We often are better at pointing out other’s faults than we are in pointing out our own faults. This is evident in Jesus’ teaching on judging in Matthew 7:1-6. We are quick to point out other’s sin and where they have been deceived but we are weary of approaching our own lives like that. However, Matthew 7:21-23 challenges us to do just that. By way of reminder, Jesus has warned us about false teachers and rightfully so. There is a need to see error, warn about it, and correct it. Yet, we cannot stop there. We cannot cease to be on guard against deception. Why? Because deception not only manifests in false teachers but it can take place in our own hearts. There are not only false teachers; there are also false disciples. Hear these frightening words from our Lord Jesus,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (7:21-23)
The greatest and most frightening deception is for a person who thinks they are a Christian to be revealed that they are not. A person who professes faith in Christ but does not possess faith in Christ will be found out to be a fraud and will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Lest we miss what Jesus is saying, this is no small deception. He says on the Day of Judgment many will believe they are okay with God, will think they did works for God, but the truth is they were in partnership with another as “workers of lawlessness” (7:23). The prophecies and mighty works they thought were done in the name of Christ were done in the name of the one against Christ, Satan. These people were never saved because the Lord says He will declare, “I never knew you; depart from me” (7:23). They will enter into eternity with the one they partnered with. They will face eternity without Christ. This scary reality begs the question: How can I be sure I am not one of the deceived? First, if you are asking the question, there is some encouragement in that. It shows there is a seriousness in which you approach Scripture and you are sensitive to what the Word of God says. To answer more directly, ask what it means and if you are doing the will of God. Prophecies and mighty works are not necessarily of God, as we see with the false disciples, but can come from other sources. The true disciple does the will of God, not as a means of salvation but as the evidence of their salvation. A true disciple does not merely profess with their mouth “Jesus as Lord” but they believe in Him with their hearts (Romans 10:9-10), which results in doing the will of God. Case in point, a genuine follower of Christ repents and turns from their sin and believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Their life points to the person and work of Christ, not to their own wonders. In a world where self-focus runs rampant, we must be aware of this danger. Beware of self-deception; it has eternal consequences.
- Examine your heart and life to see whether you are a genuine disciple in the faith (2 Cor 13:5).
- If you have examined in the past, what criteria did you use: past experiences/professions or the Word of God?
- How should a passage like Matthew 7:21-23 affect our churches?