The Deadly Danger of Self-Deception (Part 3)

Matthew 7:21-23

Tom Pennington  •  February 23, 2014
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Well turn with me to the gospel of Matthew. We're nearing the end of our journey through our Lord's most famous sermon, in fact, just a message or two away. I hate to see the Sermon on the Mount go, but on the other hand, I'm looking forward, Lord willing, in just a handful of weeks to begin the epistle to the Romans, and I'm looking forward to that journey as well. But we come today to the conclusion of this great sermon.

Jesus here makes it clear to us that everywhere there are true believers there will, at the same time, always be false disciples as well. This is a universal theme of His ministry. In fact, if you're there in Matthew 7, keep your finger there, but turn over to Matthew 13. Matthew 13 is filled, as you know, with a series of kingdom parables. Jesus says here's what life in My spiritual kingdom and life in the visible expression of My kingdom, is like. And He gives to us a very interesting parable in Matthew 13, beginning in verse 24,

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may becompared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were
 sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow goodseed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the Wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time

of the harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Now in first century Israel, and that agrarian culture, this would have been a very familiar illustration. Wheat was one the staple crops of that region, and it was not uncommon for this plant, probably the Darnel plant, which is a weed, a rye-like grass that in its initial stages of growth looks almost identical to wheat. It's only when the wheat comes to head that you can tell the difference.

So, Jesus explains, then, this story in verse 36,

[And] … He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man … the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; … the reapers are angels.

In other words, Jesus says, think of the visible kingdom of Christ, Christendom, if you will, spread across the globe; and into that field there are sons of the kingdom, that is, there are true disciples of Jesus Christ. But the enemy, Satan, comes along and among those good seed, among those true believers, he sows false believers, those who have made false professions of faith; and they're all mingled together. Verse 41, "The Son of Man will send forth His angels" or, I'm sorry, verse 40,

"So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."

Now some of the tares, that is some of the false believers who've made a profession of faith in Christ, they know in their hearts that they aren't really Christians. You see this even in New Testament times. We see it today. However, as we're learning in Matthew 7, many tares, many false disciples of Jesus Christ, are selfdeceived.

Turn back now to Matthew Chapter 7. Jesus has made it plain in the parable of the tares that wherever there are true believers, Satan will sow among them tares, false believers. And some of those tares are selfdeceived. We're studying together the conclusion of this great sermon, and in the conclusion of Jesus' sermon there are several solemn warnings. We're considering the final warning. Let me read it for you again in verses 21 to 23,

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father 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.'"

Jesus warns us here to beware of the deadly danger of selfdeception. And in this warning

Jesus explains several key truths about this deadly danger. First of all, as we've noted, He addressed the common problem of selfdeception. The common problem. As we have seen in Luke's account of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issued this warning because of a specific problem He saw with some who had attached themselves to Him. Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do [the things which] … I say?" [Because of those people this is what Jesus says in verse 21,] "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven."

Now at first glance the expression "not everyone" might lead you to conclude that this is not really a very common problem, but in verse 22 we find that exactly the opposite is true. Jesus tells us this is a very common problem. Notice how He begins, verse 22, "'Many' will say to Me on that day." Now who are these people? Well their words in both verse 21 and verse 22, help us identify who they really are. They say to Jesus, "Lord, Lord."

Here are people who identify Jesus as "Kurios," both as their master and as God. They have come to intellectual understanding of the biblical Jesus. They know who He is. They've come to a biblical understanding of the true gospel. They've accepted His words and His claims. They believe His claims. They believe the truthfulness of the biblical gospel, and they are absolutely certain in their hearts that they belong to Jesus, that they are saved. But they are clinging to the wrong things as their source of comfort and confidence. Their confidence shouldn't be in their right doctrine, it shouldn't be in their profession of faith, it shouldn't be even in their spiritual fervency.

None of those things is ultimately genuine evidence of a saving confession of Jesus Christ. So, what is? Notice verse 21, "He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter." Jesus says the one who will actually enter His kingdom is not the one who calls Him Lord but the one who obeys Him as Lord. So, understand then, that selfdeception is a common problem. Wherever there are true believers, there will be false believers. Wherever there is wheat, there will be tares. It was true in the first century during the ministry of Jesus, it's true today as well.

Now that brings us to a second truth that Jesus explains about the danger of selfdeception. Let's call it the stubborn confidence of selfdeception. The stubborn confidence. You see, a false profession of faith in Christ can be so deadly. It can be so deceptive that a person can continue to believe that he's a real Christian, even though he's not, right up until the time he stands before Jesus Christ.

Notice verse 22, "Many will say to Me on that day." The expression "that day" is used often in the Old Testament to refer to the end times, to refer to the day of the Lord, to the time when Messiah judges the world and makes all things right. Here the expression "on that day" is clearly a reference specifically to the judgment of unbelievers, the final judgment of the wicked. Now, it is not popular today to talk much about that. But Scripture could not be clearer that there is such a day coming. There is "that day" as Jesus says. It will happen. As Hebrews 9:27 puts it, "… it is appointed to man to die once and after this comes judgment." It is, by the way, not a group event. It is an individual event.

Notice it's implied in the words Jesus states in verse 22, "Many will say to me on that day." The implication of that statement is that one person at a time, individual by individual, will stand before Him. I want you to let that sink into your mind and heart for a moment. Every person here this morning, you, think in personal terms; you will one day stand before Jesus Christ. It will either be as a believer at the judgment seat of Christ, or it will be in this judgment, the judgment of unbelievers. But you, individually, personally, nobody else with you, will stand before Jesus Christ.

Notice Jesus makes that very clear, by the way, when He says, "Many will say to 'Me' on that day." He is claiming that at the judgment of unbelievers He, Himself, will be the judge. Now don't miss the statement Jesus is making about Himself here, because as far back as Genesis 18:25 we learn from the mouth of Abraham that YAHWEH, the One living and true God is the judge of all the earth. Jesus says, I am the judge of all the earth. He is claiming nothing less than equality with God. He is claiming to be God.

Now according to Revelation 20, this event, which we call the great white throne of judgment, will occur after the thousand-year millennium. In fact, turn with me to Revelation. The book of Revelation really lays out for us a timeline of the last events in human history. Many of the chapters in Revelation are devoted to that period of time called the tribulation, in which God, through the seals that Christ breaks, pours out His judgment upon rebellious humanity, upon the world. That comes to an end in Revelation 19.

In Revelation 19, you have, first of all the marriage supper of the Lamb, here's where the church has its marriage supper with Christ. By the way, this happens before the second coming, which makes it clear that while the rapture is not specifically addressed in the book of Revelation, believers will already be with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb before, beginning in verse 11 of chapter 19, they return with Him in the second coming. That is followed in the early verses of chapter 20 by the thousand-year millennial period. That, in turn, is followed in 20:7 by, at the end of that thousand years, for a short time Satan is released, he makes war with God, all those who are still rebellious under the rule of Christ will join him, and they will ultimately be destroyed.

Immediately following that, verse 11 of chapter 20, comes the great white throne, "Then I saw a great white throne." Now I'm not going to spend a lot of time here. If you're interested in this, Smedley Yates, just a few weeks ago, the last week or the first Sunday of this year, I think, did a message on this here at Countryside. But let me just read it for you, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them."

In other words, at this point the heavens and the earth, the universe as we know it, goes out of existence. It is an act of uncreation. Nothing exists except God and the intelligent beings that He has created, including man. Verse 12,

"And I saw the dead, the great and the small standing before the throne, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them." [In other words, no unbelieving person was left out of this judgment. Every person is resurrected and stands here. Every wicked rebellious sinner is here.] "And they were judged," [verse 13,] "every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." [This is the judgment that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.]

Turn back there now with me, Matthew 7. He says, "Many will say to Me on that day." On the day of judgment, there will be many who are selfdeceived, who believe they belong to Jesus but who discover that they never really did. Now how does that happen? Where are these people coming from? How do they become false believers, and how can they show up deceived?

Well, understand this. There are some who are selfdeceived who become obvious to themselves and others in this life. You see some make a profession of faith in Christ, for a time they really may believe that they are Christians, and then they just get tired of trying to live like something they aren't, and they bolt. They head for the doors. They leave the Christian faith altogether. John talks about this in 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they are all not of us." It becomes evident by their running from the church, running from association with believers, running from the truth of the gospel, that they never really were saved at all.

Now how does that happen? Well you remember the parable that Jesus tells in Matthew 13 of the soils representing human hearts? There are two of those four soils that look for a time like true believers but, in fact, end up showing that they are not true believers. One of them, you remember, is the one He describes as the shallow soil. The shallow-hearted person. This is a person who, it's like a seed falls into shallow ground without enough soil, and the plant springs up, looks like it's going to be great, looks like it's going to eventually produce wheat, it's going to be the real thing, for a time. But then, because there's not enough soil, the sun comes out, and when the sun, that hot sun, those winds off the desert begin to beat against it, its life is sucked out, and it withers and dies.

This is the person who makes a profession of faith in Christ, and for a while you think, wow, this person has really been converted, look at their enthusiasm, look at their energy, look at their love for Christ. But then, trials come, persecution comes, and the seed withers and dies. They say, look, I didn't get into following Christ for this, and they walk away. They turn from their profession.

But there are many, and this is where I want you to understand what's happening here at this judgment. There are many who, their selfdeception isn't obvious in this life, in fact, they remain deceived throughout this life. Now who are they? Well I think they are best represented by the other false soil in that parable of the soils. Do you remember the one where the seed falls among thorns, the thorny soil? The seed falls, again it springs up, initially looks great, looks like it's the real deal, a true believer really has embraced the gospel. But then, gradually, it's among those thorns, and the thorns start choking out the life of the seed before it can bear fruit. Jesus says; let me tell you what those thorns are. These are people who hear the gospel, who respond to the gospel, but then the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth and other things in this life, He says, begin to choke out that seed so that it doesn't bear fruit. Now sometimes people like this will eventually repudiate their faith all together.

Demas was like this in 2 Timothy 4:10, "… Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica." They just leave. But many times a person like this who has made a profession and then gradually the seed dies because of the cares of this life, the distractions of life, the pursuit of wealth, whatever else it might be, the faith dies, but the forms, the external forms of their faith are still there. That profession they made years ago, it's still there, and so they cling to some profession they made in the past, but the heart is gone. They live entirely for themselves, and Christ has long since been crowded out of their lives.

Often people like this, who prayed some prayer, made some decision, made a profession in the past, will remain deluded throughout their lives, and when they stand before Christ, they will desperately try to make the case that they belong to Him. Some of these people will stay somewhat marginal from the church. Oh, they'll come a few times, Christmas and Easter maybe, just to salve their consciences and to keep God happy. Sometimes, they'll be more engaged in the life of the church, and they'll attend regularly, and they're happy to be connected to a church. Other times, they can actually be very much involved and very much engaged in the life of the church, but regardless, they don't really belong to Jesus Christ.

Notice what these people will say on that day. You see it both in verse 21 and 22, "Lord, Lord." As we've noted, they are making several claims with that statement. By saying "Lord," "Kurios," and in the context of the judgment, they are acknowledging Jesus is God, and they are at the same time calling Him, their master, their Lord. So, here are people who have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. Here are people who have believed the biblical Jesus and the biblical gospel. In addition, the repetition of that, every time it occurs, gives you the sense of spiritual fervency and zeal, "Lord, Lord."

Verse 22 adds something new. It tells us that these people will also argue that the ministry they have done for Jesus proves they are truly His disciples. "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?" Their chief defense at the judgment will be their ministry done in the name of Christ. Notice, extraordinary claims, "Did we not prophesy in Your name," [these people are claiming that they actually spoke words they received from God; they spoke revelation from God,] "and in Your name cast out demons," [they will claim that they have performed exorcisms in the name of Jesus Christ,] "and in Your name performed many miracles?" [This is truly extraordinary. Some of those who make a false profession of faith in Christ will claim at the judgment that they actually worked miracles.]

You know, when I look at that list, sadly, I'm afraid that the modern charismatic movement is filled with such people. Sadly, it's not merely the charismatic movement; it's every branch of professing Christianity, including evangelical, orthodox believers. Notice, attached to each of these ministry claims in verse 22 is the expression "in Your name." In fact, in the Greek text that expression comes first in every case, as a manner of emphasis. "In Your name" we prophesied, "in Your name" we cast out demons, and "in Your name" we performed many miracles. In other words, Jesus, we ministered under Your authority; and what we did, we did for You.

Now the claims these people make are truly amazing. So, what are we to make of these claims? Well, I think some of them may very well have been lies and exaggerations. That's possible. However, I don't think that's entirely true, because the form of each of their questions, in the Greek text, expects an affirmative answer. The structure of it in Greek, you could form a question in such a way in Greek as to assume the person's going to answer, "yes;" and so when they answer, when they ask these questions, they expect Jesus on the great white throne to be nodding His head; yes, that's true.

And so, it's likely that they actually did at least some of these things, and that shouldn't surprise us, should it, if we really understand the Scripture. I mean, God, has at times given genuine prophesy to unbelievers. Balaam in Numbers 24 is given the ability to speak God's words even though throughout the Scripture he's condemned as a false prophet and a false teacher. Saul in 1 Samuel 19 was able to prophesy. Caiaphas, the high priest, the wicked high priest at the time of Jesus, in John 11, he unwittingly, we're told by John, prophesied when he said in that secret meeting of the Sanhedrin, "it's expedient for one man to die for the nation." So, unbelievers can prophesy.

Unbelievers can also be involved in exorcism. In Luke 11:19 we're told that the Pharisees and their followers "cast out demons," obviously by Satan and not by God, which just makes their accusations against Jesus quite ironic, doesn't it? In Luke 10:17, we're told Judas was given the power to cast out demons. In Acts 19, you remember those seven Jewish sons made a living by casting out demons, and they tried their hand at using Jesus' name to do so. So, understand then, that casting out demons is not evidence of true faith. I love the way one writer puts it, "The ability to drive out demons says nothing about the inner holiness of the broom God uses."

Unbelievers have also either appeared to perform, or actually performed, miracles. Now the miracles they perform are either by trickery, by some sleight of hand, or by demonic power, or a combination of the two, but we're told in a number of places in Scripture about unbelievers who perform miracles. For example, the magicians of Egypt, do you remember, three of the plagues they were able to reproduce. In Deuteronomy 13 Moses reminds us that there may be a false prophet whose sign or wonder comes true but that's not to be the basis on which you accept him.

Compare what he says to previous revelation, that's the real standard. In Matthew 24:24, Jesus looking to the future at the end of the age says there will be false Christs and false prophets, and they "… will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." These will be such profound signs and wonders that if it were possible for the true redeemed people of God to be led astray, they would. And, of course, in 2 Thessalonians 2, we learn that that apex of rebellion against God, a man called "the man of sin" who will arise and lead the world in his rebellion; he will perform miracles and signs and wonders.

A person's ability to actually work or to appear to work miracles is no proof that he is from God or genuinely knows Christ. So, if it could be proven that one of the heretics on religious television actually performed a miracle, which it never has been proven, but if it could be, our response to that should be, "So what?"

Now the claims that these people will make are really a sober warning. John Broadus puts it this way, "Even many who have prophesied and wrought miracles in Jesus' name will be finally rejected as having never really been His people. Much more then is that possible and likely in the case of such as have given less evidence of really being His followers."

But don't miss the point of verse 22, At the judgment, these people will be surprised. That's truly remarkable because by the time they appear before Christ at the great white throne judgment, most of them will have already been in hell for at least a thousand years of the millennium and many of them for much longer. At that point we learn from Scripture that they will be raised, and they will be united to bodies that can endure eternal punishment. They will be part of a huge crowd of the unredeemed who gather at this judgment.

They will watch as person after person, individually stands before Jesus Christ. They will watch as the angel searches the book of life for the name of the accused, and one after another their names are not found. They will listen as the books are opened and the record of every life is fully recounted according to their deeds. They will watch in horror as each person in the endless line ahead of them is condemned and thrown into a place that John calls the lake of fire.

In spite of everything that they will have seen, everything they will have experienced, when it's their turn to stand alone before the great tribunal of Jesus Christ, they will still be surprised. They will still cling to their stubborn confidence that they belong to Jesus. Listen, unusual ministry success is no guarantee that a person is a genuine Christian. Sadly, there will be theologically orthodox, evangelical Christians and pastors in this crowd.

Sinclair Ferguson writes these words, "The astounding things men can do in public is no certain indication of where they stand in private before the judgment of Jesus Christ. What really counts is how we are related to Christ Himself."

So, we've seen the common problem. We've seen the stubborn confidence that selfdeception lives in, even to the judgment; but there's a third truth about this danger that our Lord reveals here. It's the final consequence of selfdeception. Notice verse 23, "And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME." Selfdeception always ends in the same destiny.

There's a word play here. Literally Jesus says, "Then I will confess to them." I will publicly profess. Just as these people had made a public profession of their faith in Christ, Jesus, too, will make a public profession of His relationship to them, and it's this, "I never knew you." As Knox puts it, "you were never friends of mine." Obviously, Jesus knew them in the sense that as omniscient God He knows all things. He knows them, and the facts about them more than they know themselves. But He didn't know them in the sense of have a relationship with them.

You know, it's interesting we talk about salvation as knowing God and that's correct, we should. John 17:3 says that, "This is [life] eternal … to know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You sent." But the really significant part of salvation is for God to know us. I love the way Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 8:3, "… if anyone loves God, he is known by Him." Or in Galatians 4:9 "… you have come to know God," [and then Paul catches himself,] "or rather to be known by God." That's what really matters.

Although these people had made a profession of faith in Christ, they had claimed Him as Lord, they had ministered in His name, there was never a true relationship with them. "I never knew you." Their names are not recorded in the Lamb's book of life, and as a result of that Jesus will forever banish them from His presence. Jesus expresses His rejection and their sentence in the words of Psalm 6:8. Notice what He says in verse 23, "Depart from Me." "Depart from Me," you are forever banished from My presence. That alone is sobering.

But later in Matthew's gospel, Jesus fills that out a little more. He tells us more of what He will say. In Matthew 25:41, "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me,' [there it is,] 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels,'" and then verse 46 of that chapter, "These will go away into eternal punishment." That's the final consequence of selfdeception.

Now that's hard to hear. It's hard for me to teach. It's hard for you to hear. But it's so important that we examine ourselves, and at this point if you are seriously examining your heart, if you're serious about examining the reality of your faith, you should be asking yourself this all-important question: How can I know? Selfdeception by definition means, I don't know. How can I know if I am selfdeceived?

In this passage Jesus provides us with one final truth about selfdeception, and it is the crucial piece of evidence in discovering if you are selfdeceived. It's the defining characteristic of selfdeception, the defining characteristic of selfdeception. Mark this: those who are selfdeceived always, always, always share this one defining characteristic. Look at verse 23, "And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, Depart from Me, you who" [are practicing or working] … "lawlessness." You are practicing lawlessness. In another context, Jesus puts it like this in Luke 13:27, "He will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.'" Literally, "all the ones doing unrighteousness."

Now this doesn't surprise us, does it, because we've already encountered this in this very context? Do you remember back up in verses 16 to 20, Jesus told us that you could spot a false teacher by looking at his character and his conduct, by looking at the fruit of his life? And now in verse 23, He's saying the same thing. He's saying those who are selfdeceived can be identified by their fruit, by their character and their conduct.

William Hendriksen writes, "The reason the men described here are condemned is not that their preaching had been wrong and/or that their miracles spurious, but that they had not practiced what they preached." Wherever you find selfdeception, you will always find a refusal to obey God. Wherever there's selfdeception, there will be no pattern of true heart-led obedience. It's always true.

In fact, when I began this message, I took you to Matthew 13. Do you remember the parable of the tares? Let me reread a verse to you that I read then but didn't emphasize. Listen to what Jesus says, Matthew 13:41, "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and … will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who … [are committing] lawlessness," the same expression. How do you spot a tare? How do you know if you're a tare? There's a pattern of lawlessness.

In Matthew 23:28, Jesus is talking to the scribes and the Pharisees and He says to them, "… you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of … lawlessness." Listen, you want to know if you're selfdeceived? Don't look at the outside. Pharisees looked really good outside. They had, what appeared to be, a spotless conformity to God's law outside, Jesus said, but inside, in your heart, you are filled with lawlessness, with disobedience, with rebellion against God.

You want to know if you're selfdeceived, look at your heart. Are you full of unrighteousness and lawlessness? No matter whether you show up at church or read your Bible or check off the list of things Christians are supposed to do. The selfdeceived put their confidence of heaven in their past profession, in their right doctrine, in the fervency of their spiritual emotions, in their busyness in ministry, and even their ministry success; but while they stubbornly cling to their confidence in those things, they are practicing lawlessness. Their lives are marked by a refusal to obey God.

Do you remember what we discovered back in 5:20? These people do not manifest the true righteousness that comes out of the heart that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. They do "not" produce in the words of 7:20, "good fruit," fruit of character and life. In verse 21, they do "not" do the will of My Father who is in heaven. Verse 26, they hear Jesus' words and they "don't" act on them.

The professing Christian, who believes that he knows Christ, but who is characterized by a pattern of unrepentant sin, who lacks a consistent pattern of obedience to God, who never sees any growth in holiness, who frankly, made a profession in the past, shows up at church but is a spiritual flatline; that person is selfdeceived. If that's you, you are selfdeceived.

This is the consistent message of the New Testament. Turn to 1 Corinthians, 6.

1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul writes,

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?" [They're not getting in,] "Do not be deceived," [and then he has a list. This is not an all-inclusive list; it's merely a representative list. Here are some of the things that represent unrighteousness:] "neither fornicators," [those who are engaged in sexual sin,] "nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate," that's the feminine side of the homosexual relationship,] "nor homosexuals," [that's the masculine side,] "nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards nor revilers nor swindlers." [none of them, and that's just a representative list,] "will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit of our God."

Paul says don't be deceived. Don't sit there and think because you made a profession you're getting in. You're not getting in if your life is characterized by a pattern of sin, an unrepentant, consistent pattern of sin, and a lack of obedience to Jesus Christ.

There are other places we could turn to, but turn to 1 John 3. John heard our Lord teach the Sermon on the Mount, and he got it. 1 John 3:4, he says,

Everyone who practices sin practices lawlessness; … sin is lawlessness.–[In other words, every time you sin, that's nothing but rebellion against God's law. You broke God's law.] You know that He appeared in order to take away [sin] …; and in Him there is no sin. [So,] No one who abides in … [Christ is in a pattern, a habit of sinning. "Is sinning" is the word. In an unbroken, unrepentant pattern,] no one who sins [like that] has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared … to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin. [Verse 10,] By this the children God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…. [It couldn't be any clearer than that.]

This is a serious warning. If you profess Christ, but your life is not marked by obedience, you are not a true Christian. You are selfdeceived. It doesn't matter that you made a profession of faith in the past, it doesn't matter that you prayed a prayer, it doesn't matter what's written in the front of your Bible, doesn't matter what your parent told you, doesn't matter that you've been baptized, doesn't matter that you call Jesus Lord, doesn't matter that you do ministry in His name. These people at the judgment will be described in all those ways. Jesus is unimpressed with your words; instead He looks for the evidence of your obedience.

I don't think it can be put any better than it was on the inscription on the walls of Lubeck Cathedral in Lubeck, Germany. Listen to these words.

Thus speaks Christ, our Lord, to us: You call Me Master, and obey Me not. You call Me Light, and see Me not. You call Me the Way, and walk Me not. You call Me Life, and live Me not. You call Me Wise, and follow Me not. You call Me Fair, and love Me not. You call Me Rich, and ask Me not. You call Me Eternal, and seek Me not. If I condemn thee, blame Me not.

That's the warning of this text.

But there's also a wonderful encouragement here. If you profess the biblical Christ and the biblical gospel, if your life demonstrates the Beatitudes, if there was a time, and there still is the expression of this in an ongoing way, when you recognized yourself as a beggar before God. You have mourned over your sins, you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you long for personal holiness and likeness to Jesus Christ. If you have a pattern, not a perfect pattern, but a distinct pattern of pursuing obedience to Jesus Christ and what He's taught us in this sermon. If you have a declining pattern of sin in your life and an increasing pattern of righteousness, not merely in your external behavior, but in your heart, then you are not selfdeceived. Your faith is genuine.

But you know we can never take credit for our obedience, can we? If you do manifest a pattern of obedience, the only explanation for that is the amazing grace of God. You obey Jesus Christ because God in an act of grace has given you that desire and given you that ability.

My mind, a couple of weeks ago, went to that famous quote of John Newton, who, of course wrote Amazing Grace. Do you remember what he said? He said, "If I ever reach heaven, I expect to find three wonders there. First, to meet some I had not thought to see there. Second, to miss some I had expected to see there. And third, the greatest wonder of all, to find myself there. It's all grace.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for the words of our Lord; help us to listen to Him, to examine ourselves as He intended, to beware of the danger of selfdeception.

Father, I pray that, for those of us who, while not in perfection in any way, we still sin, we sin daily, but we can see in our lives a declining pattern of sin, an increasing pattern of righteousness, not merely in our external behavior but in our hearts. Father, encourage us. Remind us that Your Spirit is at work in us to will and to work for Your good pleasure.

Father, I pray for those here this morning who are the self-deceived, and I'm confident, Lord, that there are some, I pray that today would be the day that You remove the blinders from their eyes.

Help them to see themselves as You see them, and may this be the day when before this day is done, they get alone with You, they throw themselves on their face before You, and they beg for Your mercy, that You would change them, that You would make them new, and they commit themselves to follow Christ as Lord.

Father, may You do that not only for their sakes but for Christ's sake who deserves the reward of His suffering.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.