21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
Have you ever been on a social network and been invited to be friends with someone whom you don’t even remember? I have, and it’s kind of embarrassing. I get invitations from people I met twenty years ago or more, and yet I cannot remember those people at all. It’s not that I don’t have a good memory, it’s more that I remember best the people with whom I once had (or still have) an emotional connection. A guy who sat next to me in high school Biology class is far less of a “friend” than a kid from my old neighborhood with whom I had no classes, because the kid next door is the one with whom I played and ran and laughed and just generally spent nearly all my free time. My teenage daughter has moved thirty miles away from her primary school friends, and yet she still considers those girls her true BFF–“best friends forever.” It’s the love we share that makes people known to us, that maintains the connection and keeps memories and friendships alive.
As I was reading this morning in my Bible, I followed quite a series of cross-references about being known by God, and I ended up in today’s verses above from the Gospel of Matthew. Reading Jesus’ words “I never knew you” really brought it all into focus for me. Here we have our Lord teaching about following the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14) and then knowing true prophets by their fruit (v.15-20), and then He ends by saying that He will deny ever knowing someone who simply does things in His name. Why would Jesus deny someone who prophesied in His name? Why deny someone who cast out demons in His name? Why deny someone who was able to call upon God’s power and who did many wonders in Jesus’ name? How could the Son of God not know someone who called upon His name?
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
What love is Paul talking about? Is it the love of our fellow men? Many believe that is the love of which Paul speaks, but the Greek word for love used here is not “philadelphia”–brotherly love. It is “agape”–Godly love.
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
13 “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
14 “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
That last verse is the clincher: we show our love and are friends of God if we obey Him. We are known by Him if we love Him enough to lay down our lives for Him. The prophet Nahum put it this way:
The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble;
And He knows those who trust in Him.
God knows those who trust in Him. And we trust in the God we know. It is a mutual knowledge and trust and love. Jesus told His disciples, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:14) Jesus knows those whom He loves and WHO LOVE HIM.
2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;
3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”
Doesn’t that sound like the kind of believer we all want to be? Don’t we all want to persevere and labor for His name’s sake?
4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent.”
The church in Ephesus persevered and shunned evil and did great works in Jesus’ name, but they did it without loving Him. They may have done it for worldly acclaim, or they may have thought such works would buy their way to heaven. Perhaps they just got so caught up in doing good works that they forgot WHY they ought to do good works: because God saved them from death and raised them to life for His own glory.
1 Corinthians 8:3
But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.
That’s the key: to be known by God we must love Him. And if we love Him, then those other things–prophecy, fighting evil, healing, signs and wonders–will all fall into place. It is possible to appear to be a “good Christian” and do good works and maintain a facade of living a good life and yet NOT love God as we should. It is easy to be like the church in Ephesus and to do many good works while losing sight of WHY it is we are able to do such things. As Jesus tells the Ephesian church, we need to be constantly aware of where we once were and how God has raised us up to live in His glory and TO His glory. We need to cling to our first love–Christ Jesus–or else He will deny us before the Father. Oh, He may once have known us in our early days of faith, but if we take our love for granted and don’t actively pursue our love of God, then it will be as if we never loved Him at all–and as if He never knew us at all.
Memories fade, and the fires of human love and friendship flicker and die. That is the reason we can lose sight of our love for our Savior, because our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. But God does not forget those who love Him. He holds us close through thick and thin, bearing our burdens and often giving us strength when we least expect it.
18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope in His mercy,
19 To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
Those are the ones whom God remembers: those who love and trust Him, those who fear and revere Him.
Let us then love the Lord our God as we have been commanded to do, with all our heart and mind and soul. Let us never lose that first love. Let not our Savior say in our last day, “I never knew you,” but instead let us love our Lord Jesus the way He has loved His Father–and as the Father so loved all of us. Let us be known not by men for our good works, but let us be known by God because of the love we have for Him.
Heavenly Father, we cannot thank You enough for Your abounding love. Help me to love like that, to love You first above all people and places and things. Let me feel the passion–the aching love–that our Savior felt for You. I seek only to love You and be known by You, Father God. Amen.