Jesus is (Scary) Gracious | Matthew 7.15-23 (Snoh)
May 11, 2014 Series: The King Has Come | Matthew
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 7:15–7:23
INTRODUCTION | False and Fake
Jesus is scary. Scary is probably not the first adjective that comes to mind when you think of Jesus Christ. But as we bring our study of the Sermon on the Mount to a close, we encounter some of the scariest words He ever spoke. His words are not intended to scare the “hell” out of us—literally. In Luke 16, Jesus reveals that fear will never scare someone out of hell. Even if someone returned from the dead and told them there was a hell, their fear would not save them. Instead, their fear would make them more self-centered as they worry about what they must do in order to avoid hell. Jesus words are not intended to scare us away from hell, but to turn us away from self-salvation. Some wrongly believe that there are many roads that lead to God. In truth, there is only one; but there are many that lead away from Him.For some of us, the scary part of this passage is that there are ravenous self-serving man-imals looking for people to feed their need to for power, prosperity, or popularity. For others the scarier part is that Jesus speaks about a day of judgment and the fires of hell—which Jesus does more than anyone else. Its sobering to consider that ONE DAY we will stand before the judge—King Jesus Himself. Perhaps most scary, is that Jesus seems to indicate that some people are going to “act” surprised on that day because their true hearts will be revealed. They may have spoken the right words, lived the right way, even believed a few right things, but Jesus will reveal them as frauds. Jesus doesn’t want us scared. He wants us to realize that, on that day, we will be held account not for what we’ve done, or not done; but for what we’ve believed about Jesus and what He has done. Without doubt, there are things Jesus expects us to do. But Jesus reveals that WHAT we have done is not as important as WHY we have done it.
FALSE PROPHETS | How do I test a false prophet?
Jesus warns about false prophets leading the masses to a false peace based on a false gospel—that appears legit. The New Testament is full of warnings against a false truth that produces a false faith that sounds good, looks good, even feels good, but leads to death. Through his 13 letters, the apostle Paul warns us about a false gospel, a false spirit, false brothers, false apostles, false teachers, false witnesses, even false Jesus’. Jesus warns us against wolves—false preachers who look like Christians but are not saved. It may be more effective to call them WEREWOLVES. Werewolves are only scary half of the time and usually in a way that is hidden. The other half of the time, these individuals are likable, charismatic, and influential. Many of these false prophets have very successful ministries, meaning, there are many “Christian” ministries and churches led by men who are not Christians.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says: The picture we need to have in our minds, therefore, should rather be this. The false prophet is a man who comes to us, and who at first has the appearance of being everything that could be desired. He is nice and pleasing and pleasant; he appears to be thoroughly Christian, and seems to say the right things. His teaching in general is quite all right and he uses many terms that should be used and employed by a true Christian teacher. He talks about God, he seems to be saying everything that a Christian should say. He is obviously in sheep’s clothing, and his way of living seems to correspond. So, you do not suspect that there is anything wrong at all; there is nothing that at once attracts your attention or arouses your suspicions, nothing glaringly wrong.
Jesus tells us to test the fruit of these teachers. He does not say to test the works, the gifts, or the results of these individuals. There are many false prophets who do wonderful works. There are many false prophets who are greatly gifted. There are even many false prophets who, even though are unhealthy, produce healthy fruit in others. Unfortunately, we are people of appearances and we are rather quick to excuse people because of their WORKS. We place a value on what people DO. We even go so far as to EXCUSE disqualifying deficiencies in one’s character if they prove effective—even call them anointed. The fact that God can produce fresh water from a pile of garbage, doesn't make the garbage any less dirty. It just makes God godlier.
Jesus says we need to test the fruit because even if the two trees look identical, they produce different things. I believe there are three different kinds of tests we should use:
Even if they teach people to be men of character they themselves are not
1. THE TEACHING TEST: This is test of correctness. There are many false teachers who preach a perverted truth. These are the easiest wolves to spot because false doctrine is really not too difficult to identify. These kind of false teachers preach a different Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel. In truth, the exchange the authority of the Bible for their own intellect, emotion, or experience.
2. THE SILENCE TEST: This is a test of content. There are many false teachers who teach an incomplete truth. Sometimes this means they are always general and never specific. The preaching is devoid of doctrine and fully of ambiguity. Usually, they are silent on topics such as man’s depravity, God’s holiness, wrath, atonement, or final judgment. It’s not he says he doesn’t believe; he says nothing at all.
3. THE BEATTITUDE TEST: This is a test of character. There are many false teachers who do not live what Jesus teaches even if they themselves teach it. It is possible to work for Jesus but not UNDER him. We can be excited for Jesus but HOSTILE towards His commands—the beatitudes. Sometimes this can be hidden for a long time behind a façade of success; but not forever. Character will reveal itself.
FALSE PEACE | How do I know if I am self-deceived?
Not only can we be deceived by others, we can deceive ourselves. Jesus speaks of the final day when people will come before Him for final judgment. Jesus seems to indicate that some people are going to “act” surprised on that day because their true hearts will be revealed. They may have spoken the right words, lived the right way, even believed a few right things, but Jesus will reveal them as frauds. This is a terrifying text for the false prophet or the false convert. For the genuine believer, this passage brings comfort—God is not fooled and fakes don’t get in. For everyone, this scary text drives us to test ourselves: How do I know I am saved?
1. Intellectual understanding is not enough (LORD). There are certainly things we must believe. We must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God—fully God and fully man, perfect representative and perfect sacrifice. We must believe that Jesus was sent to save the world. We must must believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross, in my place for my sins. We must believe that He died because it was the only way to remove our guilty and satisfy God’s wrath. We must believe that he was raised the third day and is seated and has been exalted as Lord of all. There are certainly things we must believe, but even the demons are orthodox. In Matthew 8, we’ll see that the demons acknowledge Jesus’ authority. James 2.1919 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Suffice to say, everyone who believes will declare Jesus as Lord, but not all who declare Jesus as LORD will actually believe.
2. Emotional feeling is not enough (LORD, LORD): These people whom Jesus ultimately casts out, not only have a set of beliefs (many orthodox) but they also have a zeal for God. They not only say Lord, they declare LORD LORD! They have feelings and emotions involved. Despite all of their excitement for the things of God, Jesus says they are outside of the kingdom. How do we explain this? Our feelings cannot always be trusted. Often, our enthusiasm is entirely of the flesh. All tears, tickles, and tingles do not necessarily come from God. Contrary to popular belief, more emotion does not necessarily mean more spirituality (though some of us could go with a little more). It might mean you are just an emotional person.
3. Words and works are not enough (DID WE NOT DO): Finally, these people present the evidence for their devotion—the works that they have done. And what is frightening is that these false converts, non-Christians, unbelievers are able to accomplish things in the name of Jesus! They are able to prophesy and deliver some sort of spiritual message. They are able to preach right doctrine, even lead others to salvation, and yet himself remain outside of Christ. Scary. More than that, they are able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus—as a member of the 12, Judas had this power. Finally, they say we were able to do many wonderful deeds in Jesus’ name. These are legitimate mighty works of building ministries, of serving the poor, even of miraculous healing.
This passage is so “scary” because it forces us to identify the true basis for our salvation. For some of us, we rely on what we know, others what we feel, and still others what we’ve done. Jesus seems to say that eternal life has nothing to do with what we understand, what we feel, or what we do. When these men come before Jesus, He doesn’t say – you don’t understand me enough, you’re not excited about me enough, or you didn’t work for me enough. Jesus simply says, “I NEVER KNEW YOU.” In John 17.3 Jesus said: 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. These men who come before Jesus do not have eternal life because they do not know Jesus Christ. Jesus says to them, I NEVER KNEW YOU. Jesus doesn’t say, YOU NEVER KNEW ME (Jesus does not say I know you no longer…I never knew you). Jesus says, I NEVER KNEW YOU.
FALSE FAITH | How do I know I am saved?
These people know who Jesus is, but Jesus doesn’t know them…because Jesus never revealed Himself to them. They may have prayed a prayer, gone to church, or served on a mission trip. They may have even called upon the name of Jesus to do something wonderful, but Jesus never called them by name. Jesus said: 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11.27 If we can't depend on what we understand, what we feel, or what we do to know Christ, then what do we have left? GRACE.
The Lord Jesus knows who are His because, by grace, he chooses them, he loves them, and he saves them. He has made alive what is dead. He has given sight to what was blind. He has adopted what was abandoned. He has freed what was enslaved. God makes himself known. GRACE. Galatians 4.9 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God. How do I know if I am known by God? When you consider the quality or the acceptability of your faith—where does your mind go? Does it first go to how much you understand? Do you consider how you feel? Do you think about your accomplishments? Your failures? Or is your mind drawn away from yourself and to the work of Jesus?
Christianity is all about Jesus. Christianity is all about forgetting ourselves. Christianity is all about sin and grace. About seeing what horrible, sinful people we are and knowing there’s a God who loves us anyway, who forgives our sin on the cross and calls us to follow him. Knowing our sin is knowing God’s grace; and knowing God’s grace is knowing our sin.
The bottom line is this: when these men go to be judged, as evidence of their devotion they bring THEMSELVES. The speakers are more focused on their works more than the work of Christ. Isaiah 64.6 says that God sees our righteous deeds like dirty rags. They don’t impress him. Jesus didn’t ask us to prophesy, cast out demons, or do miracles. In many ways, THESE ARE EASIER than what He has commanded us to do in the Sermon on the Mount. On that "day", we will be held account not for what we’ve done, or not done; but for what we’ve believed about Jesus and what He has done. And what we have done is not as important as WHY we have done it.
How can I know if I am saved by grace? If you confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord AND believe in our hearts that God raised Him—grace changes everything. By grace, God causes us to deny the lie which says: “it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’ve been good,” for the truth which says “it doesn’t matter if you’ve been good, as long as you believe in Christ as your Lord and Savior.” The unmerited grace of Jesus changes every interaction with God, everything you think, everything you feel, even everything you do.
1. Grace shifts our thinking from the quality of our faith to the object of Faith. We cease to think about how faithful I am and, instead, consider how faithful God is in Christ. My successes give me reason to boast in the cross and my failures become opportunities to worship at the foot of the cross.
2. Grace shifts our feelings from a desire for a change in behavior to desire for a change of heart. I recognize that my problem is essentially internal, not external. As paraphrase Jerry Bridges: My bad days are never so bad that I am beyond the REACH of God’s grace, but my good days are never so good that I am beyond the NEED of God’s grace.
3. Graces shifts our work from performance to joyful response. I don’t obey to be accepted. I am accepted, therefore, I obey. I am not longer governed by a fear of rejection, but by a desire to delight in my Father who loves me, knows me and, therefore, always gives me His best.
Is your faith founded on grace? Is your faith grown through grace? Is your faith preserved by grace? 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2.8-9
Grace says we are saved by works…just not our own. In our text, Jesus did say only those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. So what, then, what is the will of the Father if it’s not right doctrine, enthusiastic service, or wonderful works for Jesus? Jesus tells us in response to men who asked: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6.29. It is not enough to clean the pollution from the outside, we must be cleansed of the corruption from within. Anyone can change their behavior, but only Jesus can change your heart. It is a rebirth to a new life now—Jesus wants more than your afterlife.
I’ll close with words from a song we’ll sing today that speaks of the mystery of grace.
I don’t know why God’s wondrous grace, to me He has made known
Nor while unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for His own
And I don’t know how this saving faith to me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word wrought peace within my heart
Oh this peace within my heart!
But I know… Who I believe!
And now I know... that He
Is able to keep… my soul…
Unto that day…
I believe. I believe.