I think the most sobering words in the Bible have to be the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT)‘Not everyone who calls out to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God’s laws.’
I remember the day this passage gripped my heart. I was 21 years old, sitting in a Sunday morning service at Northside Assembly of God in Jackson, Tennessee listening to a teenager tell of her experiences on a recent mission trip. At some point, she shared this verse, and it shook me. This was not the first time I had heard this verse. However, that day, the impact was so great, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time.
The words “Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” reverberated within my soul. Grief enveloped me as I wondered if Jesus would say to me: I never knew you.
Having been raised in church, I thought I had this thing figured out. My Christian credentials were quite impressive. I won’t bore you with those details, but I had prayed the sinner’s prayer. Been baptized (multiple times). I went to church every Sunday and Wednesday. Went to revivals and special services. I was involved. I volunteered. I was connected. But, somehow in my 21 years of church attendance, involvement and connection, I had missed the heart of Christianity – intimacy.
That might sound odd to you. It did to me at first. But the more I explored this verse, the more I realized Christianity was not about following the rules. Initially, that’s what I thought and it was how I lived my life – always trying to follow the rules. But, this verse opened my eyes to the reality that God desires intimacy.
In verse 23, Jesus says I never knew you. The word knew is the Greek word ginóskó. I bring this up because the New Testament was written in Greek. So, for clarity, it’s important to know and understand the original word so that we can understand the original intent. If we don’t do this, we could easily misunderstand the intent or context of a Scripture or passage.
The word ginóskó means to know, come to know, get knowledge of, understand, perceive. It is also the Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. This word implies more than an awareness of; it indicates intimate knowledge of.
Ginóskó is the same word found in Luke 1 when the angel appears to Mary to announce that she would conceive and give birth to Jesus, the Son of God. In verse 34, Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The word virgin is the word ginóskó. In other words, Mary is asking how could conception be possible since she had never been intimate with a man. She is saying: since a man has never had access to that part of me, how could I possibly be pregnant?
So, in Matthew 7:23, when Jesus says I never knew you, He is saying I was not intimate with you. I did not know your heart. I did not have access to every part of you.
Christianity is not about formulas and rituals where we live by rote and routine. It’s not about doing things for God. Jesus makes this clear in verse 22 when He says: On judgment day many will say to Me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name.’ There will be people who say; I did a lot of things at church. I did a lot of things on Your behalf Jesus. And His reply will be; Yes, you did a lot of things, but you were never intimate with Me. You were a worker, not a lover.
Christianity is about being with Jesus. Intimacy. It’s about allowing Him into every part of our lives. We’re not trying to keep up appearances with Him, do things perfectly so we’ll impress Him, or follow any rules. We are developing a deep and intimate relationship with Him. We are continually giving Him complete access to every part of us. No walls. No closed doors. Complete transparency. Total availability. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is restricted.
And, as we share our heart with Him, He then shares His heart with us. He tells us His desires, plans and what’s in His mind. We get to see what He sees. Hear what He hears. Feel what He feels. That’s how we know what His will is. Knowing God’s will comes from intimacy with Him. It is not an exchange of facts and data. It is a transfer of heart to heart. And, because we’ve seen His heart and we are intimate with Him, doing His will becomes our passion.
As we are intimate with Him, we then do things with Him – not for Him. From the being comes the doing.
I will never forget that Sunday morning in Jackson, Tennessee. I am so thankful Holy Spirit thundered this verse in my heart and awoke me from my slumber. It changed the course of my life. It changed everything about me. And now, at the end of my life I am confident He will say to me – Hello Kim. I know you.