Can You Be Active In Church and Still Go to Hell?

This week, listen into one of Pastor J.D.’s recent sermons where he explained a question based on Matthew, Chapter 7: “Can you be active in church and still go to hell?”

Show Notes:

On that final day there will be a lot of people, Jesus says, to whom he says, “You were active in my church; you were super religious; but you never really repented; so I never knew you.”

Are you going to be in that number? Part of my own story of coming to Christ came after a Sunday School teacher confronted me with that in middle school. It was a Friday night and my whole small group had gone over to his house so we could go bowling. But before we went, he wanted to do a short Bible study, because that’s what you do in student ministry: you bait kids with things like bowling and then hit ‘em with Bible study. And I remember him reading this passage from Matthew 7, “Many will say to me…” And then he looked at us and said, “Boys, a bunch of y’all are going to be in that number.” And that was about all he said. I knew in my heart it was going to be me.

I was super religious. Been in church all my life. And at my church, you had to go 3x a week for it to count: 3 to thrive! I always said that the only drug problem I had growing up was getting drug to church. So, I was plenty religious, but I had never repented and surrendered to Jesus as King.

Here’s how you can know if you’ve substituted religion for repentance:

A. Rationalization

  • You rationalize your sin. That’s what Saul did. Look at all the good things I’ve done!
  • You never think about your sin in terms of rebellion against God; only how you compare to others.
  • I’m not having an affair, it’s just pornography.
  • I may not be fully committed in my relationship with Jesus, but I’m a good person and go to church.

B. Unchanged behavior

  • Your mouth says that Jesus is King, but your life says something different.
  • There are 2 ways to tell what you believe: what your mouth says and what your life says. If what your mouth says differs from what your life says, God accepts the testimony of your life.
  • With Saul’s mouth he said God was King. But his life said that he was.
  • Write this down: A repentance that does not change you in life won’t save you in death, either.
  • Jesus’ half-brother, James talks about this when he says, “You say you believe in God? Good. Even the demons believe and tremble… They believe so much that they tremble at the thought of God.” But demon’s aren’t saved. Why? Because their belief doesn’t lead to repentance.
  • It’s not what your mouth says that God takes as the indicator of what you believe. It’s what your life says.

C. Worldly sorrow not godly sorrow

  • Several times in his life, Saul wept over his sin. He did it there in 1 Samuel 28.
  • A lot of people confuse worldly sorrow over repentance. Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 7:10. He says, “For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation… whereas
    worldly sorrow produces death.”
  • There are two types of sorrow over sin. There is worldly sorrow–worldly sorrow arises for all kinds of reasons. The embarrassment of being caught. Self-pity. Self-condemnation. Fear. None of those things equal repentance.
  • Confessing your sin is not repentance. You may have just been trying to relieve your guilt or get something off your chest.
  • Repentance is the Greek word “meta-noia”, which means a change of mind. To repent means you change your mind about the Kingship of Jesus and adjust your life around that new reality.
  • No change, no Jesus.

D. Partial compliance

  • This is a big one. You start obeying God in one area but not all. Repentance is one of those things that has to be total or it is meaningless. Let’s say that there was a man who was an adulterer. He had multiple affairs, a different one on every day of the week. His wife confronts him and says, “OK… I’ll quit sleeping with Tuesday girl and Friday girl but Thursday girl and I are going to keep going for a while.” That’s not repentance.
  • Marital faithfulness is one of those things that has to be total for it to be meaningful. A man can’t be “mostly faithful” to his wife. She’s either the only 1 or she’s not.
  • The same thing is true of Lordship. You are either surrendered to him or you’re not. Or, as we say, he’s either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

And I always want to be clear when I say this: I’m not talking about achieving sinless perfection. We all struggle with sin and lapses of faith for the rest of our lives. That happens to me. But Jesus is the King of my life, and standing here before you right now, there’s no area I am willfully holding back from him.

Think of it like this: A man who gets married doesn’t suddenly become a perfect husband who loves his wife purely and completely at every moment. Every man struggles to be a loving husband. Sometimes you even have stray thoughts. But a man who is serious about his marriage is still, even in the midst of all that, a one-woman man. If you say you are married, and are still intentionally seeing other people on the side, your marriage is a sham. Saying you belong to Jesus even as you intentionally keep areas of your life back from him is a sham.

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