Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgment Day comes, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message, by your name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles!’ Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you wicked people!’
[With these words Jesus continues to teach about the Law of Moses as the Sermon on the Mount continues. He takes some of the most important topics and explains to his disciples, in specific terms, what it means to be “more faithful than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees in doing what God requires” (See Day 23)].
On every Sunday throughout America there will be worship services that end with “altar calls” for the “lost” to come forward, repent by repeating a “sinner’s prayer” and the making a vow to be “faithful.” By doing this they are, according to the person making the altar call, “saved,” which means that they will go to heaven. They are told that because Christ died for their sins, their salvation can never be taken from them no matter what they do. From this point on, their main focus in life should be to get other people saved. This is evangelical Christianity.
I worry about these people. To them, following Jesus is nothing more than stepping forward to get your ticket to heaven and then spending the rest of your life harassing people who are not in their organization. There’s no discipleship. There’s no spiritual growth. There’s no love. All that’s important is recruitment.
I think it’s an outgrowth of the Cold War. Remember when the US and the USSR were locked in a nuclear stalemate as they sought world domination? You were either communist or capitalist. In or out. Right or wrong. Friend or foe. Black or white.
On the basis of this scripture I worry about whether these Christians know who they are following. In this scripture Jesus says that people need to have an intimate relationship with God. The Greek word for “know” is ginóskó, which means to “know through personal experience.” Do they really want to know God, or do they just want to be on the winning side?
There are also those who worship Jesus but they don’t seem to know anything about what he said and what he stood for. I’m afraid that many who claim to love him wouldn’t like him if they actually listened to what he has to say. For example, he believed in one true God. Every day he said the Shema, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.” He never wanted to be a substitute for God, or a secondary god. His motivation was always to obey and glorify the one true God!! I worry about these people, too. Do they really want to know Father God, who is spirit and supernatural and too big and great to be fully known, or do they just want a god that is more accessible looks more like themselves? Or even worse, like Fabio?
Do I know God? I want to. That’s why I’m doing this spiritual exercise of looking carefully at all of Jesus’ words in Matthew. I think that if you know Jesus, you know quite a bit about the heart of God. I want to know God to the extent that it’s possible. Exodus 33:11 says that the Lord used to talk to Moses face to face like a friend. I hope he talks to me that way some day. I would like to talk to Jesus, too. I hope to do that some day.
On a lighter note, this scripture brings to mind the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal. At the end of the show a contestant trades everything he was won so far for a shot at the BIG DEAL OF THE DAY behind Door #1, Door #2, or Door #3. What if, on judgment day we had to choose a door, to test us about whether we really know who Jesus was. Which door would you pick if they looked, for example, like this?
Or maybe the doors would all look alike, but different voices would call out to us. Hopefully studying the words of Jesus will help me know God’s voice and help me pick the right door.
Or maybe it would just be a presence, a feeling. Hopefully I’ve spent enough time in prayer seeking God; hopefully I’ve lingered in his glory enough to know it.
One thing we know for sure, based on this scripture, is that the test won’t be about what we did; it won’t be about our accomplishments. This scripture says that there will be people who “say to God, ‘Lord, Lord.’” Maybe that was their problem – they called out too much and didn’t do enough listening. It says God will call them wicked and send them away.
There will also be people who spoke God’s message – like me for example in this blog, or pastors, or Christian evangelists – who just repeat what they have read in the Bible or heard others say. But God will send them away because they didn’t bother to run it by him before they talked in his name.
Finally there will be the ones who did his work – godly things like driving out demons and performing miracles, or perhaps even feeding the poor or bringing “thousands to Christ.” But they didn’t really care about the people they were serving. Maybe they did these things out of a sense of noblesse oblige. Maybe they did it to improve their reputation or make a living. Wicked. Away they go.
All these people will be sent away. Maybe not to hell, as I’ve heard this preached. Just “away”. Maybe to the corner for “time out” until they examine their motivations and get themselves straightened out.
This scripture says God demands true authentic relationship; God requires that you know and love him so that you can love others. So many times when I’ve prayed for someone God has asked me, “Do you love them?” and sometimes I’ve had to go back and work on my heart. In this scripture all of these people miss the point because they did things in God’s name, but they didn’t love God. They did things for people but they didn’t love them. They missed the whole point of it all. So God will call them wicked and send them away. I think that’s what this scripture says. Don’t figure you can work your way into heaven. You only get there by letting go and allowing yourself to flow in the love that comes from the heart of God.
The test will be about love. The true test of the relationship is always love. So back to that “Let’s Make a Deal” analogy, I think that God loves us so much he would probably give us a really easy “door test” like this one:
Even though I think the heavenly door test may indeed be easy, this scripture still makes me worry about all those people who have received cheap tickets to heaven from those evangelical Churches. I hope someone will start teaching them about love. I worry about them because a lot of them are pretty mean and angry and negative. I think it’s because deep down they feel they’ve been cheated and used. I really hope that things change and someone they trust will teach them about the words of Jesus that reveal the love of the Father.
I also hope that those people who worship Jesus will get up off their knees, throw away their statues and crosses, and start studying what he actually said. I think they need to stop worshipping Jesus and start worshipping the One who Jesus worshiped. They need to stop worshipping the sun and worship the One who created the sun. They need to take Jesus off his pedestal and start studying his teachings, because putting images of him on the wall and wearing crosses around our necks hasn’t transformed the world in the way that he envisioned.
I really hope that someone gets through to all these people so they don’t have to do time out – victims of Christian deceptions, alone and ashamed.
What does this scripture say to you?