Read Matthew 7:21-23
This may be one of the scariest set of verses in Scripture for believers. Christ rejects those who think, based on their behavior, that they are in with Him. As they are cast from His presence, they lift up their own behavior as their defense. Jesus seems to bypass all their activity. He ignores it. It never meant anything to Him. He rejects their works as well as them. These people were serving only themselves, which, by definition, renders all their works “lawlessness.” They put on a show that they were pleased with, but they kept their secret life to themselves. If we look back at Matthew 6, we see the kind of secret life Jesus looks for and seeks to enter as Savior and Lord. We meet Him here or we never meet Him. “I never knew you.”
As a pastor, I encounter many people who claim to believe, but keep God at arm’s length. They live as if they are keeping secrets from God. The logic of it points to plain, old unbelief. To them God is an idea only; he is like a paper cut-out. When the reality of death and judgment approach, like with every last one of us, they still refuse to turn to Him for help, and, instead, turn to themselves and their performance. It is scary and sad. It is also very easy to relate to for most of us. This is where our sinful pride betrays us and breaks every promise it makes to us. When Jesus says, “I never knew you,” He is basically saying, “Look, you’ve been on your own the whole time. You’ve done it your way. You’ve relied on and lived for yourself. So, this is how you’re going to take it the rest of the way. This is how you will stand on Judgment Day: alone.”
The alternative is to come to Jesus Christ now. Show Him your sin, your failure, your fear, your wearisome burden, your scars, your lack of faith, your weakness, your idolatry; show Him all the wicked ugliness we humans try to cover up with religious behavior. Confess it clearly and cleanly. Trust Him and His work on the Cross alone for full, forever forgiveness of it all. Jesus invites us – exhorts us really – to make it impossible for Him to ever say, “I never knew you.” Think of how astounding His love is! If we turn Him down in this life, we turn Him down forever, and then He turns us down. The Cross is Christ’s way of insisting that we keep no secrets from Him. In other words, we don’t keep ourselves from Him. Whatever service we render in response is worship and nothing less.