According to those who heard Jesus speak firsthand, “no one every spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). There was something captivating about the preaching and teaching ministry of Jesus Christ. He could say things that either enthralled or baffled his audience.
Jesus also said things that could scare the living daylights out of you. The more I read the four gospels, the more I find statements that petrify me. Like this one: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
Jesus is describing a conversation that will take place on Judgment Day between himself and a person who thinks he is going to heaven but ends up in hell. Not every person who says “Jesus is my Lord; I’m a Christian” will spend eternity walking the streets of gold.
Doesn’t that statement grip your soul and make you tremble?
What does it mean? I think it means this: talk is cheap. I can say I believe in Jesus and not really be a believer. I can profess faith in Christ and not really have faith. I can pray the sinner’s prayer and not really mean it.
Jesus continues this account of Judgment Day like this: “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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
So a person can prophesy (preach), drive out demons and even do miracles and not be a genuine Christian. If that is true, can we not also assume that a person can attend church every Sunday, read the Bible every day, and give away thousands of dollars to help the needy, and not be a true believer?
How can this be? What is the point of these stunning statements?
Jesus is addressing one of his most favorite topics: hypocrisy. He’s describing a religious hypocrite. And he’s confronting all of us with the ultimate eternal destiny of those whose profession of faith is only that. Jesus is making clear the huge difference between profession of faith and possession of faith.
What should we do when we read a passage like this? We look in the mirror and ask, “Am I for real? Am I a genuine Christian, or am I a hypocrite?”
We take to heart the exhortation of Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.” This is a difficult thing to do, but it is necessary.
So I urge you to examine yourself today, and as often as is necessary for the rest of your life. Doing it now instead of later could make a world of difference on Judgment Day.