Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ (THE MESSAGE)
Many of us have grown up with certain ideas embedded in our consciousness. One is that we don’t get right with God by doing good works, by being generally decent people. Faith is what gets us right with God.
No doubt about that. Our goodness might be genuine, but a perfect God insists on perfect goodness which is beyond us. And so we are called to trust in the perfect goodness of Jesus. God offered friendship with himself through Jesus: an act of grace. We embrace it as an act of faith.
But that is not the whole story. As Jesus here reminds us, verbal profession of faith is what is required. His disciples are those whose lives bear fruit. It seems that good deeds done as a grateful and necessary response to God’s grace are vital. But a genuinely good deed is not a type of showing off, or a matter of mere talk.
Obedience matters. Not to impress God, but to express the fact that we now belong to him. Our good deeds don’t earn us entry to God’s forever family, but we can’t have such entry without them either.