The Most Frightening Words

by Mike Ratliff

“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. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

I have two totally separate “encounters” with two different people in the last two days in which both persons insisted that Jesus taught a totally different “Gospel” than that which Paul the Apostle preached. In both cases these fellows insist that they are following Jesus instead Paul. Why this is coming out all at once is puzzling, but really what is being said by these people is nothing new. There are really only two groups of people. There are those who believe God and those who don’t. When people reject the Gospel they will give all sorts of reasons for doing so, but really it all boils down to the fact that they refuse to bow the knee in total surrender to the Lord of Lords.

Both of these fellows claim to be “Jesus followers.” However, what that means is that they have their “religion” on their own terms. Since they both insist that they obey Jesus instead of Paul then let us look at Jesus’ own words about that.

by Tom Ascol

As Jesus draws His Sermon on the Mount to a close, He makes one of the most frightening statements to be found in Scripture. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls His declaration the most solemn and solemnizing words ever uttered in this world. “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. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

It is hard to imagine anything more devastating than to hear the meek and lowly Jesus Christ utter these words to people who were expecting to be welcomed into heaven by Him. These are people who have been deceived. They lived their lives believing a lie.

Think about the kind of people Jesus describes here. They are not irreligious. They call Jesus “Lord.” They know the lingo and even make a proper profession about Christ. Furthermore, they have been very active in the practice of their religion. They have been preachers, exorcists, and miracle workers, and they did all of their religious works in the name of Jesus.

On that fateful day, however, neither their religious fervor nor their activities will save them. They have deceived themselves into believing that they know Christ, but in reality they have missed Him. They profess to have a saving relationship with Him. He professes never to have known them. And Jesus’ profession is the one that ultimately matters.

Self-deception is an insidious condition. You will never meet a person who knows he is self-deceived. By definition, those ensnared are completely unaware that they are. This is why God gives us so many warnings to be careful in our walk through this world (Acts 13:40-41; 2 Peter 3:17; Hebrews 3:12;, etc.). It really is a dangerous journey.

John Bunyan graphically depicts this in the final scene of The Pilgrim Progress. After describing the glorious reception that the king gave Christian and Hopeful into the Celestial City, Bunyan describes the outcome of the character he called “Ignorance.”

His name is not a commentary on his intellect but on his lack of understanding of the true way of salvation. Earlier in the story we learn that Ignorance is quite confident that he will make it to heaven because, as he says, “I know my Lord’s will and have been a good liver; I pay every man his own; I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms.” Furthermore, he speaks freely of Christ and says that he often thinks of God and heaven and genuinely desires to go to them.

Despite Christian’s and Hopeful’s best efforts, they are unable to dissuade Ignorance from his confidence, ill-founded though it is. He has not been born again. He is not trusting Christ alone to justify him before God. Thus he is not living by faith in obedience to God’s commands.

So in that final scene that takes place at the very threshold of heaven, Ignorance’s self-deception is exposed when he is not allowed to enter. The king has him bound hand and foot and taken away. “Then,” Bunyan writes, “I saw that there was a way to hell, even from the gates of heaven.”

That is the very point that Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount. Why does our Lord speak these frightening words? Is it simply to scare us? Is it to make us worry about our salvation or keep us from assurance?

No. It is to warn us and spur us on to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). It is to motivate us to “examine ourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus speaks these words not to rob us of joy but to help insure that we do not miss the joy that comes from knowing Him savingly.

At the end of the day, what matters is not a profession of religious zeal and activity. What matters is that we are known – savingly known – by Jesus Christ.

Those who know Christ and are known by Christ follow Him by obeying His commandments. They don’t obey in order to be right with HIm, but because they have been declared to be right with Him.

This, after all, is the basis on which the Lord will make His shattering pronouncement on the Day of Judgment. Heaven is reserved for those who do the will of God. Those who do not do His will will be exposed as “workers of lawlessness” and, despite their religious professions, will be removed from His presence forever.

It is a great kindness that our Lord speaks so plainly to us in His Word. We are without excuse. He warns us of self-deception and instructs us in the way to avoid it. He speaks frightening truth in order to save. – Dr. Tom Ascol is pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, and executive director of Founders Ministries.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6 ESV)

Jesus says the He is the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. The Holy Spirit says by the Apostle Paul, that our salvation is God’s will, but there is only one mediator between God and us, the man Christ Jesus. He is this mediator because He gave himself as a ransom for all. There is no disagreement between the teachings of Jesus and the other writers of the New Testament. Why? Because the ultimate author is the Holy Spirit. To those “fellows” who are attempting to separate Jesus from the Bible, you are workers of iniquity. You are workers of lawlessness.

My brethren, I pray that you will examine yourself closely as we are instructed to do in the Bible. To be known by Jesus Christ is the most wonderful of blessings. What tragedy it will be for those who seek Jesus on their own terms only to find after it is too late that the only ones who find Him come to Him on His terms.

SDG

51 thoughts on “The Most Frightening Words

  1. Pingback: VOX POPULI NEWS and OPINION - The Most Frightening Words

  2. To say that we only obey Jesus’ words is like the Jews saying we don’t obey Moses, only God. God uses human conduits and Paul is primal having learned the gospel and all his teachings from Christ Himself (Galatians).

    It is such a camouflage to say “I only hear Jesus”, it makes it seem sooo authentic. Even Jesus said He had much more to say but He had to wait till after Pentecost, so Christ Himself affirmed many of His words would come through the apostles.

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  3. Amen Rick! I am also reminded of this passage:

    What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13 ESV)

    This is not a new thing, but a very old deception attempting to divide Christ from His Word. Even so, it is always a very amazing thing to encounter someone so deceived.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  4. Hey Mike.
    It has been a while. Hope your Easter went well.

    This passage of Scripture is a very interesting one for sure. It is interesting that those who don’t know Christ do just what we are told won’t get us into heaven…they point to their works…

    We did this…we did that…

    Jesus tells them to go away for he never knew them. Because the one that knows Jesus, knows that their works will not be the reason that they are allowed into the presence of God to worship him. The follower of Christ knows full well that it is because of HIS works, not ours.

    Good post and good reminders.

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  5. The suffix “ian” has as one of its definitions “belonging to”. I would much rather know for sure that I am a Christian, belonging to Christ, than a “Jesus follower” who may not have the standing before God of belonging to Christ.

    People who pick and choose what they want to believe from the scriptures and discount the rest are insulting the very author of the Word. They have a very low esteem for the authority and sovereignty of our Lord God.

    2 Timothy 3:13-17
    But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

    But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

    And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

    That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

    Notice that the Word says “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God”. What part of “All scriptures” do these “Jesus followers” not understand? Even the worst of the paraphrases that these people use suggests “all scripture” is from God.

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  6. cobus, What I believe has nothing to do with it. What anyone else believes has nothing to do with it. Agreement between people on this is irrelevant. There are two groups of people. Those who believe God and those who don’t. I suggest that you lean how to debate before you say more…

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  7. TOG (Paul),

    Well said brother! I think we have hit upon why the 21st Century Church is so compromised. It does not want to be polemic as we are directed to be and do. That means we tell the truth and rely on the Holy Spirit to do His work in men’s hearts. The compromised “preachers” are men pleasers who change the truth to not be so divisive. I would hate for that to be on my account when I stand before my Lord…

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. These words particularly caught my eye: “There are really only two groups of people. There are those who believe God and those who don’t.” That’s really the crux of the matter – do we believe Him or not? Do we live like we do, or are we merely living the “religion of do” (to borrow your phrase)? I keep getting reminded of Philippians 3:10 – “That I may know Him (Christ)…” Thanks for another good reminder, Mike.

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  9. I went into a “Christian” bookstore yesterday to buy a new ESV Bible. I haven’t been to one in a while because most of the texts today are full of leaven. I have found most of the unchanged gospel exists on the internet if you do a thorough search.

    For some reason, John Piper came to my mind, and I asked the cashier if they had any of his books. She led me to his section– way in the back. Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Paula White, Brian McLaren, and you know who else were all up front. The world loves them. They made the best seller lists as you know.

    I have to say, that this really angered me because I had a desire to speak up and quote what Jesus said about the nature of the true gospel. .. How the world hates the gospel, humility, long-suffering, and the old paths. But perhaps this woman would not hear what I wanted share with her. She worked in a book store, but did she really know Jesus? Is this country, (with all of its idolatry and love of pleasure over righteousness) past the point of no return? Why was the true gospel tucked away and hidden in the back? When I said Charles Spurgeon or A.W Tozer, she said, Who?” And she was gray headed and at least 60 years old. I am only 35.

    The social gospel has got a hold on the world. It parades around with a cross on its neck, watches TBN, and allows men to come to him on their own terms. It is a modern day golden calf which feeds on signs and wonders. Unfortunately, the signs and wonders are false. Where is the old paths, and why do men refuse to walk therein?

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  10. Josh,

    Our favorite Christian Bookstore in Olathe, KS has been absorbed by LifeWay. They were much as you described with all of the men pleasers’ books in prominent places and all of the meat back in the corners. Whenever I bought a book there the lady who checked me out would ALWAYS give me a big smile when she would see R.C. Sproul, or Piper, or MacArthur, or James White on the cover. Then I would make a slight hand wave gesture to all of the fluff stuff and she would just shake her hand and say something like, “yes I know, but that is what sells.”

    I’ve been to Frank Turk’s (Centuri0n) bookstore in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. While he had a great deal more meat in his store than most, there was still books by men I consider to be heretics, When I met Frank that was one of the first things he talked about. I believe it is the nature of the business and much of the blame goes to the publishers who make deals on carrying some books on the condition that you carry others.

    We are called to be discerning, but not self-righteous. We are to be men and women of prayer, meekness and humility. We are to be lowly and servants. That is not to say that we don’t speak the truth as led by God though.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  11. I have to say, that this really angered me because I had a desire to speak up and quote what Jesus said about the nature of the true gospel. .. How the world hates the gospel, humility, long-suffering, and the old paths. But perhaps this woman would not hear what I wanted share with her. She worked in a book store, but did she really know Jesus?

    Josh — that shouldn’t stop you! I would have loved to hear the story of her reaction.

    🙂

    Mike — speaking of Jesus and Paul preaching ‘different gospels’ — what about this Mid-Acts dispensationalism stuff that says there’s something like 4 gospels? It sounds bizarre to me. Dispensationalism itself is mostly a mystery, having been raised in Covenant Theology.

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  12. Paula,

    Don’t get me started on the progressive Dispensationalism stuff. Even before God opened my eyes to the truth back in 2004 I knew that that form of Dispensationalism was garbage. You are so fortunate to have been raised in truth that our God is a Covenant keeping God. 🙂

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  13. The Bible says you are either for Him or against Him and there isn’t any inbetween. Jesus says in many places that He sent them the prophets. And the reason we agree with you Mike is because you are proclaiming the Truth. So if they have a hard time with that they need to go to the blogs that are wishy-washy. BTW, we can’t think of any more frightening words than Jesus telling us to depart from Him. Totally terrifying. Good post, and thanks for the prayers, I am back in the saddle! 🙂

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  14. Mike said, ‘The compromised “preachers” are men pleasers who change the truth to not be so divisive.’

    Something like Rob Bell in his Velvet Elvis, stretching the truth by liking it to being “springs”. But, Truth is like computer language, 1 or 0, 1 or not 1; there is no middle ground nor grey area nor stretching. If the truth is changed, it is no longer the truth and telling only pleasing truths of God’s Word and hiding the not so pleasant truths is deception and God has cursed any who do His work with deception (Jerimiah 48:10). And Jesus will tell them on that day, He never knew them.

    There are two groups of people, those who are fooled and those who love and believe the message of the cross. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

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  15. Mr. Ratliff, When I read post like this , I get an awful sense of forboding. I find myself praying often for the Lord to give me a saving faith. Ive done depraved things that greive me all the while professing to be a christian . My faith seems to be up and down and my struggle with sins in my life seem to be a loosing battle. I seem to becoming more and more doubtful,and that I may be totally deceived. How can anyone be sure if when you get to heaven that their is a possibility that Jesus will say he never knew you. I wish I had someone to talk to because I am becomeing completely confused.

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  16. Aaron,

    My heart goes out to you. I know exactly where you are coming from because you are describing me up until 2004. I know that you are NOT totally deceived. Why? It is because you asked that question. The deceived person is convinced they are right. May I suggest you read the three posts at the end of the links below then email me through the Contact Me link on this page? I would love to discuss this with you for I am certain that God has given me the mission of reclaiming those such as yourself for I was once just as you are.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    A Testimony
    Do Not Grow Weary
    The Root of Pragmatism

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  17. Mike,

    What teachings of Paul did these fellows say ran counter to those of Jesus Christ’s?

    In Christ,
    Chris

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  18. Chris,

    They gave no specific teachings. They simply say they emulate Jesus and follow his teachings from the 4 Gospels while accusing Paul of attempting to orient Christianity along Old Testament lines. You know, the Law and stuff like that. 🙂 These fellows do not know the Bible very well or they wouldn’t say things like that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  19. I went to a church, for a short time, that claimed that the Jewish men were just predjudiced against women. That was why women weren’t allowed to preach and teach men. Like the New Testament is just history and it all doesn’t pertain anymore. I wonder how many churches teach like that? I used to read it that way myself but I didn’t buy into that one, I really am so glad that God lead me here so I could learn the proper way to study. I don’t know how anyone can actually study the Bible on their own.
    I don’t think their could be anything worse than hearing those words, Depart from me, for I don’t know you.”

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  20. Yes Deb, it is very sobering to think that professing Christians are going to hear this from our Lord. The Gospel that so many are hearing from the pulpits these days teaches that salvation is so free that repentance is not required. Oh my! This is why we must dedicate ourselves to seeking God and His will and do it instead of listening to men.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  21. That water looks pretty cold. It looks clean though. Any trout in that river? (Sorry, this is the last time I will ask something not related to the article)

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  22. The water for the falls is the Niagara River. It flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. It isn’t very long. Buffalo, NY is right on Lake Erie where the river starts. I have no idea what sort of fish are in it. 🙂

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  23. Oh. Ok. We have trout in North GA, but they come from a hatchery, so they are very small. Most of them get caught before they get very big. There are strict regulations on what kind of bait you can use depending on which part of the Chattahooche River one chooses to fish in. I grew up on fishing, camping, scuba diving, salt water fishing, etc. Most people in North Ga are hillbillies where I live, so we all love the outdoors. Too bad that our area is becoming heavily populated, overdeveloped, and even overcrowded. There used to be a lot of farmland here 15 years ago, but now it is all developed into malls, apartments, subdivisions, and restaurants. It just doesn’t feel like home anymore. I am thinking about moving to another location which is more rural, about 2 hours away.

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  24. Off topic: 🙂 I was just curious as to what Arminians do with this passage?
    Jude 14 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

    The Bible is full of God’s election and vessels chosen for condemnation. Sad, but true. It should humble us all and I can’t believe how very blessed we are.

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  25. About 38 years ago I caught two 2.5 pound rainbows in the gorge below the Falls using a 3 inch Dare-Devil – out of the water and into the pan for a great meal. Today, I hesitate at the thought of even getting any of that Niagara River water on me let alone fishing there.

    Back on topic – The waters of Niagara look “clean” but within are the pollution of sewers and heavy metals. The Region Niagara government regularly dumps millions of gallons of “treated” human sewage into the flood plain that flows directly into the Niagara River. The agents I spoke with concering the dumping of 2.5 million gallons of sewage into the flood plain of the creek by my residence remind me of the emergent/seeker churh leaders of today – full of spin with big grins.

    Many of the church teachers today present a clean and pleasing message but within are the pollution of deceptions and false gospel.

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  26. I agree with you Deb. All we can do though is live for God’s glory and tell the truth to all who will hear. I find the Doctrine of Reprobation to be a very terrifying thing.

    Those whose theology is not “Refomed,” for the most part, miss the point that NO ONE is worthy of salvation. No one deserves it. However, God has chosen to save some of us, all being unworthy, and I find that incredible. I think of my salvation and I wonder at His grace for I deserve Hell fire. My heart is ready to burst with gratitude towards Him for doing that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  27. Mike,

    I really enjoy reading your blog as I learn so much from it and I can think of nothing more terrifying then yes, hearing Christ speak those words. Actually, just the thought of being there and hearing Him speak those words to anyone, and then having to see the look on their face at His response – I often think of this. I often think of this when I know there are those out there who say they know Him but do not live as though they do and my heart breaks for them and all I can do is pray – pray that God will reveal Himself to them.

    We must continue to proclaim the truth and the truth in love in hopes that some will eventually hear and then see. God’s blessings!

    ~Jen

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  28. Those are big rainbows. The ones in North GA are released as fingerlings. They then make their way about 20 miles downstream and get caught before they can even reach 1 lb (or even less than that). They let you fish with “Rooster Tails” or several other kinds of flies and artificial baits in some parts. The Chattahooche has had similiar problems with sewage and industrial contaminants in the past. The water looks clear, but its appearance is deceptive. If nobody said anything, everybody would partake in the usual activities such as tubing, swimming, fishing, and boating. This would have been a disaster because over 2.5 million gallons of untreated human waste was released back into the river due to a valve malfunction. ……… Those poor fish.

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  29. Great analogy of a false gospel. The false gospel is the bitter water. The agents in charge are like hirelings or false teachers. They would rather avoid your criticism and hide the problem instead of dealing with it, and doing what is necessary to make things right. They get paid (well) to be agents, so any whistleblowers will be subject to their derision.

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  30. Very Good!! JESUS CHRIST IS THE WAY THE TRUTH AND LIFE THERE IS NONE OTHER!!! ALL MY LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US Jerry

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  31. Hi Mike,
    This is my first time to your site. Good stuff here. The Scripture you quoted was the one that got me! Saying Lord, Lord and having Him reply back to me, depart from me you worker of iniquity, I never knew you. that scared me to the point of searching the Scriptures! thank you for your post!

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  32. Josh said: “The false gospel is the bitter water.”

    Unfortunately, those bitter waters taste sweet to the world.

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  33. This attempt to create a conflict between Jesus’ teachings and Paul’s is absurd, as I have found them to be totally in conformity.

    Yes; indeed there are only two sets of people: sheep and goats. When people start denying the words and teachings of the apostles of Christ, I question their stand in the Lord.

    The words of Jesus in the passage in view are indeed frightening. But that it is frightening and we yet draw nigh unto Him is comforting.

    Jesus be praised.

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