Doubting your Salvation
I wanted to follow-up with our meeting on Monday. I appreciate your desire to know more about what the Bible says, and I also appreciate the time you are spending during your quiet time, reading your Bible. Far too few young people seek to really understand what the Bible tells us. When I met with you and your parents, you specifically mentioned that the words in Matthew 7:21-23 made you doubt your salvation. Dwight Moody said that if a person never doubt their salvation, he would doubt they were really saved. You mentioned that you were fearful that you may be included in those who called Jesus “Lord, Lord” and His response was that He never knew you, so it is that question that I wish to address. I hope to explain the specific text, however, so that you can begin to answer this question on your own, personally, because that is where the relationship with Jesus lies; it is personal and individual, and just between you and Him.
The text that you have a question about, verses 21-23 in Matthew 7, and the surrounding chapters (chapters 5-7) are included in what is called the “Sermon on the Mount”. Jesus was in Galilee and a huge number of people began to follow him. To make sure everyone could see and hear Him, He went up on the side of a mountain and spoke to all the people from there. The verses you read are found towards the end of the sermon but fall into an important context, where Jesus was talking about false teachers and false followers. To see this, go back to your Bible in Matthew 7:15-20, and read where Jesus gave a warning about what He called wolves in sheep’s clothing. He was speaking about those people that distort the true gospel message for their own selfish motives. Jesus talked about how someone could tell a good tree from a bad tree by the fruit it yields, and likewise, people can give teachers that designation by the fruit their teaching yields. You may remember from your Sunday School lessons that this even became a problem for the church later, as even Paul and John wrote about outside influences to the church that spread false teachings. Verse 21-23 speak specifically about false followers, where people claimed to be believers, but their hearts have not been given to Jesus and their Christian persona was just for show.
This also is a warning for giving “lip-service” to Jesus, without actually being saved. In verse 21, Jesus’ warning is that not everybody that calls him “Lord, Lord” can actually claim that Jesus is their Savior. When Jesus used the word “Lord” here, He was calling into play the relationship between a master and a slave. The actual word used for Lord is the Greek word kurios which is a title given to someone that has supreme authority. Jesus said something similar to this in Luke 6:46 when He asked why someone would call Him “Lord, Lord’ and then not do what He says? Calling Jesus “Lord” without giving him 100% control over our lives is a lot like someone wearing a military uniform and claiming they served and were decorated without ever having been in the military. You can get arrested for doing that; it is against the law. You may see a lot of people calling themselves Christians, but when the fruit of their lives is in contrast to their Christian proclamation, that is sometimes a hint that they may not be holding Jesus as their “Lord” in the way He requires.
What may seem a bit curious, too, is the part where Jesus said that these people did some amazing things in His name, like giving prophecy in Jesus’ name, and even doing miracles and casting out demons! Someone reading these verses may think that if people can do all these things, surely they must be saved. Unfortunately, Jesus tells us that this is not the case. Even the Bible gives us examples of this, such as Judas Iscariot being one of the disciples but not fully invested in Jesus. We also read in John 11:50 of Caiaphas prophesying that it was good if one man died for the people, and in Numbers 22-24 Balaam prophesied about the Israelites, and neither of them were followers of Yahweh or Jesus. Even consider the nation of Israel. God used pagan nations like Babylon and Assyria in the Old Testament to bring about punishment or correction to Israel. God can work through anyone He chooses to accomplish His purposes.
Now that you have this explanation and information, I hope I have begun to explain what Jesus meant when He was speaking those words, but I also want to take some time and explain how this applies to you and to me, here in the 21st century. It really boils down to sincerity and submission. If a person is sincere in their decision to follow Christ, and they are submissive to His will, then they are not at odds with this passage. It is when a person is insincere about a relationship with Jesus or is unyielding to the will of God that they are in danger of being called out by Jesus as a false follower.
As you may know, I am a pilot. I could tell you over and over about what it feels like just to climb in and sit in that left-front seat, or to even fire up the engines and taxi across the tarmac. I could explain to you how it feels to roll out onto the numbers of a runway and push the engine to maximum power, and how it feels when enough wind gets below the wings and you feel the control surfaces become effective and feel the plane leap from the ground. I could try to explain how all that feels, but until you actually experience it, you really cannot understand or appreciate that feeling. This is much the same with salvation through Jesus Christ. Words do not do justice to the feeling you have when you know that Jesus took away your sins, and through his atoning work on the cross, you now have 100% free and total access to the throne room of Heaven and rights to boldly approach the Creator of Heaven and Earth. I just know that I know that I know, and when I read 1 John 4:7-21 it is confirmed, that Christ lives in my heart. Now, there is nothing that happened to me physically that you could point to and say “Pastor Kevin is a pilot”. I didn’t get a magic tattoo, nor did I sprout antennae. This applies to Christians as well. While Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit as Ephesians 1:13 states and Christians know in their hearts that Jesus saved them, there is no outward mark that identifies Salvation. However, no amount of doubt or questioning can ever take away the knowledge that Christians are saved, and this is the promise that Christians can cling to when verses like this are read and doubts arise. If you have experienced Jesus’ saving grace, then you are forever His child, and as John 10:29 states, nothing can take that away. If you have not, or if you have more questions, I ask that you and your parents come back by and visit with me again so that I can walk you through the path to that peace that is found through Jesus.