When the Lord Jesus Christ calls His church to be with Him, will you be invited at that time to be with Him? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Have you ever thought through the ramifications of the answer?
For the believer, being gathered to Christ holds many amazing promises:
– No more sin.
– No more pain.
– No more sorrow.
– No more confusion.
– Only goodness and sweet fellowship of God and His people, forever.
These promises are for every person who belongs to Jesus Christ, whom He has redeemed and purchased. For Christians, these promises hold untold accounts where sin, sorrow, pain, and confusion have felt like iron walls hiding fellowship with Christ and His people. These promises are the final weeping sigh of relief and joy for the Christian. The consummation of these promises will be the last glimpse of the darkness of this world. When these promises find fulfillment in our being gathered to our King, Master, Friend, and Brother, that moment will be a memorial of His rescue. “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
However, these promises feel hollow to many who profess a claim to them. For many who name the name of Christ as their Lord, these promises are without hope. Such a person never truly “loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Those who have never yearned for the return of Jesus Christ are pretenders.
Are you a pretender? Are you playing the Christian game? Are you acting the part for all to see yet living in darkness behind-the-scenes? If so, know this:
The time is fast approaching when the Lord Jesus will gather His people to Himself. If you don’t belong to Him, you won’t be gathered to Him. If you don’t belong to Jesus, if the Covenant of His shed blood isn’t applied to you, you won’t be passed over from judgement. You will see the Antichrist reigning, and that wicked one will reign over you. Your covenant will be with Satan, not Jesus. You will remain on this Earth amidst the agony of God’s judgement poured out, and then you’ll die and face greater suffering for eternity.
I want to give you two warnings.
The first warning is observational, the second is from scripture. This is arguing from the lesser (earthly logic) to the greater (biblical truth).
You’re pretending to be a Christian now. You know you haven’t fled your sinful life (repentance), trusting in Christ Jesus alone to redeem you from your sin (faith). You know the things of God don’t interest you as they should, that Christ is not your Lord and Master, God and Saviour, King, or friend. You know you don’t obey Christ’s word (the entire Bible). You know you’re still in your sins; you have no joy in serving Him as a blood-bought kingdom citizen. You know you don’t have fellowship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
How do you know these things?
Your entire efforts in the Christian life are to show Christians that you’re a Christian. What do I mean by that? Every aspect of your Christianity is designed to convince people that you’re a Christian.
You say the right things to the right people at the right time. You do the right things for the right people at the right time. You “amen” the right statements from the right people at the right time. You pray “correctly.” Yet, you do not do these things if no one is there to see you.
You do not say the right things if the right people aren’t there at the right time.
You don’t do the right things unless it’s for the right people at the right time.
You don’t “amen” the right statements unless it’s in front of the right people at the right time.
You don’t pray as you ought when you’re alone, though it seems to come easily enough when you’re with others (if you even pray with others at all).
It’s all a show, and if you seek to examine yourself honestly, you’ll recognize that you’re only pretending to be a Christian. Why would someone do that?
– They’re convinced that Christianity is the best possible option for living a successful life.
– They’re convinced that it’s helpful to believe in something moral, and Christianity has the best morals.
– They’re convinced that if Christianity is true, it won’t hurt to be on the right side of it.
– They’re convinced that Christian people look like their lives are put together well and that they want their life to be similarly put together.
– They’re convinced that they sin and that accepting Jesus’ death and resurrection will keep them safe from God’s wrath.
There might be a sense of truth in each point, yet if those are the reasons you’ve seemingly come to Christ, you’ve come to something other than the person of Jesus Christ. I hope you feel uncomfortable with those statements and get the sense that something is missing from each point.
Do any of those describe you? Perhaps you strongly resonate with the last point especially. It does seem to be the truest, doesn’t it?
Second: The Biblical Argument
Matthew chapter 6, verses 1-24 contrasts the hypocrisy of pretenders to genuine servants of Jesus Christ. The word translated as “hypocrite” has a very poignant meaning. It can be used to describe an actor. For the hypocrite, the word gives the sense of someone pretending to be something they’re not. To put it another way, a hypocrite has a true identity which they hide behind a false identity. The hypocrite does not show their true self to the people they’re trying to fool.
Luke chapter 6, verse 45 expresses that what fills our hearts, literally what overflows in our hearts, is what we speak to others. Is your speech full of hypocrisy, full of pretending, full of acting? If so, what fills your heart to overflowing must actually be hypocrisy, pretending, and acting.
Matthew chapter 7 continues contrasting the true follower of Christ and the false follower of Christ. Jesus begins the chapter by exposing hypocritical judgements of pretenders, those who can’t even see the obvious sin in themselves. They’re always at the ready to expose sin in others, pretending to be faithful, yet they cannot see their own wickedness.
Then Jesus presents what is commonly called the “Golden Rule.” Pretenders struggle with this teaching because the tension of their acting versus their true desires is opposed.
“I want people to treat me like royalty, but I cannot treat others as such; it is beneath me!” No skilled pretender would speak in those terms, but it is in their heart. The pretender would be satisfied to be kind and helpful to others in an earthly sense, yet they would not exercise the same desire in a spiritual sense. They would not strive for others to demonstrate the spiritual kindnesses of evangelism and mercy and grace. Pretenders don’t want you to share the Gospel with them, nor do they desire to exercise mercy or grace. Instead, they’ll comfort you if you feel guilty for sinning against someone else. The pretender will not want to show mercy to those who wrong them, and they especially won’t share grace. The caveat for these is that the pretender will undoubtedly do such things if there is an audience.
Continuing in Matthew’s Gospel account, the Lord Jesus then describes the two paths and two gates. For the pure in heart, the way is difficult and forces them to abandon everything they might carry with them into paradise. For the pretender, the broad way is much more appealing because they don’t need to shed their costume of false piety.
“But there are so many souls on the broad road who need to hear the Gospel!” Yes, but the Christian on the hidden, narrow path preaches the Gospel loud enough for those on the broad road to hear. The narrow way is a hidden path, and only a few find it. The Christian preaches loud enough for the sheep wandering on the broad road to hear, but not to see from where the Christian is. The Christian’s call does not point to themselves, but to Jesus Christ and His way. The true sheep of Christ hear His voice calling to them, and they follow Him along His path until they find Him. The pretender on the broad road cannot help the lost souls in the broad way; those on the same path can already see the pretender; there is no call to go elsewhere. The pretender isn’t pointing to the hidden path because the pretender isn’t on it and doesn’t know how to find it.
Why? Because they’re not listening for the Great Shepherd’s voice. Their pretender’s costume has a full-face mask which covers their ears. Their costume is a sheepskin which covers them completely from head to claw.
Jesus explains more about this costume in Matthew 7:15-23. He mentions trees and fruit; good fruit from good trees, bad fruit from bad trees, and that the one wearing a costume is really a wolf.
Wolves don’t eat fruit.
You can give an apple to a sheep, and it will happily chomp down on it. But if you hold an apple out to a wolf, it’s mouth drools for the fleshy hand you’ve extended in front of its hidden, gaping, ravenous maw. It’ll eat the apple to clamp its jaws around your hand. And Jesus further reveals the pretender’s costume by showing us this scene of the end times, which is the purpose of this article, Christ’s calling of His people:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
The pretender cries out to God loudly, demanding that He listen to them. The pretender points to their costume and the bones of the devoured from the broad road hanging around their necks like ornaments:
“Listen here, Jesus! Jesus, listen to me!
Look at these trophies.
Do you see this bone? I got it from telling people about you. It’s a pity this guy didn’t listen to me, but I showed him that you mean business! And look at this little leg bone! This one was a hard fought battle! I think I cast real demons out of that one. It’s a shame they hopped off somewhere; they said they heard a voice calling out to them from off the beaten path. Oh, and Lord, you’re going to love this one! Do you see this necklace of ears? You should have seen how many miraculous things I did for you! It was amazing!
So, Jesus, You will let me in.
Open the door.
I’ve shown you my spirituality. Open the door!”
Such a creature, the pretender who devours the saints to prove their spiritual piety will not find refuge in Christ when the Lord Jesus calls His own to Him. Such a creature is “perverse and sinning and self-condemned.” (Titus 3:10)
Matthew chapter 7 and Luke chapter 6 end with the same teaching from the Lord Jesus. Here is Luke’s rendition of it:
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
Notice this: the pretender and the true saint both build houses. Perhaps to the untrained eye, the houses even appear identical in their construction. Yet, as even the lowliest Realtor knows, the first rule of buying property is “location, location, location.” A pretender’s house will stand just as well as the saint’s when the weather is fair. It might even offer just as much light when the calm summer night is upon them. But when the cold darkness of a storm approaches, even the pretender will see the great fall of their house.
And the Lord Jesus Christ will let that house fall with the pretender inside of it.
Come to Christ! Come to Him! Oh, do you not hear His lovely voice calling to you? Do you not feel the warmth of His presence even from your distance? Repent of pretending sinner! Trust in Christ to save you from your wicked strife and wicked acting!
Turn away from your sheepskin and listen for His voice calling to you through His saints on the narrow path! There’s room enough for you if you walk behind the other saints, one-by-one, single file. And if you join the congregation moving ever closer to the Master, perhaps the Lord may yet use your voice to call other sinners to come to join the line behind you.
Remove your sheepskin and become a true sheep by God’s merciful, wonderful, glorious grace! If you refuse Him, you will not be gathered to Him when He comes. And He is coming:
“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.
Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.
— Revelation 22:12-17