My son grabbed a book from the “Leave a Book, Take a Book” library. Mine Craft Zombies. I thumbed through and read, “Rotting flesh falling off.”
Um. Nope. Not this one.
So, I asked him in a teacher voice, “Is choosing to read a book you know your parents would disapprove of honoring your father and mother? Is it following Jesus? What do you think?”
He turned defensive. We played verbal tennis and he blurted out, “So, what do I have to do to go to heaven? I go to church. I believe. Why can’t I just do what I want?”
Scripture is true. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,” (Acts 16:31) Then why does it matter what my son chooses to read—or do—or say?
One of the scariest passages in the Bible for me is found in Matthew Chapter 7. Jesus taught the disciples. The crowds and religious leaders also listened. He basically told them that not everyone who seems like they serve God—even to the point of performing miraculous signs of the kingdom—will actually enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
THEN WHO CAN ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matt. 7:21-23)
THE TENSION OF FAITH AND OBEDIENCE
Somehow, I wanted to express to my son and his adolescent faith that although we are saved by faith—the kind of faith that saves is the kind of faith that obeys.
DEMONS BELIEVE, BUT WILL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
The demons declared who Jesus is. “Suddenly they shouted, ‘What do you have to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?’”i(Matt. 8:29).
So they saw Jesus and proclaimed who He is, but the demons did not submit their lives in obedience to God. Jesus’ power and authority cast the demons out of the man and into the pigs. Jesus’ power and the demon’s obedience are two different things.
GOOD DEEDS WILL NOT GET US INTO THE KINGDOM
Jesus also speaks out about the religious leaders in his day who think that by following all the rules—and doing all the things—they will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
But even they cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven by following all the good deed and church checklists (Matt. 23:13).
If the Old Testament law couldn’t even save anyone, so that Jesus needed to come to fulfill the law (He is the perfect sacrifice dying once—for all) then our religious checklists can’t save us either.
FAITH THAT SAVES IS FAITH THAT OBEYS
Back to one of the scariest Bible passages: Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus is not saying that our good works save us (otherwise the religious leaders have that in the bag).
What He is saying—is those that do the will of God will enter.
SO—WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD WORKS AND THE WILL OF GOD? AREN’T THEY THE SAME THING?
That’s the tricky part: they can look the same.
You can have good works without saving faith—but you cannot have saving faith without the natural expression of good works.
A flower is going to bloom.
A river is going to flow.
And those who believe in Jesus, are going to follow Him—and He leads us into good works. (Ephesians 2:10)
FAITH THAT OBEYS IS FAITH FROM THE HEART
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your HEART that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Will reading about rotting flesh falling off the faces of zombies keep my son out of the Kingdom of Heaven? Of course not. But it will keep him coming to me in the middle of the night unable to sleep.
So, I picked up my verbal racket and the ball and tapped it back with a gentle question:
“Do you think believing in God and not following Him makes sense? If we know that Jesus told the disciples to ‘Follow Me’ and not just ‘Believe in Me’, then what do you think you should do about reading books you know don’t honor God with your mind?”
He slid the book back on the shelf.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO?
When we believe in Jesus from the heart, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and guides us into all things good—including the will of God.
WHAT DOES YOUR NEXT STEP LOOK LIKE?
Maybe your first step is simply telling God: I believe in You, Jesus. Now, please help me to follow You.
And then do the next thing you think honors God.
Remember, we do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on what we do, but by faith alone. But—the kind of faith that saves, is the kind of faith that obeys (and repents 1,000 times a day, if needed—like me).
Heartprints features a panel of Christian leaders who recognize the significance of teaching children the truth of God’s word. Our goal is to come alongside Children’s Ministry Leaders, workers and their families to aid and encourage them in their faith journey with God’s children as they “tell the next generation about the LORD’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done (Psalm 78:4).”