When I wonder if I’m off track, here is a sure-fire test for me.
Hopefully, we all wonder, at least at times, if our faith is fake. It is a command of Scripture to examine ourselves to see whether we are really in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).
We read about deceived people who worked miracles and cast out demons, yet Jesus rejected them as workers of iniquity. That very passage, however, can be a tremendous source of assurance.
The passage in which Jesus speaks of these powerfully ministering pretenders is Matthew 7:21-23. That passage is almost at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (found in Matthew’s Gospel, chs. 5-7).
“Almost” is crucial. The actual end of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus telling his disciples that if they do the things he had just taught, then they would be like wise men who built their house on a rock. No storm would take that house down. If they did not listen and do his commands, then they would be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The first storm brought great destruction.
Think of it! Jesus—the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead—tells us that if we follow his commands in the Sermon on the Mount, we will be built on a solid foundation, and the storms of life will not overthrow us!
The pretenders were casting out demons; they were working miracles; they were prophesying. Maybe they were pretending even to do that, but Jesus doesn’t say that. He says that they are workers of iniquity. They were not doing the will of his Father in heaven.
The test for us is whether we are turning the other cheek, whether we turning away from hate and anger, whether we are averting our lustful eyes, whether we are loving money, or worrying about tomorrow. These are the things that matter to Jesus. Are we merciful, poor in spirit, pure in heart, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, and enduring persecution. Are we peacemakers or trouble makers?
Admittedly and importantly, there is more to the Gospel than the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount is such a powerful and amazing way to live that centuries ago a Jewish man would say, “Your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great that I suspect no one can keep them” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 10).
According to our Gospel, no one can live them. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
There is, however, a route to keeping the commands of King Jesus. It involved being born again (Jn 3:3-8), being made a new creature (2 Cor 5:17), being freed from sin by grace (Rom 6), When we partake of his divine nature and escape the corruption that is in this world because of the great and precious promises which have been given to us, then we can “do these things” and never stumble (2 Pet 1:5-11). Those who are born of God do not continue sinning (1 Jn 3:9), and the one who walks by the Spirit will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:16).
Great and precious promises.
The issue today is not how to fulfill the commands of the King in the Sermon on the Mount, but I thought it was important to address that. Too many today agree with Trypho, the Jew, that the precepts in the Good News are too wonderful and great to be kept.
If we don’t keep them, we are foolish builders of shacks on sand.
The issue today is becoming deceit-proof.
How do we know that we are not among the deceived, the pretenders who think they are serving God, when really they are workers of iniquity, utterly unknown to him?
The answer is in Jesus’ promise at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. If you are obeying your King’s commands, then you are a wise man building your house on the rock of ages. You are not a deceived man. You are a wise man.
Long ago I was told that if I was struggling with a teaching, with whether it was from God or not, that I should reduce the teaching to one simple point: what is the teacher asking me to do?
Does the teaching exhort me to obey the commands of our King? Does the teaching equip me for every good work? (2 Tim 3:16-17). Does it move me to love from a sincere faith? (1 Tim 1:5).
You don’t have to understand everything the teacher is saying. You can judge a teaching by its goal. If in the end you are moved to obey the King, then you are being helped to be a wise man building his house on the rock. If not, someone is making a foolish man out of you.
“Do not be deceived, the one who practices righteousnness is righteous as he is righteous” (1 Jn 3:7).
Intentions and Repentance
I have a lot of problems with Martin Luther and the life he lived. I cannot justify him. I am convinced he was used by God to transform our western world and that for the most part that transformation was not just good but very good.
Either way, good or bad, I quoted a passage from him yesterday that is true and so well-said that I will not try to improve it with my own words.
Christians also fall into sin and perform the lusts of the flesh. David fell horribly into adultery. … However great these sins were, they were not committed to spite God, but from weakness. When their sins were brought to their attention these men did not obstinately continue in their sin, but repented. Those who sin through weakness are not denied pardon as long as they rise again and cease to sin. There is nothing worse than to continue in sin. If they do not repent, but obstinately continue to fulfill the desires of the flesh, it is a sure sign that they are not sincere.
When I speak of obeying the commands of the King in the Sermon on the Mount, I am not talking about sinless perfection. The apostle John gave us some of the strongest statements about obedience in the entire Bible when he wrote his first epistle. Yet he is careful to pause and tell us that if we say we have no sin, we are liars. He is careful to pause and tell us not only that we can be forgiven, but that when we sin we have an advocate with the Father, King Jesus the righteous one. God longs to forgive us, to cleanse us, and to empower us. We are his workmanship, his project, to be molded for good works that he prepared especially and individually for each of us to do (Eph 2:10).
The point of this post is to give you a lighthouse. A light shining in the distance to let you know you are going the right direction. Are you among the deceived? Look ahead at the light, the light of fellowship with and submission to the King who has made you a son or daughter to the eternal Father and Creator of all. Are you bowing the knee to him. Do you devote your life to him. Is he first and foremost. Do you meditate on his precepts and commands? Are you subjecting yourself to him.
That walk is not and cannot be a deceived one. That walk is a protected one that is not led astray by any storms of life.