Daily Readings: Genesis 21-22, Psalm 9, Matthew 7
“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 who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” -Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus gave this extremely stern warning wrapping up the Sermon on the Mount. There is a version of Christianity today that tends to preach the Hollywood version of someone being saved. We want it to be a dramatic scene from a movie where someone prays a single prayer in a moment of divine revelation that they are not living according to God’s will in their life and, “boom”, salvation has been obtained and eternity in heaven is guaranteed!
I do believe that there is a large amount of scripture that we will come to later on in our journey through the Bible pointing to the fact that someone cannot lose their salvation once they have truly given their life over to Christ. However, how do we know if someone actually has genuinely given their life over to Christ or if they have simply prayed a prayer without actually accepting Jesus as Lord over their life?
I think we have all, at some point in our lives, in an emotional state, tired of how we were living, made some type of bold New Year’s resolution that we were done being unhealthy, sick of being bad with our money, tired of our _______ habit, etc. and declared before friends and family, “No more!”
What happened next? The true test of whether actual life change took place is simple.
Jesus says, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
He goes on further to say, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
We are all going to have moments of weakness. The Bible is clear on that as well. Jesus tells us that by ourselves, none of this is possible, but only through God. We are all still going to continue to have a battle raging between our new identity in Christ with the Holy Spirit living within us on one side and our flesh desiring all of our old sinful habits on the other. Your heart changes when you truly invite Christ in, but that doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally backslide into old habits.
However, if someone has truly accepted Christ into their life and given their life over entirely, people should see a change. Those who know us best should be able to observe the fruit of our vine and say, “Something is different.” We might fall off the horse, but if you have the spirit living within you, you get right back on. If the “prayer you prayed” was simply another type of New Year’s resolution you were hoping might stick, when you get knocked off you probably just say, “Well, I gave it a good shot,” and go right back to living the life you were before without attempting to get back to building your house on the rock like Jesus commanded.
We are not saved through our works. None of us is capable of “earning salvation” because we will always fall short. We are only saved through our faith in Christ. However, our actions do indicate whether we are the foolish man Jesus talked about who hears the words and does not put them into practice and is like a man who built his house on sand. If we simply hear but do not take action, like the idea of the gospel but don’t fully give our lives over to Christ, pray a prayer without actually accepting the authority of Jesus into our life over the way we live, then we are just building a house on sand.
We are not perfect. There will always be setbacks. We will face adversity in our walk and the enemy will work like crazy to tempt us back into our old way of living. How we respond after falling short is one of the biggest pieces of “fruit on the vine” that we can observe in our own life. A changed heart will desire to repent, turn, and get back on the path even though it is difficult. If we have not truly given our life over to Christ it is far simpler to rationalize, justify, and continue down our old path.
This isn’t as warm and fuzzy as some versions of the gospel that are preached in America today, but Jesus wasn’t going for warm and fuzzy when you listen to his teaching. He was going for radical heart change.
It starts with honestly observing our fruit.
The question, “Have I truly given my life over to Christ?” is the most critical question we can ask ourselves. It has eternal consequences. It is way easier to just coast along and say, “Yeah, of course. I prayed that prayer a while ago!”
I personally “prayed that prayer” several times in my life before I believe that I was actually saved. I don’t know how many times it took, but it was more than one or two. Previously I said all the right words, “Jesus, come into my life.” but didn’t actually accept him in. It doesn’t do any good inviting a friend over if you refuse to open the door and allow them into your house when they arrive.
When I finally decided it was time to really allow God to take control of my life, the aftermath of that prayer looked a whole lot different. I began rebuilding the broken down foundation, previously built on sand, but this time built it on the rock. My fruit starting looking different than it had previously. Life didn’t get easier over night, but the gospel doesn’t promise “easy”. However, there was so much more peace, contentment, and a genuine desire to share what Christ did in my life.
I think this desire to share about Jesus tells us a whole lot about where our hearts are. In Psalm 9 today we read, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.”
When Jesus is allowed to enter your life and true transformation occurs, it is so exciting! I couldn’t wait to tell someone, and then someone else, and then someone else…about God’s wonderful deeds. The fruit I began to see on my vine was full of thankfulness and amazement that I could be so loved when still so lost.
Jesus wants to be truly invited in. He is standing there are the door waiting. He wants to help each and every one of us to build our houses on the rock and be a vine that produces fruit.
Over the past several days we worked through so many aspects of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus doesn’t dance around the truth or soften his message. It was a challenging message he delivered. At times I read Matthew 5-7 and it can feel hopeless. How can we live up to this?
Jesus wants to be invited in so that he can do the heavy lifting. We cannot possibly hope to do it ourselves.
I hope as we wrap up these several days working through the Sermon on the Mount, that we all have the same response that the crowd had at the end of Matthew 7 when Jesus finished: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.”
Thought to ponder
Have I truly given my life over to Jesus or have I had a “New Year’s resolution” type of faith so far in life and build my house on sand?