21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NKJV)!
Self-identifying as a Christian does not make it so. The identifying mark of one who enters the kingdom of heaven is doing the will of God the Father who is in heaven. Self-identifying as a prophet of Christ does not make it so. Jesus has just warned of false prophets whose fruit is against the word of God (Matt. 7:15-20). Self-identifying as a miracle worker does not make it so. The incident of the sons of Sceva reminds us that only Christ’s apostles and prophets worked miracles (Mark 16:17-20; Acts 19:11-16; Heb. 2:3-4). Self-identifying as a wonderworker does not make it so. Simon amazed many Samaritans with his sorcery until Philip worked miracles by the power of God (Acts 8:5-13). Jesus does not receive those who “practice lawlessness” (iniquity). We do the will of the Father by looking into and living by His law, the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:23-25). Let us carefully do God’s word and not be among those who identify with Jesus but do not obey God’s word (James 1:23-24). Only sadness and sorrow await those who practice lawlessness and hear Christ say, “Depart from Me!”
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8, NKJV).
Paul’s warning against deceivers who would plunder our spiritual treasures in Christ is not new (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 12-15). Let us give attention to “the basic principles of the world” that are not according to Christ and fuel this deception. The basic principles of the world are not the chemical elements that constitute the physical realm (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). They are the fundamental evil elements that oppose God, His purposes, and His truth. They enslave souls to the service of sin (Gal. 4:3). Consider four basic principles of the world: (1) Unbelief. It plunges souls into darkness, ignorance, and alienation from the true and living God (Eph. 4:17-19). Without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). (2) The traditions, commands, and doctrines of men. Human philosophies appeal to the intellect, often seem plausible, yet are “empty deceit” that cannot save us and protect us from sin (Col. 2:8, 20-23). (3) Carnality and its works. The evil world is composed of the lusts of the flesh, of the eyes, and life’s pride. These stimulate all manner of works of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17; Gal. 5:19-21). Carnal-mindedness opposes God and causes spiritual death (Rom. 8:5-8). (4) The will of men instead of the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2-3). Elevating our cravings and will above God is a fundamental element of the world. Be encouraged and beware; Do not let anyone plunder your spiritual treasure in Christ (Col. 2:1-3).
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” 16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:14–17, NKJV)
The Jews were perplexed that Jesus was teaching with skill and expertise. He had not been trained at the feet of their scholars. Jesus was not given authority to teach by the scholars of the day. He was a commoner from an obscure village, far from their center of learning. Yet, He spoke the doctrine of God with authority (Matt. 7:28-29). The reliability of someone’s teaching does not depend on credentials the teacher has earned from a school of learning. Seminary training is not a biblical prerequisite to knowing and teaching God’s truth. The prerequisite to knowing the teaching of Christ is having a will to do God’s will (v. 17). A heart that is open to hearing and receiving the teachings of Jesus equips us to know the truth of God that has been revealed by the authority of Jesus. He taught the doctrine of the Father, who sent Him to the earth. The gospel of Christ is that very doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10-11). We preach His doctrine today, to save the lost and to secure the saved (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1:24-29). May we always have a will to do God’s will, and follow the teaching of Jesus.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NKJV)
It is helpful to remember this is a model prayer (Matt. 6:9). We are to pray respecting and yielding to God’s program – God’s will – in everything. John the baptizer had already preached that the kingdom of heaven was near (Matt. 3:2). Then, Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23). As Jesus predicted, the kingdom did come “with power” and Christians are now citizens of the kingdom (Mk. 9:1; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; Col. 1:13; Heb. 12:28). God accomplished His will and established the coming kingdom, the church (Matt. 16:18-19). To pray for the kingdom to come today would deny the truth that it has already come! Nevertheless, the model of praying in harmony with the will of God is sound. Like Jesus in the garden, “thy will be done” is our prayer of faith and expectation that God will fulfill His will on earth – just as it is accomplished in heaven. When we pray, “thy will be done,” we must also live in harmony with His will so that our lives complement rather than contradict our prayers. God’s program will always succeed. May our prayers reflect our complete submission to His will in our lives.
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15, NKJV)
Two prevailing realities of life compel us to depend upon God and to respect His will. First, life is uncertain. To paraphrase Scottish poet Robert Burns, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. The uncertainty of life shows the wisdom of remembering God and His will in all we do. Without Him we are left rudderless on the restless, stormy sea of life. Second, life is brief. We are here a very brief time, then like the vapor rising from the tea kettle, our life on earth is done. The brevity of life forces us to come face to face with our own mortality, and our need for guidance to a better shore. The Lord’s will, spoken in His Scriptures, assures us of spiritual life in Christ, and of eternal life when this life fades away (Jno. 10:27-28; 11:25-26; 1 Jno. 5:11-13). Put the Lord’s will first in your life. Then, come what may, life in the Son will be certain and never-ending.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV)
The will of God. Do you want to know it? You can, since Paul said “this is” it. God does not want you to be foolish, “but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Do you want to do the will of God? You should, because “he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jno. 2:17). Of course, knowing and doing the will of God takes faithful effort on your part. It requires an utter willingness to replace your personal will with the will of God. It requires opening your mind and allowing God’s law to be written on your heart (Heb. 8:10; Col. 3:16). With this renewed mind, fully committed to the word of God, you are equipped to know and do the will of God – to “prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). Truly, this is the will of God.