Summary: What kind of people will be allowed to enter heaven? Those whose hearts are right with God! Those who have been changed on the inside by their encounters with the living God! Those whose lives reflect the character of Jesus!
Clean Hands and Pure Hearts
Context: Jesus has just warned of false teachers/prophets whose hearts would be revealed by the fruit in their lives. He spoke about the inward life as opposed to outward appearance. 1 Samuel 16:7: “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
-What kind of people will be allowed to enter heaven? Who will make the cut? How can a person qualify for entrance into God’s eternal rule – the kingdom of heaven? Those whose hearts are right with God! Those who have been changed on the inside by their encounters with the living God! Those whose lives reflect the character of Jesus!
-In Psalm 24:3-4 David asks, “3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” Only those who have surrendered themselves to the Lord will be able to live in His close presence forever! Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Matthew 7:21-23 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. 22 Many 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?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
-This is a heavy set of verses. It shows me that some are going to miss out on heaven – even though they are certain they qualify for entrance. But as the song goes, “For my pardon, this my plea, Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Not for good that I have done, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” If I am relying on anything else to save me, change me, and give me a pure heart, then I am looking in the wrong place. And our lives will show where our hearts really are.
-So let’s look a little closer at our text and see what else we can learn about the kind of person God will welcome into His Kingdom.
1. Words alone do not produce heart change
Matthew 7:21 "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.
James 2:19 “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder.” It is not enough to say that Jesus is your Master. We must live our lives from that reality.
-There are people who identify themselves as Christians. If someone ever challenged their status as a Christian, they might say, “I go to church. I help people. I pay my tithes. I make donations to help feed the hungry. Of course I’m a Christian!”
-But it is possible to say and do a lot of things, yet somehow being disconnected from the reality of who Christ is. Saying that Jesus is Lord does not necessarily mean that we live as if He is Lord. We might even sing about the Lord, but if we never truly surrender ourselves to Him, then our words will be empty. Paul describes this kind of lifeless reality in 1 Corinthians 13. If I do not have love (love for God and others that flows from a loving relationship with Christ), all my words will be like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Words alone do not a Christian make! There’s got to be something more than mere words.
2. Works alone do not produce heart change (22)
Matthew 7:22 Many 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?'
You might do some good things on your own, but the good does not cancel the bad. You are still an evildoer. You are still defined by your sins until you are defined by your relationship with Jesus. In truth, unless you find your identity in who Jesus is, you will be known by your sins and failures as an evildoer. This is not a balancing act. You can never tip the scales in your favor no matter how much good you do. Only Jesus was able to overcome the weight of our sins! And when we yield to Him and put our faith in Him, then the scale is smashed by the grace of God!
3. Heart change is required in order to do God’s will