Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)
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.’
Where do you stand before God? Are you his child? Are you, as the saints of yesteryear so often put it, saved? How do you know? How can you tell if you will go to heaven when you die?
Jesus, here in the Sermon on the Mount, gives us a very clear challenge for our thinking about this topic. There is a test to see if someone’s conversion is genuine. What is that test? Obedience to the commands of the Lord is the test that Jesus gives us.
We know from other passages of Scripture that no person will be right with God simply by being good enough or following enough rules. Paul tells us in Romans 3:20, “…For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” So, before you make this mistake, recognize that you cannot make yourself right with God by following the rules.
The only way to be right with God is by God’s grace. God grants that grace to us through faith in Jesus Christ as the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9. Thus, the way to be made right with God is by fully trusting in the finished work of Jesus for your entire eternity. If all of your hope for all of your soul’s forever is placed in Jesus and Jesus alone, you have been made into a child of God. If you have cried out to Jesus for rescue, you are his. As John 1:12 tells us, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Why then the test that Jesus mentions above? There are many people in the world who claim to have a relationship with God through Jesus. What Jesus tells us is simple. If a person claims to have a relationship with God, to be forgiven by grace through faith, but that person does not obey the commands of God, that person is mistaken. A person who is saved will be changed. A person who is changed will obey. Of course we will not obey perfectly, as we are still in a fallen world; however, we will obey more and more of God’s commands as time goes on if we are truly his children.
Jesus goes on to add that religious expression and religious experience is no gage of salvation. The people who are confused about their salvation, who think they are saved and are not, will want to argue their own case. Some will look back on ecstatic experiences, charismatic expressions, prophecies, spiritual warfare moments, etc. to claim that they are truly saved. But Jesus makes it plain that such experiences are no true tests. Obedience is the test, not supernatural spiritual experiences or feelings.
Do not let this post frighten you. Instead, simply turn to Jesus and be sure of your salvation. Put your whole trust for your whole soul in Jesus. Cry out to him for mercy because of the sacrifice he made on the cross and the fact that he rose from the grave. Jesus will forgive all who truly call on him. Then, once you have trusted in Jesus, follow him faithfully. This is how we know we are saved: Our trust is in Jesus and our lives are marked by obedience and repentance.