Steven, a servant of God and fellow heir of salvation, to the church dwelling at Athens. Grace and peace be unto you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beloved saints, I thank my God that He enabled me to find some much-needed rest in the last two weeks. During that time, however, He began to stir a certain subject in my heart as the new year approached. This subject I desire to share with you, and I pray it might motivate some of you in your walk with our great God and Savior.

It is in the scriptures, the Gospel according to the Apostle Matthew, that we find what I consider to be the most painful and fear-inducing words in the entirety of God’s word: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt 7:21-23 NKJV).

When the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the righteous judge, declares to an individual: “I never knew you: depart from me,” I cannot conceive anything more hopeless. For when these words are spoken on the day of judgement, the ruling is final and what awaits from hence is everlasting punishment in the lake of fire! Indeed, Christ will speak these words to multitudes! Numerous people bear His name and do many wonderful works, but all in vain because they never really knew Him.

Saints, our Lord Jesus died so that we might be reconciled unto Himself in relationship. He loved us so much and wanted us back in His family so bad that He took our punishment and penalty of sin upon Himself, in suffering and death, even though we acted in rebellion and went astray. Yet sadly, many disparage His holy name in that they want the benefit of blessings and salvation, but they don’t want the relationship or His Lordship, having loved this present world more than Him.

The Lord Jesus spoke of such men when He said: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me.” (Matthew 15:8-9)

Brothers and sisters, let that sink down into your ears. Can you imagine living a life of false hope, expecting Heaven only to hear “Depart from me, for I never knew you”?

Why does our Lord give such a horrid response to men? He may say He never knew us, because we never really knew Him … or perhaps, we did know Him at one time, but then we left our first love. Whatever the scenario or the case, the message is clear in the scriptures.

Jesus is saying, “I have no relationship with you — I don’t know who you are, you are not mine”!

Not everyone that says “Lord, Lord” will enter into Heaven. For there will be many that say “Lord, we did this” or “Lord, we did that,” but just because you call Him Lord, it means nothing unless you made Him Lord of your heart in love and obedience that flows from intimate relationship. Our Savior also told us that “You shall know them by their fruits — even every one that does the will of the Father in Heaven.” However, sometimes people are very good at fooling others. Be not deceived beloved, no man will fool the Almighty! We see the outside, but God knows the heart and He will judge in righteousness and truth.

The Pharisees tried fooling the people with their outward religion, but Jesus saw right through that. He called them a generation of vipers, and whitewashed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones! And I hate to say it, but there are many people in churches today in America that qualify for such, too. There are so many sitting on pews in our own day that never sought more of God, neither do they actively engage in true relationship with Him. Utterly heartbreaking!

Now, know this: God will have a Church, and He will have a people. His true followers and remnant shall abide and will not have to worry about such words as “Depart from me” on that day.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us make our calling and election sure. Let us enter in at the straight gate: For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at. But straight is the gate and narrow is the way which leads unto life and few there be who find it.

Saints, if we will walk in truth, putting our trust fully in Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead us and guide us daily in our living, in intimate relationship, then shall we be glad and hear those blessed words on judgement day that all true disciples long for: “Enter thou in, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, now be lord over many”!

Beloved, the scriptures declare that we are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ and by nothing of ourselves. Indeed, we add nothing to our salvation; it is all sealed up in what Jesus Christ has accomplished (whether before or after our conversion). Our salvation is maintained by our trust in Him, that is our willingness to believe on Him and His work so much that we put our lives and heart in His hands. To do this successfully, it takes intimate communion and relationship.

The Apostle Paul put it like this (and I do believe this is my favorite verse): “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

Let me plainly ask: Do you love Him? Do you know Him? I declare it shows in the way you live! It’s not just in our confession or our words! It starts there, but a true living faith shows forth good works! Not because we are trying to be saved, but because we are saved! Not trying to please Christ, but because Christ dwells in us!

Therefore again, let me prod you: Do you know Him? Can He say that He knows you or have you left your first love? Are you seeking Him while He may be found? Do you talk to Him daily, intimately and in detail? Are you allowing Him to grow, mature, and conform you to His image?

An old preacher named Leonard Ravenhill once said it like this: “In fact, I said to the seminary men — do you know God?”

“Well … uh … I … uh … .”

“No, answer yes or no.”

“Oh, I learned Hebrew.”

I didn’t ask if you learned Hebrew. Do you know God? — You can ask 10 young people in your church, why did Jesus come into the world? To save us from Hell, to save us from sin, but what does Jesus say?

In John 17:2, “That they may know thee, the only true God.” And that’s the answer: we don’t know God! If we knew God, we’d set the world on fire! We wouldn’t beg for money!”

Many are expecting to stroll in through those pearly gates but instead will hear: “Depart from me for I never knew you! You never called; you never spoke to me! You never treated me as Lord and Master or Savior or friend! I don’t know you and you never knew me. You were my bride, yet you went and played the harlot with every other thing that the world had to offer!”

What a travesty that we have the grandest opportunity to commune with the ultimate in divine power, love, and grace in our creator and savior, yet we squabble it away on useless things! We should be concerned, not with the dim glimmer of this world, but rather, with the things of God that He has revealed unto us in His son Jesus Christ, the greatest treasure this world has ever known! Have we become so blinded by the limited glory of earthly glimmers that we cannot see the excellency of Christ Jesus?

The Apostle Paul said: I had everything to boast about — plenty of worldly attainments, “but what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3).

Saints, allow me to counsel you: As we have entered into this New Year, I am sure many of you are setting New Year resolutions. The word resolution means to decide firmly on a course of action. Beloved, we can decide on many kinds of future actions: To lose weight, to travel more, to do this or do that. However, the more needful thing is that we draw nigh unto Him, because if we if we do that then He will draw nigh unto us.

I beseech you then, that you make this New Year about knowing Him. Right now, in this moment, will pledge a renewed daily devotion with Him for 2022? I promise that you won’t regret it. Yes, hitting the gym is nice, but the scriptures say: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Let us firmly decide today on a course of action of renewed devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

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Steven Croft is the senior pastor of Boyd Memorial First Church of God in Athens.

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