What does doing God’s will look like in the Christian life? Pay attention to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21–23.
Lip service is not enough. Merely saying “Lord, Lord,” is inadequate. Jesus does not hesitate to talk about judgment. The broad road leads to destruction. The reference to unfruitful trees being chopped down and thrown into the fire introduced you to the setting of judgment, v. 19. Now the imagery is dropped, but Jesus describes what will happen on that great, dreadful day. Many will claim Christ as Lord, and will even cite spectacular deeds they have done: prophecy, casting out of demons, and performing many miracles. Deception is taking place on a number of levels. In the judgment, the final effort is to persuade the Judge that they are something they are not. They are attempting to deceive the searcher of hearts. Certainly their efforts may have deceived others. Hypocrisy is a problem in the church. Perhaps most tragically, they deceive themselves into thinking they belong to the Lord. That is one of the reasons that Christ calls his church to exercise church discipline. We need one another’s help to see that our lives are failing to sync with the confession we have made. We need one another to encourage us in our walk with the Lord.
Christ judges an empty profession. Judgment comes because the profession, the words, are empty. The profession consists of words, and even is accompanied by certain seemingly spectacular events, but it lacks obedience. In the fuller picture of the judgment scene in Matthew 25, Jesus emphasizes the importance of obedience. Claiming to belong to Christ, while failing to reflect that in your life, and especially in your relationship with other believers, is fatal. To fail to do the will of the Father is to be an evildoer. Disobedience has been, and continues to be grounds for judgment. Judgment involves separation from God. The original judgment involved being barred from the Garden of Eden, symbolizing separation from God. A holy God cannot tolerate sin, no matter how good a facade you put on. Christ’s terrible words will echo, “Away from me, you evildoers!” Imagine that being the last words that you hear from the Lord of glory.
Do the Fathers will. By God’s grace enter the kingdom of heaven. Christ’s words of warning may appear grim. They may even leave you hopeless. Who can obey? Re-read Matthew 5:21-42, and note the exacting standard to which Christ holds you. In your own strength, and in your own obedience you can never enter the kingdom of heaven. “Away from me!” is a pronouncement of judgment which you and I have earned. But the very structure of Christ’s saying implies that there will be those that do enter the kingdom. And the setting of the Sermon on the Mount gives hope, for rather than sitting in judgment, he is teaching his disciples, and you, about the kingdom and its great King. He is pointing you to himself as the one who brings in that kingdom by his death and resurrection. Notice the emphasis on the first person in the excuses made by those who are sent away, v.22. Contrast that with the poverty of spirit, the humility, of those who inherit the kingdom, Matthew 5:3. Entrance to the kingdom belongs, not to those who try to earn it themselves, but to those who cast themselves on the mercy of the King. Salvation is by grace, free and undeserved.
Live in covenantal obedience. As a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, your life is going to reflect the standards of the King. Your profession of Christ as Lord is going to be reflected in your life. His character guides your daily actions. Just as a non-obedient trust in Christ is a contradiction, so living in the covenant involves glorifying the Father. It involves doing his will, not superficially, not in a dogged effort at earning salvation, but in a joyful appreciation of the riches you have received. Earning salvation by our works is heresy. It is another gospel. Read Galatians if you doubt that. But don’t fall into the trap of underestimating how important doing the Father’s will is in your life. Good works are never the basis on which we are saved. But they are the way in which we are saved, Ephesians 2:10. Look again at Matthew 25. It is not those on Christ’s right hand who are focusing on what they have done. In fact, they question Jesus: “When did we see you hungry and feed you…?” they are doing the small things, but doing them willingly and to the glory of God. Look at the quote from Vos below, remarking that our Lord saw the reign of God as the natural order of things—and thus true blessedness for man is connected with living in the kingdom and doing the will of the King. Go back and read Matthew 5. Seek from the heart, as one whom God has called through his Son, to live to his glory. He gives you the powerfully working Holy Spirit to enable you to do his will. Your life involves, not only the eternal bliss of fellowship with God in heaven, but the joy of his presence in this life as well. Doing God’s will is not an abstract concept, hypothetical only. Rather, it is the way that you, God’s people, conduct your daily lives.
Do the Father’s will. And because he gave his Son for you, look forward with joyful anticipation to the glory of the kingdom of heaven, when, free from the struggles with sin which still mar your life, you will more fully live to his glory.
“[N]ot the thought of man’s welfare, but that of the glory of God was supreme in our Lord’s teaching concerning the kingdom. While emphasizing this, we must not forget, however, that to him this thought was inseparably connected with the idea of the greatest conceivable blessedness for man. That God should reign was in his view so much the only natural, normal state of things, that he could not conceive of any true happiness apart from it, nor of it without a concomitant state of happiness for those who give to God the first and highest place…. That God himself regards the kingdom in this light appears from the fact of his having prepared it for his own from eternity, Matt. 25:24.The preparation from eternity shows, that the kingdom is the supreme embodiment of the divine gracious purpose. Hence also the kingdom is said to be ‘inherited.’ Because the kingdom thus includes all that is truly valuable and precious, our Lord in connection with the kingdom parables pronounces the disciples blessed who see and hear the truth concerning it. In doing this they are brought into immediate contact with the fulfillment of all the Old Testament promises. What many prophets and righteous men in vain desired to see and hear, is theirs in actual possession, Matt. 13:16, 17.” (Geerhardus Vos,The Kingdom of God and the Church, pages 70–71).