During the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7, Jesus is speaking to the crowds about what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. In verses 22-23 He states, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"
I believe that more often than not, we do mighty works “for Jesus” and we know about Jesus, but we don’t really know Him. We know what time church starts. We can quote a couple of Bible verses. We know the right words to say during Sunday school or during a Bible study. And if we‘re really feeling Christian on Sunday, we know the appropriate time to lift our hands during worship! Now don’t get me wrong, these are all good things. But they become wrong, and many of us (including myself) miss the point when we replace knowing Jesus with knowing about Jesus and doing things for Jesus. So what does it mean to know Jesus?
To know Jesus is to “seek first the kingdom of God.” To know Jesus is to put Him before our daily tasks. We know that Jesus is important, but He isn’t urgent to us! At least not as urgent as that Biology test that we have to study for or the meeting we have today or our kid’s soccer practice. We know that there is something wrong with our Christianity when it's decree of fidelity depends solely on outside pressures, influences and leadership. Spending our time in church and doing the “Christian thing” makes us no more Christian than someone standing in a garage and making engine noises claiming to be a car! It just doesn’t make sense! Jesus says we must actually know God and have a relationship with Him. We must take continuous, intentional steps away from the comfort of this world to be filled more and more by Him!
The only problem is that it’s hard. It’s hard to be a Christian. We have been and will be ridiculed for our faith. We will (incorrectly) be called bigots and intolerant people because we hold to the radical claims of Jesus. But we have to remember that we have been told to expect this. The Bible is clear that we will suffer for our faith. But it is worth it because we desire a “better country,” a city that God has prepared for us (Hebrews 11:16). And we choose “rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,” because we consider Christ to be greater than any treasure (Hebrews 11:25-26). Our society does not think one step beyond what feels good, but we are called to be different.
Charles Spurgeon, a prominent British pastor from the 1800s, theorized, “Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord.”
We must seek God and a relationship with Him first. Rules without a relationship always equal rebellion. It is only through a relationship that we see that God’s rules are not meant to prevent us from a full life but they are always meant to protect us and provide us with life. It is then that we will experience “fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
If I’ve learned anything from doing college ministry it’s that no matter how busy someone is, they make time for what they value. Let’s prioritize the important over the urgent. Let’s prioritize knowing God and a relationship with Him over all else. Let’s ask God for help doing this.
Let us pray that God does something so big within us that only he can get the credit for it!