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.
Just as He distinguished between true and false teachers, Jesus contrasted true and false followers. Look at what He said in Matthew 7:21-23: “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.’”
To me, these are the most terrifying verses in the Bible, because they tell us some people have deluded themselves into thinking they are Christians. They believe wholeheartedly that when they die, they are going to heaven. Yet when they stand before God, He will sentence them to an eternity in hell. Isn’t that a frightening thought? Jesus was saying it is possible to be a professor of faith in Jesus Christ without being a possessor of faith in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, the one who will be welcomed into heaven is “he who does the will of My Father” (v. 21). What does that mean? In John 6:40, Jesus said, “This is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.”
But belief is just the beginning. To do the will of the Father also means to do the things Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount: Practicing the Beatitudes. Forgiving those who have wronged you. Persisting in prayer. Acting graciously instead of judgmentally toward those who have fallen. All these attitudes and actions are the will of the Father.
Does that mean we are saved by works? No, but there is an inseparable connection between belief in Christ and obedience to Christ. D. A. Carson wrote, “It is true . . . that no man enters the kingdom because of his obedience; but it is equally true that no man enters the kingdom who is not obedient. It is true that men are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ; but it is equally true that God’s grace in a man’s life inevitably results in obedience.” You cannot separate faith in Christ from obedience to Christ. James said it this way in James 2:17: “Faith, if it has no works, is dead.” Good works do not produce eternal life, but they prove there is eternal life.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Eternal Destiny” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
D. A. Carson, “Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation with the World: A Study of Matthew 5-10” (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018), 173.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.