Newtown Bible Church

Danger of Self-Deception (Matthew 7:21-23)

Intro/Opening: Note: I pray for the message throughout the week; for its affect on my own heart, for the God’s glory, Christ’s glory, for your hearts. I pray throughout the morning; I pray for God’s blessing on the reading of the Word, on the prayer, and through many of the songs I am in prayer for God’s help and God’s grace and blessing on His Word. And I know many of you are to. However, I have been convinced, particularly throughout this week, that it is important for us to begin the messages with public prayer; with a corporate acknowledgement of our dependence upon God to bless His Word to our hearts. And so we will begin this morning and each Lord’s Day message with prayer …”

We come again to the concluding section of the Sermon; and there is a piercing seriousness to our Lord’s words here, as He moves us from the false prophets and now widens the net to catch all those who are self-deceived and caught in their deception while on the broad path.

Membership in the kingdom is not marked by profession of faith but manifestation of righteousness. Spiritual deception and self-delusion is real and horrific. 3 Warnings to expose false professions, so you would not be self deceived. (1) Reality of False professions (2) Emptiness of False professions (3) Horror of False professors

Now, I want to note at the outset that the Lord’s words are a merciful warning to not be self-deceived. He could have simply left us to our own, but He did not and through a passage of such incredible seriousness He, now from heaven as He did on earth, is warning those who wrongly profess to be His people to jump off the broad path as fast and as far as they can while their is still time, to squeeze through the narrow gate of repentance.

Our Lord has already warned of the danger of the broad, easy path of religion that leads to destruction; of the the false prophets who come disguised as servants of righteousness, but are Satan’s workers, deceiver’s, wolves in sheep’s clothing. He has alerted us of our need to examine the lives and fruit of those who profess to speak in God’s Name.

Now, in this present section He warns even more directly, piercingly, forcefully of the self-deception that attends the broad way, and is self-deceived all the way to damnation.

First, He will state the general and yet piercing proposition in v. 21, and then move to further illustrate and expose in 22-23.


Reality of False professions

(21)“Not everyone who is saying to Me [present tense, currently, now, in this life], “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven but the one who is doing the will of My Father in heaven” Contrast is between “saying ... Doing”. It is not saying you are a Christian, or believing certain doctrines, and attending certain churches, or reading certain books, but it is a life that manifest doing the will of God. Basic proposition: many who profess Christ now will be shocked on the day of judgement.

“not everyone … will enter into the kingdom of heaven” - This clearly picks up on 5:20 “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here entrance refers to participation in the kingdom blessings, the full experience of its blessings and promises.

There is a definite ‘inside/outside’ reality to the kingdom of heaven. Some who are a part of the kingdom here on earth, but are outside of the kingdom role in heaven and will forever be outside the kingdom and in judgement for eternity.

Jesus will repeatedly warned of this (Matt. 13 “wheat and tare” “good fish and bad fish … angels will come forth and take out the wicked among the righteous”) - people superficially attached to the kingdom, but are not born again.

Let’s begin by making some initial observations:

(1) He does not say, “nobody,” but “not everyone,” that is to say, some who are saying, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but many (22) will not. Some say it in the context of relationship, submission, devotion, reverence, faith, and worship. However, If we take the Lord’s words seriously here, we must admit that there are many who fill the pews, couches, and chairs of churches throughout the world that will be numbered among this crowd.

(2) Jesus issues this warning as God and, therefore, with all the authority of Deity. “My Father,” first use in Matthew’s gospel. The Son who has already been confirmed as “God with us” (1:21), as the Son in whom the Father is “well pleased,” because of His perfect holiness, the One on Whom the Spirit rested in the manifestation of Trinitarian glory at the baptism.

So, we have here the words and warning of the eternal God the Son Himself; the very One whom we will stand before (Rom. 14; 2 Cor. 5:10).

(3) They had right doctrine: The term “Lord” is used in a variety of ways: to speak of a landowner; or as simple title of respect; the LXX uses it to translate the Hebrew YHWH. Here it is being used in the full sense of recognizing Jesus as Lord. Note, this takes place on the Day of Judgment when they see Him in all His glory; and the same term “Lord” they used on earth, is consistent with how they view Him then. This is further shown in verse 23 “In Your Name.”

The concept of “Name” encompasses all that is revealed about Christ. Therefore, these would have confessed Christ as God having come in the flesh; confessed the Trinity; Jesus as the only way to God - that He died on the cross for sinners and is the only way to be saved; that the Bible is God’s Word; belief in heaven and hell; acknowledged the need for faith; confessed Him as Creator. He is not identifying unorthodox, or irreligious people, but those happily, actively, and confessedly in the church and followers of Jesus.

Now, doesn’t Paul later say that “If you confess with mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved?” And again: “Now one can call Jesus Lord apart from the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 12)? Yes, but it is also possible to say all those things from a wrong and empty heart. The ultimate test is that of obedience: “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46); “which one did the will of the father?” (Matt. 21:31).

So is the case here; those who professed faith, even right faith, yet they did not manifest a heart, or life of obedience; of doing God’s will.

His warning is against Self-deception; let’s consider some of its many forms.

(A) False foundation of assurance: Many people, particularly in our culture, are deceived because they have prayed the ‘sinners prayer,’ made some profession of faith, walked down an aisle at a church service, believe they are saved, and have been told whenever they doubt they are only to remember that event, or that decision.

Even more, they are often told that if they ever do doubt they are sinning because they are not taking God at His Word, even if their life gives no testimony of obedience, repentance, humility, desire for the Word of God.

(B) Other who are deceived may have had some real, powerful, or sudden experience even full of emotions; and they may continue for a while in Christian talk, activity, and interest; and in every observable way show themselves a genuine Christian. These are those of Matt. 13: “sprout up …” but never bear fruit.

As time goes on and life moves forward the initial excitement, or interest in the gospel and Christianity wanes, the emotions slowly fade away; the initial excitement is now a memory. There is no interest in confessing sin, no desire for Christian fellowship, to impulse to read or hear the Word of God, no prompting to go to the Lord in private prayer.

Yet, they are confident they are going to heaven because of an earlier experience. And there are those who confirm people in this confidence in direct opposition to the Lord’s teaching.

They may say that person is simply backslidden and they are never called to self examination, as Paul told the Corinthians (2 C 13:5): “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” - but they are assured all is well since submitting to Christ as Lord is a post salvation commitment, not part and parcel with saving faith. Thus they pat them on their back while on their way to eternal damnation.

It is never our job to assure someone of faith, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are simply to point them to Christ and His Word.

(C) Others who are deceived may be involved in church, Bible studies, or Christian service. They may go to all the functions, put their children exclusively in Christian activities, and only do and see those things that are distinctly moral or Christian. Based on that are convinced that they are going to heaven; that God will certainly see their goodness, their Christian deeds, and be satisfied.

This would include those who enjoy Christian activities, are committed to a denomination, or have an acute interest in theology, but do not posses personal righteousness.

Yet there is no daily, private confession of sin; desire for both heart and life obedience to the word of God; no gospel humility over sin; and trust in Christ alone for righteousness.

This is the one who professes Christianity, but has not real desire to actually talk about Christ, things spiritual, the Word of God - as soon as these topics come up they are uncomfortable, uninterested, or simply want to change the subject.

These are those who like to talk about Christianity, God, or church in a general sense, but when it comes to specific issues of faith, life, then all of a sudden they are again offended, uninterested, uncomfortable, want to change the subject, or wonder why you are taking it so seriously.

Those who are fine acknowledging that Scripture is God’s Word (as opposed to other things) but have no desire to read it, or obey it. Or, when specific passages and applications to life are discussed, their interest, or their confidence in its authority suddenly wanes.

First thing to notice: It is possible to have right doctrine; to have made a profession of faith, to have had some type of conversion experience in life, to have current involvement in church, to have an interest in Christian theology and issues, and still be unconverted: “one who is saying, ‘Lord, Lord’” - Now the Lord is not condemning right belief about Him, the gospel is a set of propositions that must be believed; what He is saying that right doctrine alone, without a life to match it is hypocrisy and self-deception.


(2) Emptiness of False professions

“Many will say to Me, on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name … cast out demons … do might works’” - the present “those who are saying” is now pushed forward to the future day of accountability. “many” picking up on the “many” on the broad road in (13). Now He brings us to the end of that road.

“in that day” - This phrase used in NT to refer different aspects of the time of God’s judgment. I believer here the scene is the final day of judgment, the Great White Throne; when all humanity is brought to stand before the Lord. All humanity and the angelic realm are witnesses. God the Son in all His glory is on the judgment seat. It is a time when all earthly delusions are gone and everything is exposed for what it really is; every mouth is closed and the world is accountable to God. All pretenses are stripped away and every heart, thought, intention, motive, and action is open and laid bare before the Lord with whom we have to do. So the scene is judgment and the Lord is so merciful to give us this picture, this look into that future day, that horrible future day for many; to lay bare the hypocrisy here and now so that we may rightly examine ourselves.

There is no way to capture the sinking sense of desperation in the heart of those now speaking. Surly many would have already have spent thousands, hundreds years, or days in torment and judgment (Lk. 16; Acts 1:25). Thus, they are coming from judgment to stand finally before the Lord moments before being thrown in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15), which I suspect is undoubtably in their view even as they speak. There is in this scene and in their words an untold desperation.

Their argument is that they did to the right things and “In Your Name” - repeated 3x, the point being, we sought to do these things by faith - remember, these are those who confess Jesus as Lord.He is not talking about false religions but of professing Christians. He is bringing before us those who spent their life active in the church, professing Christ, publicly acknowledging their works as being in the Name of Jesus.

Now, this poses a difficulty, those immediately in view were obviously actively and vigorously engaged in doing God’s will, under the banner of Christ as Lord, and in line with those things that displayed His activity in their life. These things are the will of God, they are done in the Name of Jesus, they do acknowledge Jesus as Lord, they are done with the hope of heaven, they do evidence faith in who Jesus as revealed in Scripture.

The question becomes, what was wrong with what they did? Or, what is it about their profession of faith and their deeds in the Name of Jesus that was deficient? What was it in their life and heart that failed to manifest genuine repenting faith? To answer it is necessary to see what these will hold up as evidence of their faith.

(1) “Prophecy” - prophet is God’s spokesman; God’s mouth and lips to His people; revealing His will, His Word, and His ways to His people. These claim to have delivered God’s message to His people. This would include false messages, and probably that is the main emphasis. It is possible they did in fact speak a true message about God, at least sometimes.

It is possible to preach a true message and be unconverted (1 Cor. 13:1-3; Phil. 1:15). Preaching without loving and obeying those same truths. The preached, taught, and proclaimed, but did not do.

(2) “cast out demons” - thus showing a power over the realm of darkness. Jesus said that Satan does not cast out Satan, but if demons are cast out the kingdom of God is among them. Thus, casting out of demons is laid out as evidence of God manifesting His power through this group of people.

Were they genuine? Possibly, certainly they were with Judas (LK 10:17-20) , and the Lord does not deny them, but in either case, even such an incredible spiritual display of power is insufficient evidence of salvation: this is why the Lord replied: “rejoice not that the demons were subject to you, but that your names are written in heaven.”

(3) “many works of power” - give display of a miraculous work of God the Holy Spirit. Question: Were these legitimate? Not sure; He doesn’t deny them (1) Satan and demons can mimic all of these things (Deut. 13:1-2; Matt. 24:24; Rev. 16; 2 Thess 2:9); it is possible that something supernatural was done; Satan has a measure of power in the physical realm; (2) interestingly, each of these are main tenants of the Charismatic movement and held as evidence of God’s power and blessing.

The greater principle is this: external works were held up to give evidence of God’s presence and power in them. The Lord could have just as easily said: “Didn’t we go to church every Lord’s Day, didn’t we volunteer for work that needed to be done; didn’t we teach a Sunday School class; didn’t we go to all church functions; didn’t we read our Bible; etc.

So what is lacking? Heart obedience. Gospel Humility (5:3-12). They were quick to do those outward things but when it comes to loving God’s Word; inward heart obedience in thought, motive, and deed, private prayer - deficient. They may have had a great deal and many wonderful works to attend their profession, but what they lacked was sincere, humble, full obedience to the Lord.

John 8:31 “If you abide in My word then you are truly disciples of Mine” later “bear fruit and so prove to be My disciples” - not simply know His Word, give lip service to His Word, agree that His Word is true, but if you “abide in My Word,” that is continue in your love for it and obedience to it, which is abiding in Him and obeying Him. To say that you know Him, but have no desire to hear Him speak in His Word, and then no desire to obey that voice then there is no relationship and you are self deceived.


(3) Horror of False professors

“And then I will confess to them, ‘Depart from Me you who are workers of lawlessness” - They have there argument, but Jesus has the last Word. He will confess to them and before all of heaven and they will be case into the lake of fire, where they will be with the devil and his angels forever.

It is Jesus who is responding “I will confess”. Remember, He is looking forward as the God-Man to the day when all humanity will stand before as Judge (John 5:22). Jesus Christ is the final Judge of all mankind and the angelic realm. As God the Son He spoke all things into existence and all people are accountable to Him. This is looking to the day when all the unbelieving will before Him. Literally billions of people are in this scene.

Note there is a real element of surprise, which Jesus often warned about.

Lk. 13:22-28 is a different occasion, but same imagery to teach the same point; namely, some assume redemption, a relationship with God who will be surprised by their rejection on the day of judgment. Just as in Matthew 7, they will make a defense based on the fact that they were near to Christ (“we … in Your presence” [26]). They had external connection, but not an internal love and submission. They were “evildoers” (e˙rga¿tai aÓdiki÷aß).

Matthew 25:1-46 presents three scenes that portray shock at judgement. Point is simply: Failure to be properly prepared for the Lord’s return. They assumed they were ready, but never pursued righteousness, examined profession, or practiced repentance.

Matthew 25:14-30 - Again, day of judgement the Lord calls those attached to His kingdom to account. Some among the number are “wicked … lazy” and shocked; unconverted; unconcerned about repentance, righteousness, faithfulness.

Matthew 25:31-46 again portrays the scene at the Lord’s return at the end of the Tribulation. Here, those judged are not judged for specific acts of wickedness, but for negligence of righteousness (“you did not do …”).

Note: confidence of salvation is not evidence of salvation and reconciliation to God. Many people appeal to the fact that they are confident in their salvation - that they know God and are ok with Him - and are offended by anyone who may challenge that; yet their confidence does not arise out of their understanding of God’s Word, but from their own wisdom, imagination, and emotions. This is very, very foolish.

So statements like, “Well I know that I am saved and nobody can tell me differently!” “I know that I know God, and I talk to God everyday and nobody can convince me otherwise.” Well, when this is based on a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that is in line with God’s Word, great. But when it is built on nothing more than your own sense of confidence and self style criteria that stands above the word of God, then you are in this crowd here. Utterly, absolutely, convinced of their relationship with God and absolutely unconverted, horribly shocked, and devastatingly suffering the misery of hell for eternity. Don’t be (and yes I am going to be blunt) so arrogant and so stupid.

“I never knew you” - speaks of relationship; never at anytime was (did you have) there a true spiritual relationship (John 10 “I know My sheep” 2 Tim 2 “The Lord know those who are His”.

He is not saying, “Never did you have any conviction of sin, never did you have some emotions regarding the gospel, or never did you not make some sacrifice for the sake of religion in My Name, never did you increase in your intellectual knowledge of Me and My Word, or never did you experience some measure of My goodness and promptings of heart.” He is saying, “I never knew you in intimate spiritual relationship.

Never did (you) they truly experience His fellowship in prayer; never did they truly experience a secret inward brokenness for their sin, for His having been crucified for them. Never did they truly run to Him by faith, seeing their own wretchedness and trusting in His grace alone. Never did He disclose Himself in them through His Word giving them spiritual delights of discovery, conviction, and heart repentance. Never did they know an ongoing desire to hear Him speak through His Word and delight in the knowledge of Him.

But it is even more surprising: look at what He bases His judgment on: “you who are working lawlessness” - this is a shocking reversal, they thought they were working and doing for Him (“in Your Name”), He says all your deeds were lawlessness (“filthy rags”). Whatever the motive is, it is not down out of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind … strength,” they were not doing this. They were not motivated and prompted by a love for God (cf. Rev. 2:1f; John 5:42; Lk. 11:42; 1 John 2:5; 5:3). Despite all their professions of faith, religious activity, or confidence in heaven they did not have sincere love for God and obedience to His Word.

These people were busy doing outward stuff, but were not pursuing heart righteousness by the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1f).

The mark of the NC is not prophecy, miracles, exorcism, or any other religious activity, but it is to have “the law of God written on the heart” (Jer. 31); and to posses the Holy Spirit - for it is He who writes it there!

This does not mean perfect obedience (only Christ as that), but it does mean a desire for heart obedience, an inward sensitivity to sin that draws one to God and Christ in regular secret confession of sin, and inward desire for righteousness to prompts one to obey out of a fear and love for God, it is a basic humility before God that recognizes that your hope of righteousness is not in yourself but in Christ alone. That looks away from self to Christ alone for that righteousness that makes you acceptable to God.

If this is you, Jesus Christ died to save repentant hypocrites. If these things describe you, and you are convicted of your sin, then you need only to turn and truly seek Christ to be your Lord and Savior; to cry out to Him for mercy: “Lord be merciful toward me, the sinner!” There is no need to go to hell.

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