"Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'-- Matthew 7: 21-23 (NKJV)
The key verses today should be some of the most sobering and frightening for believers today. I have written about them before but during my devotional time last week God revealed more to me as I was considering these verses from Psalm 91:
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. "Because he loves me," says the Lord, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. -- Psalm 91: 13-14 (NIV)
Verse 13 here speaks to the power we are to be walking under as followers of Jesus Christ. Treading upon the lion and the cobra speaks to the daily things our lives run into which would cripple the average person with fear. Trampling upon the great lion and serpent, which is also translated as dragon, speaks to how we should be living our lives to begin with so that nothing that comes against us should ever give us pause. The example I gave before was of David when he came across the situation in the Valley of Elah where Goliath was terrorizing Israel. Translated this valley is known as the Valley of the Oak, because of the 55 foot high Oak tree that sits on the west side of the valley. The oak is a common symbol for strength and endurance -- two things the Israelites were sorely lacking when David came upon the camp to deliver cheese to his "fighting" brothers. David did not even consider that all the mighty men of Israel were cowering in fear. He apparently did not even consider the ten foot tall giant that was opposing them. He only saw the problem in relation to the God that He served:
David asked the men standing near him, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" -- 1 Samuel 17: 26 (NIV)
David, having remembered how God had previously delivered him from the lion and the bear while guarding his sheep, says that he will fight Goliath and armed only with a slingshot and faith -- he defeats him! Now, what does this have to do with the admonition from Jesus in our key verses? Well, while Psalm 91: 13 explains the power of God we are supposed to walk under, verse 14 contains the secret for walking in that power. God will rescue us if we are treading or protect us if we are trampling specifically because we love Him and acknowledge His name. The dictionary defines acknowledge as
To show or express recognition or realization of and to recognize the authority, validity, or claims of.
Note the usage of the words show and express. Our lives are supposed to show and express the recognition, realization, authority, and validity of Almighty God. Not just our words beloved. The truth is we can talk a good game sometimes but lining up our lives with what we believe is another matter. The fighting men of Israel that day in the Valley of the Oak were not leading their lives as a testimony to the recognition, realization, authority, and validity of Almighty God. No, instead their lives had become a testimony to the strength, size and power of Goliath! When our lives come across the Goliath's of this world we better have a faith that goes beyond mere words and that is what led me back to the key verses from Matthew's Gospel. Within these verses are several truths to reexamine under this light.
The first fact presented by Christ is that not everyone who says "Lord Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven. In modern Christianity we have become terrible discerners. We base what we follow upon spoken words instead of borne fruit. We even are willing to look the other way on some of the spoken words! We do not act as the Bereans and weigh everything against the Word of God anymore as long as the heresy we are swallowing sounds nice to the ears and is wrapped up in the name of Jesus. We allow the secularization of the church under the absurd notion that the next generation cannot be reached otherwise. As if the Gospel of Jesus Christ has lost its sufficiency!
Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. -- Colossians 2: 8-10 (NLT)
The theories of modern church growth are empty philosophies at best and high sounding nonsense in most cases that are derived from human secular thinking and the spiritual powers of this world -- not Jesus Christ! The Apostle Paul said that all he had to know was Christ and Him crucified. Instead we see one lump of leaven here and another there until you can no longer tell the difference between the church and the world. I have heard Christian leaders defend such as saying they don't want to be irrelevant to the culture they are trying reach. We are not trying to reach a culture! We are trying to present the Gospel to save people from a culture that is killing them and leading them to an eternity separated from God! I have written about this before but when Paul was on his missionary journeys he came to some Greek cities that would make modern day San Francisco blush in their decadence. Do you think he tried to be relevant to those cultures? Why in the world would he want to? No beloved, he preached Christ and Him crucified and at the end of the day people had to make their choices.
The overarching point here is that these schemes within the church are always defended by using the name of Christ. But wielding the name of God does not mean you are working under His power or His approval. This was a lesson the seven sons of Sceva learned the hard way. In the Book of Acts we find these sons of a local Jewish priest were going around trying to cast out demons in the name of Jesus, who Paul preaches. But they didn't have a relationship with Jesus -- they only used His name. One day the demons answered:
One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. -- Acts 19: 15-16 (NIV)
They wanted the power without the sacrifice. They wanted the name without the relationship. Too often this is what we see in the modern church as well. Quick to use the name but lacking in the relationship. The Prophet Amos once was delivering a similar message to a backslidden Israel. Here was the Word of the Lord:
"I hate all your show and pretense--the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living. Amos 5: 21-24 (NLT)