If you were to ask some Christian friends to quote a few of Jesus’ best-known words, what would they say?
“Love your enemies …”
“Judge not …”
“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”
“I am the good shepherd”, and so on.
Jesus certainly did utter these words of wisdom and truth although some of them have been reinterpreted by today’s commentators.
But not many will want to remember some of the most terrifying words uttered in the Bible, which occur at the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7.
Melbourne Christian commentator and blogger, Bill Muehlenberg, recently posted an article on the most frightening words in Scripture.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father” [Matt 7:21].
This is scary stuff for today’s Church, especially for those who think their predestination entitles them to a free ride to heaven.
But what exactly is meant by this difficult passage?
The Frightening Words of Jesus
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” [Matt 7:22].
What is Jesus really saying in this passage?
Now all true Christians say ‘Lord, Lord’, but not all who say ‘Lord, Lord’ are true Christians. Saying the right words don’t matter in this case, and neither does performing miracles.
Jesus says there are ‘many’ to whom He will say ‘depart’, in spite of their confession.
And why? Because their lives plainly show that they reject Him as their Lord, or the leader to whom they owe full obedience.
Obedience to the commands of Jesus that we like, but disobedience to those we don’t like, is only selective obedience. If we truly believe and say ‘Jesus is Lord’ we must also be willing to obey, even if His commands seem too hard.
We must obey out of gratitude for His free salvation. We may not be saved by obedience, but once we are saved, obedience is the proof.
D.A. Carson says:”It is true that men are saved by God’s grace… but it is equally true that God’s grace in a man’s life inevitably results in obedience.”
Let’s take it to heart!
The Difficult Words of Jesus
Jesus spoke a number of “difficult sayings” when He was on earth. Some of them are difficult for us to understand, but others are difficult to put into practise.
“Love your neighbour as yourself” is not difficult to understand but sometimes it is very difficult to do. In other words the problem is us, even though we have the Spirit of Christ in us we are still fighting the war within, as noted by Paul in his “wretched man” section of Romans 7.
This is why regular ongoing repentance and confession is necessary for the Christian as described in 1 John chapter 1.
Does your Church skate around the difficult words of Jesus? Cheap grace preaches forgiveness without repentance,
discipleship without obedience, blessing without persecution, joy without righteousness.
A.W. Tozer wondered if, in the whole history of Christianity, there were so many nominal Christians today who didn’t put their faith into action because they ignored Jesus’ “difficult words.”
I hope your leaders are preaching the whole counsel of God and are not selective!
The Problem of Hell
And how do we cope with Christian leaders who don’t believe in hell as an eternal state, or place?
I know of several high-flying “evangelical” leaders who will not allow that a loving God’s punishment for the unrighteous could be consignment to hell.
I don’t like the doctrine of hell either but how can I say Jesus was wrong? He spoke about hell more than any other character in the New Testament.
I am not prepared to spiritualise hell away to a mere “separation from God” because hell is certainly that, but much, much more.
Jesus described hell as a place, a state or an eternal experience where:
“… the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” [Mark 9:48]
He quoted this from the last verse of the book of Isaiah, making it very clear to His listeners.
The problem for our human minds is that our God is not only perfect Love, but perfect Truth and perfect Justice.
We can’t take our pick of which “God” we want because to do that would diminish our God to an impotent non-god.
That non-god would not be capable of achieving our salvation, but would have to allow sin to go unpunished. He would therefore be unjust, a liar and ultimately loveless because he would not differentiate between good and evil.
Mangling Jesus’ Words
There are those who say that when Jesus says we must do the work of God by believing in Him, as in John 6:29, that our belief is all it takes to live a Christian life.
This is a classic case of taking His words out of context, without regard to all His other sayings.
Among other things, what we should also examine is what did He mean by “believe”? More on that another time.
In the meantime I would implore all serious believers to do what Luke and the apostle Paul commended the Bereans for, in Acts 17:11:
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
Let’s examine the Scriptures for ourselves!