Have you ever wondered who are the people to whom God may say, “I never knew you; depart from me”? If you are like me, those words ring ominously. We might be tempted to gloss over them, because they are uncomfortable to consider, but there they are.
These words contrast with the verse that inspires this article, which informs the title to this blog piece. But first, I want to focus briefly on people whom God never knew. Jesus described them for us.
They are people who prayed to God, “Lord, Lord.” They are people who prophesied in God’s name. They are people who cast out demons and even did “mighty works” in God’s name. They are highly religious people, but they didn’t “do the will of the Father who is in heaven”. (Matt. 7:23)
What does that mean?
For starters, it means that religiosity is not a ticket to heaven. Public piety is not anything that impresses God; if anything, it may even be repulsive to Him.
Power and influence and doing things that amaze people, even if done in God’s name, are not keys to heaven. An eloquent speaker who can bring people to tears and repentance is not, thereby, assured of any place in God’s kingdom. The prophet and the teacher who speak the very word of God are not, by virtue of the gift of prophecy or knowledge, assured of eternity with God.
In the “Love Chapter” of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), Paul says,
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”1 Corinthians 13:1-3
These realities are at once sobering and liberating. Nothing we can “practice” or do will propel us into God’s heaven. We are saved by grace, though faith, of course (Eph. 2:8-9), but even faith that can move mountains is of no gain to us by itself.
And here is the kicker – not even sacrifice, not even the sacrifice of our own bodies, by itself gains us anything.
David knew this when he said, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” (Ps. 51:16)
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Laying one’s life down might be considered a sacrifice, yes; but it done out of love it is more than merely a sacrifice. It isn’t the act itself that is important, but the motivation, the inspiration, the desire behind the act that matters.
Jesus is the ultimate example of love. When he sacrificed himself for our sakes, he didn’t do it to earn some heavenly brownie points. He gave himself for us out of love for us. He gave himself to us for our benefit. This is love, which focuses not one the benefit of the sacrifice to himself, but on the benefit for other another.
“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) Legalism and fundamentalism and dogmatism and doctrine and theology can never save a person. It doesn’t matter how much we do, or how much we know, or how accurate our understanding is when we have not love.
God, who we are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), is love. All the Law and the Prophets are summarized in this one statement: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:40) Thus, Paul says,
But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.1 Corinthians 8:3 ESV
This is the verse that got me thinking about these things today. If you love God, you are known by God. The people of whom God will say, “Depart from Me; I never knew you”, are people who don’t really love God. Their motivation was wrong.Continue reading “To Be Known and to Fully Know God is the Great Purpose of Our Lives”