Since I've been very busy lately and we've had a couple of difficult weeks recently (see last post), I haven't had the chance to post the third part in my "How Are We To Live" series. I'll probably post it within the next couple of weeks and then the final one a couple of weeks after that (Lord willing). And since they've been so spread out, I may group them together in another single post sometime after that. I'm beginning to think I should never set out to do any "series" because I never get them done in a timely fashion (or at all, in some cases!).
Anyway, I wanted to post a link to our church's PDF file of our latest sermon in our Sermon on the Mount series. I've also posted the audio link in the sidebar. This was a tremendous sermon on what it means to "do the will of God". This sermon is on one of the most misunderstood passages in the New Testament: Matthew 7:21-23. So many people use this section to teach the very thing that Jesus is opposing.
As Jesus has stressed throughout the SOTM, it's "Authentic, intimate relationship with Him, not behavior (that) defines doing the will of God and determines who enters the Kingdom of Heaven" (Culver pg. 135). And this "relationship" is born through faith; by coming to Christ and believing in Him we are "born again", estrangement is gone and we now have intimacy with God as His Children. And it's this idea of "relationship" that's been the focus of the SOTM from the beginning, even from the beginning of Matthew's Gospel as he introduced us to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Scripture.
This lack of relationship was Jesus' condemnation on the people. They didn't really know God as their Father and God didn't really know them as His "sons". The people thought that their heritage, their genealogy as Abraham's seed secured their "sonship"; and "Israel" was certainly called God's son throughout the OT upon His bringing them out of Egypt. God certainly did relate to them as a Father to His Children (and also as a Husband to His wife) even though they continually rejected Him; so they had precedent to believe that they were His "sons". Of course, they failed to realize that their whole existence as the "son of God" as a nation was typological and spoke of Christ, the true Son and then all those who would be Children of God through union with Christ. But still, they had a precedent for believing that they were "sons of God" in Abraham.
The problem, though, is that there was no true relational knowledge between Israel and God. Even though God treated them as "sons" as He continued to paint the portrait of His true Son, they didn't really know God as their Father and God didn't really know them as "sons" because they didn't believe their Scripture; they didn't believe Him! The people thought they were doing the will of God as His "sons" by "obeying" the Law/Scripture--but it was the Scripture that spoke of Christ. So to obey the Law/Scripture, to 0bey God, is to believe God: to believe that Jesus is who He and the Father say that He is--the fulfillment of the Scripture, the Promised One who has, in Himself, fulfilled and accomplished the purpose of God to redeem His Creation and Establish the Kingdom of God.
And we obey God, we do the will of the Father when we believe Him and come to His Son by faith, trusting in Him for our very lives; believing, as John says, that He truly is the Bread of Life. We do the work of God, again as John says, when we believe in Him whom God has sent. We obey God when we "believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another."
To obey is to believe; and by believing, to live the life of faith, which is to say, as we know, the life of love. We live by faith by walking in Christ's righteousness, not our own. God knows us as His Children because He's joined us by His Spirit to His Son. We're "sons" in the Son only by His grace through faith, not by our works..., even those done in His name!
These people are removed from the presence of Christ because He didn't know them! It didn't matter that they did so many "good things" in His name. All the good things that they did in the name of Christ, all the "good works" of so-called obedience in His name are worthless. He even calls them lawless ones! Those who meticulously keep "the Law", are called "lawless ones"! The only thing that matters, the only way into the small gate on the narrow road is if God knows us! The issue is not what we've done in God's Name: prophesying, casting out demons, performing miracles, feeding the hungry, etc. The issue is whether or not God knows us. And God only knows His people (knows them "relationally") as He knows them in Christ.
Matthew 7:21-23 is the capstone of the SOTM. Jesus has been telling the people since the beginning that it is only through Him that anyone enters the Kingdom. He is the fulfillment of all the Scripture and to obey the Scripture (Law), to obey God is to believe Him and come to Christ by faith as the Promised One of the Scripture.