Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sermon on the Mount: Don't Be Fooled

From The Enemy Within, by Kris Lundgaard:

When prime minister Neville Chamberlain returned to Britain from his meeting with Hitler in Munich, he waved before the crowd the agreement he had made with the Nazi leader and announced, “I believe it is peace for our time.” Hitler had to roll over Czechoslovakia before Chamberlain gave up his wishful thinking. How much death and destruction might have been avoided if the prime minister had been more discerning about his enemy?

Chamberlain’s declaration became an obscene irony when England went to war less than a year later. But as tragic as it was, men and women outdo his folly day after day, to the danger of their own souls. When their consciences are pricked by their own sin, they too quickly declare their own inner peace before God has done his work in them.

Lundgaard uses the example of Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement to illustrate the concept of “false peace,” a dangerous self-deception in which Christians, or those who call themselves Christian, reassure themselves that they are spiritually OK, that they are right with God.

Toward the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers against this dangerous folly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

This person who will not enter the kingdom of heaven claims to be a follower of Jesus. He (or she) calls himself a Christian, and he even has orthodox doctrine about Jesus and about God. But in the end, Jesus will say to him, “I never knew you.”

Sometimes we deceive ourselves with a quick and easy doctrine of assurance. “Once saved, always saved,” we glibly assume. Or we look toward our baptism in the Church, our Christian parents, our church-going, our orthodoxy, or the fact that we are generally pretty good people.

These are false evidences of salvation, and if it’s what you are relying on when you say, “Lord, Lord,” you are in for an eternally rude surprise.

So how do you know if you are someone who will say ‘Lord, Lord’—but will not enter the Kingdom? What is the test? The test is not whether you know the Lord, but whether the Lord knows you. Jesus says to the self-deceived, “I never knew you.”

And how do you know if he knows you? Who will enter the kingdom of heaven? “He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The British preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “No man is ever too severe with himself. We hold the scales of justice with a very unsteady hand when our character is in the balance.” Later in the same sermon he added, “Let me tell you that if you have a peace today that allows you to be at peace with your sins as well as with God, that peace is a false peace.”

The way we know that we are NOT clinging to a false peace about our relationship with God is this: That we return to the Cross of Christ again and again and again, every time we are aware that we have failed to do the right thing. We cling not to our confession, or our good deeds, or to anything else; but we cling only to Jesus.

Prime Minister Chamberlain allowed himself to be deceived by Hitler; he allowed himself to believe that Nazis weren’t that bad. Do we, in the same way, allow ourselves to be deceived by sin? Do we, in the same way, rely on a false declaration of peace for our hope of salvation?

Don’t be fooled: cling only to the Cross.

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