“The four saddest words in the bible”

Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor


21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)

It is fun to go for a walk with my wife Thuvia in HER hometown of Norwich, NY – which town for all intents and purposes for the past 45 years has been MY hometown as well. Did I mention that this is HER hometown? In our walks someone invariably begins a conversation with us by saying, “OH JEREMY!” this, or “OH JEREMY!” that. The chat could go on for almost 15 minutes before our friend leaves. At that point, my beloved bride looks at me and wisely asks, “who was THAT?” Of course, I must answer every time, “I have no idea.” Thanks to my almost 3 decade career with the local police department, I’ve had connections with many people. They KNOW me, even if I really don’t know them on a first-name basis.

As the Lord Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount [remember, S.O.T.M.] to a close, He is trying to:

#1 Carry the sermon into its application phase;

#2 Rid the Pharisees and religious leaders of any measure of self-worth by which they might deem themselves worthy of heaven’s entrance; and

#3 Push the seeker to the Savior and not to the Pharisaical attitudes of His (and our!) day.

He does this through 3 amazing challenges.


Repeating verse 21, ““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”


The heart of the world’s philosophy is, “I must DO SOMETHING, I must meet MY OWN STANDARDS which will soothe my conscience.”

But Jesus says, “Not everyone that (even) says,

#1 “Lord, Lord”: literally, “Master, Master” – an appeal of devotion

#2 “The will”: the heart of righteousness

#3 “My Father”: The standard of Heaven

This is the first time in Scripture that Jesus identifies Himself with God. AND Jesus personalizes the unique relationship with His Father. He will do that often in His brief earthly ministry:

“I ascend unto My Father and your Father, to My God, and your God.” (John 20:17)

“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9), which shows a new relation in position of every Christian!

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

What the Savior is saying is this: “PROVE whether you measure up to My standard!”

In the Pauline Epistles the believer in Jesus will be challenged often to enter regularly into this intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father, just as our Savior does:

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, THAT YOU MAY PROVE what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2; my emphasis)

EXAMINE yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. TEST yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (2 Cor. 13:5)

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, WORK OUT your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (Phil. 2:12)

Second is THE CHALLENGE TO QUESTION (verse 22)

Repeating verse 22, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’”.

“In The Name” is a precious relationship! Here is just a small sampling from the Gospel of John alone:

John 10:3: Jesus calls His own sheep BY NAME!

John 14:13-14: “if you shall ask anything IN MY NAME, I will do it.” !!!

John 14:26: The Father will send the Comforter IN MY NAME (that is, IN MY STEAD)!

John 17:12: Jesus kept them (His own) IN YOUR (the Father’s) NAME!

John 20:31: “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life IN HIS NAME.”

The Apostle John would later write, “Try (TEST) the spirits” (1 John 4:1). When faith is used as some kind of religious “good luck charm”, it is not genuine. Rather, it is actually an abomination to God! There are MANY counterfeits today! So we are challenged to question! For example:

PROPHESIED: spoke God’s Word! How do you know that a man who does this belongs to God, simply because he is speaking the Word of God?

CAST OUT DEMONS: does the supernatural!

DOES MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! Let’s bring this down to my level. He does works that are of wonder and well beyond my power.

Do you remember when Moses first came on the scene before Pharaoh? What did he do? He did MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! And what did Pharaoh’s magicians do – those who were energized by Satan and not by God? They duplicated Moses’ MANY WONDERFUL WORKS! Yet they could NOT duplicate the creating of life. Only God can do that!

Perhaps you’ve seen the story of the devil harping at Jesus about doing MANY WONDERFUL WORKS. Satan says to Jesus, “why ANYBODY can create! Let’s have a contest. Whoever can create a person out of nothing FIRST wins.” Jesus said that He normally didn’t like contests with the enemy of the faith, but this seemed to Him like a fair contest. So an Angel marked the beginning of the contest: 3,2,1 GO! Jesus grabbed some dust of the earth and then Satan grabbed some dust of the earth. At this point the Lord said, “WHOA! GET YOUR OWN DUST!”

Finally, there is THE CHALLENGE TO FEAR (verse 23).

Once again, verse 23 says, “And then I will declare to them, ‘I NEVER KNEW YOU;

depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”.

D. L. Moody was one of the greatest evangelists born in the United States (1837-1899). Although he preached salvation messages all around the world, ultimately Chicago, Illinois would become his home base. It was there that the Moody Bible Institute would be established, a Bible training college which major trait was that NO STUDENT would ever be charged for his or her tuition – a trait which continues to this day! As recalled in his biography, in October 1871 Moody was preaching a wonderful salvation message. Throughout the message he was challenging the huge crowd about their need to trust in the Lord Jesus as their Savior. At the conclusion of his message he said, “now you come back next week and I will share with you HOW to trust Jesus as your Savior.” That night, THAT VERY NIGHT, was the infamous Chicago fire. Hundreds of people lost their lives. Chicago would have to be rebuilt, including the hall in which Moody preached. Immediately Moody said to himself and before the Lord, “how many people died and are spending their eternity in the lake of fire because I didn’t give an invitation – I did not seal the message by sharing with my listeners HOW to trust Jesus as Savior?” That earthly FIRE changed his life, his ministry. It put an eternal FEAR in his very soul.


I: Jesus

NEVER: Ever? NO! For all eternity!

KNEW: In an intimate experiential way

YOU: Personalized to the point!

When your life is measured up – by you and by God alone – can you say with the Apostle Paul:

NOT by works of righteousness which I have done, BUT according to His mercy He saved me!” (Titus 3:5a applied)