Practical Christianity

…training in godliness

Are You Saved or Self-deceived?

If you’ve ever read Jesus’ first recorded sermon, the one we commonly call ‘the sermon on the mount’ at a stretch, you’ll probably, just like me and the hearers at that time be stunned (Matt 7:28).

There are so many things about the sermon that’ll leave you gasping for air- the clarity and authority just to mention a few. But the last 7 verses, for me at least, are staggering.

“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. “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.’ “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.” (Matt 7:21-27)

Why this is particularly shocking to me is because the entire sermon, which starts from Matthew 5:3, was preached to His disciples (Matt 5:2) and the large crowd who already heard his sermon on repentance (Matt 4:17) and had started to follow Him (Matt 4:25). This was a crowd of eager seekers, not rebellious unbelievers who have no concern for spiritual things. These are people who left their homes to come and see and hear Jesus speak. Yet, he concluded with the scary and chilling warnings we find in verse 21-27.

How is it possible that people who have heard the message of repentance and have “seemingly” turned to follow Jesus -people who leave their homes on weekdays and Sundays to hear Jesus (or in our case, our pastors) preach- can still be in danger of being told to depart from Him? How is it possible that only at the judgment do they discover the sad reality that they have built their house on sand all along?

How? Where did they go wrong?

Jesus didn’t leave us searching for answers, he gave us 2 ways they got it all wrong.

They “say”, but they don’t “do”

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. (Matt 7:21 emphasis added)

I couldn’t help but notice the familiarity these people had with Jesus, they called Him Lord and called Him twice in a fond way! But all their identification with  Christianity, the preaching they did, the mighty works they performed, they did all of that and yet they failed at what mattered the most-doing God’s will!

What is God’s will?

Jesus, in speaking to a different group in John 6:40 says “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life (emphasis added). His law is the standard for Christian conduct. And everyone who has believed in Jesus for salvation is commanded to use the law as a map to guide them along the way of faithful Christian living. This is why Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in Chapter 4 verse 3- For this is the will of God, your sanctification and he continues in verse 7 saying “For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification”. Peter also expresses that God’s will for us in sanctification is to obey Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:2). John says it beautifully in 1 John 2:3- By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar. Doing the will of God which is obeying God’s commandments is how everyone who has confessed Jesus as Lord shows deep gratitude for the deliverance they have in Christ.

But these people Jesus refers to here in this verse have rather been practicing sin instead of doing His will. They’ve ignored and treated with contempt the will of God– His law.

For everything they did, the identifying with Christianity, the preaching, they did it all while still practicing sin, supposing in their heart that those activities would be sufficient to gain entrance into the eternal bliss of God. 

Have we not also deceived ourselves to think that all God wants from us is verbal identification with Jesus, religious Twitter and Instagram Bios, religious hashtags like #Jesusbaby or #Jesusfreak, joining the church workforce, speaking in a tongue, “dangerous” giving and myriads of activities? When we assume that all God wants from us are the aforementioned things while still having the liberty to live how we want, are we not like these people Jesus addresses in this verse? When our lives don’t honor God during the week but we put on our Sunday best and  head to church for our spiritual disinfection- an activity we do so our conscience can be placated- are we not like these people? Are you not presuming that your public identification with the church would impress God? What has happened is that you’ve become complacent, careless, and presumptuous with sin and you suppose God would take your religious activities in  exchange for forgiveness.

Friends, make sure no one deceives you;…the one who practices sin is of the devil (1John 3:8). No one who is born of God practices sin (1John3:9, emphasis added). By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God (1John 3:10, emphasis added).

Friends, I’m begging you, …Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10, emphasis added)

They “hear” but they don’t “act”

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. (Matt 7:26)

Wait, what? Someone can invest his time building a structure on just sand without a solid foundation? That’s unbelievable! So is the sheer foolishness of hearing Jesus’ words and His warnings and not doing anything about them!

All the Christian activities you engage in without first acting on Jesus’ words on the salvation of your soul is you trying to build a super-solid structure on just sand -so foolish. Christ is king and as such His words have to be obeyed. And the first command that he issues to you is to heed God’s call to repent and put your faith in Him (Acts 26:19-20)

Jesus says to you; sorrow over your sins (Matt 5:4), be broken that you have offended and rebelled against God with your sins, repent and cry out to Him for salvation (Rom 10:13). He says to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5:6) and be pure in heart (Matt 5:8). You can’t continue to sin and say grace should abound (Rom 6:1). Jesus’ kingdom is about daily trusting Jesus and living righteously (Rom 14:17). John Calvin in his institutes of the Christian religion says the whole life of a Christian ought to be a sort of practice of godliness. Calvin writes: “God has prescribed for us a way in which he will be glorified by us, namely, piety, which consists in the obedience of his Word. Calvin then adds: “believers are justified for the purpose of worshiping God in holiness of life.”

Friends, the storm of judgment is coming (Matt 7:27) and if you don’t act on Jesus’ words today, whatever you have built, whatever activities you have engaged in, no matter the amount you have given to the church, it will fall-and it will be a great fall.

It’s time to ask yourself if you’re saved or just self-deceived. Are you an empty talker and a foolish person? Have you been play-acting? Search your heart and see what you really love. Notice what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 37-38: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

God knows your heart and what you really love, search it too and see for yourself.  Article 14 of “A New Confession of Faith (1654)” says- That whosoever does not prize and love Jesus Christ above himself, and all other things, cannot be saved. Understand the seriousness of sin and repent of it.

Ask yourself if you are one who delights in the law of God (Ps 1:2) and does them, for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Rom 8:13, emphasis added). Today, build on the words of Jesus found in Matt 11:28-29

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Oluwadamilare Sobanjo

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