Matthew 7:12-23 (ESV)

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. 15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

After reading this passage, it’s hard not to be struck by the intensity of verses 21-23. Honestly, these words of Jesus sound pretty scary. And they are. To begin with, Jesus was clear that there are only two eternal destinations. In the next life, people will either be in the kingdom of heaven or outside the kingdom of heaven. In love, Jesus explained to his audience that their destiny would not be based on what they said or even what they did in his name. Instead, it would be determined by whether or not they had a legitimate relationship with him. The people Jesus described had accomplished many things for him, even acknowledging him as God (“Lord, Lord!”), but they refused to do the will of the Father. The result was total and complete rejection. So what does it mean to do the will of the Father in heaven? We must begin by acknowledging that being right with God isn’t the result of our own goodness. Instead, we must enter by the narrow gate of repentance and faith. This means that we don’t come to God offering him a package of obedience that we have created, but we come completely broken, confessing our sins, placing all our trust in Jesus and ready to do his will. When this happens, God’s Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out and we begin a relationship with Christ that lasts for eternity.

If you have never turned from your sin and put all your confidence in Jesus, please don’t hesitate any longer. Admit your sin to God, thank him for the righteousness of Christ credited to your account, and decide with the help of the Holy Spirit to live for him and his kingdom. If you are confused, ask Jesus to show you whether you have honestly come to the place of willingness to exchange your life for his. Clearly, we can’t enter a relationship with Jesus if we aren’t really willing to do so. If you are honestly in Christ, then thank God that you will be with him forever. May this truth encourage you more today than ever before, even in the midst of difficulty. And pray for those around you who haven’t fully trusted in Jesus yet. Just as God opened your eyes to see your need for him, he can do the same for the people in your prayers.