I remember a few years ago how there was a lot of excitement in the first few weeks after Pope Francis was elected based on many things he said and did. One anecdote that I recall today which did not get as much notice as it deserved was that all believers in Jesus Christ are continually called to conversion and that included the Pope himself. This statement went well with what he later answered on who is Jorge Mario Bergolio (his given name), “A sinner”.
For one to say that they are a sinner and converting may seem like two self-contradicting statements but really this is a paradox of two co-existing truths. To be honest about ones faults and their constant need of holiness in the person of Jesus is true freedom in that the condemnation is not on you and you don’t have to expend energy on lying to yourself and/ or others on how you have it all together.
In the second to last passage in the Sermon On The Mount Jesus addresses those with a fake relationship with Jesus. I would add that it was to those with a very convincing facade of conversation to the less discerning.
“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 in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
Notice that Jesus did not disagree with the facts of their case. We could safely assume they could have given true prophesies. So did King Saul when he took a break from trying to kill David. So did Caiphas weeks before being party to the crucifixion of Jesus. Judas likely drove out demons yet he was the great traitor. To some points of view in their day they could have been called “the Lord’s announced”. But that does not mean that they were what I would call “the Lord’s favored”.
For the people that are unconverted and have a formed enough conscience, they can compensate by lying to themselves. In this modern age where it seems everybody is a psychologist there are excuses for being so self-absorbed and not changing to be as one is meant to be. So if ones conscience is informed on the need to more than moral absolutes but an absolute Lord in Jesus, then there does not have to be a false prophet from outside when the one in the mirror will do just fine.
Where the false prophet of convenience will say “I’m okay, you’re okay”, one with a hardened heart will say just, “I’m okay”. This was addressed with bad news and good news by Apostle John in his later years.
“If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:8-9).
But what if we say that we are with sin? Then the truth is in us but not just by pulling ourselves into a Judeo-Christian moral paradigm. If we say the opposite and the truth is in us in the meaning of the New Testament then we have Jesus in our hearts. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).
What does Jesus mean then about doing “the will of my Father in heaven”?
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” (John 6:29).
Jesus does not call us to demonstrate a flashy life. Nor does he call us to live a miraculous life for miracles sake. Jesus calls us to honesty in our need for Him.
“But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14).
On a personal note. I have been there. I hesitate to admit it, but I may be there again. And that is how a transformed life must be: Jesus in our hearts, renewed, so He can be more fully in our lives.