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Empty Words and Hollow Praise?

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

A heavy question. The kind that your master asks and you hang your head in shame. Makes you realize that you’re a phony. Makes you wonder whether you love God as much as you say you do.

The backdrop of this difficult question is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has said a few things that would be hard for our generation to comprehend, much less obey.

“Blessed are you who are poor, who hunger, who weep, who people hate, exclude and insult because of the Son of Man…”

“Love your enemies…”

“Do good to those who hate you…”

“Bless those who curse you, bless and do not curse…”

“Pray for those who mistreat you…”

“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also…”

“If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back…”

Leap for joy when people treat you this way, He added, because that is how the true prophets of old were also treated.

How do you begin to say this, say, on Instagram? By small little clips here and there, we have slowly been conditioned to seek first our own safety, protect ourselves from other people’s mistreatment. Cut them off from our lives and choose ourselves first. Forgive them but don’t take them back; you can love them from a distance. Anything contrary to that and you and your religion risk being thrown out. And those who can’t throw out your religion because they subscribe to it try hard to make these Scriptures mean something else. Something that they have already come to believe as reasonable from the wise people of this world.

“Why do you call me,’Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

We don’t really, truly believe God can protect us from the evil in the world, so we feel the need to protect ourselves. We feel the need to teach people how to treat us, because we don’t believe entrusting them to God can suffice. And when we do give them over to God, we do it that they may experience God’s justice, not so that their hearts may be changed by the God who can cleanse the leper’s spots, and melt the heart of stone.

See, one of the best things about God is that He almost always tells us the wonderful things that result from obedience to the commands He gives us. Jesus, after giving these seemingly impossible commands, goes on to say, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” He calls us to be merciful, just as our Father is merciful.

It is easy to receive these words if you’re currently in a generally okay mental and emotional space as far as the relationships in your life go. But if you’re not, you’re probably reading this in tears. In your heart you want to obey God because you’d hate to hear this question from Him, but you have no idea how you can begin to obey.

To you I say two things that Jesus said:

“Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Lean in for help at the feet of Jesus because I hope, like me, you wouldn’t want that question asked of you at the pearly gates. I’d rather hear those other precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master!”

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