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Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Three Haunting Verses.

If my forty-plus years of experience as a Christian believer has anything to go by, I believe quite strongly that those who are ignorant of the Bible, or just have a moderate knowledge of it, are prone to be less anxious about the afterlife than those who are very familiar with Scripture. Like the time when I was dining at an Italian family's table in Italy back in 1975. While the pre-teen son attended a Catholic school along with regular weekend seminars, the spirit of the house was filled with self-confidence, even with times of mirth, with an affiliation to their local church, but without any anxieties whether how long they would spend in Purgatory, whether they will reach Heaven sooner or later. As I saw it, they took each day as it came, and enjoyed life in general, as for Catholics in Italy, the Bible can be hard to come by.

Quite a contrast to one miserable soul who once approached me with his conclusion that it would be impossible for such a one like me to spend eternity in Heaven with him. He then quoted Matthew 7:21-23 which, according to him, would define my fate:

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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!"

On the surface, this person appears happy and contented, willing to talk casually with other men around. But it is not difficult to perceive the unhappiness which lie under his thick, stoical, British skin. This sense of uncertainty which underscores his tendency to mentally scrutinise and judge others, especially those, like me, who does not fit into his model of spiritual manhood. But he is far from unique. I have seen for myself that these three verses tend to leave an element of uncertainty among even the stoutest of believers, at least on a few occasions throughout life. Even with me, I have wondered over the shock of seeing the Lord face to face, having a far-from-pleasing facial expression, and coming out with such a statement: I never knew you. Depart from me, you worker of iniquity!

I believe that such thoughts must have entered the mind of the majority of Christians, prompting them to pray harder, or to make a re-commitment, or to perform better in loving others, or even to attend a church which has the "right" way to conduct a service. These are the sort of statements which can haunt the back of the mind of any sensible believer, regardless of how confident he would appear to others. After all, if Jesus refers to himself as the Saviour, then why wouldn't he be able to save those standing outside?

So we read these verses and tend to take them at face value, simply because we know already that Jesus is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah who was crucified, atoning for our transgressions, was buried, and on the third day defeated death by rising again. So we naturally take him as he is at present. It was quite different back then when he hadn't been ministering for very long. According to the narrators, Jesus had already travelled north across the Galilean area from Nazareth, attended a wedding at Cana, where he performed his first miracle, then journeyed eastwards towards Capernaum, performing more miracles along the way. Thus he was drawing a crowd who were pondering on exactly who this man was.  Then at a spot of high ground near the fishing village, he delivered what we now call The Sermon on the Mount. The crowds were astonished by both his works of goodness and his teachings, but the idea of him being the Son of God and Messiah, having come to atone, was still far from their minds. At best, they may have considered him to be another prophet like Elijah or Jeremiah.

Then drawing his sermon to a close, he made a statement which would force his listeners to re-consider who he really was: Many would say to me on that day, "Lord, Lord..." and I would say to them, "Away from me you evildoers." No man in his right mind would come up with such a statement - unless he is their only true God who will judge them all on that day. This brings to mind the Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park where on Sunday mornings anyone can stand on the soapbox and deliver what he has on his mind, whether political, the economy, ethical matters, or religious issues. But if such a speaker were to declare that many would say to him on that day, 'Lord Lord,' and then ordered them to get out of his sight, it wouldn't be long before someone in the audience would call in the men in white coats to whisk him away to a mental institution! - Unless they all sensed a special divine calling.

Yet the listening crowd accepted his bold statement as one who has authority rather than as one of the scribes. They sensed that he had a Divine calling, a conclusion backed by his miracles. So with such a statement delivered, what would be the naturally instinctive human reaction? Wouldn't it be: 
What must we do to do the works God requires? (John 6:28). 

Why not put yourself in their place? Suppose you were among that crowd and as you've listened to the sermon drawing to a close, and you then hear about those shut out of heaven depicted by Matthew. How would you react? What kind of thoughts would go through your mind? You have already heard about the true definition of murder, adultery, divorce, taking oaths, an eye for an eye, loving enemies, giving to the needy, prayer and fasting, and not to worry on daily matters. Suddenly, the true meaning of the Law of Moses is defined. You feel utterly lost and without hope. All traces of feeling righteous before God wither away, like a dried leaf blown away by the wind, or that of a polluted garment. You have come to the end of your tether, and you feel totally helpless, knowing that it's impossible to keep the Law perfectly. So what would be your response?

Surely there must be another way to please God, or else all hope in ourselves is lost! No doubt, this would be the natural reaction, like a drowning man clutching at a straw. And what a wonderful response to such anxieties did the Lord Jesus deliver. You can conclude that in Matthew's version of the discourse, Jesus was preparing the ground. To the point of his listeners asking in or near despair,
What must we do to do the works God requires?
Into this prepared ground the Lord sows the seed which would germinate into eternal life:
The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.

They then asked him to prove his authority along with the authenticity of his answer by asking for a miracle, which brings him to the discourse about himself being the Bread of Life, the true bread from heaven, as opposed to the manna which fell under Moses' ministry. Here is the wonderful news, that rather than the works done by the sinner, it is just one work which God himself performs in the heart which imparts life.

But who are those people standing outside and refused entry? Jesus himself makes it clear who they will be. Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name (didn't we) cast out demons, and (in your name we) done many wonderful works?

It would be easy to say "all religious people," but here the Lord says that they performed in his name. It is the name of Jesus in which these people performed such wonderful works, which fell into three groups: Prophesying, Exorcism, and Miracles. They weren't performed under the name of Buddha, Mohammed, Confutes, or Brahma. Nor any other name. They were performed in Jesus' name. But by reading between the lines, it becomes apparent that they were giving credit to themselves, and were deceived into thinking that by doing such supernatural works, they have a good standing with God without the need for cleansing from sin by the blood of Jesus, or the need for regeneration. I for one, have never prophesied in public. I have never had the experience of casting out a devil, neither is there any record of ever performing a miracle. Yet Jesus says there will be many. It has made me wonder: If there will be so many standing outside, then who will they be?

I use to believe that it were just the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, and other para-faith cults and sects. True enough, Jehovah's Witnesses had "prophesied in his name" and continue to do so to this day. But they only do what they are told - by the organisation masters who sit in the director's office of the Watchtower headquarters at Brooklyn. Among all those aligned with the cults, the vast majority work hard to secure their salvation rather than bathe in the shed Blood of Jesus, even though I'm convinced that a remnant are truly saved, having at least on one occasion, fell upon God's mercy.

Then there is the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Throughout 1,500 years of history, the trusting of Jesus wholly for salvation began to be eclipsed by tradition and customs, mostly embracing Mary as Mediator between God and mankind. The majority of the laity call themselves Christian, even if they may devote themselves to Mary instead of to Jesus, along with the necessity of Purgatory, and for priestly intercession, therefore denying the efficaciousness of the atoning power of the Crucifixion. Devout Catholics could find themselves standing outside, although I believe that there is a remnant of Catholics from all generations who were, and are, truly saved. It is their leaders who must take the greater responsibility. History shows a long line of Popes, Cardinals, and Bishops who had broken bread in the name of Jesus Christ, but had lead atrocious lives of abused power. One author has made reference to the Popes of the Medieval past as "the greatest monsters ever to walk the Earth.* Among them are a great number of Catholic "saints" who had performed miracles in the name of Jesus, mainly to prove that Roman Catholicism is the "one and only true apostolic religion."

Far more recently are some of the cases of hysteria in the name of "Revival" among the Vineyard and Charismatic churches. Two comes easily to mind: the Toronto Blessing at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, and the Brownsville Revival at the Assemblies of God church at Pensacola. The issue with Pensacola has already been dealt with on one of my other blogs.* But in both cases, thousands from around the world had arrived at these two churches "to get it" rather than experience a genuine conversion to Jesus Christ. Emotional hysteria, including shrieking, violent shaking, rolling on the floor, and other paraphernalia which looked to be classically demonic rather than the work of the Holy Spirit, had influenced many. I would not be surprised at all if many of them, along with their leaders, will find themselves standing outside heaven on that day.

I strongly believe that to those who referred Jesus as Lord yet were still shut out of heaven were professing Christians who trusted in their own righteousness, their own obedience to the Law, or their life experiences instead of trusting in the saving power of Jesus Christ. Often the word "Lord" can be used in the sense of "Employer" or "a man of nobility" when it actually means the Risen Christ, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. That was why the believers living in Roman times were relentlessly persecuted. In those days it was compulsory to declare Caesar as Lord, which is to say, Divine - after succeeding in ending all tribal feuds and declaring Pax Romania across the whole Empire. But instead, these early believers insisted that Jesus Christ is Lord, and not Caesar, who must be held in subjection to him.

However, anyone who confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in his heart that God has raised in from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10.)

And he who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1.)

He who has the Son has everlasting life (John 3:36.)

He who believes on me has everlasting life (John 6:47.)

Rest assured. If you have Jesus Christ in you, then you will be in his presence forever. 


*Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, Harvest House Publishers, 1994.
*You can read my Blog: Revival or Hysteria, by clicking here.


  1. Sobering. "Lord Jesus" rather than "Lord Lord" would be normal for a true believer.
    Grace be with you.

  2. Dear Frank,
    Shortly after I was saved, not having the benefit of being in a Gospel-preaching church at that time, and lacking a spiritual mentor, I was concerned about "doing enough" to maintain salvation. Praise God that His Holy Spirit and Word taught me that Christ did it all; that there is nothing I did to earn salvation and nothing I can do to lose it. The issue with those who cried "Lord, Lord" was not that they did good works, for faith without works is dead, but that they relied on their own works and had no faith in His perfect, complete work. There are many today who use the name of Christ not out of faith but to glorify themselves and their works by association. If these were ever truly born again, then they are still saved but will lose rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ for doing good works with the wrong motive -- for the praise of men. More likely, though, they were never saved by grace through faith to begin with, and will be cast into hell unless they are born again before they die.

    Thank you for the excellent, well-written, thought-provoking post, and God bless.

  3. Great post, Frank. Unfortunately, even those who believe salvation is by faith often leave the impression salvation depends on our efforts to believe or pray the right way.

    Few seem to understand that assurance comes from the Holy Spirit, thinking his working is always shown by some physical manifestation such as speaking in tongues or "being slain in the Spirit" as they call it. Such teachings cause a lot of unnecessary confusion and worry.