(open by standing there reading the paper)
I have read some pretty scary stuff in the papers over the years that affect us personally; threats of terrorism, droughts, murderers on the loose, global warming, fuel prices and interest rates set to rise again; scary stuff. (read story from paper)
Let me read something even scarier, not from the newspapers, but from the bible ‘”Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Now that is scary news, if it isn’t…well perhaps should be. How confident are you? How certain are you, that if the Lord Jesus walked in here, right at this very moment and said ‘not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of God’, that Jesus is not speaking about you? Or are you uncertain that perhaps you may be the one left standing alone as Jesus says to you ‘I tell you plainly, away from me you evil doer’. Scary stuff!
Are we one of those Jesus doesn’t know? Who among us, are one of those to be counted as evil doers, excluded from the kingdom of God? This is stuff nightmares are made of, being thrown into a fiery hell, while all along, we thought we doing the right thing. Is Jesus speaking about me, even though I say ‘Lord, Lord’ and do things in his name?
It’s hard for us to imagine someone being able to chase out demons and do miracles and yet being rejected by Christ. But Scripture is full of these examples. Take Judas. He chased out demons in his time. Jesus sent him out with the others to teach, yet he remains condemned. The Bible also mentions Caiaphas, the high priest. He denied Jesus as the Saviour; yet he made a prediction concerning Jesus to be the Saviour saying, “it is better for one to die for the whole nation.” Then there’s Simon the sorcerer who was baptised and believed but yet the disciples said to him ‘You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God!’
On the surface, these men appeared to be very godly with huge amounts of faith. But yet Jesus wants no part with them; ‘Away from me you evil doers’. Why?…I think we can be certain why; they substituted faith in the Messiah for faith in themselves. They substituted themselves for Christ; substituted sand in the place of rock; building their whole life and ministry on the shifting sands of self promotion; on a self gratifying lifestyle and on quick fixes, rather than building their life and ministry on the rock that is Christ; on his word and his works. They thought they knew better!
When the German Lutherans first arrived at Pt Adelaide South Australia in the early 1800’s, to start a new life of religious freedom, they soon found there was better farming land to the north of Adelaide. We now know this land as the famous Barossa Valley. We admire the expertise and foresight these early settlers had in developing such land, particularly the vineyards. However, what is not so well known or admired, and for good reason, is what happened when they first settled in the Barossa. The group, high on self confidence because things had been going so well, found a place to set up a town. Nestled among rolling hills, was some perfectly flat land. The soil was soft yet stable, easy to dig for foundations and roads.
They quickly agreed ‘this would be the place for the first settlement in the Barossa’ and called it Hoffnungsthal. However, when the local Aborigines saw what was happening they were baffled. Why they were building their town in such a spot. The new settlers where building in a dry lake bed. The new town would be under water if it were to rain heavily. The aborigines pleaded with them, but the settles, confident in their own expertise and knowledge, didn’t heed the warning. ‘What would these primitive people know, where are their houses, what makes them experts?’ were probably some of the thoughts going through the minds of the settlers.
Yet, when the rains came down, the floods came up, and wouldn’t you know…the water washed the town away. What was thought to be a solid foundation for building their houses, turned out to be dangerous land; they built their house on the wrong foundation. Their arrogance and hope in their own expertise became their down fall.
This story highlights what Jesus is saying to us; though outwardly we may be doing all the right things; all the things Christian do; visiting the sick, pastorally caring for the poor, even worshipping in Jesus name saying ‘Lord, Lord’. All this will be flawed and futile, like the work of the settlers who failed to listen to the Aborigines, if we do all our ‘Christian duties’ without faith in Jesus and listen to his word; if with work without the love of Christ in our hearts; if we speak about Jesus but fail to live according to our own words, we are building our faith and ministry on the wrong foundation, on our own arrogance, like the settlers.
So what is this foundation on which we build? How can I be certain I know the Lord? What things must I do to have a relationship with him, so he doesn’t say ‘away from me you evil doer?’ To find the answer, perhaps we need to ask the question differently, turn it around. Perhaps the question is not, “Do I know the Lord?” and ‘am I doing the right things’ but “Does the Lord know me?” Does the Lord have a relationship with me? And ‘what has the Lord done for me?’
The solid foundation on which we build is that God knows us. Yes, God in Christ Jesus first loved us before we ever knew him. In 1 John 4 is written ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’
To be certain you are not the one Jesus says ‘depart from me’, hear these words and take them to heart. Trust in them, write them on the wall, on the palm of your hand, and memorize them. Like the Aboriginals who could have saved the settlers, if they had a first listen to them, …before you build your ministry, first listen to the Lord; hear his word and promise to you ‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.’ The Lord does know you by name through your baptism. By the washing of the water and the giving of the Holy Spirit, he made a relationship with you and made you part of God’s family. And in this, he makes it clear what he has done for you. The scriptures say ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade– kept in heaven for you,
These words are for you, to assure you that God does know you and love you; that we already have an inheritance in heaven. This is the foundational promise for you, to give you certainty that, as you trust in these words, you can confidently build on this relationship, by serving and loving God and serving and loving other people. Jesus will not say to you ‘I never new you!’ He can’t, because the work that we do is built on and flows out of Christ’s relationship to us.
So if we read this passage again, should we be afraid? Is it scary stuff? No, certainly not. We don’t do live our Christian life by our own arrogance our boasting, we do it because God first loved us. You can have every confidence that as we serve one another here in our community in Nyngan (Gilgandra), as we seek God’s forgiveness and mercy as we love and forgive those in need, our sure and solid on rock, Jesus Christ, from which all good works flow, will say to you ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ Amen