Monday, October 20, 2014

Words We Don't Want To Hear

Someone seeking a good Bible chapter to memorize would do well to settle on Matthew 7. It's not especially long--only 29 verses. It's part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Even nominal Christians (if such exist) would likely be familiar with its components.
     It is often quoted and misquoted by non-believers and Christ-followers alike. Non-believers especially love to throw the very first verse at us when we take a stand against some abhorrent sin or deviant "lifestyle." The name-it-and-claim-its like to snatch Verse 7 out of context and build a theology around it. Those of us who went through elementary school before 1962 memorized Verse 12, though to learn about Verses 13 and 14, we needed to attend Sunday school and church, the same place where we heard about Verses 24-27. We even sang the song and did the motions for the latter verses.
     Wedged snuggly in there, beginning at Verse 15 and continuing through Verse 20, Jesus gives us some warnings and instructions about being fruit inspectors, advice we need today. The folks who love to buffet us with the first verse completely ignore these verses. They don't understand the difference between judgment and discernment. (That's a topic for another article.)
     These verses lead into one of the most troublesome, perplexing, downright frightening portions of Scripture for many Christ-followers.
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. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  ~Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)

     Does Christ say these hard things to keep us stirred up and uncertain of our salvation? I don't believe so. He is the One Who says, in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
     Looking at these verses, I notice that those saying "Lord, Lord" are centered on what they have done. Not once do they mention an actual relationship with the Lord Whom they address. They claim to have done miraculous things in Jesus' name, but Jesus--Who cannot lie--denies He had any part in those activities. Henry Morris, in his Defenders Study Bible (World Publishing) says, "There are actually prophets and miracle workers who--perhaps sincerely, perhaps not--profess to be Christians but instead are unsaved, deluded and even enabled to do 'wonderful works' by Satan in order to lead people to follow a false christ." These people can talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.

Words we don't want to hear: "I never knew you"

     Liz Curtis Higgs? Of course I know her. I read her Scottish historical romances and loved them. Learned a lot about Scottish history, too. Higgs knows how to research a novel. I know she has a great sense of humor. You don't have to take my word for it. Just go on YouTube and listen to her. I know she's a tall lady. That's obvious from the various photos of her around the internet. I know she's a busy lady. When she's not writing, she's visiting the location of her next novel or speaking as some women's conference.
     But do I really know her? What makes her angry? What's her favorite food? What kinds of music does she like? What breaks her heart? Mention my name to her, and she'll say, "Sharon...who?" Maybe I don't know her so well.
      Then there's my friend, Kay. Of course I know her. She called me last week, and we talked for nearly three hours. Three hours! She told me about her daughter the cheerleader and her son; man, he's getting so tall! Kay has the writing bug now, and she has a great idea for a book. I hope she finishes it. I'm eager to read it. We talked about the names of the main characters. That was fun.
     Kay's on her way to being a teacher, too. She'll be a great one. She's already collecting ideas on Pinterest to use in her classroom. A Bohemian teacher. Imagine that! The kiddos are in for a treat. I know her well, and she knows me, thanks to those long conversations.
     The "Lord, Lord" people, they did stuff, lots of stuff, miraculous stuff. They got a lot of attention for the doing, no doubt. Probably accumulated tons of friends on Facebook and hundreds of followers on Twitter, but they made no effort to know Jesus Christ, nor did they "Follow" Him.
     These verses emphasize how imperative it is for us to know Christ and have Him know us. The Greek word used here is ginosko. It refers to the knowledge one gains though direct, personal interaction, involvement, or experience. It is the same word that is used elsewhere in the Bible to refer to marital intimacy. That makes sense, since, as Christians, we make up the bride of Christ. One day, the Bridegroom will return to claim His pure bride (made pure through His suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection).
     It's a personal question: Do I know Christ? Does He know me?
     Do you know Him? And He, you?
     I want to know Him more clearly and love Him more dearly. That can only happen as I spend time with Him-- time in prayer communing with Him and time in His Word studying His love letter to me.
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord...  ~2 Peter 1:2 (KJV)
Because of Christ,