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?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:22–23).
I think if Jesus were writing today, He might say, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Didn’t I walk down the aisle and sign the card and get baptized and attend church and give and serve and live a decent life?’ And then I will declare, ‘Depart from me; I never knew you.’’’
There are two lessons from this teaching. One is that many will be surprised on judgment day. The second is that assurance of eternal life is based on a relationship with Jesus. Jesus did not say…
- Depart from Me, you were not a church member.
- Depart from Me, you did not give.
- Depart from Me, you were not good enough.
- Depart from Me, you were not baptized.
Jesus said, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Christianity is all about knowing Jesus. It is all about relationship. Jesus knows every true child of God. The question is: Do you know Him?
Billy Graham has often been credited with the declaration that the greatest mission field in the world is the members of American churches. Many are lost! They have never tapped into the tree of life. They have never been grafted in by the grace of God. They are still in the sinful soil of this wicked world. They cannot grow because they have never been planted in God’s vineyard.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garden makes you a gardenia.
Many others are saved, but they have not grown. They are planted, but they have not produced much fruit. They don’t know how to stand on the principles of God. They do not know how to walk in the power of the Spirit of God. They do not know how to lean on the promises of God. Their roots do not go down deep. They view salvation as they end.
Salvation is, in a way, the end. It is the front end.
Many never lay hold of the victorious, joyful, John 10:10, abundant Christian life.
Like those pitiful, propped up palm trees, they have to be propped up because their roots don’t go down deep. They want to be entertained more than they want to be fed. They want to be dazzled more than they want to be discipled. They want to be cheered more than they want to be challenged.
Entertainment may build a crowd, but it does not build disciples. Churches can get a crowd with feel-good preaching, but they can only make disciples by proclaiming the message of Jesus:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26).
The greatest miracle of God is that He can change sinners. God can take greedy people and turn them into generous people. God can take worried people and give them the peace that passes all understanding. God can take mean people and turn them into kind people. How does that happen?
Growth starts with being born. Spiritual growth starts with being born again.