As we come to the end of this powerful personal message from Jesus to His disciples, I hope you have been challenged and encouraged as I have been. It is truly one of the masterpieces of wisdom and truth ever spoken by Jesus. May God awaken these truths within your heart, and may it bring forth the fruit of a changed life!
The subject of these final words of Jesus is difficult to hear for some, because it covers the topic of God’s judgment. For some, thinking about judgment brings fear, anxiety, and concern. However, it is a subject that must be addressed, because sooner or later the judgment of God is coming to every one of our lives. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). He made it clear that there are two resurrections, one to life and one to condemnation. Which resurrection will you be a part of? Do you truly understand that we will all live forever? But you get to make the choice of where you will live out your eternity.
In the teaching we are about to study, Jesus also revealed the basis upon which judgment will be determined. It will all come down to whether you heard His message and obeyed it, or not. Do you realize there is a consequence for every spiritual truth that you hear, and every Bible study you attend? The consequence is that you are now responsible for what you have heard. This is why Jesus ends this sermon with a very clear warning. I will not soften the impact of this message in any way. It may upset some of you as you read, but I think that is a good thing. It will make you take a hard look at yourself and this topic. So, let’s look at what Jesus taught.
He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!' Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken to him a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it fell. And great was its fall. And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at his teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” I also hope that you have been astonished, moved, and challenged by what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
What is the point of what Jesus taught?
The message in this last section of this sermon is a simple warning. It is important to understand, because you must see the big picture of His overall message, lest you get lost in the specific details. Jesus is communicating that there is a consequence to your beliefs and actions. There is a consequence to having an external religious behavior instead of having a real relationship with Him. Jesus did not want an external religious show by the Pharisees. He wanted humble disciples who are in love with Him. He has made this point all through this sermon and points it out again in His last words. Note the three things that Jesus warns them about. Three things they are not to trust.
Don’t trust in religious words.
Notice in verse 21 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me.” Jesus knew men very well. He knew it was so easy to say religious words, but not live by them. Jesus identified this problem as one of the basic characteristics of the Pharisees. He taught His disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matt. 23:2-3). In other words, the Pharisees could talk a good talk, but they were not men of their word. They just used religious words to gain advantage over people, but they had no personal follow through. You have probably all met individuals like this who profess faith in Christ and are very persuasive with Christian jargon, but when you watch their lives there is little reality to their words. A person can sound so spiritual, but when you really get to know them, you realize that they know little of Him. Some people are even living a double life. When you see this you think to yourself, Wow, how can that be? The answer is simple, it’s just religious words they have learned. Don't trust people like this. In Titus 1:16, Paul also warned us of those he knew through his ministry. He said, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him.” In other words, your life and works must be in harmony with what you profess. Jesus will say of those who profess to know him; “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). In addition, the Apostle John taught the same thing. He said, “He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). Jesus, Paul, and John were all in agreement that religious words mean nothing before God. He wants to see the action that is in harmony with your words, otherwise He says, you are living a lie.
Don’t trust in religious works.
The second thing Jesus warns the disciples about is to not trust in religious works. He said, “Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name.” So, here is a profession of religious works without real relationship with Jesus. He again will say to this individual, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23). Note that these were some tremendous religious works that Jesus mentions here. These people prophesied in His Name; they cast out demons in His Name, and they did wonders, (which means miracles), in His name. Now when most Christians read this they think, Wait a minute, how in the world could somebody do a miracle, or cast out a demon, or prophesy in His name and not really be a true believer? There is a simple answer to this question that many forget. When a miracle is done, sometimes it is the faith of the person that is being prayed for, and not the preacher or the evangelist. Another possibility is that preacher or evangelist could be a false professor, such as Balaam. Remember what Jude declared in Jude 1:11. He said, “Woe to them! For they had gone in the way of Cain, they have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” Balaam could prophesy, but he was obviously an evil man, and he was prophesying for the wrong reason. It was only to make money. In addition, in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 it declares that the Antichrist, or “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.” Notice the Antichrist is going to be accepted by individuals in the last days, specifically because he's going to do miracles. There will be signs and wonders done by this person, and by the false prophet who is with him. My question is, are these two doing these miracles by the power of God? Absolutely not! Just because you see a miracle or hear a powerful prophecy being given doesn’t mean anything. You need to examine the fruit of the person’s life and their beliefs. Why? Because someone can do these things by a power that is not the power of God. Even in the Old Testament the people were warned that if someone came and did a miracle, the people were told to then listen to what they told you to do. If they were told to follow after some other god, they were to know that this person was a false prophet that had not be sent by the Lord (Deut. 18:20-22).
Don’t trust in religious knowledge.
The third thing which Jesus taught was that you should not trust in religious knowledge. In fact, I will guarantee you that there will be a whole lot of people with a whole lot of Biblical knowledge that will end up in hell. Why do I say that? Jesus said a very similar thing in Luke 13:24-28. He said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.” Notice again this word that truly saddens my heart, “many.” Many will seek to enter into the kingdom and not be able. Note, He doesn’t say that He never knew them, but only that He doesn’t know them now. This word know is in the perfect tense, which refers to a past action that has present and continuous results today. In addition, when Jesus said, “I do not know you, where you are from” the verb “are” is in the present tense. Jesus was speaking about people who say, “You taught in our streets,” which means that they knew biblical truth, and yet He didn’t know them at that present moment. He is probably referring to those who have sat in church and heard the Word of God preached and never responded in repentance, or those who have fallen away and are not following Him now. Jesus expects people to act upon the knowledge they have of Him. He expects nothing less! Jesus said that the reason they are cast out is because they practiced iniquity. The word practiced is in the present tense which means this was a lifestyle of practicing sinful behavior without repentance. They obviously were not acting on the knowledge they had of Him.
What is the basis of God’s judgment?
The basis of God's judgment is a vital and important truth to understand. Each of us will stand before Him one day and therefore, you need this understanding. First, notice in this passage in Matthew 7:21-23 that Jesus declares that He is the final judge of mankind. He said, “I will declare to them, I never knew you; Depart from Me.” Therefore, He is the ultimate judge. You will stand before Him one day. What will be His decision concerning you?
God’s knowledge of you and your heart is the basis of His judgment.
The basis of your relationship with Him, or the lack thereof, is what will determine whether or not you enter the kingdom. This is what is meant in verse 23, “I will declare to them I never knew you.” Knowing Him is the central issue. This word know is a very important word. It is the Greek word that describes an intimate personal experiential knowledge. This word know does not refer to just intellectual knowledge; it is talking about experientially knowing Him. The difference between intellectual and experiential knowledge is best illustrated this way. You can tell your child not to put their hand near the flame on the stove because it will burn them. Your words give them intellectual knowledge that the flame could burn them and that this would hurt them. But, once they get their hand over the flame and they feel the fire burn them, they won’t have experiential knowledge. Only then will they know by experience that fire burns them.
Scripture uses the same word know in Luke 1:34, when Mary responds to the angel who told her that she was pregnant and that she was going to have a child. Her response was, “How can this be, since I do not know a man.” She used the word know to describe the physical intimacy between a husband and a wife. The bottom line is this, God has to know you personally and intimately and have a one-on-one relationship with you. You have to know Him, and personally know the power of His resurrection in your life. He either knows you like this, or He does not know you at all!
Knowing Him is also the key to obedience in the Christian life. This is where the power comes from to walk in His steps and to follow Him. Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”…“Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Matt. 7:24; 26). So, he contrasts this wise or foolish man based on, did he do what God told him to do, or not?
Jesus is clearly making obedience to His word the ultimate proof that you know Him. There are two reasons for disobedience and ultimate rejection by Christ at the judgment. First, we have just explained that if a person practices iniquity or sin throughout their life, this will lead Jesus to say, “I never knew you.” The second reason for disobedience and ultimate rejection by Jesus, is when a person who professes Christ doesn’t continue to practice righteousness. This action is taken because they have turned away from Him, and have gone back to their previous lifestyle. Jesus referred to this problem in Luke 12:45-46. Jesus said, “But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” (Luke 12:45-46). Jesus made it clear that His basis of judgment will center around a person following the Lord. When a person’s heart turns away from faith and hope in the Lord’s return, and their behavior returns to the way they used to live, they are in danger of His severe judgment. It is essential that a believer must persevere in his or her walk with Jesus. But I meet professing believers all the time who are living in and practicing sin. They are living with their boyfriend; they're getting high on drugs; or getting drunk. At the same time, they believe that they are going to heaven, but that's not what Jesus taught here. If you are a follower of Jesus and you meet someone like this, in love, tell them the truth. Paul said, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). Encourage that person to wake up and make a decision, because their lifestyle will determine whether or not they enter the kingdom of heaven. This is why we are encouraged in Galatians 6:1 to restore those who have been overtaken in a fault. If you know a professing believer in this self-deception, overtaken by their sin, not coming to church anymore, please go and seek to restore them today. Go after them, and reach out to them, if you truly care about them.
God’s judgment is based on the fact that He knows all things about you.
Knowing that God knows all things about you is essential as you consider the basis upon which His final determination will be made. Think for a moment about what He knows about you. Does He know if you truly love Him? Sure! What did Jesus say to the church at Ephesus? He revealed His knowledge of them when He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Rev. 2:4). Notice He didn’t say you have lost your first love. No, He said, “you have left your first love.” This was a willful choice on their part, and He knew all about it, and warned them to return to Him.
What did Jesus ask Peter? “Do you love me” (John 21:16)? Is Jesus asking this question because He doesn’t really know if Peter loved Him or not? No, Jesus knew. But, did Peter have a firm grasp on where his own heart was at that time? I don’t believe so. Love for God is the essential quality needed for a close and intimate fellowship with Him. Without it you can’t know the Lord as you desire. So, do you love Him with that first love experience that you had when you came to faith in Him? Does that passionate desire to know more of Him dwell within you? He knows the truth, but do you know? Notice what Jesus said about the Pharisees. In John 5:42, He said to these men, “But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.” This knowledge is the basis of His dealings with the religious leaders. In John 8:42, Jesus also said to the Pharisees, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God.” In John 8:45, Jesus said again to the Pharisees, “Because I tell the truth, you do not believe in Me.” All Jesus is concerned about is whether or not they love Him and believe in Him. Why are these two questions important to the Lord? Because your entire Christian life flows from those two issues. You must have a personal love relationship and a sincere faith in Him. This is the basis upon which God will judge each of us.
God’s judgment is based on the fact that He knows if you are actually a doer of the word.
Jesus stated this basis of judgment in verse 24 when He said, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to be a wise man.” The word does in this verse is in the present tense, which means this is something you continuously practice in your life. This is what the Scripture calls the practice of righteousness. Now I know that some of you are probably thinking right now, Does anyone really obey His commands consistently and practice righteousness? Yes, absolutely. I would venture to say that most of you reading this right now consistently obey Him. But I know some of you are still thinking, But you don’t know what I did just yesterday when I got angry at that person, and I exploded on them. I am such a sinner and I fail like this sometimes. Yes, I agree with you, that is sin. But what did you do after you exploded? You repented and asked God to forgive you. Then after you prayed, you went back and asked that person to forgive you, didn’t you? Well, that's practicing righteousness. You are not practicing sin. Sin that is practiced is sinful behavior for which you have not repented. Sin that has been repented of will be forgiven, and that person has changed. This is the person Jesus considered as consistently doing the will of his Father. Jesus taught this truth in a short parable He explained in Matthew 21:28-32. Jesus said, “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him” (Matt. 21:28-32). What is the point of this parable? Don’t be like the Pharisees who knew the commands of the Father, had promised to obey them, but then refused to repent and follow Jesus. Rather, be like the tax collectors and harlots who at first refused to follow Him and lived sinful lives, but when they heard Jesus speak, repented and followed Him. The glorious truth is that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The word confess in this verse is in the present tense which means that if I am continually confessing my sins, He is continually forgiving me of my sins, and continually cleansing me from all unrighteousness. The continual practice of righteousness means to simply agree with God over your sin, and you will be forgiven. This is the opposite of the practice of lawlessness. Why? Because when we fail and sin, we nullify this unrighteousness by doing the will of our Father by confessing our sin and turning from that behavior just like the tax collectors and harlots did. In other words, repentance and confession are what it means to believe in Him. Remember, these were the first words that Jesus preached when He began His ministry. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). He simply wants us to see our faults and repent. We do that because we believe in Him, we love Him, and want to be right with Him. There is no sinless perfection here in this life, but there is a lifestyle of repentance and faith toward God. This is the will of the Father.
Your profession of faith will be tested.
The last point I want to make is that this passage reveals that you can be absolutely assured that one day everything you are and everything you have done will be tested by God. What do I mean? As you read this passage you realize that there are two tests. One test will be on “that day” (Vs. 22), referring to the final judgment day. The second test occurs today and throughout your lifetime. Will you stand these tests? Let’s look at these two tests.
The test on “that day”
Every individual who has ever lived will stand before God in judgment one day. There is a judgment for believers to determine rewards or the loss of rewards for your service to Jesus (Rom. 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:10-15). There is also a judgment of all unbelievers at God’s White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15). Are you ready for His final assessment of your life? Now, for those of you reading this who are believers, I want you to think about this judgment to come. Let’s say you knew that the rapture was going to take place an hour from now, or you were going to die in a car accident on the way home from work tomorrow, is there anything that you can think of that you don't want the Lord to bring up at that moment? Is there anything you don't want Him shouting from the rooftops for everyone to hear? That is exactly what Jesus said He was going to do. He taught, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3). So, if you don't want those things brought into the light, that should motivate you to repent of these things right now. You have an opportunity today to be forgiven, and these things will be cast into the depths of the sea never to be brought up again (Micah 7:19). Then on that day you can stand in confidence before Him.
There is also the judgment of the unbeliever. If you are reading this and you are not following Jesus, I shudder to think of what that day will be like for you. Jesus said that we all live forever, but you get to choose where you will spend eternity. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). He also said, “I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). This is pretty clear. On that day, you will give account for everything you have said or done. Ask God’s forgiveness NOW and receive Jesus by faith, and you will be saved from the wrath to come.
Standing today’s tests
The second test comes to you today and every day of your life. It is a test of your profession of faith, and upon what your foundation is built. In life there are constant storms, tests, trials, and difficult times. There are things that happen, that you think could never happen. However, tests and trials do come every day. The question is, how will you respond? These tests will reveal to you whether or not your house is built on the rock or on the sand? Your house will either stand or fall. What determines the standing or falling? It’s whether or not you have the right foundation. It's important to note that both true and false Christians will experience the storms and the trials of life. That's clear as Jesus describes the wise man and the foolish man. Both experience the same wind, rain, and floods. So, as a Christian don't think to yourself, Wait a minute, Lord. Why are you letting these trials come my way? I love you. I'm faithful to you. This isn’t supposed to happen! Oh, but it is supposed to happen to you. That is normal life. Living in a fallen world that is in rebellion against God is a setting for trials. In fact, just because you are a Christian, you have added certain other trials that someone who is not a Christian will not experience. When you speak up for Christ you are going to be persecuted and hated by people in this world. People will lie about you and hurt you, just because you are a Christian. So, don't think it strange, as Peter said, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13). So, expect the testing and trials; they are coming! Are you ready?
What determines if you will stand through these trials? Jesus said it’s your foundation. What makes a strong foundation? Scripture tells us exactly what makes your foundation strong. It begins with a true confession of faith. Peter confessed of Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16-18). This was Peter’s sincere confession of faith. Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:17-18). It is important to remember that Jesus wasn’t saying that Peter was the foundation upon which the church was to be built. The point Jesus was making here, is that it was Peter’s confession of faith, declaring Jesus is the Christ, that is the foundation upon which the whole church is built. Once you make this confession of faith, that Jesus is the Christ, you have laid your own foundation firmly on the Rock. You then need to continue building your life of faith on Him. He is the rock upon which you should be building your life. Jesus also metaphorically compared our physical body to a house, or a tent, as a temporary dwelling place. So, your entire life will either stand or fall, based on what you build your life upon. You will either build it on a rock or on the sand. One will endure the tests of time, and the other will fall.
The second thing that determines if your house will stand or fall is your obedience to His commands. Once you have believed in Him, and made a confession of faith, you must obey Him. This is the point Jesus made concerning the wise man who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built his house on the sand. Jesus is the one who interpreted this analogy. The wise man obeyed and did what he was told, the foolish man did not. Jesus taught this same truth in Luke 6:47-48. In this passage He gave a little more insight into what He was saying. He taught, “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock” (Luke 6:47-48). Notice the three elements that Jesus refers to here, “Whoever comes to Me, and hears my sayings, and does them.” These are three critical elements that He connects together. To be a wise man, you must come to Jesus, listen to what He says, and do what He tells you to do. This is what will cause your life to remain strong during the stress and trials of this life. So, how you deal with those tests and the storms of life that come your way, reveals to you upon what foundation you are building.
There is no reason for you to ever fall.
There is one last thing I want to say. Do you realize that there is no reason that you should ever fall, today or on that day? There is no reason in the world. Why? Look at the context of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7, what does that say? “Ask, and it will be given to you.” This is how you access the abundant strength and power of the Holy Spirit available to you. Whatever the need is, He can meet it. But you have not because you ask not (James 4:2). Why is prayer so important for you? Because it's what brings you into that intimate, personal, one-on-one contact relationship with the Lord. That's where the Lord wants to meet you. He wants you to talk to Him. In Second Peter 1:10, Peter said, “Brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble, or fall.” There is the promise! In this study you have been warned about falling. But I'm leaving you with the promise that you never have to fall. Yet, I've met Christians who say, “Oh, I'll never fall. I don't even think I can fall.” And I think to myself, what foolishness. This is why the Scripture says, “To him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” It's so foolish to think you don’t have that potential. But you don't have to fall. Not one of you reading this article has to fall. You can pass the test that's coming this week. You can pass the test that's coming on judgment day! If you would only do what He tells you to do. Come to Him, cast your cares upon Him, fall in love with Him, trust Him, and you will enter in the narrow gate, and you will walk on the narrow road. You will be a wise man or woman building your house on the rock, Jesus Christ. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). If He is your rock and your foundation, then you will stand the tests to come.
Let's go to him in prayer. Father, we thank You for the plan laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. Father, I pray that You would break each of our hearts today with how much You love us and want us to succeed. May we each come to You by faith every day, listen to Your voice, and obey You. Lord, I pray that You would drive Your truth home to our hearts that we might follow You with all our hearts. I pray that You would bring forth the fruit of Your Holy Spirit, and the fruit of righteousness in each of our lives, that we might know You, and the power of Your resurrection! Help us to grow and deepen our relationship with You as we build on that solid foundation.