Aug 9, 2019 by Jeff Jones
As I sit at my desk this beautiful morning looking at a sunny Arizona sky through my window (when is it not a sunny sky in Arizona), I wondered to myself what could I possibly write that hasn’t already been covered? What could I write for myself, for these men out there, and for God, above all, that already hasn’t been discussed? Smarter minds, more “spiritually mature” men, theologians, pastors, and the like have written about, produced videos on, preached over and discussed just about every topic imaginable. Even just reading the prior blogs on Discerning Dad, I scratch my head wondering how can I prepare something– anything– that will speak into the lives of those who may read it without sounding like a soggy box of cereal?
So I prayed. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and these words. Am I saying that the words here are now “inspired” and from God himself? Not really. Well, maybe they are. I don’t know. All I know is what we now read here is either the product of direction from God, my imagination, or perhaps a mysterious combination of the two.
In any event, this article is a bit different. It is not going to give a sappy story, then tie in a scripture with an inspiring ending. It is not going to give you feel-good tidbits to nod your head to and walk away feeling self-fulfilled (why? Because the Gospel is about God and not about us!). Rather, it is going to pose a single and solitary (yes, what I just said there is redundant) question. You may first brush it off, then try to go back to scrolling on Facebook or whatever it is you do when you zombie out. But I ask you, or rather–implore you–to really just take a minute and think about it. As in, if you were in class, and called out by the teacher to stand up and answer the question in front of everyone, what would you say? If it were the final exam, what would you write? If you were about to win the game show with this final answer, how would you respond? (Ok, ok, I think you get it now).
Of course, none of this really matters if the question weren’t important. So I suppose it must be a pretty important question for us to care how to respond.
So what could be so important to ask that justifies spending part of your busy day reading this article and pondering about? Well, I’m glad you asked. It is not a question of mine; rather, it is a question that is begged from the words of Jesus himself. Matthew 7:21-23 ESV states:
21 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On 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 mighty works in your name?” 23 And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
So the question is this- who is Jesus talking about?
Of course, if you are like me, your natural inclination is to immediately disregard the question. That’s not me. That’s someone else. I’ve seen that verse a hundred times and it doesn’t apply to me. We all think it. I have never once, until recently, actually considered whether that really could be me and sincerely ask the question.
Or, even worse, we just immediately think of “cults” or other deviations from orthodox Christianity, figuring that’s what is meant, and we package it up, place it on the shelf and move on to the next question. Hence, we never really examine it closer or compare it with the dark areas of our life.
Have you ever thought about, and I mean really pondered, that a person who is deceived actually doesn’t know at the time they are being deceived? Well, duh! What a wise comment. Seriously though. So think about it again. If the person isn’t you, then who the heck is it?! It has to be someone. Jesus said it. Therefore it is true. If everyone was correct, that it has to be someone else, Jesus would be wrong, because it would then be nobody. But obviously it is somebody. And not just a somebody, but MANY. Read the verse again. Jesus says “. . . many will say to me . . .” Obviously, we can probably reasonably predict that doesn’t mean one out of a hundred. It will be much more. And these people are “Christians”. That is assumed or implied in the passage as Jesus says that they lived “in his name.” Hence it is not your atheist or Muslim friend, but rather the “Christian” next door, at your job, at the grocery store or sitting next to you at church. Or, perhaps, maybe it’s you…
The wonderful pride of mankind, and especially in men, such as myself, is that nothing negative, or bad, can ever be us. It is always someone else. For example, before an alcoholic has an epiphany that he or she is an alcoholic, they usually don’t acknowledge or see it. They see their activities but they are blinded. Everyone around them can point it out, but they deny it. It usually takes hitting rock bottom or some tragic event to remove the wool from their eyes. I see the same when watching “Hoarder” shows and everyone in the family is trying to reason with the hoarder but the person is in complete denial.
Another example? As an attorney, I was involved in hundreds of criminal defense cases. Sadly, many of my guilty clients would never accept the typical punishment that came with the crime, or they would not confess because they believed they had a valid excuse. Nearly all of them, probably 90%, always had an attitude of “I should get an exception because… [fill in the blank]. They would have an excuse why they needed special treatment and that the rules shouldn’t apply to them. To me, as an outsider, their situation clearly fit into the crime or punishment. To them, they didn’t see it that way. They wouldn’t, or couldn’t, objectively see their situation, and it usually took some significant event or tragedy to finally open their eyes.
That attitude used to annoy me, because to me it was clear. But over time, I realized I did that myself. It is part of our human nature to always expect justice or uphold certain standards or principles, but not as easy or often do we want the same to apply to us. We tend to act like that isn’t us, and it’s always someone else. This concept is the same with God and his evaluation of our lives.
We can be blinded and deceived, whether self-deceived or deceived by Satan or our flesh or whatever else you want to blame it on. And in that deception, we do not see it. Which is why it can be frustrating to try to reason with an addict about their addiction. For those of you who have struggled with addiction, or have a friend or loved one who has, you know how difficult it can be trying to reason with them unless and until they have come to an acknowledgment and opening of their eyes.
What this all means is that to us, through our eyes, as a “Christian”, we think we are ok. But when Jesus is looking at us through his eyes, which is the most pure, objective look you will ever get, what will he see? Will we look like the guilty criminal defendant who has not truly repented and feels that the same rules should not apply to him? If you say no, that’s not you, think again.
The purpose of this article is not to condemn. Rather, it is to save! If we have been blessed with another breath to be able to read this article, and more importantly, to read Jesus’ words, then we have an opportunity to examine our hearts and ask God to align our heart with His, and to ask God and ourselves whether we have, in fact, genuinely repented and committed ourselves to Christ. We have an opportunity to ask whether we are the ones about whom Jesus is speaking.
Jesus made it clear to us that a nominal, lukewarm and superficial Christianity does not save (please do not misunderstand; I am not implying that works save, and we as Christians will go through periods of being lukewarm). Rather, if we are truly indwelt by the Holy Spirit, that beauty will be manifest by the bearing of fruit in our lives. Jesus was pointing out that to be saved, it is merely more than just saying a prayer and living a certain way. It is true that such a prayer can save, but it’s not the prayer itself. It is the belief and surrender behind the prayer. The belief that Jesus is the Christ, who is God manifest in human form, who came to this Earth and was born of the virgin Mary, who lived a sinless life, who laid down his life and died a physical death as the payment for the sins of man, who satisfied the rightful and just wrath of God due to our sin, who was raised from death three days later and is at the right hand of the Father. It is our belief in not just “Jesus”, i.e. in that he existed, as even the demons know that. Rather, it is a laying down of our life, our pride, and in repenting and committing ourselves to Him. Jesus made this very clear-
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Matthew 16:24-25 ESV
This verse is often taken out of context. “Taking up your cross” does not mean give your burdens to God (which we obviously still should do). It means to die to yourself and live for Christ in order to “find” your life. Jesus says we cannot be his disciple if we will not bear our own cross. Luke 14:27. We must “. . . take our own cross and follow [Jesus] . . .” Matthew 10:38.
To be called a disciple, to be the one entering the Kingdom of Heaven, we, as “Christians”, must be the ones who have taken up our cross and died to ourselves. Having done that is a true understanding of repentance and commitment to be covered by God’s saving grace. Unfortunately, there are many–even those with good intentions and a “good heart”– who have not self-reflected and undertaken such an actual commitment. So it begs the question, which must be asked again, who is Jesus talking about?
As I think through all of this, I have learned one thing: to study the Gospel message again and again. God’s plan of redemption has been evident and laid out before the foundations of the earth. The Bible is a beautiful story which unfolds from beginning to end about a master plan of redemption and grace for his chosen people. Without the Gospel, nothing else matters for me, or for you. It is Jesus- his grace- that matters. Every fiber and being of our body and lives, from when we wake up to go to bed, should be in, about, through and for him. While we will go through spiritual droughts, we must pray and take off the blinders and ask ourselves if God is not our priority, if we don’t have a desire to read the Word and know him, if we aren’t producing any spiritual fruit, if the world could not differentiate you from the unsaved, are you, am I, saved? Are we part of the remnant? Will I hear those tragic words from Christ himself that he never knew me? It is my prayer that none of us do. And sadly many of us will. We can’t say it will be “someone else,” because that someone else has to be someone.
We should all take time to reflect on our own lives, our own hearts, and our relationship with the Lord to see where we stand. We should re-orient ourselves with the Gospel. Read it. Seriously. Perhaps start with the Gospel of John. Remind yourself of the plan of God, life of Jesus and our need for him. Ask yourself if you live for what God can do for you, or what you can do for Him? Remind yourself of our depravity, his grace, and why we are here. Make sure that your love, knowledge and commitment to the Lord will give you peace and confidence so that you can answer the question truthfully and in confidence that you are not the one referred to by Jesus. And pray, deeply, for those who are in deception that the Word of God be spoken into their lives, the blinders be lifted and that they repent and return home.
I feel this is important to the Discerning Dad. It takes significant discernment to see the truth and differentiate it from deception. Much more than we tend to appreciate. I know that for many years, I would have been the one about whom Jesus was speaking. I am thankful he has given me time to be able to see the truth. I pray the same for you.
Father, please examine my heart and expose the truth of where I stand. Help me to become vulnerable and to bear my cross for you. I desire you to be the God of my life, to be my life, and that I may be a witness to those around me. I thank you for your saving grace and allowing me another day to do your will. Please permeate my heart and my mind with your word, and your will, and give me discernment so that I may see, declare and defend the truth.
Guest Discerning Dad