“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.’” Matthew 21:28-32
Heaven is going to be full of repentant sinners of all kinds; people who turned from rebellion and disobedience toward God. Do you know who won’t be there? Those who are merely religious. These people know exactly what to do—and pretend to do it—even though their hearts are still in rebellion to God. In other words, they’re all talk and no walk. Today’s Holy Week conversation points out the danger of practicing religion rather than entering a relationship.
The religious leaders in today’s passage must have been indignant by Jesus’ assertion that tax collectors and prostitutes would get into the kingdom of God before them. Jesus was talking about people who recognize their rebellious hearts because their habits are so obviously contrary to God’s Word.
You can be religious and not righteous. But even the worst sinner becomes righteous in Christ through genuine repentance, transforming both their hearts and their habits. They will be readily accepted into Heaven because they know Christ personally.
People who are religious, but don’t have a relationship with Jesus, tend to cover their rebellious hearts with righteous talk and self-righteous actions. Jesus wanted the religious leaders of His day to know that they would be exposed. Worse still, they will be left out of His kingdom.
The same is true today. Jesus died, not just because we have sinful habits, but because we have sinful hearts. Some rebellious habits and hearts are just more noticeable than others. What about you? Have you entered into a personal relationship with Jesus or are you merely practicing religion? You don’t have to be all talk and no walk. By placing your faith in Christ alone, you’ll celebrate this Easter like never before.