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The Cultural Christian

The Real Thing: Real Discipleship or Cultural Christianity?  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Cultural Christianity is defined and its deception explained by the three qualities it lacks: Urgency of Commitment, Reality of Relationship, Awareness of Destiny

Notes
Transcript
ATTN
He was feeling insecure. He was loading up his moving truck to head back to Tallahassee to begin a local church pastoral ministry. He was excited about the trip until he saw his fellow seminary student packing up his family as well. “Great,” he thought. “here’s Matt heading to a real mission field in Northern California while I’m headed to the buckle of the Bible Belt, less than an hour from the Alabama state line.”
He felt like he was taking the easy way out while Matt was the one with real courage. Meeting Matt in the parking lot, Dean wanted to say something spiritual to acknowledge his cowardice and Matt’s courage. He said, “ I really admire what you’re doing and will pray for you as you head to an area with such an important Great Commission need.”
I really admire what you’re doing and will pray for you as you head to an area with such an important Great Commission need.” Matt’s reply was not what I was expecting. “Whatever,” he said, doing the required pat-on-the-back during our man hug, “the Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.” I was stunned. He must have sensed my confusion because he explained further. As he did, I had a serious epiphany. I believe the Lord knew what I needed to hear in that moment, and it changed my perspective forever on my role as a pastor in the part of the country where I live and minister. “In California,” Matt said, “there is rarely confusion. Either you’re a Christian or you’re not. In the Bible Belt, many people think they’re Christians but have no concept of the severity of sin, necessity of repentance, message of grace, or the overall message of the gospel. They think they’re just fine with God and God is fine with them because they aren’t atheists and have been to church before as a kid. It’s almost like you have to help them get lost, so they can actually be saved. They believe in God, but do not believe their sin has done anything to separate them from Him or caused them to need the Jesus they claim to believe in.” You have to get them lost before they can actually be saved.
Matt’s reply was not what Dean was expecting. “Whatever,” he said, doing the required pat-on-the-back during our man hug, “the Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.”
Dean said he was stunned. Matt went on to explain:
In California, there is rarely confusion. Either you’re a Christian or you’re not. In the Bible Belt, many people think they’re Christians but have no concept of the severity of sin, necessity of repentance, message of grace, or the overall message of the gospel. They think they’re just fine with God and God is fine with them because they aren’t atheists and have been to church before as a kid. They believe in God, but do not believe their sin has done anything to separate them from Him or caused them to need the Jesus they claim to believe in. You have to get them lost before they can actually be saved.
Dean went on to plant a church in Tallahassee that has grown exponentially and he has focused on reaching what he calls “Unsaved Christians.” In fact, he recently released this book (show on the screen) which I recently read. As I thought about what he wrote, I realized that his dilemma is ours as well: We also live in an area that has a “culture” of Christianity. What do I mean when I say “Cultural Christianity?”
Well, Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary calls Cultural Christianity the “new American religion.” This religion has at least five tenets. In general, a cultural Christian believes that:
“A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.”
“A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.”
“God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
(b) 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
“The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
(c) 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
“God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
(d) 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
“Good people go to heaven when they die.”
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
Just consider Brad and Sophie Camp. They are, what most people consider to be, good people. They do things as a family and keep involved with their kids. They even try to eat supper together and always ask the blessing before they do it. They are in their mid-thirties and go to church about once every three months or so because they are just so busy. The extended family on Brad’s side has a beach house and they try to get down to it for the weekend whenever the weather is nice. It is also a real hassle to get all the kids out the door to church on Sunday (although they miraculously are able to get everyone out the door for school on time.) When they are in town they try to make it to church because it means so much to Papa and Nana, Sophie’s parents. Papa and Nana’s social life revolves around the church and church is a good place to be since it is a place where they can learn good moral lessons
During the worship service, the new minister speaks for twenty minutes about loving others. Jesus is portrayed as a great example of this, since He helped the poor (the church’s Habitat for Humanity ministry gets a shameless plug). The pastor doesn’t talk about sin, repentance, or the blood of Jesus, but gives a very inspiring message, as usual. After church, the Camps always head to Papa and Nana’s for lunch, and the kids can’t wait to change into their regular clothes. Brad and Sophie have found that they fight less if they occasionally give this four-hour sacrifice to Sophie’s parents, as it doesn’t seem to impact the rest of their normal day-to-day routine. This is the life of a typical Cultural Christian family.
Sound familiar? Well, I want to take some time over the next four weeks to describe Cultural Christianity and some of the ways we can overcome it and actually reach out to the kind of people who live in our mission field here in Wilson, NC. You might say, “Well, that does sound a little familiar, Rusty, but are you going to preach culture or preach the Bible? You got any Scripture for what you’re saying this morning?”
BACKGROUND
Absolutely. In fact, when I was thinking about this topic I ran across a passage of Scripture in which I found Jesus attacking the “Cultural Christianity” of His day. Read with me:
Luke 13:22–23 NKJV
And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,
Luke 13:22–30 NKJV
And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “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. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
Now I think you have to catch the context of what Jesus is saying here in . In vv1-5, Jesus tells them that if they do not repent of their sin, they will perish. In vv6-9, He goes on to say that, if they do not bear fruit, they will be “cut down.” Then in vv10-17, He calls the Pharisees hypocrites because they found fault with Him healing on the Sabbath. In 18-19 he says that being the part of His Kingdom is not about who you are but about Who you trust; you must have faith as a grain of mustard seed. Then in v20, He compares those who are part of His Kingdom to yeast in a batch of dough.
In different ways, all of these messages confront the prevailing thought in Jewish society. They thought that because they were ethnically Jewish and descended from Abraham that they had an automatic invitation into God’s Kingdom. Over and over again, Jesus confronts this thought. Finally, it seems like He’s getting through to his listeners because, in v 23, someone asks: “Lord, we’ve been listening to what you have said. Are you trying to tell us that there are few who will really be saved? In response Jesus tells them a story:
Luke 13:24–30 NKJV
“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. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
I believe that Jesus tells this story to confront the deception of the prevailing thought of His day. They thought they had heaven all sewed up, but Jesus comes along to place real doubt in their minds. I’m sure it was disturbing, but He was actually doing them a great favor! He was showing them just how deceived they were about Whose they were.
TRANS
And, by the way, whether its 30 AD in Palestine or 2019 in Wilson, NC, deception is the crowning characteristic of Cultural Christianity. I say that because, according to these verses, cultural Christians are deceived because:
D1

Cultural Christians are deceived because they lack urgency in their commitment.

EXP
The Cultural Christian
Rusty Russell / General
The Real Thing: Real Discipleship or Cultural Christianity? /
Cultural Christianity is defined and its deception explained by the three qualities it lacks: Urgency of Commitment, Reality of Relationship, Awareness of Destiny
ATTN
He was feeling insecure. He was loading up his moving truck to head back to Tallahassee to begin a local church pastoral ministry. He was excited about the trip until he saw his fellow seminary student packing up his family as well. “Great,” he thought. “here’s Matt heading to a real mission field in Northern California while I’m headed to the buckle of the Bible Belt, less than an hour from the Alabama state line.”
He felt like he was taking the easy way out while Matt was the one with real courage. Meeting Matt in the parking lot, Dean wanted to say something spiritual to acknowledge his cowardice and Matt’s courage. He said, “ I really admire what you’re doing and will pray for you as you head to an area with such an important Great Commission need.”
Matt’s reply was not what Dean was expecting. “Whatever,” he said, doing the required pat-on-the-back during our man hug, “the Bible Belt is the most difficult place in America to pastor a local church.”
Dean said he was stunned. Matt went on to explain:
In California, there is rarely confusion. Either you’re a Christian or you’re not. In the Bible Belt, many people think they’re Christians but have no concept of the severity of sin, necessity of repentance, message of grace, or the overall message of the gospel. They think they’re just fine with God and God is fine with them because they aren’t atheists and have been to church before as a kid. They believe in God, but do not believe their sin has done anything to separate them from Him or caused them to need the Jesus they claim to believe in. You have to get them lost before they can actually be saved.
Dean went on to plant a church in Tallahassee that has grown exponentially and he has focused on reaching what he calls “Unsaved Christians.” In fact, he recently released this book (show on the screen) which I recently read. As I thought about what he wrote, I realized that his dilemma is ours as well: We also live in an area that has a “culture” of Christianity. What do I mean when I say “Cultural Christianity?”
Well, Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary calls Cultural Christianity the “new American religion.” This religion has at least five tenets. In general, a cultural Christian believes that:
1. “A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.”
2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”
3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”
4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”
5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”
Just consider Brad and Sophie Camp. They are, what most people consider to be, good people. They do things as a family and keep involved with their kids. They even try to eat supper together and always ask the blessing before they do it. They are in their mid-thirties and go to church about once every three months or so because they are just so busy. The extended family on Brad’s side has a beach house and they try to get down to it for the weekend whenever the weather is nice. It is also a real hassle to get all the kids out the door to church on Sunday (although they miraculously are able to get everyone out the door for school on time.) When they are in town they try to make it to church because it means so much to Papa and Nana, Sophie’s parents. Papa and Nana’s social life revolves around the church and church is a good place to be since it is a place where they can learn good moral lessons
During the worship service, the new minister speaks for twenty minutes about loving others. Jesus is portrayed as a great example of this, since He helped the poor (the church’s Habitat for Humanity ministry gets a shameless plug). The pastor doesn’t talk about sin, repentance, or the blood of Jesus, but gives a very inspiring message, as usual. After church, the Camps always head to Papa and Nana’s for lunch, and the kids can’t wait to change into their regular clothes. Brad and Sophie have found that they fight less if they occasionally give this four-hour sacrifice to Sophie’s parents, as it doesn’t seem to impact the rest of their normal day-to-day routine. This is the life of a typical Cultural Christian family.
Sound familiar? Well, I want to take some time over the next four weeks to describe Cultural Christianity and some of the ways we can overcome it and actually reach out to the kind of people who live in our mission field here in Wilson, NC. You might say, “Well, that does sound a little familiar, Rusty, but are you going to preach culture or preach the Bible? You got any Scripture for what you’re saying this morning?”
BACKGROUND
Absolutely. In fact, when I was thinking about this topic I ran across a passage of Scripture in which I found Jesus attacking the “Cultural Christianity” of His day. Read with me:
NKJV
And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,
Now I think you have to catch the context of what Jesus is saying here in . In vv1-5, Jesus tells them that if they do not repent of their sin, they will perish. In vv6-9, He goes on to say that, if they do not bear fruit, they will be “cut down.” Then in vv10-17, He calls the Pharisees hypocrites because they found fault with Him healing on the Sabbath. In 18-19 he says that being the part of His Kingdom is not about who you are but about Who you trust; you must have faith as a grain of mustard seed. Then in v20, He compares those who are part of His Kingdom to yeast in a batch of dough.
In different ways, all of these messages confront the prevailing thought in Jewish society. They thought that because they were ethnically Jewish and descended from Abraham that they had an automatic invitation into God’s Kingdom. Over and over again, Jesus confronts this thought. Finally, it seems like He’s getting through to his listeners because, in v 23, someone asks: “Lord, we’ve been listening to what you have said. Are you trying to tell us that there are few who will really be saved? In response Jesus tells them a story:
NKJV
“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. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
I believe that Jesus tells this story to confront the deception of the prevailing thought of His day. They thought they had heaven all sewed up, but Jesus comes along to place real doubt in their minds. I’m sure it was disturbing, but He was actually doing them a great favor! He was showing them just how deceived they were about Whose they were.
TRANS
And, by the way, whether its 30 AD in Palestine or 2019 in Wilson, NC, deception is the crowning characteristic of Cultural Christianity. I say that because, according to these verses, cultural Christians are deceived because:
D1

CULTURAL CHRISTIANS ARE DECEIVED BECAUSE THEY LACK URGENCY IN THEIR COMMITMENT .

EXP
Now remember that Jesus is asked that question in v23: Are their few who will be saved?
Luke 13:23 NKJV
Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them,
He responds that those who are deceived by cultural Christianity lack urgency and they lack that urgency in a couple of areas. They lack urgency when it comes to their INTENSITY. That’s why v24 begins with a very INTENSE word. Jesus says, STRIVE to enter through the NARROW door. The word “strive” implies intense effort, but the idea is not that we are to work our way into heaven. What Jesus is telling us is to be intense about listening and responding in faith to the message that He is preaching.
He responds that those who are deceived by cultural Christianity lack urgency and they lack that urgency in a couple of areas. They lack urgency when it comes to their INTENSITY. That’s why v24 begins with a very INTENSE word. Jesus says, STRIVE to enter through the NARROW door. The word “strive” implies intense effort, but the idea is not that we are to work our way into heaven. What Jesus is telling us is to be intense about listening and responding in faith to the message that He is preaching.
And that intensity is indispensable because the door is NARROW. He calls it a narrow door and says that many will seek to enter AND WILL NOT BE ABLE. By this He is saying that many people who think that they are getting into the Kingdom will be surprised when they are excluded from it. They will be deceived by their lack of urgency. Why are they deceived? They are not intensely focused on hearing and responding to Him. They are not urgent in their intensity.
Luke 13:25 NKJV
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,’
And then these people were not urgent about their TIME. V25 says, 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.” Now here’s what you need to know. When Jesus actually spoke these words to those people, the door WAS still open. But He is telling them that the time is coming when He will shut the door and then it will be to late. If they were not urgent about their time, they will miss the open door.
And here’s the point: If they are really going to become disciples, they will have to listen carefully and respond to Christ with everything they have and are. There will have to be an urgency about their commitment.
ILL
I recently heard about a conversation one of our church members had with a good friend. That friend and his wife were finding some of the compromises made by their mainline denominational church troubling and they were looking for somewhere else to go. So, of course, the member invited the guy to come and visit us. The man replied, “Well, I tried to get my wife to visit out here, but she thinks y’all are just too serious about your Christianity for her.”
Now, that lady, I have to tell you, is probably a Cultural Christian. She is making two grave errors. In the first place she thinks that there are different levels of Chistianity, some very serious and some not so serious, and that she is fine to choose between them. That is not the case!
In the second place, she thinks that God will be ok if she just kind of captures the Christian label without making an all-in commitment. That is a classic Cultural Christian.
APP
And so that brings you and I to an obvious question: Ask yourself: “Am I a cultural Christian? And, if you want to know the answer to that question, answer this one: How urgent is your commitment to Christ? Is He one of the many parts of your life or is He your LIFE? Does He just fit into the corner of your heart, or does He actually direct you? Are you seeking to actively follow His leadership and focus on Him moment by moment, or do you just think about Him on Sunday and occasionally throughout the week. How urgent is your commitment?
TRANS
And I know that some of you might be objecting right now and your objection might sound something like this: “Rusty, are you preaching a “do-better” message right here? You are getting dangerously close to works salvation. Are you telling me I have to strive to earn my place in the Kingdom?”
O no! Far from it. What Jesus is talking about in these verses is not works—it’s relationship. I know that because of the next reason He gives for the deception of cultural Christianity. You see, not only is a cultural Christian deceived because they lack urgency in their commitment, they are also deceived because:
D2

CULTURAL CHRISTIANS ARE DECEIVED BECAUSE THEY LACK REALITY IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP.

EXP
In this story Jesus tells, He tells us what happens after the Master shuts the door. Look at v25. It says:
Luke 13:25 NKJV
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,’
That’s quite a scene! The door shuts and the people on the outside begin to pound on that door begging to be let in. The Master’s reply tells us the problem with these people. He says: I do not KNOW you, where you are from. He tells them that they don’t know Him and He doesn’t know them.
25 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,’ That’s quite a scene! The door shuts and the people on the outside begin to pound on that door begging to be let in. The Master’s reply tells us the problem with these people. He says: I do not KNOW you, where you are from. He tells them that they don’t know Him and He doesn’t know them.
Which causes them great CONFUSION. Look at v26:
Luke 13:26–27 NKJV
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.’
The people are so surprised by what the Master says. They THOUGHT they knew Him, but they didn’t know Him at all. They had been around Him; they had heard Him teach, but they didn’t know Him.
then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ The people are so surprised by what the Master says. They THOUGHT they knew Him, but they didn’t know Him at all. They had been around Him; they had heard Him teach, but they didn’t know Him.
Their surprise grows in vv28. Jesus goes on to say:
Luke 13:28 NKJV
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.
Here are these Jewish people thinking that their heritage would get them into the Kingdom. After all, they are descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. If those three were inside, why weren’t they?
But the surprise grows even more in v29: Jesus says:
Luke 13:29 NKJV
They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.
Do you see what is happening here? When this verse says “they will come from the east, west, north, and south” it is speaking of the Gentiles who will be let into the kingdom while the descendants of Abraham are left on the outside !
But the surprise grows even more in v29: Jesus says: They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. Do you see what is happening here? When this verse says “they will come from the east, west, north, and south” it is speaking of the Gentiles who will be let into the kingdom while the descendants of Abraham are left on the outside !
Jesus’s point could not be clearer: The means of getting into the kingdom of God was NOT who your ancestors were. The means of getting into the kingdom of God was genuinely knowing Christ and that knowledge was not achieved by works but by FAITH! It is by grace through faith that the Spirit comes to live inside the heart and forms a genuine relationship with God. It is that relationship that makes the difference.
Jesus’s point could not be clearer: The means of getting into the kingdom of God was NOT who your ancestors were. The means of getting into the kingdom of God was genuinely knowing Christ and that knowledge was not achieved by works but by FAITH! It is by grace through faith that the Spirit comes to live inside the heart and forms a genuine relationship with God. It is that relationship that makes the difference.
APP
Becoming a disciple of Christ is much more than some prayer formula you repeat. It’s much more than a check-the-box routine you follow. In our cultural Christianity, however, that is precisely what we have reduced it to! In fact, the cultural Christian substitutes all kinds of things for this real relationship.

The cultural Christian substitutes all kinds of things for relationship

Some substitute their HERITAGE.

Usually, cultural Christians are only a generation or two removed from true disciples of Christ. They have a long heritage of believers and their grandparents may have been devout. They confuse this heritage with saving faith. They tend to view their ancestors as a little extreme and are much more comfortable with their own, more casual approach to “church.” They do not realize that they are worshiping a substitute. They are substituting their heritage.

Others substitute RITES OF PASSAGE.

These cultural Christians take their kids to be christened or “dedicated” depending upon which denomination they follow. In Baptist circles they celebrate their baptisms or praying the sinner’s prayer. They participate in activities which once held meaning, but which had now become empty ritual
The bottom line is this: They are substituting the empty shell of profession for the reality of possession. They want just enough of God to keep them out of hell, but not enough of Him to turn them into the fanatics their grandparents were.
ILL
They are like what Wilbur Rees wrote about our commitment. He says the average cultural Christians says,
I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth worth of God, please
TRANS
But here’s the tragic truth: Cultural Christians are not Christians at all, they are deceived. I say that because of this story Jesus told. You see, not only are cultural Christians deceived because they lack urgency in their commitment and reality in their relationship, they also are deceived because:
D3

THEY LACK AN AWARENESS OF THEIR DESTINY

EXP
Two of the most sobering verses in the New Testament have to be :
Luke 13:27–28 NKJV
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.
27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ 28 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.
The people who are knocking on the door of heaven become aware of three truths they had missed.
The people who are knocking on the door of heaven become aware of three truths they had missed. First of all, WHAT THEY MISSED. They thought that they were on the inside. In fact, they not only thought they were included in the kingdom, they thought that some of the people who were on the inside would never make it to heaven ahead of them. But, when the door was shut, they came to understand what they missed.

THREE TRUTHS THEY DIDN’T SEE

What they missed.

First of all, WHAT THEY MISSED. They thought that they were on the inside. In fact, they not only thought they were included in the kingdom, they thought that some of the people who were on the inside would never make it to heaven ahead of them. But, when the door was shut, they came to understand what they missed.

What they lost.

Second, they become aware of they became aware of WHAT THEY LOST. They were on the outside of the kingdom while the others were on the inside. They had lost the opportunity for an eternal relationship with the Master.

What they faced.

Last, they become aware of WHAT THEY FACED. Jesus says that, at that moment, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. I think there is a realization of these people that facing eternity apart from God would be an awful thing. In other places the Bible speaks of fire that is not quenched and the pain associated with hell. I don’t understand everything about what hell will be like, but I know this: It is not something that you would ever want to experience.
APP
And here’s the sad thing for the cultural Christian: Many people in Wilson who go to church regularly are going to be like the people described in this passage. When the day comes and the Lord returns, they will be shocked. They will be on the outside shouting to the Lord, “But Jesus, I went to church; I prayed the sinner’s prayer when I was six; I ate supper in the fellowship hall with the other Christians; I never missed a Christmas or an Easter;” and He will say to them, I don’t know you, where you are from, and with weeping and gnashing of teeth, they will suddenly realize what they missed; they will realize what they’ve lost and they will realize what they face. They were cultural Christians and it cost them eternally.
Now, I know that’s pretty heavy stuff right there, but is it not in your Bible? Someone will say, “Well, I don’t like the negative parts of the Bible.” When I hear that, I want to say, “There aren’t any negative parts of the Bible.” By the way, even this story is not a negative story. You see, when Jesus spoke these words, THE DOOR WAS STILL OPEN. The people listening to Him that day had a choice. They could hang on to their cultural Christianity or they could let it go, trust Him and really get to know Who He is.
And that same choice is open to us: We can also choose to either let this message to in one ear and out the other, or we can internalize what this passage teaches us. You might ask, “Well, how do I internalize this?” Let me give you four ways you can internalize this message.

Four ways to internalize this message:

Evaluate

First, EVALUATE. Ask yourself, “How urgent is my relationship with Christ? Is it my number 1 priority?” Now be careful with that question. If you grew up in church, it’s not the first time you’ve heard it. It’s easy to say that Christ is your first priority even when He isn’t. How do you know if Christ is your number 1 priority—How do you know if your relationship with Christ is urgent? Well, that leads me to the second way you can internalize this message:

Seek.

SEEK. What I mean is that, if Christ and your relationship with Him is your number 1 priority, that means that you spend a lot of time EVERY DAY seeking Him, talking to Him, listening to Him, growing closer to Him. As you do that, His importance in your life grows. Well, if you want to internalize this message evaluate, seek, and then, thirdly:

Commit to grow.

COMMIT TO GROW: Make up your mind that you are going to allow Christ to be your primary focus in all things and that your number one job in life is not to be a truck driver, a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, or even a pastor. Your number one job in life is going to be to know Jesus and to make Jesus known. Which leads me to the last action you can take to internalize this message:

Look around.

LOOK AROUND: For those of you who really do know the Lord and that is, I believe, most of you, what I have described today is OUR mission field. Wilson is a culturally Christian town. Begin to think about how you and I can most effectively penetrate the culture of Christianity we live in. Begin to think about how you can influence cultural Christians to become true disciples of Jesus Christ.
What will that look like?
VIS
Well, Dean grew up going to church every Sunday and praying before every meal. He’d say what you and I both learned growing up; You know: God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food; by His hands we all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.
He knew the Bible stories about Noah and the Ark, David and Goliath and that Jesus was a really great guy Who helped a lot of people. He would have certainly considered himself a Christian until . . .
Until middle school. When he got to middle school, he played football and was invited to an FCA camp. The speaker was a large man who had muscles like the Incredible Hulk and had played pro football. After preaching about the death and resurrection of Christ, the speaker gave an invitation. Dozens of students went forward but not Dean. He didn’t move because, as far as he was concerned, he was a Christian. After all, he believed in God, went to church on Sunday and was a member of the FCA. He had never thought about trusting in Jesus before because no one had ever told him that he needed to.
But then something happened that opened his eyes and freaked him out. The speaker said, “There is one more thing I want to share for some of you still in your seats.” He then read the words of Jesus from .
Matthew 7:21–23 NKJV
“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!’
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’”
Then the speaker shouted that there were people in that room who went to church, came from good families, and said prayers before meals but who had never trusted in Jesus Christ. “You are no more a Christian,” he said, “than someone who doesn’t believe in God at all, and that will lead you straight to hell.”
Then the speaker shouted that there were people in that room who went to church, came from good families, and said prayers before meals but who had never trusted in Jesus Christ. “You are no more a Christian,” he said, “than someone who doesn’t believe in God at all, and that will lead you straight to hell.”
Dean said that, regardless of whether that is a good way to share the gospel or not, it got his attention. He went forward and gave his heart to Christ and he said that while he was filled with joy, he was also angry: How was it, he thought, that he had been to church his whole life and no one had ever told him this great news?
People like Dean are the primary mission field of places like Wilson, NC.
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