Teachings of Jesus: I Never Knew You
One of the hardest teachings of Jesus comes from Matthew 7:21-23 when he says:
23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ -NET
For many this teaching is too harsh. How could Jesus turn people away whom did amazing works in his name? This is a question that plagued me for many years. Like many of Jesus’ teachings, I had to wrestle with this one. What I found was amazing.
God doesn’t judge people on the basis of what they do; he judges people by their hearts. Many of Jesus’ teachings center around this theme. Notice some other things Jesus says:
Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. -Matt. 6:5-6
Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. -Matt. 6:1
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matt. 5:27-28
You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. -Matt. 5:21-22
As you can see Jesus’ teachings are heavily focused on the heart. Jesus knows that the outside is only an indicator of the inside. However, people can fake being followers of Jesus. People can ‘do’ all the right things and still taste the wrath of God because they did not trust in the righteousness of Christ. People can cast out demons, prophesy, and do amazing deeds in the name of Christ and yet not be saved through the blood of Christ. This is a warning to all of us.
We all know people who professed faith in Christ then, for no apparent reason, turned from faith and reject the saving work of Jesus on the cross. This is hard to understand but in light of Jesus’ words we should not be surprised. We also know people who show up to church every Sunday and are not living godly lives. Now, this should not taken as an opportunity to write these people off but we need to be aware that these people are out there. And we need to be lights to them and show them Jesus’ harsh words. But that isn’t it. There is also a personal aspect to Jesus’ words that is even more serious.
We, as Christians, are to test ourselves in the faith. If God wants people with changed hearts then we are responsible for examining ourselves. Since Jesus’ words are clear that the outside is not the test then we are responsible for what is within. And only God and you can judge your heart. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote:
Put yourselves to the test to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize regarding yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you – unless, indeed, you fail the test! -2 Cor. 13:5
Test yourselves daily because when your time comes to stand before the Judge you do not want to be dismissed from his presence.
Thanks for reading.