Matthew 7:21-23 Message

Matthew 7:21-23 Message

Doing the Will of God

Matthew 7:21-23
Key Verse 7:21
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.”

Today we will learn what it means to follow God’s will. Many people wonder what is God’s will? Including myself. The Bible tells us the starting point for following God’s will. When we follow God’s will, we can have a relationship with God and He is pleased. Without a relationship with God, we cannot know God. May we learn about God’s will, obey it, and have a relationship with our creator God.

As we see in the key verse, verse 21, there are two different types of believers, or “followers” of Jesus. These two different groups of believers, have something in common. They both call Jesus “Lord”. In their lives they both participated in similar activities which might identify them as believers in Jesus, even performing miracles and driving out demons. Perhaps both groups of people wore What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) T-shirts. However, Jesus said not all of those who call him Lord would enter the kingdom of heaven. They are defined and separated by Jesus, and they have two different eternal destinies. One group inherits eternal life, the other perishes. Verse 21 follows along with the previous 5 verses, where Jesus tells of two different types of trees, one which bears good fruit, and the other bears bad fruit. It may be difficult to tell them apart, but Jesus said “by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Let’s look at verse 21 again. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus said this about those who are simply calling him ‘Lord’. It implies they are only acknowledging Jesus’ Lordship using words and not actions.

We cannot help but read this passage with curiosity and even some trepidation, wondering if we will be surprised one day expecting a great reward from God and not getting one. Like the expectation of getting an “A” in a class, and opening the report card to see an “F”. What a reality check for some this will be! Perhaps to some it isn’t fair. But God’s will for us is mentioned in many places in the New Testament. So it is reasonable to say the will of God can be known. So, let’s dig deeper and find out what we need to do to do God’s will and enter the kingdom of heaven.

What is God’s will for us? There are four of them outlined in the New Testament. The first is explained in John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” This verse is the essence of the gospel. God sent his only son Jesus to save us from our sins. We are doing the will of God when we believe in Jesus. Many people have many ideas about who Jesus is. Once Jesus once asked his disciples “Who do people say I am?” (Mk 8:27b). They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29). Peter answered, “You are the Christ.” Like Peter, we must also have a similar confession about Jesus, believing in him as the Christ, and believing in him as our personal Savior.

In John chapter 6 there is the amazing story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves and two fish. Jesus had a shepherd heart for these helpless people. The next day they followed Jesus to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus knew their motives and said to them “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” (John 6:26) The people were blinded by their base desires to get a free meal and did not see Jesus as the Messiah. Here we see they did not know Jesus, and therefore Jesus did not know them. We cannot create our own version of Jesus, or who we want him to be. We must believe in Jesus as our Savior to truly know him. When we do so we are on the path of following God’s will for our life.

There are a few more verses which mention God’s will for us. Look at 1st Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We often thank God when things are good, but do not thank him when things are not good. Some do not thank God at all. In the story of the 10 lepers in Luke chapter 17, Jesus healed them all, but only one returned to thank Jesus. Jesus was disappointed only one leper returned. Unthankfulness grieves God. Learning to thank God in all circumstances is indeed a discipline, and it is like exercising a spiritual muscle. We should not always go by our feelings. We must make a choice to see that God is with us and loves us, and to see the good things we have. When we have a thankful mind we find that hardships are often blessings in disguise.

I struggled with thankfulness most of my Christian life, especially during difficult circumstances. I used to work in construction outdoors as a civil engineer. While working outside in the tall grass I contracted Lyme disease from an insect bite, which proved difficult to get rid of. Generally it is very hard to treat. However, I managed it well and even prospered in many ways. But I was living a spiritually complacent life. Then one day during a routine doctor appointment my doctor recommended the flu vaccine. This proved to be a mistake and brought me out of remission and I got very sick again after the shot. I hardly got any sleep and had reaction to all kinds of food and could hardly eat. It was very difficult to function. It was a nightmare and things seemed to get worse and worse. If I walked a block I felt very sick afterwards, even though I was used to running miles. I wanted to complain, but I had learned from my past of unthankfulness and repented. I disciplined myself to say and believe that God is good all the time. If ever I felt like I was in despair I would say “God is good,” and find something to be thankful for. I believe this was a spiritual test for me, and it has brought me to repentance. I recovered to the point where I could walk and not feel sick. Thank God. I found God’s purpose for disciplining me and I am very thankful for it. Like Paul I am strong when I am weak, because when I am weak I turn to Jesus. Now I choose to believe God wants me to be completely healed and I believe He has a great purpose for me. I still have a long way to go but all things are possible with God. Amen.

I believe my situation is not unique, but we all may experience a great challenge in our life. A health problem, or a financial problem, or career problem. Something that makes us say, “My life would be a lot easier if I did not have this problem.” It is at that time we must thank God, knowing God is with us, he love us, and we have eternal life. When we do so we strengthen our relationship with God and He is pleased with us. What are you struggling with? When it troubles you, say “God is good” and then be thankful!

So far we discussed two things required to do God’s will, first we must believe in Jesus, next we must give thanks in all circumstances. Now let’s look at number three. First Thessalonians 4:3 says “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;”. Sexual immorality is rampant in our society today, sadly even among Christians. It is no wonder that Jesus said in verse 23 to the nominal believers, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” The devil is good at setting traps for Christians to lure them away from the will of God. They fall into fear, doubt, self condemnation and they cannot have a relationship with Jesus. How can we be sanctified according to this passage? Psalm 119 verse 9 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” By following God’s word we can avoid sinful temptation. We need to follow Jesus’ word and be accountable for our actions. We must keep our ways pure and keep our social interactions appropriate. We must avoid sexual sin and live as true believers of Jesus.

Finally we come to our fourth and final point. let’s look at 1 Peter chapter 2 versus 13-15. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” These verses give us practical instructions how to follow God’s will. We must not give worldly people any reason to find fault in our character. In doing so we silence the talk of foolish and ungodly people, and we can even win them over for Christ. We can submit to the authorities, even ungodly ones knowing that God is the final judge. We should pay taxes, even though we do not want to. We should practice ethical behavior at work and submit to our bosses’ expectations. We should pray for peace and social change instead of rioting. Our angry political posts on Facebook only make us look bad, and create factions of people who hate each other. Then the talk of foolish men abounds. We cannot win over anyone in this way, but only by doing good.

In this passage we have discussed four wills of God in the Bible. A well known Christian author and contributor to the Focus on the Family ministry summarizes these principals with the acronym B.A.G.S, which stands for believe, abstain, give thanks, and submit. But practicing this is a challenge. What are some of the challenges with obeying the will of God? Many times God’s will conflicts with our own will. Once I was planning to transfer my college credits at COD to a four year school far away. I saw it as a good chance to do my own will and enjoy a sinful college life. But when I prayed about it at that moment the phone rang and a woman of God told me, “It’s better for you to go to UIC and stay involved in ministry.” So that is what I did, even though it was a hard decision for me to make. To follow Jesus, we must first believe in Jesus which also means we must acknowledge we are sinners and humble ourselves before God. We must die to our sinful desires and live a new life. We must be thankful, we can no longer complain endlessly around the water cooler at work like we used to, but believe and have faith that God is always good.

It seems very hard to do, but with Jesus’ example we can do it. Jesus struggled at the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed to his Father in heaven, “Father if you are willing take this cup from me, yet not my will but your will be done.” Jesus ultimately surrendered his body on the cross and fulfilled God’s will. Jesus broke the curse of Adam who was disobedient to God. By following Jesus we can follow God’s will. We can find our unique purpose to spread the gospel helping others to believe in Jesus also. In this passage we learn that to enter heaven, we must follow the will of God. Then we can have a relationship with Jesus and he will welcome us to heaven, knowing us by name. May God help us to put into practice his will, moving forward and not looking back, and be fruitful in Jesus and truly blessed. Amen.

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