taking the words of Jesus seriously

There is a passage in the Bible that REALLY scares me.

For years it has raised a bit of fear and worry from within. The text is haunting and I know many of my friends who say the same thing. It has been the subject of great debate, theological equations, and has questioned if whether or not we are truly “once saved and always saved”.

But, most recently I had a revelation of sorts that has dispelled these fears and conundrums. Call it an epiphany. Intuition. Or insight from the Holy Spirit. But, whatever it is, it has since affirmed what I should have already known about God.

Here is the spooky passage in question:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, ’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day,  ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ – (Matthew 7:21-23)

For years I thought to myself, there is no assurance, no matter what I say, do, or how I live my life that I will enter into the kingdom of heaven. That I can be professing with my mouth, proclaiming Christ to the ends of the earth, making disciples, planting churches, serving the least of these, caring for the sick, the poor, the destitute and still not make it through the pearly gates of Heaven when the time comes. I can spend hours praying, reading my Bible, memorizing verses, going to seminary, and preaching dynamic sermons, and still be turned away. I can be a Billy Graham or a Mother Theresa and still not be recognized by my Savior. Ouch! That hurts.

What then can we ever say or do that will appease the Judge?

The first part of this passage tells us that there will be people, assuming most will be Christian, coming before King Jesus informing Him that they have proclaimed His name, given lip-service, and perhaps said some really cool things about Jesus. The second part of this passage describes a people coming before King Jesus pleading their case about how much they have done for His kingdom: prophesying, driving out demons, healing… and who knows what else. Perhaps these same Christians with good intentions have studied their Bibles, know their theology, helped rebuild homes for the poor, given a hot meal to the needy, volunteered at the orphanage, and given thousands of dollars to charity. 

Related: Can Christianity Learn to Say, “I’m Sorry”?

Super Christians with a capital “S” embroidered upon their chests.

Surely, these Christians who have proclaimed the name of Christ and have done many great things in His name will be counted among those with whom Christ will say, “Well done thy good and faithful servants”. Surely, many crowns will be awaiting to be placed upon their heads while a great multitude of angels sing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. A glorious day that many believers look forward to.

A day when Jesus says to them:

“Away from me, you evildoers!”

((sound of a record scratching))

Wrong line. Can you say that again, please?

“Away from me, you evildoers!”

Wait a minute. 

You mean to tell me that we can say and do many things in the name of Jesus and still not be guaranteed eternal life in the kingdom of heaven? There’s got to be something we’re missing here.

There is a small snippet from this passage that we often overlook and pass off as a smug remark from Jesus. It’s subtle. Easily overlooked. Read into something else. But, it is KEY. It is the ANSWER. It is this:

“I never knew you.”

Let those words sink in. Read it very slowly.


I’m reminded of the father who goes off to work everyday at 5am every morning and doesn’t come home until after dark. He’s a hard worker and has climbed up the corporate ladder. Making a six-digit figure income. He provides for his family. Always food on the table. They have a nice house with a pool. Two cars. The kids have all the latest and cool toys. He serves at church and plays a mean round of golf.

But, his wife and kids don’t know him. They don’t see him. He’s aloof. Too busy. Catching up on work over the weekends. Playing golf with his buddies on Saturdays. Serving at the church on Sundays. Emotionally distant. Doesn’t know that his son aced his spelling test on Tuesday or that his daughter scored a goal at the soccer game on Saturday. Unaware that his wife cries each day in the bathroom with the door closed because she is alone. Or, that his kids simply long for his warm embrace complete with the scruffy whiskers and scent of his cologne.


Likewise, we can be great sayers and doers of Jesus and still not know Him. Jesus wants to know you. He doesn’t want to know how many souls you are saving or how many Scripture verses you are memorizing. He wants to know you. He doesn’t care that you wrote the most beautiful hymn or penned the most poetic prose. He wants to know you. If Jesus could only take one thing with Him, it wouldn’t be the Bible, a cathedral, or church building, Calvin’s Institutes, or Matthew Henry’s Commentary Series. It would be YOU. He wants to know YOU more than anything else.

So, the question for you is…

Do YOU know Him?

I mean REALLY know Him. Not the gospel story. Not that He was born in Bethlehem. Or, that he fed 5, 000 people. Or, what He said in Matthew 24. Or, the precise understanding of His crucifixion. But, do you REALLY know Him? Do you know Him in a way that is different from the way you know your spouse, your best friend, or sibling? In many ways its indescribable. But I know it involves this: unconditional love, complete trust, and unwavering faith.

Do YOU know Him?

Do you know Him in such a way that at any given moment of the day, you can knock on His door and share anything with Him, the good, the bad, and the ugly? After all, He does have an open-door policy. Do you know Him in such a way that you actually long to be in His presence the moment you awake, and then walk with Him every moment of your day? Being with Him not just during your morning devotional or prayer time. But, when you are sitting on the toilet, taking a shower, doing chores, walking through the store, laying down, hiking a nature trail, playing checkers, or making love to your wife. After all, God can be found in the beauty and joys of life. But,  He can also be found in the mundane and ordinary.

Also by Greg: Christian Utopia and the Body Politic

Do YOU know Him?

Knowing Him involves placing your past, your hurts, your wounds, your scars, your weaknesses, your anger, your despair, your expectations, your bitterness, your control at the foot of the cross and saying, “I am yours”. He says,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”. The abuse you endured as a kid, the taunting from bullies, the secret sin that nobody knows about, your prejudices, the broken relationships, the physical and emotional pain, your regrets, your deepest fears, even your doubts about Him… go ahead… place it at the cross. Then, let Jesus speak into your life. After all, He is the lover of your soul. Praise Him when you are awake and allow your soul to praise Him while you are asleep. Glorify Him. And, like a child proud of his Daddy, show Him off to others… through His creation, your words and actions, and your love to others.

Do YOU know Him?

To know Him involves participating in His life and His kingdom. To experience in His suffering, the mocking of others, feeling different, being rejected by your family and friends. Experiencing His pain, His death, His burial, and resurrection. Dying to yourself, being reborn, becoming more like Him. Living vicariously through Him with reckless abandon. Feeling, experiencing, and knowing the power, life, and love of Jesus. The Apostle Paul said it best:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings,  becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

But, more than anything else remember this: Jesus wants to know you. But, do you know Him?

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