Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Triumph of Grace

Today, we will talk about a passage of Scripture that can strike fear in the heart of many believers. We have been faithful, and we have called Jesus Christ Lord. We have prayed for healing, and we have even seen healing happen.  We believe in the power of the name of Jesus Christ. We even speak Jesus over depression and evil and the circumstances of life. We believe God has the power to fix our lives. Then we read our passage today, and we become less certain. Did we miss something?

Let’s read Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father 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 deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “

A short illustration from our trip to see my grandchild. Our son’s dog spends its day faithfully at her family’s side. She herds them on walks to keep them safe. She knows their routines and rhythms. She is a loyal faithful dog. When we leave to go to dinner, she cannot figure out why she is left behind. Yet, as the door closes, she finds herself looking out of the window, her nose pressed against the glass. She stares with a longing plea, “Why am I not going with you?”

Like our son’s dog, but much more severe, in today’s passage, believers find themselves at the gates of heaven awaiting Jesus to notice them. Their hearts pounding with the expectation of joining Jesus in heaven. Only they hear “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

The disciples and the early church did amazing acts in the name of Jesus. We think of them as more spiritually attuned because of it. Yet, Jesus calls them evildoers! What about us? Did we not do enough? What more can we do? How did those who called Jesus “Lord, Lord” miss it? Jesus does not even know them!

The Greek wording indicates the situation is even worse than we think. It isn’t like Jesus is just ignoring them. Jesus isn’t saying that they missed the mark and therefore he doesn’t know them now.

When interpreting the Greek, you see that they are standing before God awaiting judgment. Jesus is standing as their teacher and their advocate. In other words, Jesus is their lawyer. For them to stand before God, they need Jesus as their representative. They need help to stand before God as God judges their life. For Jesus to be their advocate and to represent them before God, Jesus must know them. He must have a knowledge of their life and be familiar with them. He needs to know their works. He needs to know that they followed his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7.
Signs and wonders are great, but the ancient world thrived on magical displays. When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, lots of people walked around claiming to prophesy, cast out demons and do works of power. Whether real or not, it was not surprising and new to the people. When the disciples called Jesus “Lord, Lord” and performed “miracles,” they didn’t stand out as different from the pagans who were competing for the people’s attention and loyalty.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers what the real difference is. It’s how they live. These questions are what they will be judged on: Did you love your neighbor? Did you follow the Spirit of the Law? Did you follow the teachings of Jesus? Did you follow the “Way of Life” or are you still following the “Way of Death?” Jesus sets a high standard for our actions and our lives. It’s not just how outwardly spiritual we are, it’s how closely we follow Jesus and do the will of God.

It’s horrifying to imagine our final judgment and Jesus saying, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. If it were, many of us, including me, would be afraid, very afraid. But let’s pause. Do not lose heart. I will show you the most amazing hope we have.

In our society, in our time, we need to figure out the lessons from Jesus’ teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s look at nine major lessons from this sermon.

  1. The meek and the persecuted are blessed. (Matthew 5:3-12) Are we spiritually humble and seeking God’s kingdom? Do we bring comfort to those who mourn and suffer? Are we gentle and gracious? Do we hunger and thirst for justice? Are we compassionate? Are our motives pure and Spirit guided? Are we peacemakers? Do we stand for what is right and for others? Are we willing to be persecuted for living by God’s will? Do we face the cost of trying to do what is right? Do we function in a community of saints, or do we accept the culture’s norms?
  2. We are to have higher righteousness than the scribes and pharisees. (Matthew 5:20) – Are we complacent in our faith walk? Do we equate regular church attendance, routine tithing, and adherence to Christian norms with righteousness? Or do we seek a deeper, transformative heart-change to grow closer to Christ?
  3. Murder is sinful, but anger is too. (Matthew 5:21-22) – Do we examine our heart, attitudes and speech to remove all anger? Do we seek peace and reconciliation? For Jesus tells us anger and murder are the same before God.
  4. We are not to commit adultery or lust after someone. (Matthew 5:27-28) – Do we seek purity not just in action but in thought? Do we guard against objectifying others? No person exists for our satisfaction.
  5. We are to be honest and have no need for swearing an oath. (Matthew 5:33-37) – Do you communicate simple, straight-forward words without manipulation or deceit? Do you stress integrity and transparency in your dealings with others? Do you have a reputation for honesty?
  6. We are to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48) – In a society that promotes hate and division, do you pray for your opponents? Do you love your enemies? Do you seek your revenge or have faith in God’s justice?
  7. Alms, prayer, and fasting are to be done in secret. (Matthew 6:1-18) – Do you do what is right for social media clout or human approval? Jesus’ call to secrecy challenges our attention-seeking culture and calls us to a deeper, genuine relationship with God.
  8. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – This prayer includes petitions for daily sustenance and forgiveness in connection with forgiving others. The prayer encourages us to live out forgiveness in real and practical ways. The prayer places our dependence on God and not the world or ourselves.
  9. The Narrow Gate (Matthew 7:13-14) – The metaphor of the narrow gate says that following Jesus is not an easy journey. Christianity is not a consumer-oriented religious practice designed to fit our personal preference and comfort. The narrow gate represents a disciplined, committed journey following Jesus’ teachings and life.

You can see from these nine lessons from The Sermon on the Mount that Jesus wants us to be serious about our faith. To Jesus’ Jewish followers, these lessons magnify their law, their Torah, beyond their wildest imagination. To non-Jewish followers, Jesus makes it clear they too are to follow the Jewish law and meet his high standards. It is after these stunning lessons that he brings up their judgment before God in our passage today.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father 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 deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ “

The passage challenges us to reflect deeply on the authenticity and commitment of our faith. Do we put Jesus’ teachings into practice every day? Do we seek the profound, internal spiritual transformation that these teachings require? Do our hearts align with the radical heart of God’s love reflected in the Sermon on the Mount? What will Jesus say when we stand before God on judgment day?

Our journey with Christ seems great in theory and unattainable in practice. I fear I am unable to meet the requirements for Christ to advocate on my behalf. This leaves me with the stinging words of Matthew 7:23, still ringing in my ears, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” I can’t win, I will fail. I can never become good enough.

The Sermon on the Mount is a scary tale of our worst fear, “Christ never knew us.” Fortunately, this is only chapter 7 and we need to read to the end of the Gospel. In the end we are rescued.

Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. The story moves from the Sermon on the Mount to Christ’s resurrection. In the resurrection, our relationship with Jesus changes. Jesus as simply a teacher of righteousness cannot know us or represent us as an advocate before God. We cannot achieve the righteousness Jesus requires of us in the Sermon on the Mount.

When Jesus rises from the dead, he becomes Christ Jesus. By his death and resurrection, Jesus becomes our advocate and our redeemer. Christ grants us grace for our shortcomings and sinfulness and through faith, we receive his seal of perfection. On judgment day, we are saved not by our righteousness but by the righteousness of Christ. Jesus Christ gives us his perfection. In big theology terms, through grace we are imputed with the perfection of Christ.

Jesus rejected those who call him “Lord, Lord,” because even with all their miracles and prophesying, they lived lawlessly. Their external religious performance was insufficient for salvation. Discipleship demanded obedience to God’s will. Jesus shared God’s will in the Sermon on the Mount. It set high ethical standards and attitudes toward wealth, enemies, and personal integrity that went way beyond traditional religious observance.

Jesus taught an ideal of spiritual and ethical living that, frankly, no human can fully achieve. Matthew 5:48 highlights this when Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This standard is aspirational but humanly unattainable. It emphasizes the gap between human sinfulness and divine holiness.

Here this, church. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ does not leave me or you with an impossible situation. After the resurrection when Jesus prepares to leave the earth, Jesus resolves the dilemma all humanity finds themselves in. God’s righteousness is unattainable, but we do find righteousness in Christ’s resurrection. Everything changes with Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and he gives that authority to the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. Christ promises to always be with them. Here, instead of saying “go away, you evildoers” he says “I am with you always.” He still instructs the disciples to teach his followers everything God commands. But his promise never to turn them away and always be with them, extends to all Christians of all nations “to the very end of the age.” That means us.

Christ, through His death and resurrection, becomes the mediator between God and humanity. He doesn’t just advocate a radical ethical code. He embodies and gives us the righteousness of God that the Sermon on the Mount demands but His followers cannot themselves achieve. Let me repeat, Christ gives us what we need to stand before God, to be accepted by God, to be cleared of all our sin, to live forever in the presence of Christ, to be eternally in the Kingdom of God and to be called God’s Children. We receive the righteousness of Christ—the very righteousness of God. We are not righteous by any law, but through our faith in Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled the law on our behalf.

Today, we thank Jesus Christ for the awesome gift of His saving grace. We are empowered by His Holy Spirit to live according to His teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Christ’s righteousness motivates us to seek God’s will. When we stand before God, Christ will stand with us. We are represented before God by Christ. Today, our standing before God is secure, not because of our flawless ethics but because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and victorious resurrection.

Finally, the Great Commission in Matthew 28 encourages us to live and teach the principles of the Sermon on the Mount within our community. At Place of Grace Fellowship, we share the good news of the gospel. We strive to make disciples and faithfully pass along Jesus’s teachings. Our church is a place of grace and spiritual growth. Our missional outreach is done in the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount undergirded by the righteousness of Christ.

We are called to high ethical standards. We are also gifted with amazing grace. Jesus calls us too much. Jesus Christ provides even more. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can live out the teachings of Jesus. With God’s grace we are known by Christ and accepted as God’s children.

PRAYER

Father God,

Grateful for the grace You have given us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. May we carry Your teachings in our hearts, ready to live out the compassion You’ve called us to in the Sermon on the Mount.

Bless the hands and hearts of those serving in our food pantry. May the volunteers feel the warmth of Your love as they extend their hands in service. Fill their hearts with kindness that reflects Your heart for every person who comes seeking food.

We pray for those in need who come to us. May they find not only physical nourishment but the grace and love of Christ. Holy Spirit, fill our interactions with respect and care, and may we provide more than just food — may we offer hope, a listening ear, and Your love.

For those among us who cannot be with us in person, we ask You to bless them. May their prayers be powerful and effective reaching the corners of our service where our hands and feet cannot. Strengthen their faith as they intercede for us and give them joy in their vital role in this ministry.

Christ Jesus, we pray for the outreach of Place of Grace Fellowship. We seek to live out your radical teachings to reach people with Christ’s grace. Help us to be a light in San Antonio.

As we leave our church home today, may our lives be a testimony to the hope that is found in faith, the joy in serving, and the peace in knowing You. Guide us as we go forth, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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