Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:21d “. . .but he that doeth. . .”
Many who plan to enter Heaven won’t. Relying on wrong evidence of salvation, people think they are on the narrow way, but actually walk several counterfeit paths. First, many try to go to Heaven by following the trail of no self-examination. Ever evaluate our own spiritual lives. Second, many seek to go to Heaven via the path of orthodoxy, intellectually believing the right things. Third, many hope to run to Heaven on the track of religious fervor, but religiosity can’t open Heaven’s door.
Fourth, many plan to enter Heaven by a road paved with good intentions. They never quite get around to doing the Lord’s work, but always mean to. We all need to be reminded, any one who is saved “doeth” something about it (Sheldon).
Everyone who calls Jesus “Lord, Lord” has to support their claim with evidence. “Empty compliments are not worth the breath which utters them” (Pink). Verbal professions must be backed up with visible deeds.
Actual, obedient doing is the truest mark of a genuine believer, but some are always waiting for a more convenient time to serve God better. Stuff always gets in the way of giving the Lord’s service priority. The mission trip we plan to take is next year’s; the Sunday School class we intend to teach is next year’s; the soulwinning we need to do will happen next year; daily prayer and Bible time will start real soon. The actual work never gets done, but planning to do it salves the conscience.
Jesus did not say, “Well thought, good and faithful servant,” or “Well intended, good and faithful servant.” He said, “Well done” (MT 25:21). Mere wishing will never do. Intents can be frequent and fervent, yet worthless. Quit waiting till tomorrow to begin doing what we should have started doing yesterday. Our delay could be a warning. God’s not working in us may mean God’s not present in us.
The only salvation that saves is the one that makes us act like we’re saved. Let me make two clarifications. First, we do not advocate sinless perfection. The only way to live above sin is to rent a second floor apartment over a tavern. Even the best Christians stumble into sin. No one reaches perfection here, but it should always be our goal, yea our obsession. True believers ever yearn for righteousness.
Second, we do not advocate salvation by good works. We are saved by grace through faith (EP 2:8), but faith without works is dead, as James said thrice in one chapter (2:17,20,26). Salvation is not produced by good works, but does produce good works. Being born again will result in an ongoing spiritual life of obedience.
Matt. 7:21e “. . .the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Fifth, many intend to trek to Heaven on the detour of selective repentance. Rather than do all the Father’s will, they pick and choose parts of His will they want to do. This Sermon on the Mount did much to reveal the Father’s will, and our response to Jesus’ words is not to be deliberation or deletion of some commands. His words are not to be brushed aside at will or passed over as items on a smorgasbord.
God is not interested in our critiques of His requirements. The Duke of Wellington, told by an officer of engineers that his orders would be impossible to execute, replied, “Sir, I did not ask your opinion, I gave you my orders, and I expect them to be obeyed.” Likewise, everything the Master bids, we do. Everything He forbids, we don’t do. Our duty is to obey all His counsel, not to select portions.
Selective repentance is becoming more common among American Christians. We often have a defective hatred of sin. We dislike it in others, but opt to keep our own pet sins. Repentance, though, is genuine only when it includes all of our own personal sins. Salvation is impossible apart from a repentance which causes us to spend the rest of our lives at war with our every sin. If we ever come to terms with any sin, living in peace with it, something is dreadfully wrong in our Christianity.
When we become a Christian, at the moment of our new birth, we repent, we turn from, and express sorrow for, every sin in our life. After our regeneration, this sense of repentance remains, becoming an ongoing integral trait of our Christian lives. We spend our whole lives, as it were, living out again and again that first moment. We never stop repenting, never cease flushing out every evil in our lives.
People unconcerned about having all their present sins cleansed have reason to doubt if all their past sins were ever forgiven. Anyone having no desire to come to God for continued, thorough cleansing may have never come for cleansing at all.
God-fearing believers grieve over each and every one of their sins. A key assurance of salvation is, when we do sin, we are not flippant, but grieved. The wicked, though, stays in his sin and at the same time “flattereth himself in his own eyes” (PS 36:2). Despite his sin, he deems himself a fine fellow, but to smooth over one’s own sinful conduct is merely to smooth one’s own path to Hell (Spurgeon).
I vividly remember the day God impressed deep in me the need for absolute holiness, for holding no sin back. About twenty years ago in my office at Gosnell Baptist Church, I was considering James 2:10, “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of sin in having tried to piecemeal my life, to concentrate on maybe one or two sins at a time, as opposed to utter abandonment of my entire self unto holiness. Sensing myself to be sinful and undone, I fell out of my chair and while lying flat on the floor cried out to God to take all of me, to leave not one whit unpurged. That moment of sacred burning continues to be a defining event for me.
Many American Christians have made peace with certain sins. They believe they can be okay with God, yet at the same time have, hold, and harbor pet sins. The movie “Ghost” is a classic example of current American thinking. The movie depicts some people going to Heaven, others to Hell. This is no surprise, most Americans still believe in Heaven and Hell. The critical point, though, is the criteria used to determine each one’s everlasting destiny. The thieves and murderers go to Hell, the sexually promiscuous go to Heaven. Selective obedience is the theme.
Beware this subtle danger. A selective repentance is no repentance at all. Repentance is genuine only when it reaches all sin, including all “my” sin. Test ourselves. When the preacher preaches on our pet sin, does the arrow find its mark deep in our spirit, or does it glance off a hardened heart? We are in danger when we hear a convicting message about our own sins, but do not apply it to ourselves.
It should be our heart’s desire that any sin hidden from our self-consciousness be revealed to us in order that we might repent of it. The Psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (139:23-24). Ultimately, this searching, knowing, trying, and seeing is not for God’s information. He already knows all about us. The bottom line is that God might dredge these unrealized sins up from our subconscious mind and make us know our actual status before Him. “Oh, Lord, reveal to us our sins that we might repent of each and every one.”