Our title this morning for our message is "Profession Or Possession?" - profession or possession. The words that we read specifically in Matthew chapter 7 verses 21, 22 and 23 are the claims of those who are the false prophets that we were looking at last Lord's Day; and indeed, not only the false prophets but those who believe the false prophets and follow them. So these are the words, if you like, in the context of our passage - the words of those who profess and advocate and preach the wide gate and the broad road; those who try to encourage you to enter the gate that is wide with all the baggage of sin and other religious systems; those who encourage you to go down a broad road of unrighteousness: calling oneself a Christian, a prophet of Christ, a follower of Christ, yet living clearly in ways that are not according to the teaching and the holiness and the righteousness that is found in Christ. So these words today, specifically in the context, biblically, verses 21 to 23, are the words of the false prophet and the words of the false professor - those who preach this message of the wide gate and the wide way, and those who enter into the wide gate and follow and travel down the broad road.
In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, it seems that the people of the broad way say what they say and do what they do in the name of Christ - that's very important. One common, perhaps pre-eminent, theme throughout verses 21 to 23 is the amount of times that we find either specifically the name of Christ - 'Lord, Lord' - or these people say that they do certain things in the name of Christ: 'We prophesy in Thy name, we cast out demons in Thy name, we do many mighty miracles in Thy name'. These people say continually throughout this passage: 'Lord, Lord'. So what they are doing, as false prophets, and as false professors who follow the teaching of the wide way and the wide gate, are all done and said in the name of Christ.
You don't have to be a deep scholar of church history to realise, and indeed world history, that many things in history have been done in the name of Christ, but would never have earned the approval and the authority of the blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ. A quick survey: we can look many hundred years ago to the Crusades, where many innocent people were slaughtered because they were of a different faith and a different religion, in the name of the cross and in the name of Christ - wrongly! We even look to the Reformation and we see many Protestant martyrs who were burnt at the stake; some who were beheaded; some who were hung, drawn and quartered in the name of Christ. Incidentally, others who were hung, drawn and quartered, sacrificed and burnt at the stake by even the Protestant reformers. Many who did not believe in child baptism were burned at the stake; people who we would call Baptists today, who were then called Anabaptists, were burnt at the stake and murdered by both sides: Protestant and Roman Catholic. All of these things were done in the name of Christ.
There have been various holy wars throughout this world's history, and we know of holy wars today. Even today, in our materialistic age, there are shepherds who wear the sheep's clothing - who we looked at last week - who preach a 'health and wealth gospel'; who say that no-one should be poor if they're a Christian, no-one should be sick, you should have 100% health and 100% wealth. There are even evangelical healers who say everyone should be healed and we can see, as we look at them - and even the world, who seem to wiser than the children of light, can see - that these are nothing but evangelical tricksters; and if they fail as evangelists they could make a lucrative career as professional magicians and illusionists.
As well as that, there are people in the United States - we hear it in our news bulletins, read of it in the periodicals - who shoot abortion doctors. We believe and characteristically state as Christians today in Northern Ireland that we condemn abortion as murder. It is abhorrent and an abomination in the eyes of God - but we also should condemn those that shoot doctors who carry out abortions. Yet these things are done in the name of Christ! As we come home today we can see even in our land of Ulster that there are things that are said and done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, which are nothing short of a blot on His testimony and on the cause of His gospel.
I believe, in the context of the word of God, that doing such things in the name of God and Christ is nothing but a transgression of the third commandment. If you turn back to your Old Testament, to Exodus chapter 20 and verse 7, we find the words of the law says this: 'Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain'. Most people hold that commandment as a prohibition of swearing. It says, people believe, that you ought not to take the divine names as an oath or as a curse or as a swear word; and it does of course mean that: that you should not use the divine name loosely or blasphemously or meaninglessly, or use it emptily. God's name is sacred, God's name is to be held in reverence. But more than that meaning, probably primarily, the third commandment means that we ought not ever to do something in God's name, or claim something in God's name that has absolutely nothing to do with God and would never find God's approval.
These false prophets and false Christians that we have been studying in recent days claim to be and to do certain things in Christ's name which, according to the words of Christ, He Himself refutes and vigorously denies. In fact, in the final analysis we find in verse 23 that He rejects their works and, in fact, He rejects them: 'I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity'.
If you look at verse 21 you will see that their claim of Christ is in the present. 'Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven'. It doesn't say: 'Not everyone who will say on that day', but it's talking about people in the present who claim Christ as Lord - here and now! So these are not people who have lived another religion. These are not people who, quickly at the end of their life, who lived as atheists, try to fool God and say that they're Christians, as they come to the judgement bar of God. But these are people who, in life, have called Christ: 'Lord, Lord', and broadly speaking have lived so-called nominal Christian lives.
As we read verse 22 we find that their argument for why they are truly disciples is set in the future. Their claim of Christ is in the present, but the reason why they claim Christ and their evidence - they say - for it is set in the future. Look at verse 22: 'Many will say to me in that day' - future. We've got to ask the question before we go on: what is that day? You remember that, as the Lord began His conclusion, we believe in verse 13 - talking about the narrow gate and the narrow way - He began talking about two ways that illustrate the start of the life of faith, or the start of a life that will lead to destruction. Then He went on, in verses 15 and following, to talk about two trees. He's not now talking about the start of a life of faith, but talking growth and the results, and the fruit that we ought to have, or do not have if we're in or outside of the faith - the here and now of what it is to be a Christian and show forth fruit in our lives.
Now He's coming, in verses 21 to 23, to talk about two professions. Later on, as we've read this morning, He will talk about two builders. But both the two professions and the two builders are talking about the end of the life of faith. The narrow gate, the narrow way, talks about the start of this life of faith. The two trees and the two types of fruit talk about the progress here and now, and the results and the growth in this life of faith. But now He's coming to talk about two professions and two builders that are specifically looking forward to the end of the life of faith, when God shall call everything into judgement before the child, or the so-called child, of God. What the Lord is saying is: profession will ultimately be tested by God.
What we are taught, simply, here is that the claims of men and women on that day mean absolutely nothing. In fact, even what you claim today, what you say your relationship with Christ is at this moment doesn't really mean a thing, and it will never ever do anything for your eternity. These verses are teaching that what really matters is not what you say now, not what you say on the day of judgement that matters, but your final salvation will rest upon not what you say to Christ, but what Christ will say to you. In other words, what you profess to have done or been for Christ won't matter, but only what He professes about you here and now, and on that day, will really matter and destine your eternal home. Surely that's what verses 21 to 23 are telling. Indeed, as we'll see probably next week, if we get through this this week, verses 24 to 27 say exactly that: that the wise man built his house - what on? He didn't build his house on his own claims, he didn't build his house on his own life or what he did for Christ - but the Lord Jesus says in verse 24: 'Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock'. The wise man builds his house upon the claims of Christ, the professions of Christ, not his own professions.
We have had two ways, two trees, and now two claims or two professions. The rest of the pairs that we have studied so far contrast between the true disciple and the false disciple. The true disciple enters through the narrow gate and goes along the narrow way. The false disciple enters through the wide gate and goes along the wide way. The true disciple bears forth fruit of its kind: good fruit, moral fruit, godly fruit. The true tree brings forth fruit of the Spirit, but the false tree brings forth useless fruit, and is good for nothing but to be cut down and fed to the fire - that's the only use for it! But now we come to a contrast, not between the false professor and the true professor, not between the true disciple and the false disciple, but rather what the false disciple professes about himself - and the contrast is what Christ professes concerning the false disciple.
Let's look at it today, and let's look first of all at verse 21 and 22. Here we have two things - verses 21 and 22 - what many will say to Christ on that day; and in verse 23, what Christ will say to the many on that day. But let's look first at what many will say to Christ. First of all, they claim to be a disciple of Christ - verse 21 - they say: 'Lord, Lord'. One paraphrase says this: 'Not all who sound religious are really godly people' - that's really what it means. The Lord says not everybody who sounds religious and says: 'Lord, Lord', is a godly person and shall enter into the kingdom of heaven - 'They may refer to me as Lord but they still won't get into heaven'. So, first of all, what the Lord is saying is that the claim to be a disciple of Christ does not inherit you heaven. Profession of ownership, naming the name of Christ does not constitute an entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
You know, if you're a New Testament student, that profession of Christ as Lord is indispensable to be saved. Romans 10 teaches us that: 'That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation'. The Lord Himself said in Matthew 10:32: 'Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven'. So confession - profession of Jesus as Lord - is not unimportant. It is the first step, if you like, of salvation. But even Paul the apostle, in his epistle, says that profession of Jesus as Lord is impossible to make truly and genuinely without the Holy Spirit. Remember what he said in 1 Corinthians 12 verse 3: 'No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost'. You might say: 'Well, that's a contradiction because these people are calling Jesus 'Lord''. Obviously the missing dimension, the missing element right away in these professions of these men in Matthew chapter 7 is the factor of the regenerating work and act of the Holy Spirit that truly makes a man or a woman, a boy or girl, a child of God. Their profession is false, they are saying: 'Lord, Lord', they are claiming to be a disciple of Christ, but the Holy Spirit of God has never done a work in their heart.
You can see what is present that shows us that this is, they seem, a genuine profession. They say: 'Lord, Lord', twice. 'Lord' is the New Testament way of reverencing the name of God - calling Him 'Master', yes, but it can also be the New Testament way of calling God's name 'Adonai', or 'Jehovah' if you like. So these people that are claiming to be disciples of Christ have orthodoxy. They know the scriptures, they know divine truth, their doctrine is correct. But they've also got courtesy, because courtesy says 'Sir' - Lord could often be a title, simply like 'Sir', of respect and reverence. But you notice they repeat this phrase twice: 'Lord, Lord'. So not only have they got orthodoxy and courtesy, but they've got fervency. They are determining everybody to know, and Christ to know, that they consider themselves to be one of His disciples: 'Lord, Lord'. They are intense about this, they are intense about their claim on Christ.
As you go through the Bible we find that many times names are repeated, and it's repeated in a time of intensity: 'Master, Master'; 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?'; 'Abraham, Abraham'; 'Moses, Moses'; 'Samuel, Samuel'; 'Simon, Simon'; 'Martha, Martha'; and the greatest of all, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'. Each of those double-barrel statements can be traced to a time of deep intensity. What we have here in these claims of these false disciples - they are insisting intensely that Jesus is their Lord: 'Lord, Lord'. In fact, there's a sense of urgency, they're looking for a positive reply, they're looking for Him to reciprocate and tell them: 'Yes, you are My disciple'.
Jack Van Empe was a traveller who preached the gospel wherever he went. One day he was residing in a little humble abode with a man who had once been on skid row and had found Christ, and was now a real blazer for God. He brought the preacher into a very basic room, and he told him that he could spend as much time as he liked there, and that he was to get alone with the Lord in that little room, and get the messages for the week's meetings that lay ahead. So Jack Van Empe began to pray and seek God's face, and to meditate. Suddenly, as he was praying, prostrating himself for God, and asking God to reveal to him what he should preach on, he heard a little voice in the corner of the room say: 'You must be born again'. Of course, he sat up - he thought perhaps there was a divine messenger come to greet him! But when he turned round, he looked into the corner of the room and there was a little parrot. The parrot was continually saying: 'You must be born again. You must be born again'. He realised that this man who was a real trophy of grace, and converted by God's mercy, was so thrilled with the gospel that he would go around the house chanting verses, one of which was: 'You must be born again'. The parrot heard him so much that he'd started reciting this. But believe it or not, Jack Van Empe decided: 'I know what I'm going to preach on tonight. I'm going to preach on parakeet Christianity'. Those who have all the language and say all the right things, but haven't got the life. Those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
In fact, as we look further into this passage we find that those who claim to be the disciple of Christ falsely, and say 'Lord, Lord', profess ownership of Christ specifically because of what they practice in His name. Look at verse 22, not only do they claim to be a disciple of Christ, but they claim to be used of Christ: 'Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?'. A paraphrase says: 'Lord, Lord, we told others about You, and used Your name to cast out demons, and to do many other great miracles. We used Your name to do these powerful things that profess outwardly, miraculously, that we are Your true disciples'.
If you cast your mind back to last week's study you'll remember that verses 15 to 20 tell us that a good tree cannot bear forth bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear forth good fruit. Christ has said that the fruit of the false prophet was not good, and was certainly no good for God - yet these false prophets, and false professors who follow the false prophets, are claiming to have done marvellous signs and wonders in the name of Christ. In fact, it seems that their whole confidence of why they can call Jesus 'Lord, Lord', is in these great miraculous works that they have done. Now we know that they couldn't have been genuine, we know that they couldn't have been good works of God - verse 18 testifies to that: bad fruit could only be brought forth from a false prophet. I don't know what these works were, they may have been slight of hand, illusions, a bit of magic, they might have been demonic phenomenon - because, as we go into the book of Revelation, we find that the false prophet one day will be able to do counterfeit signs and miracles and wonders in the power of the devil himself. We even read in Acts chapter 19 about Jewish exorcists, the sons of Sceva, who added the name of Jesus to their repertoire and banished demons out in the name of Christ - even though they weren't believers themselves. I don't know what these were, they may have been genuine supernatural works, but all that they prove is this - all that signs and wonders in general prove is that a supernatural power is at work. What kind of power is a different matter - but what they certainly proved in the lives of these false prophets and false professors, is that all they had was external traits of apparent spiritual life.
These were things that others could see, they weren't righteousnesses of the heart, they were righteousnesses by them speaking name of Christ - they were able to cast out demons, they were able to prophesy, they were able to do great miracles, and others would look upon them and say: 'What great prophets these are! What great Christians these are! They must definitely be Christians, look at the supernatural power that is in their lives!'. What the Lord, I believe, is saying is: there were many external things that were certainly in vogue in the life of these men, but He says that the very internal thing that should be in the heart of a man or a woman of Christ was missing! They verbalised their profession in verse 21: 'Lord, Lord', they continued it by verbally professing the name of Christ in great miracles - but in the depths of their soul there wasn't a possession of the Spirit of God. Over and over and over again they emphasise the name of Christ, the openly confess Him with their lips and with these great supernatural acts, but Christ was not in their life!
First they proclaim His word: 'Lord, did we not prophesy in Thy name?'. Do you know what that tells us? The practice of prophecy, even in Christ's name, does not constitute entrance into the kingdom. Not only do they prophesy in His name, it says they brought deliverance in the name of Christ - they cast out demons in His name, verse 22. The practice of exorcism, Jesus is saying, does not constitute entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Thirdly He says they say: 'Lord, we've displayed Your power by using Your name, we've performed many wonderful works, many miracles!'. The Lord is telling us that even the profession of the name of Christ in miracles does not constitute entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Now notice, the Lord doesn't deny those claims. The Lord doesn't deny that they prophesied, the Lord doesn't deny that they cast out demons, the Lord doesn't deny that they did miracles in His name. But the fact of what the Lord says is: although they did all these things in His name, they didn't know Him, and He didn't know them!
Many in our generation, and within the church of Jesus Christ today, have put their faith in some kind of spiritual experience. Many, especially in many charismatic circles, can be seen to put so much emphasis on spiritual experience, but divine obedience to the word of God is absent from their life. D.A. Carson, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, tells of a man who enjoyed what he took as a special outpouring of God's Spirit and blessing upon his life. He felt, like Paul, that he had been transported to the third heaven and blessed in things and ways that he couldn't even express. So momentous was this event in his life that he detailed it all down in a manuscript on paper, and he gave it the title: 'My Experience'. Months slipped away, and eventually he became indifferent to spiritual things. At first he persevered with a form of godliness, and time after time when visitors would come to his home he went upstairs and hauled out of the drawer this manuscript, and showed them all about his experience. But as the months passed, and eventually the years, even the form of godliness was abandoned and his experience - great as it was at the time - lay forgotten in a top door in his bedroom. It got dusty, it got haggard. Many years later a minister came calling to his door, and the man - thinking to impress his visitor - called upstairs to his wife, asking her: 'Love, bring down my experience!'. She rummaged around until she found the tattered document and replied: 'I'm sorry dear, but your experience is rather moth-eaten'. Because he was resting on something in the past, spiritually, that happened, but obedience was missing from his life.
What is the Lord saying? What is He saying here? He's saying what He's said right throughout the whole Sermon on the Mount: there is a difference between practising Christian things and true obedience to the will of God the Father. He says that those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven, verse 21, are those who do 'the will of my Father which is in heaven'. Now notice He doesn't say 'the will of your Father', He's not taking anything for granted. He's talking here about rather than doing what people expect me to do as a Christian, what they think a Christian ought to be, but being and doing what God says a Christian really is! Remember the disciples came on one occasion and were rejoicing that the devils were subject to them in the name of Christ, and the Lord said: 'Look, rejoice not that these are subject unto you, rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven'.
Now here's what the Lord is really getting at - remember that this is all in the context of the Sermon on the Mount - a true Christian, specifically, will be a man or a woman not just who confesses Christ with their mouth, not just who does great spiritual, supernatural even exploits in His name, but a Christian will be a man or a woman who obeys the word of God and the will of God. What is the word of God and the will of God in this Sermon? It is every single thing that He has detailed - the principles, the precepts, the teaching of the word of God contained in the Sermon on the Mount. Do you see what He's saying? Don't take this out of context: the defining mark of the Christian will be that his life has some kind of semblance to the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount.
The difficulty for many is: where does that leave the scholar or the Bible student that says that this portion of Scripture is not for today? I would put to you that if you believe that, you've listened to false prophecy, and you need to beware because you may be on a broad road. The Lord says that this is the very mark - given to the Jews, of course; He was talking about false prophets, of course, who were the Scribes and the Pharisees - but as we go into the epistles we find that there are Gentile comparisons to false prophets and false professors. We believe in our generation today that we still have the false prophet and the false professor, and the mark - their fruit will be that they live a life according to the teaching and precepts of Christ. You and I both know how easy it is to use religious vocabulary, don't we? It's dead easy, isn't it? To say: 'Lord, Lord', and not obey what He says - and in fact, in the context of Luke 6 where He's talking about exactly the same thing as He is in this passage, He says: 'Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord', and do not the things which I say?'.
You can talk a Christian, you can memorise scripture, you can sing Christian songs, you can trot out all the cliches, but what is not easy - all those things are easy - but what is not easy is the very thing that is the test of faith: obedience to the word of God! Do you see it? Oh, you don't have to look too far to see it, and many of us in our day and age have witnessed and heard of some great supernatural act that was done by someone - and as far as you can tell, as you look at his life and try to judge righteous judgement, their life doesn't weigh up by the great works that they're performing. All the things that they say and do, it doesn't seem to measure up with the morality or the immorality, or even the amorality of them! Charismatic leaders, TV evangelists, all the same - and they have a great following of people. What do people do? They reason in their own minds, and they say: 'Well, if he can do that - I mean, you can't deny what he has just done, he's just healed a man! He's raised a man from the dead! Something supernatural has happened, he must be from God!'. What is the Sermon on the Mount teaching us here today? This is what it is, listen: if a man or a woman's life does not measure up to the word of God, it doesn't matter what they can do - even in the name of Christ - they have a rotten root, and their fruit is rotten also! Whether it be rhetoric, ritual, it is not a substitute for righteousness.
Now I'm sure that, as the Lord Jesus went around Palestine for three years with His disciples, that Judas had some kind of input in the wonderful works and wonders of the disciples. But that was no proof of spiritual life in him, was it? Satan, the epistles tell us, one day, in a day yet to be, with lying wonders will delude and deceive people. But Jesus says the mark of a true believer, who is not just a professor but a possessor, is a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, who hears the words of God, who hears the words of Christ, and does them! That's what the whole epistle of James is about, isn't it? If you go to James chapter 1, you find in verse 22 - and remember that James was the Lord's half-brother, and you find mirrored in the epistle of James much of the Sermon on the Mount - he says: 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves'.
The Lord is saying - grasp this, now - if you can hear the words of God, and not do the words of God, and do not live in the reality of these words of Christ, not only are you unregenerate but you are rejected of God! Don't dilute the words of Christ, now. The second chapter of James verse 17: 'Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone'. Imagine if you could prophesy in the name of Christ, if you could tell the future for Christ, if you could heal a man on a stage for Christ, if you could cast demons out of people in the name of Christ, if you could do a miracle for the name of Christ - you could do all those things, and still be on your way to hell!
Perhaps none of you have claimed to do these things, you say: 'Well, I've never cast out demons, I have never prophesied, I've done no mighty works for the name of Christ' - where does this leave you? Where does this text come into your life and apply to you? Here's the issue for you, my friend: does your life measure up to your claims of Christ? Is your profession just rhetoric or ritual? Are you doing what people expect of you as a Christian, or is your life filled with the type of righteousness that Christ wants in His disciples, that He says exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees? The Lord says that if this is absent from your life - Jesus teaches now, not me - that the likelihood is, if your life doesn't measure up to your lips, you're on the broad road! And one day it will be declared - for what you say about Christ matters not, but what He will say to you.
In verse 23 the Lord says that even though there are many who profess faith in Him, He will cast many of them into hell. He will say to them: 'I am not your Lord, I never knew you!'. 'I will say to them' - openly, publicly, literally it means 'just as you have publicly named me and professed me in these great works' - 'you have never been mine! You're self-deceived!'. I believe that the tragedy of that moment will be that there will be actually those people, many who named the name of Christ, who claimed discipleship, who claimed to be used of Christ, and they will not truly know the real reason why they've been cast into hell! Of course, it will dawn on them, but at that moment they actually are so self-deluded that they try to argue: 'Lord, but we did this, we are Yours, we own You!'. He will say: 'I never knew you!' - do you know what that means? Even an assurance of salvation is not enough! For these men and women are assured that they're saved, they're assured that they're alright - but it was a false assurance! It was a self-deceived assurance! Their profession was verbal but it was not moral; their profession was on their lips but it was not in their lives. They called Him 'Lord', but they'd never submitted to Him as Lord or obeyed the Father's will.
The Lord is saying that they might claim to do mighty works, but where are their everyday works? What counts, He says, is that you have a living, vital relationship with Christ that overflows in obedient righteousness, in holy good works in your life. 'I am not your Lord', He will say. Secondly He will say: 'You only practice sin. All those things that you say you do in my name - you practice lawlessness'. You think: 'Well, these things are commendable, these are holy things' - my friend, if you go to Philippians 3 you will see that Paul listed all the righteous things that he did in his life in Judaism, there was no-one to touch him. Yet he tells us in the book of Timothy: 'I am the chief of sinners', why? Because the greatest sinner of all is a man who thinks he's alright, the self-deceived false professor! That is why Paul says: 'Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ' - what? - 'depart from iniquity'!
'I am not your Lord, you only practice sin' - and thirdly, 'You have arrived at your chosen destination'. I'm not going to beat around the bush, but there will be many people in hell who were a member in an Evangelical church, professed the name of Christ, walked along what they thought was the right road - but they were on the broad road. Many people who did many great things for Christ, and even in the power of the name of Christ, but they will lift up their eyes in hell - why? Because they didn't have a true righteous relationship with Christ in their life, they didn't really know Him! Oh, we're saved by grace through faith, of course, and not of works - we all know that, and you don't get to heaven through obedience - but I'll tell you this: you don't get to heaven without obedience! It mightn't get you in, but the Bible teaches that without holiness no man shall see the Lord!
Listen, as we close, to what D.A. Carson says, and I think he's right: 'It is true that men are saved by God's grace through faith in Christ, but it is equally true that God's grace in a man's life inevitably results in obedience. Any other view of grace cheapens grace, and turns it into something unrecognisable. Cheap grace preaches forgiveness without repentance, church membership without rigorous church discipline, discipleship without obedience, blessing without persecution, joy without righteousness, results without obedience. In the entire history of the church has there ever been another generation with so many nominal Christians and so few real obedient ones?'.
So what is your life? Is it a false profession, or is it a true possession? The 'Didache', that book I quoted last week, that first century book of Christian doctrine and practice, says this: 'But not everyone who seems to speak in the Spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord'. Do we have the behaviour of the Lord? If not, I urge you today: make your calling and election sure.
Let me just say to all the 'heresy police' that I believe and we believe in eternal security - once saved and always saved - but what we also believe in is the perseverance of the saints. We believe that one can backslide, we believe that you can grow cold, we believe that there such thing as Christian carnality like the Corinthians, but we also believe that we should not continue in sin that grace may abound. We believe that he that nameth the name of Christ ought to depart from iniquity, and that all those who will enter into the kingdom of God will be those who do 'the will of my Father in heaven'. Does your life weigh up, my friend, with all the talk and all the claims? What do you say about Christ, and what will He, one day, say about you?
Father, we pray that You will uncover those who are in a false, deceived assurance that is not of Thy Spirit but is the blindness of the devil himself. Lord, we don't want any children of believers under an assumption that they're alright because they professed faith but there's no genuine life of God in their experience. We don't want people who are a member of churches - whether it's the Iron Hall, or wherever - to think, because of their vain tradition, or their form of godliness, that it proves that they're God's in Christ. Lord, take the lie and damn it today, we pray, and bring the truth of the life of the light of the Gospel into people's lives, and make them new creatures in Christ Jesus - that the old will pass, and all things will become new. Make people sure in their faith today, and if they need to make a fresh resolution by faith, may they do it, and may they be sure. For it's in Christ's name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty sixth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "Profession Or Possession?" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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