May 26, 2009

The Seriousness of Deception

Last week we began looking at Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15–23. In these verses He gives us two reasons why we must guard against spiritual deception. His first reason (vv. 15–20) is that deceivers are dangerous. Today we look at His second reason in verses 21–23:
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Final JudgmentThis text shows us the seriousness of spiritual deception. Deceivers aren’t just dangerous, they’re damned—and I don’t use the word lightly. Jesus takes us to the final judgment to expose these false prophets for who they really are.

First, notice how strong their confession is: “Lord, Lord.” This isn’t merely a casual profession; the false workers are adamant in calling Jesus their Lord, and they appeal repeatedly to His lordship for emphasis. Yet they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Why? Because they haven’t done the Father’s will. True believers must live in submission to the Father.

What do you mean, they haven’t done the Father’s will? Haven’t they prophesied, cast out demons, and done “many mighty works?” And don’t forget, Jesus doesn’t even suggest that these supernatural acts didn’t occur as claimed; evidently the false workers really did accomplish these things. Shouldn’t prophecy, exorcism, and miracles prove beyond a doubt that the one doing them truly speaks for God?

No. Jesus says that in the last days, “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). The signs many so often seek today are not what our Savior teaches us is important; in fact, false prophets and deceivers can accomplish many amazing things in Jesus’ name.

But Jesus declares: “I never knew you.” It’s not as though He once knew them and later they fell away through disobedience; they were never Christ’s disciples. As He says elsewhere, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In Jesus we become the healthy tree that bears good fruit by doing the Father’s will (see John 15:1–11).

So Jesus quotes Psalm 6:8 and pronounces judgment: “Depart from me.” What awful words! Matthew Henry expresses the horror of these words well:
When he came in the flesh, he called sinners to him, but when he shall come again in glory, he will drive sinners from him. They that would not come to him to be saved, must depart from him to be damned. To depart from Christ is the very hell of hell; it is the foundation of all the misery of the damned, to be cut off from all hope of benefit from Christ and his mediation. See from what a height of hope men may fall into the depth of misery! How they may go to hell, by the gates of heaven!
Spiritual deception has eternal consequences. Can we take it lightly? Is it safe to disregard Christ’s command to beware of this ever-present deception? Of course not. You and I must always be on guard—and we must help equip our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world to follow our Savior’s warning.