Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 29

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

Well Done or I Never Knew You

Read Matthew 7:21-27 (ESV)

“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 cast out demons 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.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

In the movie adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s book, The Two Towers, the second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is a scene when the nation of Rohan is being attacked by the hordes of Mordor and Sauron as they have driven its inhabitants into the protective walls of Helm’s Deep. This fortress is a walled city backed by a massive mountain. The only entrance into the keep is through the Deepening Wall, as they call it. One gate, accessed by a long ramp, is the only visible entrance. In one scene two of the main characters seek to clear the ramp of vicious Orcs. These enemies are seeking to batter down the gate, and our two heroes find a side door giving them separate access to the ramp. They are indeed able to clear the ramp before the gate falls to the battering rams of evil. In a later scene a massive, gaping hole is blown in the fortress wall by a suicide runner who ignites a cache of gunpowder. So, the main gate has now been bypassed, a gate for its defense and that, once fallen, allows entrance to all of the enemies of Helm’s Deep. Alternate paths. New gates. Enemies entering. All these are not simply fictitious story lines of a novel but are the concern of our Lord leading into this passage of the Sermon on the Mount. 

In the previous devotional we looked at Christ’s statement that there was one path and one door to Heaven – Christ Himself. In the latter verses of this section (vv.15-20) Jesus makes clear that we are to watch out for false prophets, those who profess to have special knowledge about how to get into heaven or those who believe that they have found a back door. 

Maybe you have heard the phrase, “cultural christianity”. It refers to those who have taken the label of being a christian and I intentionally do not capitalize this when it normally is. Religion without Christ is simply christianity. What is a cultural christian? One who uses the right words, religious words (“Lord, Lord”), Christian words but who does not know the Lord. One who outwardly looks like a true Christian and does all the right Christian things (“we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name”) but has never in their heart truly come to know Jesus. One who goes to church and has the right family connections but has not had a true heart conversion. Now, I will not presume to know who these people are. I am not qualified to judge whether someone is truly repentant and saved, and neither are you. Only God is. What we find in this passage is that while we may not always be able to spot a real Christian from a false one, they do exist and one day they will be judged. When they come to the Judgment Day, they will stand before the Lord and say, “I did many things for You”, He will say, “I never knew you”. What a devastating verdict and blow this will be.  

Next, we come to the section of this passage where Jesus begins to delineate how we know who is a follower of Christ and who is not. He states that the one whose life is built upon the foundation of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, obediently heeding the call to salvation, is the wise man and the one who is saved. He builds his house on the Rock, Jesus Christ. 

Here in verses 24-27 we find two houses that may seem identical - houses with walls, roofs, rooms, and windows. The difference is that one has built his house on a solid foundation and one on an unstable one. One writer commented that this analogy is akin to two men, one religious, looking the part of a Christian, sounding like one, saying all the right Christian things and another, a man who has been truly saved by grace in Jesus Christ. One foundation is a merely external religious life, while the other foundation is built upon the work of Jesus. One is a foundation of shallow words alone as opposed to a foundation that is built upon obedience after having been saved by the Lord. They might look and sound the same, but what reveals their true nature or foundation are the storms of life. The storms of life are the problems and sufferings which show us to what we are clinging. When life becomes difficult, we all run to something. If we are only outwardly religious, we cling to platitudes. If we know the Lord, we cling to Him. When the heavy wind of life’s trials hit, the waves of persecution or torment, in great and small ways, our foundation will be what saves us. If it is a foundation of religious sand, then we will be washed away. If it is a foundation of Christ’s work in and for us, then we will be anchored to Him, and we will remain steadfast. 

When you were a child, did you like to build sand castles? I can remember summer after summer of seemingly endless hours of fun down by the shore line, making countless trips to the edge of the ocean, hauling bucket after bucket of sea water back up to that chosen spot where my grand castle would be built in a day. Whether it was using a pail to make a mounded wall or dribbling sandy water along its tops, I loved to dream up new scenarios where I was the king, fighting off the invaders who attempted entrance into my kingdom. It didn’t seem to matter how long I labored in a day to strengthen the walls or how wide I made the surrounding moat, when the day ended and a new day began on the beach, one thing was certain. I would return to my previous day’s labor to find a flattened, demolished mess as the tide had erased all my beautiful work. Those who are merely religious will find that their lives are washed away in the storm of Judgment. Those whose lives are built upon Christ will find an eternity awaiting them, solidly grounded upon and with Jesus Christ. 

As Jesus ends this sermon, Christ has hit pretty hard at those who are self-righteously thinking that they can be good enough to earn salvation. He has talked about wolves in sheep’s clothing and false prophets and false teachers, a wide versus a narrow path, and in all of this He is seeking to make sure that those who are “religious” and self-righteous would have their false assurance removed. For those who read this devotional and the Sermon on the Mount, who come weary and needy for grace and assurance, Christ is your Christ is the Good Shepherd? The Good Shepherd bids you to come in to the sheepfold. He has labored for sinners like us and has secured salvation by His perfect life and atoning sacrifice on the cross. Rest in this and be saved, knowing that you are loved. If you know Jesus Christ in this way be at peace!

So, What Now? 

One day when you stand before the God of the universe (and we all will) on Judgment Day and He says, “Why should I let you into My Heaven?”, how will you answer? Will you use nice sounding culturally christian phrases? Will you tell Him of the sandy religious foundation of your life? Or will you simply plead the merits, work, and blessings of Jesus on your behalf? Will you throw yourself before the Lord and God of the universe with nothing in your hands but the saving work of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection on your behalf?  With one you will hear, “I never knew you” and with the other you will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter on the merits of Christ.”  What is your foundation, sand or stone?