“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.’” (Matt. 7:21-23).
It must never be forgotten that it was Church people, religious people who put Jesus to death. He came to His and His own did not receive Him. On the one hand, we have very good reason for rejoicing in God’s kindness to us and in the clear fruit of the Spirit in our midst. Many of us have witnessed lives changed, true sorrow over sin, sweet forgiveness and reconciliation, and radical repentance. These are the signs of regeneration, the signs that someone has been born again, and now Jesus lives inside us, and He is subduing the power of sin and giving us more strength to love and obey God and to delight in obeying Him.
But there is always the danger in any gathering of Christians for people to go through the motions, to say the right words, to conform to the externals, to smile and nod, and say Lord, Lord, and yet not actually know the Lord. And there will be many on the last day who stand before God pointing to their perfect church attendance record, not singing off pitch, wearing a tie, being nice and polite after church, and Jesus will say He never knew them, He never met them. And the reason will be that they never really changed. Sin was never really conquered because Jesus was never really their Lord.
I remember talking to Jim Wilson one time about an individual we were both meeting with, and he said, “When Jesus saves someone, he does a better job than that.” And this points to at least two things: First, the Bible says that the works of the flesh are manifest. It’s pretty obvious when someone is still in the dark. And this is because of the second thing: Jesus saves sinners. Jesus changes lives. True Christians still battle sin, but little by little Jesus wins the victory.