21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
This should be a wakeup call for us. As Jesus begins to conclude His Sermon, He hits us with the hardest statement of all. He is telling us that simply offering lip service to Him as Lord isn’t enough. Yet this conflicts with what we have learned these past few decades about grace and not being able to earn our way into heaven.
First, let us take note of what Romans 10 tells us:
6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down ), 7 or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart “-that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, he explains that true belief in God results in following Him. Maybe we don’t do it so well at first, but our belief leads us to action. What we believe at our core leads us to do what we do. If our beliefs change (i.e. coming to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior) then you will act in a way as if He is. This is why when we are studying the bible, listening to sermons, and receiving instruction from others, we should constantly ask ourselves, “Do I really believe this?” And if so, “am I living according to what I believe?” In reading the above passage from Romans, we can see that the faith God gives us we must put to practice. This is what Paul was getting at when he wrote in Philippians 2:
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Which works in conjunction with Hebrews 11:
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
In Matthew, Jesus spent 3 chapters explaining to us what it means to follow Him. His original command, “follow me,” leads us to wonder what that looks like and why we should do it. It is what is best for us. While Jesus may have stated some difficult things here for us to consider and try to do, we can also recognize that by doing so, we will be blessed. The Beatitudes are an introduction to the process of our discipleship as we continue to apply the principles He teaches us throughout the sermon. This, however, is the hardest principle of all. He wants us to apply the things He has taught us, not just know them or memorize the sayings. In James 2, we find the solution to our problem between faith and works:
14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
Our works do not save us, but simply stating we have faith and living without change keeps us dead. Even the demons believe that Jesus is the Christ, but they are not saved. We are not resurrected with Christ until we act upon the faith He has given us! Yet we cannot say that it was us who saved ourselves, because our faith is given to us by grace alone: a free and perfect gift from God our Father as is written in Ephesians 2:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
So then, we must recognize that we cannot save ourselves, but we can refuse salvation. We can waste it by not putting to practice the faith God has given us. Jesus tells us that if we believe, we must act as if we believe. Or, as I like to say: live saved.
Are you living out your faith today?