Character vs. Service

Matthew 7:21 - 23

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one 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 in your name perform many miracles?’

 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Source: Microsoft Images

Source: Microsoft Images

I looked at the TV screen and huffed in disgust. I was casually watching Game 6 of the NBA Finals and the team I was rooting for was already down 3-2, and trailing by about 8 points in what looked like the final game of the series. Disappointed, I gave up and went to the room to lick my wounds. Imagine my surprise when my husband walked in and informed me that the game was tied with only a few seconds left to play.

“What?!” I excitedly switched on the TV and watched the fantastic and almost unreal re-play of Ray Allen’s game-tying 3-pointer. The way he quickly scrambled to the 3-point line, jumped and let it fly…it seemed like one seamless movement and it was amazing to watch.

I sighed ecstatically. Yes, we’re back in this, I thought. The Miami Heat won the game and tied the series at 3-3. That fleeting, oft-swinging phenomenon, ‘momentum’ seemed to squarely be on their side, but it was still a toss-up. The Spurs were a great team and seemed able to beat Miami quite handily. Then again, the Heat were notoriously slow starters but could turn it up when needed, especially in their own building. Who would win? I couldn’t guess…it was anybody’s game and I would have to wait until Game 7 to find out.

Thankfully, God’s word is not subject to wild momentum swings, nor is it decided in the dying seconds of a competitive match-up. In Matthew 7: 21-23, Jesus spoke clearly about the difference between character and service: no contest – character trumps service every time. This is not to say that service is bad or wrong. God created us for good works and expects us to walk in them (Ephesians 2:9-11). However, we have a problem if we are not equally focused on building a godly character and bearing godly fruit.

In verse 21, Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter but ONLY the one who does the will of my Father...” Isn’t it scary to think that the power to work miracles and cast out demons is not a stamp of God’s approval? Isn’t it sobering to know that we can be so anointed that demons quake at the mere sound of our footsteps…that we are so connected to heaven that we prophesy in His name, yet be denied entry by Jesus Himself?

Jesus said only those who do the Father’s will have entry to the Kingdom…what is His will? What one thing does He require above all?

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

God is Love and if we are to please Him, we must be like Him; we should look like our Father – and Love is the ticket. Love is the will of God {1 John 4: 7 – 8}. Not some mushy, emotional feeling that swings up and down based on our moods or circumstances, but a conscious decision to treat others with patience and kindness; to make excuses for them and extend a hand of forgiveness when we are wronged; to see them the way God sees them, realizing that the same Blood was shed for all of us.

It’s a struggle….God knows it is. But, every day must be another step in the consciousness of love – when we fail, we re-evaluate ourselves and see how we can do better. We may not attain perfection while on this side of time and space, but we can make a little progress every day and be better at the end than we were at the beginning.

Finally, when the time comes for us to face Him, may we not hear these words "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

Thank you for reading. Stay inspired…

Onyih Odunze

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