15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.
21 “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’
24 “Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. 26 But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed.”
28 When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching 29 because he was teaching them like someone with authority and not like their legal experts.
John the Baptist challenged his hearers, notably the Jerusalem religious leaders, “Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives” (Matthew 3:7-8). Jesus expanded that, noting that we judge a fruit tree’s health not by its looks, but by the fruit it bears. The key spiritual reality is not how pious we look publicly, but whether our lives reflect the principles of God’s kingdom. Jesus pictured people on the Judgment Day talking about prophesying in his name, casting out demons in his name, doing “mighty works” in his name—and yet hearing the tragic words, “I’ve never known you.” Older GPS readers may recall a pop song called “Yesterday When I was Young.” (Younger readers can ask parents or grandparents about it.) It included these somber lines: “The thousand dreams I dreamed, the splendid things I planned, I always built, alas, on weak and shifting sand.” * Jesus authoritatively called us to build our life on the rock of his kingdom’s enduring values, not on shifting sand.
King Jesus, I want you to rule in my heart, in my life. Reshape my values and beliefs until they truly form a firm foundation for living a life that honors you. Amen.
During Lent, we have a weekly video that will help you reflect on the key themes from Words that Changed the World: The Message of Jesus. Pastor Cheryl Bell leads us through this week's video. Click here to watch it on YouTube (or click on the image below).
* Writer(s): Charles Aznavour in French, Herbert Kretzmer in English. Copyright Charles Aznavour and Fred Ebb, from https://www.metrolyrics.com/yesterday-when-i-was-young-lyrics-charles-aznavour.html.
** Eugene Eung-Chun Park and Joel B. Green, study note on Matthew 7:21-23 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 18 NT.
Jesus’ response to those pleading to him on the judgment day--“I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong"(Matthew 7:23) offends me GREATLY! These people did everything right, or at least tried! This verse does not align with my theology of God’s grace and mercy, so I’m tempted to read past it quickly and forget about it. Further, Jesus often used hyperbole, a form of argument that exaggerates to make a point. Recall Jesus saying that we are expected to “gouge out an eye” if it causes us to sin (Matthew 18:9). Clearly he didn’t mean that and no one in the Christian church takes it literally. (PLEASE, don’t take it literally.) Since it is hyperbole and it offends me, he’s obviously not going to say he doesn’t know me…right?
Wrong. In reality, I’m offended because I’m convicted. Instead of dismissing it, I should read it again and again until I get comfortable questioning if Jesus knows me. In that comfort, I realize He is talking DIRECTLY to me. Me? A pastor? SURELY he won’t say this to me after dedicating my life to the ministry. YES. HE. WOULD. It turns out that I can live in a neighborhood on the margins, send my child to school with the poor, and work 6 days a week for the church—all in the name of Jesus—and Jesus still may not know me if I’m not doing them with the right spirit. The point is the Kingdom of God isn’t experienced just by doing. The Kingdom of God is experienced by being in the spirit. A life in the spirit will lead you to do these things. Where to start is a classic chicken and the egg argument. The fact is, it doesn’t matter. Keep doing and work on your spirit or pause, work on your spirit, and go where it leads you.
The same can be said for any kind of suffering or sacrificial living we go through, whether chosen or seemingly afflicted upon us—none of it matters if we do it with the wrong spirit. The Apostle Paul recognized the spiritual fruit God welcomes into the Heavenly Kingdom in the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians and the 5th chapter of his letter to the Galatians. Common in these passages are a spirit of love, patience, kindness, and joy. Check out these passage references for a fuller list of ways that you may recognize need for growth in your being.
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