Guidelines for Ministry

We have come to the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was now done with His critique of Pharisaism. His work of demolishing the false religious system dominant among the Jews of His day was also a work of building a new system—a system faultless and profound, demonstrating that He spoke with divine authority.

In the Beatitudes and in His sayings at the opening of the sermon, He showed the motives of the heart that please God. In the process He exposed how superficial the Pharisees were. In His commentary on the Law of Moses, He revealed the wicked motives that the law was intended to suppress, and He refined the two central concepts of the law, the concepts of loving one's neighbor and loving God. The Pharisees taught the law and its central concepts, but did not understand what they taught.

Jesus left hanging one great question, however. In urging His children to live content with the necessities of life and to leave off striving for material gain, He said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33). What does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? The remainder of the sermon deals with this question.

We might expect that in His answer, Jesus would give His children a list of duties. But He declined to do this. He was not interested in creating a new rule-dominated Pharisaism to replace the old. He took an approach that is altogether surprising and easily misunderstood. His purpose was to emphasize our liberty as believers—we call it our liberty in Christ. As believers indwelt by and filled with the Holy Spirit, we do not need anyone, even Christ Himself in the Sermon on the Mount, to give us detailed instructions on how to seek His kingdom first. This is what we do naturally, if we truly belong to Christ and have His nature.

So, instead of giving us marching orders, He merely discussed some of the problems we might encounter as we walk in the Spirit. In each of the next four sections of the sermon, He took for granted that we His children would be involved in a certain kind of ministry, and He set boundaries on it or warned us of certain dangers. In each of the three sections afterward, He pondered all the counterfeits of true religion that would arise in the future and counseled His children to exercise spiritual discernment.

Dangers in Ministry


Matthew 7:1-5

One ministry every Christian undertakes is to give words of encouragement and advice to fellow Christians. The New Testament abounds with passages authorizing us to exhort one another (Heb. 3:13; 10:25; Col. 3:16; Eph. 4:29). Paul says to all the brethren, not just the leaders of the flock, that they should "warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak" (1 Thess. 5:14). "Feebleminded" means fainthearted under persecution, such as the recent converts at Thessalonica were suffering because of Jewish hostility to the new religion (Acts 17:1-9). Several passages urge us to confront a sinning brother in an effort to restore him (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:20; Jude 22-23).

But in the ministry of counseling a fellow brother there are two special dangers, and Jesus cautioned us about both.

  1. There is the danger of developing a hateful spirit toward him. If we forget that we ourselves are sinners, we are tempted to judge him rather than exhort him. What exactly is the difference? Exhorting arises from love and exhibits love. Judging arises from disdain and exhibits rejection.

    It is called judging because it passes a sentence. A judgmental brother reaches a decision in his heart that another brother has sinned and should get what's coming to him. The first brother may make himself executioner as well as judge by putting the offender at a distance and belittling him in front of others. Judging is the same as not forgiving.

    Why would one Christian want to judge another? Often such behavior is an outgrowth of resentment. The first may be a victim of the other's offense, real or imagined, and he may respond by nursing his wounds rather than by helping the offender.

  2. There is the danger of hypocrisy. Before we seek to remove a mote (a mere splinter) from our brother's eye, we had better remove the beam projecting from our own. Here is a touch of satire, intended to make us laugh at ourselves. Jesus was plainly warning us to take care of our own problems before we meddle with someone else's.

But many thoroughly misunderstand Jesus here. He did not mean that we should never say anything critical to a brother. No, we should exhort a brother who needs to be exhorted. The point is, we should approach him in such a way that our words will be effective and not ridiculous. Hence, we must remove the beam in our own eye first. Jesus Himself clearly felt that taking the next step—helping a brother get rid of his mote—was legitimate and even desirable (v. 5).


Matthew 7:6

The next ministry that Jesus assumed His children would pursue is evangelism. It is normal for a believer to work at spreading the gospel. But even in this effort there is a need for caution. Jesus warned us about hardened enemies of the truth, saying that we should not cast what is holy to dogs or our pearls to swine, for such beasts will trample these precious things and attack us. He meant that in our evangelism we need not persist in trying to reach everyone. For our own safety, and to prevent sacrilegious treatment of the gospel, we should identify the dogs and the swine as quickly as possible and henceforth avoid them.

How can we do that? Only by experiment. We should broadcast the seed of the gospel in every direction, to everyone who can hear us, and then watch reactions. With the help of the Spirit, we will be able to identify who has a heart to receive the truth and who is hardened to it. The best strategy for growth in the church is to concentrate on those who have a receptive heart and to avoid the rest.

To persevere in trying to convince the unwilling is, as Jesus says, unwise. It nags and irritates and therefore invites open contempt of things sacred and open persecution of believers. Yet we should not infer that a hardened sinner is beyond the grace of God. Certainly not. But he should be approached only when he is willing to hear, and if he is not willing, it is time for prayer only. Further witness must wait until his heart has been softened.

When He sent out His disciples two-by-two to preach in towns and villages, Jesus admonished them to linger only where the people were receptive to their message (Matt. 10:11-14). Where the people refused to hear them, they were to depart, shaking the dust of that place from off their feet.

The advice against giving holy things to dogs also applies to counseling, the form of ministry discussed in the previous verses. It is possible to exhort a brother only if he is willing to listen. If he has so far sunk into sin that he cannot accept guidance and criticism, however kind, it is better to leave him alone, lest he return wounds for godly words. In my years of ministry, the rebellious have consumed far too much of my time. I wish I had given more of myself to those who were eager to learn and grow—to the promising rather than to the perverse.


Matthew 7:7-11

Jesus did not tell us that prayer is part of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Rather, He took it for granted that we will pray, and He merely gave us encouragement not to stop too soon, for the great danger in a ministry of prayer is that we will grow discouraged when God withholds immediate answers.

Answers might be delayed for several reasons.

  1. God may not grant a request until we prove that we really want it. When my sons were little, they often came to me with requests, and I enjoyed satisfying these if I could. But if they asked me for something only once, I probably did not grant it. Why? Because I saw no evidence that the request arose from a deep desire.
  2. God may want us to persevere in prayer for something good so that we will become more spiritually minded. A mind growing in desire for good things draws closer to the mind of God.
  3. God may want to test whether we will accept "no" for an answer. Again, in dealing with my own sons, I did not grant a request if I felt that my denying it would provoke rebellion. I had to feel that the request was not a demand, not an attempt to strong-arm or manipulate me, but a tribute to my role as provider.

But although God may not give us our requests immediately, we should not give up praying for them. Jesus promised that if we ask, we will receive; if we seek, we will find; and if we knock, it will open. The Greek verb in each case signifies continuing action. Jesus was advising us to persist in asking, seeking, and knocking.

The three kinds of action suggest stages in reaching a goal. Asking is determining the right direction before we move. Seeking is moving toward the goal. Knocking is trying to open the door at the end of the journey. At every stage in doing God's will, we can expect Him to help us and make progress possible.

Our confidence that God will hear us rests upon His character. Earlier in the sermon, Jesus told us to address God as "Our Father." It is a mistake to think that God is like a human father, as if a human father is the original and God is an inferior copy. It's just the other way around. A human father is an inferior copy of God, the Father of all. Therefore, as Jesus taught, if a human father gives good gifts to his children, will not our heavenly Father give His children even better gifts?

Jesus used some humorous pictures to sharpen His point. He made us see a father giving his child a stone instead of the bread he wanted, a serpent instead of a fish. The impossibility that a loving father would treat his child in this way vividly illustrates the foolishness in doubting the goodness of the heavenly Father.

These pictures have a literal application to prayer. Jesus advised us to pray for our daily bread—in other words, for every daily need, including such basic foods as bread and fish. If we petition God for these, He will not give us stones and serpents. Yet the same pictures also have a spiritual dimension, as we learn in Luke 11:11-13. The bread and the fish both symbolize Christ. (After feeding the 5000 with bread and fish, Jesus taught the people that this meal was a picture of drawing spiritual life and nourishment from His body; John 6:26-7, 51, etc.) The lifeless stone and the deadly serpent symbolize Satan. If we desire Christ, the Father will not give us Satan.

Works of charity

Matthew 7:12

The next ministry that Jesus assumes will occupy a believer is doing good works. To counteract the danger that we might not do enough, He stated, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." The more familiar version is known as the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Notice that the Golden Rule does not precisely match the rule we find here in the Sermon on the Mount. The latter is far more comprehensive and demanding. The former merely restrains us from doing things to others that we would not like to endure ourselves. It merely requires that we do good only. But the latter requires every conceivable good that we can fit into our lives. It lays upon us the duty to give others "all things whatsoever" we would like to receive in return. In other words, whatever we can imagine that we would like to receive, we should give.

If my only interaction with my neighbor is to mow a few strips of grass on the other side of the lot line, I am doing him nothing but good. But I am not providing him with every good possible. I am not seeking to know him; I am not visiting him in sickness; I am not giving him the gospel; I am not even mowing his whole lawn.

Liberal critics have alleged that the Golden Rule is not original to Jesus. They are wrong. The closest precursor we can find is in the teachings of Confucius, who said, "Do not do to others the things that you would not have them do to you." This negative form of the Golden Rule is comparable to the ethic that can be summarized, "Live and let live." There is no love here, just tolerance and restraint. Only Christianity, founded on the selfless ideals of the Sermon on the Mount, understands and promotes real love. The Golden Rule as given in this sermon was Jesus' warning to us not to be satisfied with anything less. It restated the fundamental principle that we should love our neighbor.

Deceptions in Religion

Churches to be avoided

Matthew 7:13-14

The sayings thus far in chapter 7 might be described as flagging the pitfalls that beset the normal activities of a Christian. They show the lines of danger in exhorting a brother, witnessing, praying, and doing good deeds. Next, as Jesus continued to deal with problems connected with seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He counseled us to avoid the many forms of false religion that lead people astray. How can we recognize them? By exercising spiritual discernment, which might be defined as the ability to spot deceptions. Jesus recommended that we train our discernment on the three places where deceptions might originate: on our church, our spiritual leaders, and finally ourselves.

Jesus taught that there are two roads, the broad and the narrow. He was obviously talking about two roads that people take in the hope of reaching heaven. But whereas the narrow road leads to the desired destination, the broad road is a fraud, conducting the gullible to hell. The entrance to each road is a gate of corresponding proportions. A wide gate makes it easy to start on the broad road, but the strait gate at the head of the narrow road discourages travelers.

We can understand the symbolism in two ways. We can view the broad road as life without God, the narrow road as the life of faith. Yet it fits the context better if we view the roads as forms of Christianity. Jesus was warning us against joining the crowds who follow popular religion. When choosing which local church and which larger church bodies to affiliate with, we must shun those that are striving for mass appeal.

To test a church, you look first at the gate. You know it is a wide gate if the church is easy to join. You need only go forward after a service and give your name. Or you can join it in your infancy just by being sprinkled with a little water. In neither case must you give clear evidence of conversion. The type of church Christ recommends is very different. Before admitting you to membership, it examines you to see whether you have truly repented of your sins and put your faith in Christ. Then it demands that you submit to baptism as proof that you are willing to obey Christ.

Once you become part of a church, your subsequent experience depends on whether you are walking the broad way or the narrow way.

Along the broad way you hear little preaching to challenge your own selfish preferences in life. You can live however you please, within very generous boundaries. You can enjoy worldly pleasures. You can make wealth and comfort your chief goals. When you come to church, you can expect to be entertained. Your children can absorb the latest lifestyle with all its vices without feeling that they have forsaken God.

Along the narrow way, however, you constantly hear that you need to make more changes in your life—that those you have made already are not sufficient. And from the beginning, the changes expected of you are painful. You must forsake sin in every form. You must set yourself apart from all pleasures and ambitions tinged with worldly lust. You must give sacrificially of your means to help the needy and support the work of the church. You must witness to others about Christ even in the face of ridicule and persecution.

The dimensions of each road show how many it was designed to accommodate. The broad gate is easy to find, and many walk through it. Nothing could be more pleasant than to stroll with the crowd down the smooth avenue that runs from this gate to the distant hills, which hide the terrible end on the other side. The strait gate, however, easily escapes notice. Few find it and set off down the narrow path. If any look through the gate at the road behind, what they see is not inviting. The road is twisting, strewn with rocks, often hard to follow, and surrounded by ditches and bogs.

The application to today's scene is plain. The broad road represents all those churches that offer a gospel of easy-believism and tolerate worldliness. The narrow road represents the few churches that insist upon repentance and separation. A big church is not necessarily bad. Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle and Ironside's Moody Memorial (the first in London, the second in Chicago) were among the largest churches in their day, although the number who attended were few in relation to the population of the surrounding area. Yet, in our day especially, when few people want to hear good music and preaching, a large church should be viewed with suspicion. Success in drawing multiplied thousands generally means that the preaching has no sting and the music no sobriety. In other words, beware of megachurches.

Leaders to be shunned

Matthew 7:15-20

In the next two sections of the sermon, Jesus helps us to understand why the broad road is so appealing. The first reason, which he takes up in these verses, is that false prophets recommend it. With enticing words they urge people to skip the narrow gate and enter the road of easy religion.

Although the Bible admonishes us to obey those who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:17), it does not expect us to follow a leader unquestioningly. We must be sure that he is not a deceiver. The New Testament is replete with advice to stay away from false teachers. We must test the spirits, so that we will recognize a man controlled by Satan rather than Christ (1 John 4:1). A false teacher will lead us back to the filth that we once escaped (2 Pet. 2:1-2, 20-22). If we blindly follow a leader who is himself blind to the truth, we will fall into a ditch (Luke 6:39).

If avoiding false teachers is critical to our spiritual survival, how can we recognize them? It is not easy, because they invariably pose as true Christians. They make themselves look as orthodox and pious as possible. Yet Jesus characterized them as wolves in sheep's clothing. It is difficult to judge them by their words, for their words are impressive (2 Pet. 2:18) and dishonest (2 Pet. 2:3). "By good words and fair speeches [they] deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:18). They may at first hide the false doctrines they espouse (2 Pet. 2:1) and later introduce them to their followers only after leading them well astray from righteousness. The only false note evident in their teaching at first may be the promise of liberty—that is, liberty from sound standards of Christian conduct (2 Pet. 2:19). It is by appealing to the lusts of their hearers that these deceivers succeed (2 Tim. 4:3).

Jesus told us that the right way to evaluate a man aspiring to be a spiritual leader is by his fruit. A good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. The term "fruit" should be understood broadly, as referring to all the effects of a man's ministry. Yet, most important are the effects upon his own life and the lives of his followers. Is he himself growing in godliness? Are his followers growing in godliness? If the answer to either question is, "no," he should be held in suspicion.

It is a rule with few exceptions that a false teacher will lapse into some form of wickedness. The founders of Islam and Mormonism promoted polygamy so that they might satisfy their own lusts. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, falsely claimed under oath in court that he was an ordained minister and that he knew Greek. Many other examples might be given. The Bible reveals that the evil motives controlling a false teacher may be adultery (2 Pet. 2:14), covetousness (2 Pet. 2:3), the desire for general applause (2 Tim. 4:3), or the desire to be favored by the powerful (Jude 16). The powerful include leaders of government. In Jeremiah's day, false teachers contradicted his message of coming judgment by telling the king what he wanted to hear—that God would enable Israel to prevail over her enemies (Jer. 23:9-40; 28:1-17).

Evil motives spill out in the form of evil conduct that others will see sooner or later. The corruption will not be limited to the leader, but will spread to the followers. A notable example in recent years is a preacher who, although he kept his adultery hidden, began to countenance divorce and immorality among his own people. Less sensational examples fill every large city, where in church after church a pastor desirous of a successful career feeds his people a polluted fare of worldly entertainment rather than the wholesome Word of God.

Two kinds of false religion endanger the believer. One looks like historic Christianity. The other is clearly cultic. When dealing with the former threat, Jesus described its practitioners as Pharisees and Sadducees (Matt. 16:6, 12). What did He mean? In Jesus' day, the Pharisees and Sadducees were the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment. Although both parties sprang from a godly heritage, each had corrupted the truth and were leading people astray. The Gospels, written for the church throughout the ages, allot great attention to Jesus' debates with the Pharisees and Sadducees because we today must still contend with the mentality of these parties.

The party of the Sadducees had adopted a skepticism toward the supernatural. They accepted only the books of Moses as canonical. They disbelieved in angels, in miracles, and in a bodily resurrection. Their counterparts in the world today are the proponents of theological liberalism, a system of religious thought that casts aside the beliefs of historic Christianity. Liberalism treats the Bible as a collection of folk writings rather than as the inspired, inerrant Word of God. It regards Jesus as a good man with a spark of divinity rather than as the only Son of God. And it denies the existence of anything unrecognized by modern science.

The Pharisees in Jesus' day were the conservative party of Jews. They not only tenaciously adhered to all the regulations in the law of Moses; they also imposed many additional regulations and duties upon themselves and their followers. But they failed to prize those virtues most desired by God: faith, justice, and mercy (Matthew 23:23). Worst of all, they failed to comprehend that a man becomes right with God not by his own works, but by divine grace in answer to his repentance (Luke 18:10-14). Modern Pharisees include all who advocate a theological system that pretends to uphold the Bible, but substitutes human merit for divine merit as the basis of salvation. We find many Pharisees among the Roman Catholics. We find them also in the multitudes of nominal Christians who say that they believe the Bible, but also that they plan to reach heaven by observing the Golden Rule.

Yet the danger in Pharisaism lies not only in false doctrine. Jesus warned also against its hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). Here he omitted any reference to the Sadducees, because their religion was at least honest in its unbelief. The Sadducees were vile infidels, but they were not hypocrites. The Pharisees, however, pretended to obey God's Word down to the smallest letter and slightest nuance. They gave the Lord a tithe from their handfuls of herb pickings (Matthew 23:23). How many of us are so conscientious? But at the same time, as Jesus pointed out, they robbed widows (Matthew 23:14) and slew the righteous (Matthew 23:35). Hypocrisy, then, is another evil that marks the kind of false religion that appears conservative. We see it today even in fundamentalist circles. A reputed Christian leader who waves a Bible before his adoring followers and then goes out to commit adultery, or to cut shady financial deals, or to plot the ruin of a godly critic is, in the view of Scripture, a false teacher betrayed by his fruit.

The other kind of false religion that threatens us is cultism. When approached by Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses or other cultists, a Christian can give a threefold answer that is very effective.

  1. Every cult depends for its existence on the credibility of one man. If Joseph Smith lied when claiming that he received a divine revelation, Mormonism has no foundation. Every other cult is in much the same predicament. Jesus said that no prophet should be accepted on the basis of self-recommendation alone (John 5:31). He must certify his claims by miraculous works. Yet the Mohammeds and Joseph Smiths of this world have never restored a withered arm, walked on water, fed 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, or raised the dead. Neither have they themselves risen from the dead.
  2. Many people have been converted to orthodox Christianity just by reading the Bible, but no one through Bible-reading has ever been converted to a cult. It takes slick speeches and arm-twisting to turn someone into a cultist. Thus, we are confident that our religion is based on the Bible and theirs is not. Our Bible is so powerful on behalf of our beliefs that we zealously distribute copies of it. No cult is involved in Bible distribution. Indeed, a cult with its own sacred writing generally keeps it hidden. If it did not, if it passed out copies freely, it would reap much embarrassment, for the whole world would discover how contrived and juvenile this writing was in its attempts to imagine the ways of God.
  3. Every Christian is up front with his beliefs. He is willing to tell others everything his religion teaches. But a cultist poses as a kind of Christian and hides many of his beliefs. The Mormon or Jehovah's Witness who comes to the door insists from the start that he shares your core beliefs when he does not. He is deceptive. When probed concerning the strangest doctrines of his cult, he may refuse to discuss them. The irony is that many of these door-to-door religious salesmen do not know their own product. They will not discover everything their cult believes until they reach a higher level of initiation. Why all this secrecy? It is the sign of a counterfeit. A counterfeit minimizes the differences so that it will be accepted as the original.


Matthew 7:21-23

In this section Jesus gives us another reason that the broad road is so appealing. It is the road that admits travelers who have covered their wicked hearts with a veneer of religiosity. Jesus was warning us that besides the danger that others will deceive us, there is the danger that we will deceive ourselves. He said that in the Day of Judgment, "many" who come to Him confident that they belong in His kingdom will learn, to their eternal anguish, that He never knew them. The word "many" shows that the self-deceived will greatly outnumber the "few" who successfully travel the narrow way leading to life (v. 14).

Why will these hypocrites feel so secure in their empty religion? One reason is that they will consider Jesus to be their Lord. They will address Him, "Lord, Lord," as if they had long been His faithful servants. Another reason is that they will be able to boast of impressive religious works. Few have as many works to their credit as those Jesus describes. Few can say that they have prophesied in Jesus' name and cast out demons besides accomplishing other wonderful deeds.

Yet Jesus makes it clear that even among those who call Him "Lord" and who have seemingly done great works there will be lost men. It follows that neither lip-service to the Lordship of Christ nor religious works are the test of a man's fitness for heaven. Remember that Judas called Jesus "master" (Matt. 26:49) and performed miracles (Matt. 10:1-4). Indeed, the future scene that Jesus anticipates in verse 22 might be exactly what happens when Judas himself comes before the Throne.

What then is the test determining whether a man will be admitted to the Kingdom? It is a simple test—the test of obedience to the will of the Father. Jesus is not teaching works salvation, for the first step of obedience that the Father requires is to believe in Jesus Christ and accept salvation through His blood (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:17). The believer receives Christ's righteousness to cover his own wickedness. He receives also the Holy Spirit, who enables him to obey the Father's will in everyday life (Heb. 5:9; 1 John 2:1-3). The ones whom Jesus will reject despite their religious accomplishments will come before Him with a record of chronic disobedience. Never did they submit to the gospel, and never did they find practical holiness through the power of the Spirit. Their religiosity was just a self-serving delusion.

When Jesus rejects them, He will label them as workers of iniquity. He will mean that their good works cannot hide the evil works that they have conveniently failed to mention. He will also mean that all the good works they boast of were a sham. The very best deed to their credit was merely wicked self-promotion in a pious wrapping.

We need not exercise much imagination to discover whom Jesus is talking about. The church at all levels, from the level of occasional attendees to the level of prominent leaders, has always been plagued by bogus Christians. In my mind's eye I especially see all the liberal preachers of the past century trooping before Christ on Judgment Day. Never did they expect to give an accounting of themselves. But when the moment comes, they will rise to their own defense and sputter the same pious lingo that carried them through comfortable careers. They will profess love for Jesus, when in fact they led people in worship of a false Jesus, who was only a teacher of the Golden Rule and not a Savior from sin, and they will recite their good deeds, forgetting that these very deeds sprang from a desire to substitute works for faith.


The importance of Jesus' teachings

Matthew 7:24-27

The song that every child learns in Sunday School about the wise man and the foolish man comes from the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus compares two men, one who hears and applies His words and one who does not. He says that the hearer is like the wise man who builds his house on a rock, a solid foundation that will support the house during storms and floods. The other is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand. When storms and floods wash the sand away, the house collapses.

The imagery is transparent. The house is a man's life. The rock is the truth in Jesus. The sand is human philosophy and religion. The storms are all the assaults that the world brings upon our frail existence, the last assault being death itself. Only someone who has built on a rock will survive these assaults and emerge with life everlasting.

Jesus' authority

Matthew 7:28-29

When the scribes taught, they constantly appealed to the authority of respected rabbis in the past. But when Jesus taught, He quoted these rabbis only to contradict them. He quoted no one to bolster His own conclusions. He implied that His words could be received as true simply because they were His. When He explained the law, He spoke as though He knew exactly what God intended. When He extended the law in original ways, He proceeded as though He were acting within His rights. The common people perceived that He was claiming an authority for Himself that the scribes would never have dared to claim.


We should not pass over too quickly Jesus' warning that many who call Him, "Lord, Lord," will be exposed as workers of iniquity. If we limit the application to obvious hypocrites, we are making a mistake. We should question whether the warning applies to ourselves. We should consider whether we too are self-deceived—especially those of us in Christian work, who are tempted to find assurance of salvation in what we do for a living. The true ground of assurance is, as Jesus says, whether we do the will of God. Do our daily lives show that we are different from the ungodly? Would an observer who knows nothing of our jobs judge that we exhibit the character of Christ?