Summary: This sermon is a simple, evangelistic appeal based on the Lord’s division between those who are accepted and those who are rejected on judgment day.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On 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 deeds of power in your name?’ 23Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ 24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” 28Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:21 - 29 (NRSVA)
Do you ever cringe when someone says, “I’ve got some good news and bad news”? There are plenty of versions of that:
• Bad news is that gasoline is up to a gazillion dollars a teaspoon; the good news is – walking is still free, and your neighbors will be on the front porch as you walk by to wave to you, because they can’t afford to turn on the air conditioner inside; bad news, good/bad news.
The text before us has that good news/bad news ring to it as well. First,
THE BAD NEWS;
THERE IS A PENALTY FOR DISOBEYING GOD.
When Jesus said not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, He was pointing to the fact that there are judgments that are serious.
Who could deny that there are judgments in nature? You touch the fire and you will feel pain. If you step in a hole you might break your ankle. If you jump out of an airplane without a parachute your next meeting won’t be a scheduled committee meeting, but one-on-one with the ground floor!
It is the same with God’s judgment that Jesus announced – when you ignore the basic law that God has given to man, there will be punishment. God has even laid-out in detail what that law is (Exodus 20) and the scope of penalty for disobedience:
23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (NRSVA)
Two Views about the Bad News
As a rule people who try to deal with the bad news in a natural, or human way fall into two classes…those who deny it outright, and those who try to deny it by self-deception.
Outright denial is so evident today in the lifestyles of people that it almost leaps off the front pages. Note that it is the denial of God’s right to say who is fit for His Kingdom that makes one unfit for Heaven; it’s not any particular brand of sin. Homosexual behavior is no worse than cheating on your taxes (thou shalt not steal), or cheating on your spouse (thou shalt not commit adultery). All of those (and more) are sinful behaviors which are the symptoms of the sin of denying our Maker and Creator. It is the person who states, it’s my life, and I’ll live the way I want to live, who denies that we are created by God, for God. We are (as the Scripture says) bought with a price, we are not independent from God.
Now not everybody denies God’s prior claim in an outright fashion; most of us aren’t that bold. Rather we do what is legendarily reported to be W.C. Fields’ last feeble bit of humor. It seems Fields was on his deathbed in the hospital reading a Bible. That’s not strange in a deathbed scene, but he was an atheist. An acquaintance walked in the hospital room and said, Fields…I thought you didn’t believe in that stuff, and here, you’re reading a Bible; what are you doing? Said the old wag, Lookin’ for loopholes, my friend…lookin’ for loopholes!
The chief loophole we often leap into is the safety net of relativity. Relatively-speaking most of us are at least not much worse than our neighbors. We have joined the church roll, served here and there, taught a Sunday School class, and (when totally purpose-driven by Rick Warren, himself) even served in the nursery! Land-sakes, we’ve even given close to a tithe!