Eighteen inches from heaven
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. – James 2:19
21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’
23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’
Nicolas Gentile, an Italian pastry chef, was totally fascinated by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. He began to dress as a hobbit. But he was not satisfied with just pretending to be a hobbit – he wanted to live like one.
Nicolas said, “Some time ago, I realized that books and films were no longer enough for me to satisfy my passion for the fantasy genre and, in particular, for the Lord of the Rings saga. I was still reading about the lives of other people. I decided that I wanted to live my hobbit life to the fullest.” In 2018, he bought a piece of land in the Italian countryside near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo. He built his own personal Shire following the model of Hobbiton from the Ring. Nicholas now lives in it as a hobbit along with his wife and children. His goal is to attract more like-minded folks and build a full-size hobbit village. He said, “I am living my dream.”
Indeed it is a dream, no more than a fantasy. There is a Middle Earth Reenactment Society dedicated to the researching, sharing, and living the fantasy.
It is easy to confuse reality with fantasy. Too often our fantasy becomes our reality. In our socially connected world, it can be easy to confuse knowing about people with actually knowing them. Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing someone personally. Living out a dream is not the same as living in reality.
It is natural for people to have wishes and aspirations and try to live them out. Many people dream and hope to know the Father and be with Him for all eternity.
Nicholas Gentile built a modern-day knockoff of a hobbit Shire and then moved in.
Could it be many believers in God are doing something quite similar? Have they created a heaven of their own making and then made reservations to move in when they die?
Many think that being religious, attending religious services, performing good deeds, doing the right thing, or being part of a religious family, indicates that they have a relationship with the Father. Many have grown complacent because they genuinely try to live good lives and have faith in God. Having faith in the existence of God is not enough. It is possible to learn songs of the faith and religious jargon, even memorize Bible verses and still miss the mark They know about the Father. But that is not the same as knowing the Father. The difference is eighteen inches. It is the difference between head knowledge and heart-felt faith and a vital personal relationship.
The book of James attempts to jar people from their complacency and sense of security. James explained that there is a whole cadre of creatures that have great faith in God and the Scriptures. They are not agnostics or atheists. They believe in the Father’s existence and recognize the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. But these creatures are demons.
James 2:19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.
The demons have intellectual faith. They could easily sign off on most Christian statements of faith. But they have no security and tremble in fear because they never placed personal saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are servants of the dark side, not the Light of the World.
REFLECT & PRAY
The stakes are high. Do we truly know the Lord Jesus Christ or just know about Him? “The final test is not what we think of ourselves, or what others may think. The final test is: What will God say?” (Wiersbe).
Father thank You for sending Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. Thank You that when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord, we enter into a personal relationship with You and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are truly children of the King (Romans 8:16).
We may go through our lives, informed by the truth of the Scriptures. We may know about the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many throughout the centuries have attempted to faithfully serve, but a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ was totally lacking. Many impressive and wonderful things have been done in His name. But tragically, words and works do not make the cut.
21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’
The Lord Jesus Christ cautions seekers that aspire to be with Him in heaven forever. He is clear that is not enough to know about Him or even serve Him. What really matters is this: does He know them?
How can people be sure that they know Him, and that He knows them?
When the day of reckoning arrives, pretense and religious facade will not confuse the Father or the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ set forth what is required. There is only one thing that must be done. To enter into a relationship with Him we must exercise genuine heartfelt faith in the fact that the Father sent Him into the world to save us from our sins. We personalize what we intellectually know to be true. Many have done this by praying and accepting him as their Savior and Lord.
27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”
The people were confused. Why is this so? “The people picked up the word labor and misinterpreted it to mean they had to work for salvation. They completely missed the word give.”
“Steeped in legalistic religion, they thought they had to ‘do something’ to merit eternal life. Jesus made it clear that only one ‘work’ was necessary – to believe on the Savior. When a person believes on Christ, he is not performing a good work that earns him salvation. There is certainly no credit in believing, for it is what God does in response to our faith that is important (see Ephesians 2:8-10)” (Wiersbe).
What should we do? Where do we begin? We acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sin. Many people familiar with the Christian faith recognize this as the central teaching. But the Lord Jesus Christ points out that knowing and believing are not the same. The difference is eighteen inches. When we believe, we make it personal. It’s a simple matter to actualize our faith. We receive and accept Him as our Savior and Lord. The thoughts of our minds become the faith of our hearts.
John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
The demons know who the Lord Jesus Christ is. Although they believe, they are unwilling to accept Him. All they can do is tremble in terror (James 2:19).