Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Thought

“Not every who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’.”  Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

“I’m a good person”, many say; and according to certain cultural standards, it may be entirely true.  “I’m a good Christian”, many others say; and, again, according to certain cultural standards, this may be equally true as well – subjective, but true enough for us.  Yet there is an element to each of these statements which often contributes to not only a profound (if willful) ignorance of what Jesus actually requires of His followers; there may also be a significant amount of “boasting” as well as we attempt to justify ourselves not even according to our works (however these works may be defined) but according to our own subjective standards.

Jesus uses examples that may not even be indicative of any particular cultural standard, but there is a religious standard being expressed by those who are attempting to justify themselves and their works.  Casting out demons, prophesying (preaching/testifying/witnessing), and doing wonders all in the name of The Lord were works performed by the apostles before and after the Resurrection.  While it cannot be said Jesus is rejecting these efforts entirely, it can be said these are not enough.  Clearly Jesus is judging these things to be insufficient to “making disciples”.

So what are we to make of this?  These practices Jesus seems to condemn are not done without some measure of cultural risk, so why are these being so easily rejected? 

It must first be acknowledged that whenever we stand before The Lord on “that day”, we may not likely be asked to submit a list of accomplishments, things we may feel to be worthy of bragging rights, awesome deeds we performed in the Name of The Lord.  I can almost see it for myself that we who call ourselves Christian will stand before The Lord as He asks, ‘Did you pray for your enemies?  Or did you slander them to anyone who would listen?”  “Did you pray for your national leaders?  Or did you malign them on social media?”  “Did you feed the hungry?  Or did you blame them for being careless and lazy?”  “Did you visit those in prison?  Or did you write them off as getting what they deserve?”

When Jesus condemns “you who practice lawlessness”, He is speaking of much more than our own notions of “good” – as in how we determine we are “good” persons or “good” Christians.  He is speaking volumes about what it takes to be “faithful” disciples.  He is not talking about citizenship; our Lord is referring strictly to discipleship!  And the Judgment on “that day” will not be based on some vague and long-forgotten profession of faith!  It seems by Jesus’ words the Judgment will be entirely about how we chose to live into that profession of faith.

Jesus’ words do not present a conflict between “New Testament faith” and “Old Testament works”.  This is a false dichotomy we have created for ourselves over time precisely because of our inclination toward selective Scripture reading and personal interpretation – because that personal interpretation outside of traditional teachings and perspectives of the Church is how we choose to measure our own goodness and make the Scriptures fit our personal narrative rather than to make the effort to live into His narrative.  If we were to discern Jesus’ words as demanding works without understanding faith in discipleship, we would still be missing Jesus’ point.

We must not rely on our own or our culture’s standards of what is good, for our Lord’s standards are much higher but not unattainable!  We can live up to His standards.  He invites us to live up to His standards!  And why?  Because it is the only way others will be open to their own experience of our Lord’s grace – through His disciples.  We must suit up and step up – for “freely you have been given, and freely you must give” (Matthew 10:8).

The Lord is great, is He not?


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