work of the Father and carry out His will.

See you next time.

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