It’s Not Enough To Say Lord! Lord!
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Matthew 7: 21 – 29. Focus on why it’s not enough to claim you are a Christian you must act like one! Check out Mara Adler’s solo following sermon.
In a nutshell Jesus’ brother James echoes these verses when he says, “Be doers of God’s word and not hearers only.” (James 1: 22) Put yet another way. You can’t work your way into heaven but you sure can work your way into hell.
I’ll give you an example of what Jesus is talking about from the field of addiction. When an alcoholic first comes into recovery they are often told that it’s there very best thinking that has lead them into a life of addiction. And so they’re taught to stop trusting their will and start trusting God to restore them to sanity and they do this by prayer and by taking good orderly direction from fellow alcoholics who’ve been working a spiritual program of recovery over a long period of time.
And by doing this they learn to discern God’s will from their own will. The same is true for Christians. All Christians are sinners, but not all Christians know that they’re sinners, and therein lies the danger, because a person can walk and talk like a Christian and not be walking or talking for God, but instead just be walking and talking for themselves.
That’s why Jesus says things like “I’m present when two or three of you are gathered,” not just one, because left to our own devices we like any addict or alcoholic have this tendency to take our own wills back and act on them rather than acting or even seeking to do God’s will.
Now notice that the issue over who will and will not be entering God’s kingdom doesn’t revolve around action as much as it does motive. In fact, there are those who are speaking in God’s name, and even doing mighty works in God’s name, but their words and actions are not of God, because they are acting out of their own will and not God’s.
And to make that point clear Jesus adds, “Every one who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on a rock; and everyone who hears these words and doesn’t do them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.”
It’s one thing to agree to the truth of this. It’s a whole different thing to live as if this was true. So what constitutes God’s will? In a word – love. Love is the sum of the law and the prophets. Love is all you need. Love never ends. And everything that is of God comes out of love and everything that is not of God does not.
Just a few examples from Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” “Love your enemies.” “Lose your life for others.” “Cloth the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison.” All of these are examples of actions taken out of love.
“Picking the speck out of our neighbors eyes when you have a log in your own, cheating on our spouses, nursing anger, failing to be reconciled with your neighbor,” are a few examples of what is not the will of God. It’s simple, but it’s not simplistic.
The foundation of our lives can be built out of faith; hope and love or it can be built out of anxiety, fear and anger. These seem to be the two foundations that Jesus alludes to in his allegory of the builders. Love is always built on sure ground. Anger is not.
Does that mean that all will go well or be well for you if you build your life out of love? Does that mean that your life will be a constant joy ride? No! It does, however, mean that you will walk in the power of the Lord. It does mean that your chances of experiencing the peace that passes all understanding will greatly increase. It does mean that you are likely to find and save your life, which simply means having and living a life that is filled with meaning and purpose and not one that’s empty and fear filled.
But it’s not enough to agree with these words we have to act on them. That’s why this way of life is simple but not simplistic. It takes work to build a life out of love. It’s far easier to react, to get angry, to worry, to rationalize our actions. The buts are always out there. And every time we add a “but” we add just that much more sand to the mixture in the foundation. And we don’t need more sand. What we need is reinforced concrete.
And how do we do that? By practicing these spiritual disciplines. Begin every day with prayer. Ask God to take your will and your life and show you how to live just for today. Do that every day. Get and set your mind right or as Paul would say it, “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
And last but not least find someone who lives this way. Find a real Christian, someone aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, someone with integrity and the capacity to love and do as they do. Let them into your life. Let them know who you really are, faults and all and let them be your guide. That’s what Paul also means when he adds, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)
I think that’s what this text means. I think that’s what the church is to be about, helping each other get honest and get right with God and one another. That’s why we need one another and God. There’s no shortcut to learning this. It requires a lifetime of discipline and commitment but it’s the only way to build a meaningful life. Amen