“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 who is in heaven” – Matthew 7:21
This verse and the ones that followed have always given me pause – perhaps this is exactly what they are meant to do. Here we see Jesus telling the disciples that not everybody who runs up to Him and calls Him “Lord” is one of His people. In verses 22 & 23 things get even more difficult, as those who call Him Lord point to their prophesying and casting out demons in His name, which leads me to believe that on some level they believed they were followers of Jesus. He sends them away as “evil doers” – most likely to their great consternation and then crushing fear. If that doesn’t make you pause and reflect on your life in Christ, then I’m not sure what will.
A few days ago a friend posted an “interesting” picture on facebook, which I will duplicate here because of it’s rather odd implications. It shows president Obama walking with a figure we are to take as the Lord Jesus, who apparently says “they don’t know what I know! I walk beside you my son.” The friend who posted this is clearly an Obama supporter and added a statement about how the election outcome was somehow Jesus’ “vote” and that’s why Obama won. My friend’s commentary is easily dismissed – if you cannot make a distinction between the perfect will of God and the permissible will of God then you clearly haven’t read the Bible. (Did God want the Israelites to have king? No. Did God give them a king because they asked for one? Yes. Please read 1 Samuel 8 for the full story … actually, the entire time of the Israeli kings, the good ones and the evil ones, is interesting and useful from a political standpoint – but not for this post.)
My friend’s commentary aside, I repost the picture here because I wish to speak to it’s intentions and implications. The goal is clearly to offer an invisible endorsement from the Lord on the backs of an outcome (the election) and a necessarily true but equally unprovable statement. We don’t have to worry about the outcome for exactly the same “perfect” versus “permissible” will discussion (Hitler won an election too, you know), but what about that necessarily true statement? Of course we don’t know what Jesus knows. I mean, it’s an unassailable point – He’s omniscient! Can we at all take such assertions as meaningful?
Well, what did the Lord say? Obviously He knows more than we do, but how then are we ever to make sense of the world around us and the people with whom we interact? Are we to be frozen with “well, maybe they’re right – I mean, God knows more than we do and this-or-that outcome would suggest that …” stop – He did not leave us wondering and guessing.
In Matthew 11 we see John the Baptist in prison sending his disciples to Jesus with a simple question “are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matt 11:3). This is the same John who earlier said of Jesus that He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Now he’s asking Jesus if He is really the Messiah? And what is the Lord’s response? Does He say “John, you don’t know what I know – and how dare you question me?” Nope. What does He say:
Go back and report to John what you hear and see:The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me. – Matt 11:3-6
Got that? When questioned by someone who had been with Him a long time and knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Lord responds with a description of His actions. Go tell John what you see – diseases are healed and the good news is proclaimed. That’s it.
And why is this the Lord’s response? The answer to that, I think, takes us back to Matthew 7. In the verses just prior to the lead verse of this post, the Lord gives his disciples this directive on false prophets:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. – Matt 7:15-20
So the Lord tells us to know a tree by it’s fruit, and He gives the same message back to John – judge Me by My fruit. No, we don’t have insider information. The Lord looks down from heaven and knows whether a tree is good or bad – but tells us that we don’t need omniscience to figure it out.
What then are we to do with silly pictures like that from my friend on facebook? Well, first we don’t at all need to be swayed by assertions about God’s will based on “hey, you never know” – the Lord has told us what to look for, and has told us to look.
And what would we report? If questioned about our country, its leadership, and its policies – what would we report? The weakest and most defenseless amongst us are slaughtered at will, the banking elites use unjust weights and measures to ensnare the poor, and those who work the fields are plundered by those who work the system. Is that enough recognizable fruit?