The Jesus Manifesto - what Jesus meant when he said “Follow me”...
Read Matthew 7:21-23
I called the message Kingdom Credentials. You know what credentials are. Usually its something that indicates a person’s qualification to perform a certain job or be admitted to a particular group. Like, if I wanted to be admitted to the Board of Medical Examiners in Arkansas, I’d have to show some proof that I’m qualified for admission.
Here are these people who look like they have pretty good credentials. Yet in the end they are turned away. And it’s a bit of a head scratcher. This is one of those passages that can make us nervous. Does Jesus really mean what he says? Has these kinds of statements ever bothered you?
Unfortunately, Jesus means the warning. There is something here to heed. But there is also a powerful flip side. While there is a real danger of being one of those who Jesus doesn’t recognize, there is a promise of great joy for those who don’t get their credentials from what they do but from who they know.
The danger of self-deception
The danger of self-deception
The danger that’s presented here is self-deception. It exists because, from an outside perspective, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between a person who is doing all the right things motivated by a right heart with God and those who are doing them based on other motives.
What are some reasons for this self deception?
Perhaps they have never had the gospel shared clearly. This would be like the disciples Paul encountered in Ephesus that only knew John’s baptism but had not been baptized as followers of the one John pointed to. They simply didn’t know better. The gospel is the good news that God is restoring the world through Jesus Christ and invites all people to receive forgiveness and join in his restoration project. We all must make a personal decision to say ‘yes’ to Jesus’ offer of the kingdom.
Fallen victim to a works oriented view salvation. There is real concern that many have an understanding of salvation that is more like a transaction with God instead of a relationship. Illustrate using USDA boxes and the formula that has to be affirmed in order to get a box. Yet there is no actual relationship. The church has made the gospel more like this - checking some boxes - than an invitation to a relationship.
Maybe just going through the motions to keep us spouse happy or because there is a cultural expectation.
The truth is that Jesus told us to call the Father, “Abba”. We are invited into a personal relationship with Creator God and he calls us to “be” before he calls us to “do”. He invites us to get our credentials based on who we know instead of what we do. What a relief!
But didn’t we...
But didn’t we...
But what about the power? This is a pretty impressive list of spiritual gifts. I’m not sure I’ve done any “deeds of power” lately.
Doing deeds of power are not limited to God’s people alone. Many other examples exist in and out of a scripture of people having supernatural power. Yet even though these people seem to have the right power credentials they are still considered “evildoers”. Why?
They don’t follow Jesus in obedience. They don’t conform their lives to his teaching or mission. Their power encounters aren’t about Jesus; it’s about them. They lack the necessary element of love of God and love of neighbor in their actions. These people are often those who want to be recognized for doing great things, but who won’t stoop to do unnoticed acts of compassion for those who will never be able to pay them back. In this they fail to do God’s will.
There is a special word of caution here for those who are leaders. He [God] is not impressed with charismatic giftedness if the the fruit of the Spirit is lacking in your life. Leaders must remember that they are first of all followers of Jesus before they are leaders. If that is forgotten, then they run the risk of hearing these words of rejection.
There is a real danger that’s presented here of self-deception. I can’t think of a more horrible thing to hear one day that “I don’t know you”.
Maybe there are some here today or listening online who are thinking “I’m not sure that I’ve ever entered into a relationship with God“. I invite you this morning to say ‘yes’ to God and enter into the joy of an authentic relationship with him. We have a slide we can put up that has a way to discover next steps in following Jesus. Or just come talk to me!
The flip side
The flip side
There is a flip side to this passage. The flip side is that there is going to be many of you - I hope all of you - who stand before the Lord one day and your faith and the genuineness of your relationship with him will have preceded you. There will be no need of introductions because the Lord will say to everyone watching, “I know this one”.
You are the ones Jesus talked about in Matthew 25.
Read Matthew 25:31-36 You may have prophesied in his name, you may have driven out demons, you may have done miracles, but more importantly you will have fed the hungry and given water to the thirsty, you will have welcomed the unwelcome, you will have clothed, prayed, and healed, and cared. And you will have done it from the place of authentic relationship with him. For you, there will be no fear of rejection because you KNOW him. Your credentials come from a personal relationship with Christ.
And hear me well. You aren’t doing this to earn God’s approval. You do it out of the natural overflow of knowing the love of God in a personal way. In the end, it is only love that matters - experiencing God’s transforming love and giving it away freely.
I read a story this week shared by a South African pastor named Trevor Hudson. The story is of a West Indian woman in London who learned that her husband had been killed in a street accident.
The woman suffered for days. She sank into the corner of her sofa and became rigid, unhearing, and unresponsive. After several days this trance-like look began to embarrassed her family and friends who came and went. They didn’t know what to do. Then the schoolteacher of one of her children, an Englishwoman, came by, and upon seeing how things were she went and sat down beside her.
Eventually the teacher put an arm around the rigid shoulders of the grieving wife. A white cheek touched a brown one. Then as she began to feel the unrelenting pain of the wife her own tears began to quietly flow, falling on their two hands joined in the woman’s lap. For a long time that was all that was happening. Then at last something broke and the grieving wife began to sob. A word was never spoken between them. After a while the schoolteacher got up and left, leaving a monetary contribution to help the family with immediate needs.
This is what Jesus wants from us; not our gifts but our life, not what brings us honor but what serves our neighbor. At the judgment Jesus will not ask us about our gifts. He will ask if our cheeks have touched the cheeks of those who suffer, if our hands have held the hands of those who endure pain, and if our gifts are directed at those who need them most. These are the credentials of those who have entered into the joy of God’s transforming love and presence. They are the only credentials that matter. They are the only credentials you need.
This is his invitation to you today. He doesn’t want you to go out with a checklist of more things to do. He wants you to come and be with him. To let him love you. Let him heal your hurts. Let him assure and comfort you. And when you experience this love, all these other things will flow from it.
When was the last time you allowed yourself to be loved by God?