dragadiddle asked a question:
How do you interpret Matthew 7:21-23?
Hey my dear friend, you’re referring to this very scary passage said by Jesus:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Please allow me the grace to say something tough here.
Jesus said really hard things that we tend to skip over.
He said that it’s better to cut off your hand to stop sinning than to enter hell with two healthy hands. Is that a metaphor? Or Jesus keeping it real?
He talked about a place of unceasing anguish and tormenting fire, where “the worm never dies.” By worms, he meant that our rotting flesh will continually be feasted on by hungry worms. Is that a metaphor? Or Jesus keeping it real?
He said anyone who causes someone to stumble should tie a millstone around their necks and throw themselves in the ocean. Millstones weighed like a ton. He probably said this while pointing to a millstone, because all good preachers use object illustrations.
I just think that sometimes we dress up Jesus as a doe-eyed haloed white American surfer holding dry-cleaned sheep and he said things like “I love you no matter what” all the time. And while it’s absolutely true that he loves us no matter what, the love of Jesus was absolutely ferocious, life-changing, and heart-rending. Anyone who met Jesus would never, ever be the same. There’s no neutral reaction to him, or else we haven’t met him.
But all his hard teaching was from a place of love and grief for us. If Hell really existed, how could he talk about anything else? How was he not going crazy just grabbing people and screaming in their face about it? If love is the most important reality of humanity, how was he not talking about millstones all the time?
In Jesus, I read these hard things as if he had tears in his eyes, weeping over his people. And in Scripture, we see this happened too. [Luke 19:41, John 11:35] Jesus was a man of love, but also a man of sorrows, for he grieved with us and for us. He was desperate to tell us the truth of the universe, and he often used extreme examples to make his point.
When people actually read Matthew 5-7, the famous Sermon on the Mount, they end up hating it. It’s like a slowly tightening chokehold until you finally tap out or wave it off. But think: Jesus was merely reflecting the pure holiness of God. People either cower in God’s presence or have contempt for it. Saying such hard things naturally bothers us because we become aware of our own sin and shortcomings.
Yet the Sermon on the Mount was only the diagnosis, the halfway point of Jesus’s ministry. In the end, Jesus died for all the ways we failed the Beatitudes. He died for all the Proverbs we couldn’t keep, for the Law we disobeyed, for the Prophets we failed to honor.
And in Matthew 7, he is not only calling out “rebels” and “sinners,” but the highly religious, the people who have an air of humility and godliness, but don’t really know Him. God wants us to be sure we’re not merely religious people who do Christian things around God, but that we’re saved forgiven people who do Christ-centered things with God. It’s there we find the Good News that Jesus has done this for us in the cross and the empty tomb.
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