"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Matthew 7 -- Those Troubling Verses

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

A wonderful comment from my last post on Matthew 7:21-23 inspired these spiritual reflections. I felt it deserved more than a short reply because Sarah touched on important thoughts within a few short sentences. First off I want to admit these verses used to worry me a bit too. If someone doing miracles, prophesying and casting out demons in Jesus' name would be turned away - wow! Helllooooo, I'm not doing miracles. I'm not prophesying. I'm not casting out demons. How can I measure up to those things? And if someone doing those things is turned away, what hope do I have?

I suppose if works such as these were "The Top Deeds" I would for sure be lacking on reckoning day.

So Sarah's comment challenged me to dig a bit, therefore, yesterday afternoon I sat out on my porch reading Matthew 7 again and then kept reading until a verse in chapter 9 prompted me to read passages in Hosea, Micah and Isaiah from the Old Testament prophets.

First let's keep in mind what Jesus has been teaching in the last few chapters. We covered these more extensively in past posts, but to remind you, he covered such things as not being angry with others (as murder starts as anger from within), not lusting after women (since sexual immorality starts with thoughts), being people of our words, breaking the cycle of vengeance by choosing to turn the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving our enemies, being salt and light in the world so they will see a godly difference, the Beatitudes, storing up heavenly treasure rather than material wealth here that will rust, break down and get stolen. He discussed not praying or fasting or giving to be seen of men, not judging others, seeking God's kingdom instead of worrying about clothing, food and shelter....easy stuff like that, right? :)

With these things in mind, let's look at the verses following this troubling "Lord, Lord, did we not" portion. Jesus had just said "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" and then Matthew records a "therefore" and these words:

24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

In fact these are the final words recorded from the Sermon on the Mount by Matthew. The only crowd reaction noted is this:

28When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

So Jesus says we are like wise builders if we hear his words and put them into practice. We can't just hear all this stuff and not do anything. He makes it sound as if doing what he has been teaching - and I'd argue living and showing by example - should be good enough since our foundation would then be built on the rock.

Whenever I think about following Jesus as the Way to the Father (John 14:6), I believe I should walk with him - meaning I should see his example and do things the way he did them. As one who grew up familiar with the Trinity and is comfortable believing the Holy Spirit empowers us to live this way, I am fine believing I must go to the Father through Jesus' work on the cross (where he paid the price for my sins and restored fellowship that had been broken by sin) and live each day following Christ's example with the help of the Holy Spirit of God. I don't believe I can live this way on my own. In fact, I know I cannot. I'm just too flawed, too mean, too selfish naturally. It's only God working in me that sometimes makes love shine out of my eyes. It's only He who makes me occasionally have that servant's heart and compassionate spirit.

But for the sake of Sarah's wonderful comment, I want to assume that "doing the will of God" as Jesus said in verse 21 means works-based salvation. This was my quest yesterday as I read on the porch. What works are necessary? What part of the Law must I - a non-Jewish woman of the 21st century keep? Do I eat kosher? Do I avoid blended fabrics? Do I keep the Sabbath? Do I stone unruly children who dishonor their parents? Or has the Mosaic Law been abrogated by Muhammad's Law and I must pray five times a day, avoid pork and alcohol, go on pilgrimage to Mecca and do good deeds to earn favor with God? This will be the topic of my next post. I'd include it here, but this post has gotten too long already.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions thus far. Thank you, commenters, for challenging me to think through what I believe. It's a joy to have you in my life. You help me grow!


Sarah said...

Thanks for giving so much thought to my little old comment! :D

Great post, and I'm looking forward to seeing where you're going with this. I don't know what the answer is at all.

But I do like the fact that he stresses doing good OVER all the dramatic miraculous stuff. I felt there was too much emphasis on the latter in the pentecostal church I went to. Doing good in the way Jesus taught is hard enough!

Niki said...

It is my belief that we don't do good to earn salvation. Rather, we do good because we are saved. If you really love God and you have His Spirit in you, how can you not do good things for Him and His kingdom and for others? Good works are a result of loving and serving God and being saved.

Susanne said...

Sarah, you are welcome and thank YOU for asking the hard questions which make me reason out why I believe as I do! :)

Back to your comment here...yes, I think sometimes people get too showy and it becomes more about THEM and their ministry and "oh, wow, y'all look at me and see how God is using me in a huge way!" I agree that what Jesus taught is hard enough. We really don't need all the hoopla of casting out demons and doing miracles. If God chooses to use people that way, GREAT. But obviously those are not The Deeds that prove you're accepted...at least it seems Jesus thought this way!

Thanks for your comment!

Niki, I totally agree! Thanks for saying it so concisely! :)