Haunting Verses of the Bible IV: Entering the Kingdom of Heaven
Matthew 7:21-23 NIV
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to me [Jesus], ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 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?’
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
These are the verses the Holy Spirit used to help me enter the Kingdom of God on January 16th, 2000 at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Illinois. Here’s a hopefully brief synopsis of my life up to that day.
A. Great childhood…played lots of sports, watched lots of t.v., played lots of video games, hung out with friends, worked hard at school and got good grades, attended church nearly every weekend. Simple, fantastic, and relatively innocent life up until aged 14.
B. Attended private Christian schools from age 3-22…gave me a familiarity with the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc. But I never remember being told that I must receive Jesus as my Savior, that I must participate in a transaction with Christ and accept Him and His work on the Cross as the forgiveness for my sins. I believed I was a Christian because I was American, because I wasn’t a believer in any other religion, because I was a “good person”…
C. “I did what seemed best to me” accurately sums up my teenage years. I “believed” in Jesus in the sense that He was a fact in my brain–similar to the existence of the continent of Antarctica or the fact that pigs don’t sweat–but my belief was not in the saved/forgiven sense. I had not received Christ as Savior and I certainly wasn’t following Him as Lord. Instead, I was settling in to a life of pursuing pleasure, chasing happiness, striving for success, hoping for fame, avoiding “really bad” deeds like murder/kicking puppies/stealing from senior citizens, and throwing in some “good” deeds along the way. I was an intellectual deist and a practical atheistic hedonistic philanthropist. I was a “good person,” a regular church attender and well-spoken of by those who knew me. And yet I was blindly–with a smile on my face and a whistle on my lips–heading swiftly and steadily toward an eternal destination of eternal separation from God…a destination of my own choosing.
And yet God was wooing me all the while…
D. In November of 1999 I began dating a young woman named Sarah, a Muslim by family heritage who was seeking God, who was actively trying to know God, discover God, and follow God actively. As she pursued the pursuing God, she and I had many discussions about Him. God was already beginning to challenge my “house of cards” assumption that I was a Christian because of culture/familiarity/”how I was raised.” Then, on December 31st of 1999, Sarah reached not the end of her investigations but rather “the end of the beginning”–she received Jesus Christ as her Savior and began following Him as her LORD: she realized that God was not a generic/vague being/entity but rather was personal, as specific/original/unique as a snowflake/fingerprint, and that He has a name: Jesus. She received Christ—knowing the negative responses she would get from her parents and the earthly pain it would cause her in the short-run. She then called me the next day to share her great news with me…and I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal! I was happy for her in her decision, but I was still blind toward what it really meant for her, and what it really meant for me.
E. Finally, on January 16th, 2000, I attended the church service where Sarah was getting baptized. What a powerful service! I had never experienced the believer-baptism of adults before. Then, during the sermon of that worship service, the pastor was speaking on our verses today—Matthew 7:21-23. I don’t remember the pastor’s exact words but I do remember the impact that these three verses from Matthew had on me—the Holy Spirit was giving me a “heart and mind-oscopy” and it was not comfortable AT ALL! Basically, the Holy Spirit was my personal Nathan and communicated to me that I was one of the people in Matthew 7:21-23—if I didn’t receive Jesus as my Savior even though I had room on my intellectual shelf for Jesus, I too would hear Him say, “Depart from me, evildoer.” I felt scared, confused, angry, hopeful and excited at the same time—I wanted to get up and leave that church sanctuary…I thought, “I don’t need this…I’m a Christian—I REALLY AM!” But God helped me stay through my discomfort, helped me listen to His Word to me that morning. At the end of the sermon there was an altar-call—the pastor asked if anyone would like to come forward and receive Jesus as their Savior. I was nervous, but I didn’t want to be fake anymore—I didn’t want to be a Christian on the outside and not be one on the inside (my Dad always taught me the importance of being genuine). And so, with the Holy Spirit’s strength and under His inner conviction, I accepted Jesus as my Savior, receiving His death on the Cross as the payment for my sins and becoming from then through eternity a child of God re-born through faith in Jesus Christ.
Takeaways for Us Today
A. What is YOUR testimony? Are you ready to share the reason for your hope? 1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV It is important to know what the Bible says that Jesus has done for you in an eternal sense…It is also important to know what difference Jesus has made/makes in your life in an earthly sense. In Acts 1:8 Jesus clearly states that His people are going to be His witnesses locally and around the world…but it is no good for a witness to take the stand in a courtroom and remain silent (or to plead the 5th amendment!). Witnesses need a testimony–they need to have something personal, genuine, and truthful to say. At least once a year take a few minutes to think back over what Jesus has done for you–what has He been teaching you, how has He helped you endure hard times, what difference has He made in your daily life? Write that down! At the very least future generations will be able to be blessed by your testimony. But don’t just write it down–be ready to share it quickly/succinctly–God WILL give you opportunities to share with others the reason for the hope that you have! If you are thinking, “Well my testimony isn’t that great–I don’t have any “exciting” stories,” just remember that you’re story IS exciting because of the main star–JESUS! For more tips on sharing your Jesus-faith with others, please click HERE.
B. Have you received Jesus as your Savior? Or have you merely hung around Jesus/church/Christian culture for many years? 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 commands us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. This examination doesn’t have to happen often, necessarily, but there will be times when your own sinfulness or the devil will tempt you to doubt whether you really belong to Jesus–this personal examination of your heart can be comforting and soothing to the harsh burns of the devil’s lies. There will also be at least one time in your life when the Holy Spirit wants you to examine your heart in order to show you that you are actually not a Christian…the Holy Spirit doesn’t do this to harm you but to help you, for once you realize that you aren’t a Christian you are then in a position to actually receive Jesus as your Savior and inherit the eternal life He offers you.
Can you look back to a time, to a moment, to a season of your life where you received Jesus as your Savior? I’m not saying you necessarily have to remember the moment, although if you are married on earth you had BETTER remember that moment or watch out! 🙂 The main thing is, at some point did you
-realize that Jesus really is God and accept His offer of grace, of forgiveness, of new life TO YOU? The Personal Jesus offers Himself to you personally…did you ever answer Him personally? If yes, then rejoice again this morning that your name is written in the Book of Life! If no, perhaps it’s time to make it official, to sign your name to the eternal lease even though you’ve been living in the apartment for years. 🙂 Simply say “Yes” to Jesus–thank Him for dying for you, tell Him that you at this moment and forever more receive His free forgiveness offered to you through His death on the Cross. Then click HERE to read about your new identity as a son/daughter of God through your new faith in Jesus Christ!
Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that only those who do the will of God of the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven…there are some who gave God their hands (doing works in His name) without giving Him their hearts (receiving Him as Savior by faith) and that this will have serious eternal consequences for those particular people.
So what is the will of God? What are the works/things He wants us to do?
John 6:27-29 tells us: to believe in the One (Jesus) Whom He has sent.
Have you believed? Yes? Then rejoice and be glad–you are a child of God and a citizen of heaven!
No? Then rejoice and be glad–now is the time to believe, now is the time to receive Jesus, now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
This is the gift Jesus has shared with us…and He is the gift we are to then share with others, locally and around the world, through deeds of love that address people’s earthly and eternal needs.
Please click below to watch a video that has inspired me to rejoice over:
-Jesus’ unconditional love for me
-My acceptance of Jesus as my Savior—my spiritual re-birthday!
-The great inner work that Jesus promises to do through His Holy Spirit in all who receive Him as Savior!