Sunday, January 22, 2017

Known

I remember a sermon I heard years ago that was titled something along the lines of "The most terrifying verse of the Bible." It was a sermon that was focused on the interaction between Jesus and different "followers" of His. The message was based on the text found in Matthew 7:21-23

 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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.' - Matthew 7:21-23

The warning of this passage was voiced strongly from the pulpit and its intent was leveled with authority in the congregation.  The message is clear: what we do, what we say, any and all work we do on the name of Jesus will not save us. We are not guaranteed salvation because of any efforts we put forth. These men did, in their own estimation, great works under the power of Jesus' name, and yet the Lord of Lords told them in direct, calculated words that they had not made the cut. Their failing was not a lack of good works, it was nothing of their doing at all, it was that Jesus did not know them, thereby making their use of His name for the doing of works nothing more than a deceitful manipulation of power intended to make themselves great, and a seeking of their own name and glory by using the power that was never theirs to posses. The warning of this text hit its intended mark of causing believers to recount the path of their salvation, reexamine that sign posts along the way that point to the surety of their regeneration, and their walk as a new creation in Christ. It's a good exercise to undergo from time to time, and the warnings found throughout scripture should cause us to tremble, thus driving us back to our reliance on the cross for our sole hope of salvation. But these warning texts should also have further facets to be examined.

As I have begun reading and studying through JI Packer's work Knowing God, I think I am beginning to see the facet of this text that balances, and ultimately transcends the warning. The facet is cut through Jesus' words, "I never knew you." Jesus taught that the manifestation of eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ whom He sent. Our knowing God is predicated on His first knowing us, as He proclaimed to Jeremiah when God told His prophet that He knew him before Jeremiah was in his mother's womb. God knows His children from before they are, He creates us in His knowledge of us. God knew His children and named them before the foundation of the world, and wrote their names in His book. He etched the names of His children onto the heart of Christ, our names are heaven on His palms.those whose names are known from eternity past are not forgotten by the Son. By this knowledge alone, when these men come to Christ proclaiming their works in His name, He identifies them as not being named among His children, and therefore are not workers of righteousness but of iniquity. The stand condemned in the midst of the Holy begotten of the Father.

We who have been called out of darkness into light by the familiar voice of our Good Shepherd can take heart and courage in our being known by Christ, and therefore we cling to the truth that no tongue can tell us thence depart. We whose names are known by the Father and given over to the Son for redemption in the Glorious Mercy of the eternal Creator will never hear the words spoken by Christ to these men. When we approach the throne of grace, ours will not be claims of works done on the behalf of His name, it will be the call of reliance on the righteousness of Christ alone and the redemption purchased by His blood alone. We tremble when first we hear and heed this warning of scripture, but we fall back to rest in the everlasting embrace that is found only in the arms of a God who knows His beloved.