Yielded to the Lordship of Christ
Topic: Discipleship Passage: Matthew 7:15–7:27
Last Sunday I said that the mark of a disciple isn’t a filled mind, it’s a bent knee. If we are to grow as disciples we need to grow in yieldedness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This morning I want to turn to a difficult but important passage concerning Christian discipleship.
The verses we are looking at come at the end of what we call the Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon Jesus lays out the radically different nature and spirit of the kingdom of God, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that Jesus was also blasting the religious system of the Pharisees. In 5:20 Jesus warns his listeners that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees they would never enter the kingdom of heaven. And immediately after saying that in verse 5:20 Jesus begins to draw lines in the sand and the Pharisees were on the wrong side of those lines every time. John MacArthur writes:
The Beatitudes were a rebuke to the Pharisee’s whole system. Any Pharisees who might have been in the crowd listening to the sermon would certainly have felt personally attacked and publicly humiliated.
Jesus had the Pharisees in mind. The crowd would have been thinking of the Pharisees. He described them and their practices to a “t”. But his meaning went far beyond to all those who follow in their footsteps.
There are religious leaders (prophets who speak falsely in the name of God) and religious systems that are deceptive. They aren’t what they look like: outwardly they look like sheep but inwardly they are ravenous wolves with an appetite for the sheep of God. The outer wear of sheep but the inner nature of a predator. They aren’t interested in the welfare of God’s people or God’s kingdom, they are consumed with their own greed. They are false prophets who see religion as for their own profit.
So Jesus says check the fruit –the trees might look the same but the fruit will tell the story. Bad trees don’t bear good fruit. Good trees don’t bear bad fruit. But lest we think that fruit is “God is doing amazing things through that ministry, Jesus goes on to give one of the strongest warnings in the NT.
Not everyone who calls Jesus Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. On that day there will be those who will try to offer their external works as a validation of their worthiness – did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? – only to find heaven eternally shut to them.
Think about it: they prophesy, they cast out demons, they do mighty works – and they do it in the name of Jesus. Prophesies that are accurate. Demons leave at their command. They are performing real miracles. And all in Jesus’ name. And the word for mighty works is the word dunamis –power. The same word used in Acts 1:8 when Jesus told his disciples they needed to wait for dunamis from the Holy Spirit. We need power – they’ve got power. Isn’t that more than enough proof that they are not only genuine Christians, they’re spiritual giants? We’d have these guys on the front page of Christianity Today!
The problem isn’t that they are doing these things. The problem is that they are looking exclusively at external results to validate the genuineness of their faith rather than the internal results of a heart increasingly submitted to Christ resulting in an obedient life. They are doing the works of the Father, but not the will of the Father. And Jesus’ words to them are the most frightening words any human being will ever hear: I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
Sound doctrine is vital. Spiritual power is essential. But the distinguishing mark of a disciple isn’t a mind filled with doctrine, and it’s not a life filled with miraculous power. The distinguishing mark of a disciple is a life surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
I. The will of the Father is to believe in His Son
What do we do with a warning like this? We are sinners and every one of us can point to sins we commit every day, which is disobedience to the will of the Father. If the guys casting out demons are toast because they’re not doing the will of the Father, where does that leave us?
Here’s where we must remember the grace of God revealed in the gospel of His Son. Jesus says this to warn religious hypocrites who are playing games with God and people, but Jesus is just as quick to assure sinners who sincerely come to Him of the secure love God has for us.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:37-40
Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." John 6:29
Jesus sums up the will of the Father, and the work of God as believing in Jesus Christ for our salvation. These religious phonies were putting their confidence in themselves and what they were doing for God. Their righteousness was self-generated. And by doing that they were refusing the righteousness that God gives through faith in Jesus Christ. On that day of judgment their confidence was in what they did! Don’t look at your works to find your confidence. Have a good quiet time? Great but don’t put your confidence in that. You pray for the sick and they get healed? Great, but don’t put your confidence in that. People get saved when you tell them about Jesus? Great, but don’t put your confidence in that. For the Christian, all our confidence is in what Christ has done. The only righteousness we stand on is the righteousness that comes through faith in God’s Son.
This is the message of the Sermon on the Mount – it presses us to a righteousness that far exceeds the Pharisees and far exceeds any righteousness we could ever produce. It throws us desperately on the righteousness of Christ. Doing God’s will begins with believing in His beloved Son.
II. If the root is faith in Christ the fruit will be obedience to Christ (Vv. 24-27)
Two men are building. One hears and does what Jesus says, the other only hears. Years ago there was a doctrinal dispute over whether someone had to receive Christ as Lord to believe in Him as their Savior. One side argued that you could be saved by believing in Christ even if you never accepted Him as Lord or submitted your life to Him. They even argued that someone could believe, be saved, and stop believing. They called them “unbelieving believers.” Free is truly free.
Well, we would agree with them that free is truly free. We cannot add to our salvation by any act of obedience. But the scriptures describe a faith that produces something in our lives – otherwise James would call it a faith that is dead. Living, Spirit-given faith in Christ produces fruit in keeping with that faith – a growing yieldedness to the Lordship of Jesus. If the root is faith in Christ, the fruit will be obedience to Christ. It will be an imperfect obedience; it will be a growing obedience. But the kind of faith that saves also generates a desire to know God, a desire to love God, a desire to obey God. That’s the point of Jesus’ warning and the point of his parable of the two builders. 3 brief points about obedience:
a. Obedience is complete surrender to Jesus’ lordship – over and over again!
We might wonder: if it’s essential to salvation to receive Christ as Lord, what about the fact that no one perfectly follows Jesus as Lord? The old saying, He’s either Lord of all, or He’s not Lord at all is a catchy saying, but if we stopped and held it up to our lives we might not want to repeat it too often. Is He really Lord of all in your life? Is there really no area of your life that isn’t perfectly submitted to Him?
So if salvation begins when we bow our knee and believe in Christ as our Savior and Lord of our life –since we all fail to submit our lives to His lordship every day does that mean we were never saved?
ILL: John Piper has a helpful illustration in the story of his father’s walk with the Lord. He rec’d Christ at 6. As a teenager he was deeply convicted of the weakness of his life and the cowardice of his witness. He went forward and “surrendered totally to the Lord”. For the first time he knew the fullness of the Spirit and became powerfully courageous – even standing up next day in school to preach for 20 minutes!
But at the age of 30 he went through another crisis. Deep in debt and experiencing depression and insomnia he began to read a book about submission to God. It spoke of committing all to God, and submitting to God’s sovereign plan for our lives and resting in Him. Realized that though he had power in life for saving souls, he had not totally submitted to God. Bowed and gave up all to Lord. Found peace beyond anything he had known. His experience mirrors our experience, what Piper describes as a growing yieldedness to Christ’s Lordship. He writes:
From the time of our first saving acceptance of Christ, He is our King and Lord and Savior and Priest and Prophet and Counselor. All that he is, he is for those who are his. And then comes a life of faltering and growing yieldedness to Christ in all that he is…the Lordship of Christ, in reality, is something that is not discovered and yielded to once, but thousands of times. It is yieldedness to his lordship that is at stake every time we are tempted to sin – every day. ~ John Piper
All that Christ is, He is for those who are His. Jesus Christ is Lord – He became your Lord the day you became a Christian. But every day, every time we are tempted, we need to bow our knee again and freshly yield our lives to His Lordship. Obedience is complete surrender to Jesus’ lordship – over and over again!
b. Obedience is building our lives on what Jesus says. (And aim for the heart)
Years ago a friend of mine felt that the Lord had spoken to her that she was to marry a certain person in her church. In fact it was a guy named Joe, and he was the assistant pastor. Even when Joe got engaged to another woman, she held on to the conviction that God has spoken to her. Out of a desire to obey God and express her faith she told Joe what she felt God had spoken to her. A lot of people in the church came to know of her belief.
So it was a very awkward day when she sang in Joe’s wedding – the day when he got married to the other woman. This friend of mine was a strong believer and I’m happy to report that it wasn’t long after that that the Lord gave her her husband (her real husband). I’ve never done anything as crazy as that, but I’ve thought I’ve heard God speak to me many times – sometimes it’s been validated and sometimes its been obvious I’ve missed God.
What does obeying God look like? Is God calling you to take this job or remain in that job? Is God calling you to marry this woman or that woman or maybe never get married at all? Is God telling you to move to that city or stay in Corning? These and others like them are not unimportant questions – they can have a life long impact on the trajectory of our lives. But when we then try to make these issues of “hearing and obeying God” they have tremendous potential to confuse us and derail us. Even lead us to make embarrassing or devastating actions like my friend who thought she had heard from God.
Jesus doesn’t have us building our lives on the shaky ground of our ability to hear subjectively from God. He has us building our lives on His word – the word of Christ, the word of God.
Obey Jesus by obeying clear biblical commands. Are you stealing from your company? Don’t steal. Do you have a problem with gossip? Gossips won’t be in heaven so either your actions change or your eternal address will. Do you get angry and sin? Be angry and sin not. Is your imagination a seedbed of immorality? Put that filth to death and think on things that are pure and holy. Remember the Pharisees and understand that His commands are to be obeyed internally, not just externally. Aim for the heart. Obey from the heart. Cause God sees the heart.
Jesus is talking about building a life of obedience (a house) on the foundation of His word – building, not installing a prefab. In other words hearing and doing what Jesus says is a lifetime process. And the life that is built on obedience to the clear commands of God’s word is a life that will stand the storms. Obedience is building our lives on what Jesus says. (And aim for the heart)
c. Obedience takes the power of the Holy Spirit
Throughout this series we want to remind ourselves that after spending three years training and teaching his disciples, Jesus told them that they weren’t ready – they needed the dunamis – the power – of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses. And if it was true for them it is true for us.
The passage we are looking at this morning comes at the end of what we know as the sermon on the mount – a sermon that teaches what it means to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God. What kingdom life looks like. What values, what principles, what actions, what services living for the kingdom requires.
And in the end, we find Jesus didn’t raise the bar a little higher – he put it in a different galaxy. Not meant to leave us feeling like its difficult – meant to leave us feeling it’s impossible. Not given as a testimony of what man can do for God if he sets his mind on it. It’s given as a testimony of what God can do in man when he sets his hope and faith in Him. The core problem of the Pharisees isn’t that they weren’t trying hard enough – it’s that they built a religious system in their own strength instead of reliance on God.
As we close – the Holy Spirit is working in your heart. And mine. Between you and Him. He is gentle and patient – not bringing 29 things to mind. Bringing one – maybe two – areas of your life that are not yielded fully to Christ. Think biblical commands. Think heart. As the band sings, let’s surrender that area to the Lordship of Christ.