The Great Delusion: Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NLT).
This message is directed at you who may have made some profession of faith in Christ, made a decision, asked Jesus to come into your heart, walked down an aisle, or prayed “the sinner’s prayer.” You may have gone through the motions; you may even talk the talk; you may go to church every Sunday, you may fit in with the church crowd; and you may look like a believer. We all know people who are in church every time the doors are open, sing in the choir, give 10% of their income, but their lives are barren of any spiritual fruit during the week. So this message is directed at you who may be deluded into thinking that you are true believers, but in reality you’re just playing the religion game.
Having been a pastor for over 50 years, I am convinced that the church is literally filled with pretenders rather than possessors, people who are not true believers. When I hear the statistic that there are 2 billion Christians in the world, and that more than 75% of Americans say they are Christians, and 45% call themselves “born again Christians,” my question is: “Where are they?” My second question is, “Would our world and our nation be as corrupt and godless if there were that many Christians?” Makes us wonder who established the criteria of what being a Christian really means!
The largest churches in the world, the “mega-churches” are certainly not impacting their communities. Where are the pastors and churches that created an impact everywhere they journeyed. The rulers of the city of Thessalonica felt the impact of the church’s ministry, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).
There’s a story about a traveling salesman staying in a very peaceful little city somewhere in the British Isles. He was looking for a tavern, beer garden, dance hall, anything to get a drink and some companionship. After searching the town he met a woman, and asked her, “Where are all of the taverns, dance halls, and beer gardens, and why is everyone so happy?” She replied, “Well, a man named Wesley passed this way.” (Referring to John Wesley) That’s impact!
I. Being a true believer requires that we are so different from the world that we make an impact on everyone within our frame of reference!
It’s not easy to be a dynamic believer in Christ! Don’t you believe it when people tell you it’s easy to be a Christian. It cost God His only Son. It cost Jesus His life, and it will cost you the same! Paul said, “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). It will cost you everything, “Anyone who comes to Me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be My disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind Me can’t be My disciple…Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be My disciple” (Luke 14:27;33 MSG). “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
II. Salvation in Christ is not the result of an intellectual exercise. It is the commitment of a life to be lived in obedience and service to Christ exclusively!
John MacArthur was being interviewed by a popular, big city “Christian Counselor” on a radio talk show. He asked her: “How did you become Christian?” “It was so cool” she said, “One day I got Jesus’ phone number and we have been connected ever since.” “What do you mean by that?” John asked. “What do you mean, what do I mean by that?” She shot back brusquely. Then she asked, “How did you become a Christian?” I started going briefly through the Gospel. She stopped me and said, “Oh come on! You don’t have to go through all of that do you?”
This message is not politically correct! The message of salvation in Christ alone is socially unacceptable! Is Jesus the only way to heaven or are there many ways? Can anyone, even the best people in the world, the Mother Teresa’s, the one’s who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless go to heaven without accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord?
As an Evangelical preacher, I go on record as always proclaiming the absolute and single authority of Scripture, and the absolute exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Thomas asked Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:5,6).
In John 6, Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (Verse 35). “When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples [complained about this, He said to them, “Does this [offend you?” (Verse 61). “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe” (Verses 63,64). “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you also want to go away?’ But Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’” (Verse 66-68).
As an Evangelical, Fundamental, Bible believing preacher I have strong feelings about those who pervert the Gospel. Listen to Paul, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8,9). Listen to King David, “Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?” (Psalm 139:21,22). I resent everything that dishonors the Lord. I am against everything the world is for and for everything the world is against. I hate that people, even some loved-ones die without knowing Christ, while the church seems absolutely powerless and is willing to let them go. When will the modern-day church stand up and shout, “Repent!” Jesus said, “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Acts 13:5). Peter preached repentance, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Paul says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (acts 17:30).
The Bible says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13,14). You can be deluded in life about a lot of things, scams are rampant today. Everyone tries to get their hands in your pockets. The elderly are particularly susceptible, with scammers tarketing them, draining their bank accounts, and effecting their future. But there is one thing about which you must never be deluded, that’s your eternal destiny. To be deceived as to whether or not you are a Christian is living dangerously, with heaven or hell in the balance.
III. Let’s look at salvation! How do I get in?
The choice we all make is, am I good enough to get into heaven on my own, through my own morality and good works? Or do I admit that there is nothing good in me as the Bible says: “There is none righteous, no, not one…” “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10,12). “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). To come to God on His terms requires that we recognize our own unworthiness and inability. We never come to God saying, “It’s me God, the one You’ve heard so much about.”
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for Dress, helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Vile, I to the fountain fly, wash me, Savior, or I die!”
–Augustus Toplady, 1763–
Jesus makes strong demands on anyone who comes to Him for eternal life. The first requirement is that one must repent! The Greek word “repent” is metanoia means “a change of mind, a change in the inner man, to change one’s mind.” The Bible also tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions. “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8 NLT).
John the Baptist preached a message of repentance and a change of action, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:80). Paul preached the need to repent, but like John, he also preached the necessity of proving one’s repentance. It is not enough just to confess; confession must be followed by the a drastic change in lifestyle. Paul writes, “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (Acts 26:20).
So we are saved by faith, not by works, but by a faith that works.
IV. Jesus did not make it easy to become a true believer!
What are the characteristics of true believers?
•True believers imitate Christ. Paul writes: “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NLT). The Greek word for “followers” is mimetai, meaning, “to imitate.” “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 5:1 NLT).
•True believers have an insatiable desire for God’s word. “…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Many who claim to know God, have no desire to hear from Him through His written word. God’s word is our main source of growth. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
•True believers want to communicate with their Father. Prayer is communication with God. “Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).
•True believers desire to worship with other believers. “Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him…Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God” (Psalm 95:1-2;6 NLT). “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23). I have watched, a little in dismay, as to how some church people can sit mute as others praise the Lord!
•True believers love other believers and desire to meet together with them in worship, teaching and fellowship. “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT). “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:3). “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing” (Colossians 3:16 MSG) “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT). When do we encourage, build up, and exalt together if we do not gather together? The Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia, meaning, “participation, communion,” basically, “All in the family.”
•True believers are obedient to God and His word. Without obedience there is no real Christianity. Many who start find that the demands of God are too severe for them, so they turn back from following Jesus. “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’” “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:60;66). “If someone claims, “I know Him well!” but doesn’t keep His commandments, he’s obviously a liar. His life doesn’t match his words” (1 John 2:4 MSG).
V. Jesus is Lord! “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
The Greek word for “Lord” is kyrios or kyria, meaning, “master, owner, to have dominion over, to rule, to conquer.” The word “Lord” is found 717 times in the New Testament. The meaning is very clear, the One who has absolute authority.
In Jesus day, a slave, a person who was owned or controlled by someone else, referred to His owner as “lord” (with small “l”). The slave was bound to the authority of his master/owner, and lived totally in service to his master’s will. He had no rights of his own, his only response was complete obedience.
Jesus is Lord! (and that’s with a capital “L”). When one accepts Christ he can only accept who He is, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9,10). “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9,10). So when I accepted Christ, I accepted Him as Savior and Lord, I accepted Him as my master, owner and conqueror. He is the One to whom I owe complete obedience, and yield all of my rights to His will.
VI. I didn’t know when I came to Christ all of ramifications of being a Christian.
•I didn’t know I was to be obedient in following Jesus is believer’s baptism. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41).
Believer’s baptism pictures the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). “…buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
Believer’s baptism is “…the answer of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).
•I didn't know I was to become a part of a Bible-preaching church, and get in and serve Christ and others. Jesus established the church, “…on this rock (speaking of Himself) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
The church is the instrument which God uses to discipline His people “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
God has chosen the church to shepherd His people, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28)
God has determined that the church shall carry His message to a lost world, Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[a] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT).
God desires us to worship together, where? The church, “I’ll tell my good friends, my brothers and sisters, all I know about you; I’ll join them in worship and praise to you” (Hebrews 2:12 MSG).
•I didn’t know I was to give a tithe (10%) of my increase to God, through the church; that I was to pray without ceasing; share my faith with those within my sphere of influence; study, memorize and live God’s word; and no one explained to me that I was to follow the Lord completely, in absolute obedience to Him and His word.
•I only knew that I was a drunken atheist, lost and without hope. I knew that I needed to be found, to have a complete change in my life.
Conclusion: The call of God to salvation comes with the command, “Follow Me” Was never meant to be a request for volunteers, like asking for someone to “help out” in the nursery. Salvation comes with the command to love, serve, share, show compassion and deny self, and God provides everything needed to live for Him!
It’s important to note that Christians are not perfect. Christians make mistakes. However, Jesus said that true Christians will be recognized by their fruits (Matthew 7:20). As we genuinely grow in Christ we become distinguished from those who are of the world; we become distinguished from the hypocrites and pretenders; as His sheep we are distinguished from the goats; as true grain, we are distinguished from the weeds.
Peter describes true believers, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9,10).
It costs to follow Jesus! “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head.’ He said to another person, ‘Come, follow Me.’ The man agreed, but he said, ‘Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.’ Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow You, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:57-62 NLT).
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible was used. Also The King James Version (KJV), The New Living Translation (NLT); and The Message (MSG).
Permission is hereby granted to use any of Dr. John Sparks’ materials. If this message was helpful, please E-Mail me: email@example.com