"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7:21-23 NAS95)
"Not everyone who keeps saying to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will get into the kingdom of heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name, drove out demons in your name, and performed many miracles in your name, didn't we?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:21-23 ISV)
This passage is one of the most disturbing and persistent messages I have ever come across in the Word of God. It was one of the most effective means of challenging my form of religion and pushing me into realizing that a personal, interactive relationship with God is of utmost importance over a head knowledge of correct religious facts. Jesus' portrayal of obviously religious people who were certain they had been on the right track, had been obeying God for much of their lives and who were sure they had done what was necessary to enter into heaven and then discovering too late that they had missed the most important factor for salvation has been a constant warning to me for a number of years. It is something I think about often and continue to question just what it means for Jesus to know me.
This morning as I was meditating on a devotional thought this issue came to me again accompanied by another verse from the Old Testament that parallels it very closely.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalms 139:23-24 ESV)
I have wondered how my knowing God and Him knowing me relate to each other. I have learned a great deal about the importance of each one of us getting to know God and have shared this many times with others. However, I have sometimes been puzzled about how to relate to these words where Jesus is saying to surprised people that He didn't know them. After all, doesn't Jesus know everything? How could He say He didn't know them when evidently He knows they are wicked people? And that is another disturbing subject to be unpacked in this passage.
Part of my pursuit of exploring an experimental religion is seeking to learn what it really means to know God and for Him to know me the way He mentions above. I want to understand just what God has in mind when He says He needs to know me before I can safely live in His presence. Just what kind of relationship is He talking about and how can I enter into or encourage that kind of relationship exist, to deepen and strengthen?
I sense that at least part of this coming to allow Jesus to know me is to give Him permission to shine the light of His presence into places deep inside my own heart that are presently full of fear, pain or rage. Of course I technically know that nothing is hidden from God and He is already fully aware of what is inside of me without me ever admitting it. But what He seems to be asking here is for me to give Him special access to discuss these things with me without my resisting these painful conversations. Really it is not about God coming to know things about me He didn't know before but it is about giving Him permission to open up things in my own heart that I have not yet been willing to be honest about before. In reality Jesus is asking permission to come in and make me more transparent and honest, more aware of what is inside of me, to quit hiding or repressing or avoiding any part of my heart and my memories.
I do not understand this very well yet for it is still just opening up to my mind. I am trying to process through it by writing this out as a means of trying to make more sense of it. This is the kind of thing that becomes clearer over time and through various experiences. It is something that develops through my prayer life as I seek to know God's heart better and also learn how to allow Him to know my heart the way it is described in these verses.
Just now I overheard a phone conversation that helped me to perceive better what God is wanting to do in me. A person who feels very intimidated and easily upset about how people perceive them based on their job performance has been an ongoing issue in a group I belong to. While listening to this discussion it suddenly occurred to me that the obstacle that prevents us from having a better relationship with this person is their own intense fears that we will not like them or accept them if they make a mistake. As a result they often become very defensive and even explode in rage whenever a perceived problem occurs that relates to their performance.
In the context of this example I can see more readily that I often have similar feelings toward God. My underlying fears that God will become upset with me if I mess up or if He exposes some area of sin or confusion or guilt in my heart often keeps me trying to hide these things from coming into His light. Yet keeping God at arm's length by avoiding full disclosure on my part only prevents me from experiencing the healing that I so desperately need to become free from these things and to grow. God longs to be allowed to come in to comfort, confront, heal and repair all the pain and damage I have inside. But because He always respects my right to make my own choices as to whom I will trust with my heart, He waits for me to willingly open the doors of those painful places inside and invite Him to do whatever He needs to do inside of me. (John 3:20, 21)
But to even get to that point I have to somehow come to the place where I believe He is not going to cause me more harm, that He really has my best interest at heart and that He is worthy of my trust. If I cannot trust that God really cares about me, especially in the deep places where I hurt the most, where I have hidden shame, fear and pain, then my heart cannot open up to allow Him to do unexpected things. I will be afraid that He is only going to shame me or humiliate me or punish me. Yet I am coming to realize that all of these things are based on lies about Him that my heart has long believed and that they are rooted in my sinful nature. Like this person who does not yet believe that we have no ill feelings towards them and still lives in fear of what we might think about them if they make a mistake, I have to come to view God differently before my heart will be willing to give Him access to my inward parts where He longs to know me.
It is vitally important that I come to allow Him full access to know everything about me on the inside without any continuing resistance on my part if I want to spend eternity in His presence. This is the whole purpose of salvation, for salvation is the process of allowing God to come inside and do whatever it takes to bring us into full sympathy and synchronization with His ways of thinking and His view of what is true and real. As I allow God more and more access to the painful places of my heart, the deep places that I don't even know about myself yet, He can prove that He genuinely cares about me and longs to only restore me to the joy of His salvation. My confidence will build as I experience His healing power in more and more areas of my life and which in turn will make it easier to trust Him with even more garbage inside, for I am learning that He really can be trusted with my heart.
This is a very personal matter. I choose right now to consciously give God permission to access my heart, to expose the places of dread and fear and shame that presently can terrify me. I choose to deliberately give Him permission right now to do whatever it takes to heal me inside and make my life a better reflection of His love and His purposes for my life. I want to have a more dynamic, interactive communication with Him that is in real time each day. I want to have Him know me as well as for me to get to know Him.
Now we see only a blurred reflection in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Corinthians 13:12 ISV)