December 13

Text: 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. 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.'”   (NASB)

“Choose your side carefully—be certain you are on the correct side!”  Of course, the correct side is the winning side.  It is amazing to witness the effort many people expend to be certain that they are on the winning side!  If someone supported a “loser,” and he or she is presented an opportunity to be on the winning side, many gratefully will change sides.  It is as if their convictions were meaningless and of secondary importance.  Being on the winning side is of ultimate importance!

God’s kingdom was of central importance to Jesus and his mission.  Jesus’ concept of God’s kingdom and common Jewish concepts were in stark contrast.  Common Jewish concepts were typically based on physical expectations that in some way restored the Jewish nation to a position of prominence.

Jesus obviously had power.  What he did was nothing short of incredible!  Thus Jesus was an obvious winner!  Some concluded that the central issue involved was being on the winning side.  If they acclaimed Jesus’ name and performed his religious acts, that guaranteed them a place in the kingdom.

Jesus rejected such people.  He said, “You NEVER understood me or my objective.”  There is more to being in God’s kingdom than declaring loyalty to Jesus and doing “the right things.”  To reduce Jesus’ emphasis to a name and the performance of approved religious acts misses what Jesus was about.

To put this in perspective, consider many churches with a Christian emphasis of today.  Consider how often championing Jesus’ name and “doing the right acts” equals religious success.  Understanding who Jesus is, what Jesus was and is about, God’s role in salvation, or the motivation for our acts has little to do with the definition of spiritual success.  It is as if there are no divine expectations in our forgiveness or that such expectations can be reduced to performance rather than being.

Suggestion for reflection: Do you aspire to reflect God’s characteristics in life or to escape hell after death?  (Read [from Peter to a Jewish temple gathering] Acts 3:17-26.)                 

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