I Never Knew You!(Can A Christian Go To Hell?)
Imagine, for a moment what it would be like to die and open your eyes in hell. Even more terrifying is if you had spent your life in church, supposedly doing all the right things.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23)
These three verses in the book of Matthew are probably some of the most troubling scriptures to me. They trouble me because they describe many in the Body of Christ, who at face value, are seemingly doing all the right things, yet at death are refused entrance into the eternal reward of the righteous.
Multitudes in the Church today are blessed with a tremendous anointing to move in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. During church services, prophecies, words of wisdom or words of knowledge seem to just flow out of them (...have we not prophesied in thy name?).
Many have stood face to face with some of the most wicked spirits that hell could produce, casting them out of their victims, and sending them limping back to the abyss (...and in thy name cast out devils?).
Still others have built large and far reaching ministries and mega-churches. They have fed the poor, supplied relief and funds to third world countries. They have seen multitudes come to Jesus and receive salvation and physical healing (...and in thy name done many wonderful works?). As they stand before the Lord of Lords expecting to hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). His words will ring in their ears throughout eternity."... I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
These groups will also include many Sunday School teachers, pastors and evangelists. Song leaders, choir members and musicians may also be in these numbers, along with elders, deacons and stewards. From the most influential member of the laity to the least, many run the risk of being rejected entrance to the kingdom of heaven.
How could this happen? It seems impossible that people with ministries, that we have judged as successful and blessed, could fall into such a spiritual waste land. But nonetheless it could happen.
SCRIPTURE MUST INTERPRET SCRIPTURE
One of the biggest mistakes we make when reading our Bibles is that too often we use our denominational doctrines or religious traditions as our standard for scriptural interpretation. This is backwards theology. We must let scripture, in context, interpret our doctrines. When we allow doctrines or traditions to interpret scripture we run the risk, like the Pharisees, of falling into religious tradition.
It has been my experience that religious people's spiritual lives are usually centered around doctrinal traditions rather than the Word in it's entirety.
Many times I have tried witnessing to these people and they usually always end the conversation with a debate. "Do you believe once saved, always saved? Or, "Does your church speak in tongues?" The sad fact is, they do not want an answer from God's Word, they only want to argue doctrine. When religious people witness, for the most part, they will use the name of Jesus only to create another convert to their doctrine or their religious philosophy. Many times they do more harm to the kingdom of God then they do good.
A perfect example is myself. For the first 21 years of my life I was raised Roman Catholic. Had a religious person witnessed to me about the Pope being the anti-christ, or praying to Mary and departed saints being idolatry, two things may very well have happened.
1. I would have become very defensive and interpreted this as an attack against my faith and my God. I would have probably built a wall around me that no future Christian witness may have been able to penetrate. Or:
2. I would have believed their report and agreed to convert to their doctrine.
I still would have been lost and on my way to hell. That is why Jesus told the Pharisees, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." (Matthew 23:15)
Thank God He sent me someone who was dedicated to the Word. Through the scriptures the Holy Spirit was able to reveal to me that my sin, not my theology, had separated me from a holy God. Because He loved me He sent His Son to the cross to bare my penalty of death. And that if I would repent of my sin and follow Jesus as Lord, my sin debt would be canceled, and I would be made righteous in Christ Jesus.
In today's message the focus is not whether we follow the teachings of John Calvin or Jacobus Arminius. This message is not intended to become a debate between the two major doctrines of eternal security. Personally, I believe both heaven and hell will have their share of dedicated Calvinists as well as Arminians. This message is to be a challenge to those of us who profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, to examine every aspect of our life, ministry and Christian walk to see if it aligns with God's plan and purpose for our life.
In order to accomplish this, we must use scripture to interpret scripture, rather than relying on men's theological interpretation.
In order for us to understand who Jesus is referring to in Matthew 7, we must first establish who these people are not.
First, they are not unsaved church members as many believe. Lost church members can not accomplish what these people had accomplished. Let's check each group and see what scripture can help us understand.
"Then he called the twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick ...and they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where." (Luke 9:1,2,6)Jesus called His twelve disciples together (notice Judas was included in this call) and He gave all of them two supernatural tools to accomplish His will.
1. He gave all of them power. The power that was given to Jesus' disciples was none other than His own power through the Holy Spirit. It is what we refer to today as the anointing. It is the supernatural power of God, to do what God wants done. It does not come by our own strength, as Peter told the on-lookers when the lame man was healed. "...Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? ...his (Jesus) name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know; yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." (Acts 3:12,16)
2. All of the twelve were given authority. The American Heritage Dictionary defines authority as, "One that is invested with this right and power." Judas, with the other eleven were authorized by Jesus to represent the kingdom of God. Through this authority that Christ had invested in them, they could speak on behalf of His royal government, as well as perform deeds in His absence.
That is why Judas, as well as the others could preach, cast out devils, heal the sick and raise the dead. Yet Judas, according to Jesus, is in Hell as we speak. Judas had been called of God and had responded to his calling. He had been ordained and anointed with the other eleven into a tremendous, world changing ministry, yet there was something in his life that changed his eternity. It was the fact that Judas was a thief (John 12:6).
Judas had been accepted into the kingdom, yet did not posses, spiritually, what he needed to lay down his sin. Nor is it mentioned in scripture that he sought the grace of God to overcome his temptation as Paul did with his thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:6-10).
Secondly, another good example is found in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Acts.
"Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits in the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and a chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." (Acts 19:13-16)
Whose authority did the demons recognize? It wasn't the vagabond exorcists because they were not a part of the kingdom of God. However, they did recognize the names these men evoked; Jesus and Paul. These unsaved Jews could not legally exorcise the demons because they lacked the power and authority given only to born-again believers. God's power and His authority are reserved for only members of His body.
To do the works of God you must have the power of God, and in order to have the power for the works, you must be born-again.
In the sixth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus was asked, "...what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him (being born-again) whom he hath sent." (John 6:28,29) To better understand who these people are let's read the verses again. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven... And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21,23)
THE ULTIMATE WILL OF GOD
"...but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
If you asked the average church member what he or she believed the ultimate will of God for their life was, the answers could fill a book. However, I believe the will of God for every one falls into two categories. Every thing we can imagine as God's will for us can only be accomplished in our lives when these two requisites have been met.
The first is intimacy. "And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23)
How could Jesus make such a statement? He is God, He knows every thing and everybody. He is omniscient; all knowing.
The key to understanding this statement is found in two words. First, knew; "...I never knew you..." This word is translated from the Greek word ginosko. It is the same Greek word translated into knew in Matthew 1:25. "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angle of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." (Matthew 1:24-25)
In Joseph's and Mary's relationship the word refers to physical intimacy. This is how two people become one. Whether in a marriage relationship; "...For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his with: and they twain shall be one flesh." (Matthew 19:5) The word cleave in this verse means literally to adhere to or be glued to.
Or in an adulterous relationship; "Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh." (1 Corinthians 6:15-16)
You will always become one with whatever or whoever you give yourself to intimately.
This is abundantly true in regards to our relationship with Jesus. In John, chapter seventeen, Jesus prays four times that we (Christians) should be one as He and the Father are one.
Many have interpreted these requests to mean some type of ecumenical oneness, in which all Christians should come together under some type of banner of unity with one central belief system. But I believe it goes far deeper than unity among believers. I believe Jesus' heart's cry was for intimacy with us, in the same sense and degree that He had intimacy with the Father. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)
When two people become intimate they open the doors of communication. They have a passion to know what the other is thinking, needing or wants to do. They long to be in each other's presence. They never work independently, or enter into competition with each other. They are one!
Because Jesus was in the Father, His will had been surrendered for the work He was sent to earth to do. "For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38)
Because Jesus was in the Father, the Father revealed every detail of His will to Jesus. "...Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." (John 5:19) "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is everlasting life; whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." (John 12:49-50)
This is intimacy with God. It's bond is so tight nothing else matters but being separated to Him, ministering to Him, being in His presence, finding and doing the will of the Father. And this is Jesus' prayer for you and me. Through total surrender, commitment and obedience; through prayer, fasting and Bible study, this can be accomplished in our lives. "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being;..." (Acts 17:27-28) Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon his name while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)
In the tenth chapter of Luke, a lawyer came to Jesus and inquired what he must do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus brings him back to the Word to answer his question. "...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, with all thy strength and with all thy mind." (Luke 10:27)
Far beyond anything else, the Lord longs for us to develop an intimate, loving relationship with Him. How else will we know each other's heart and will and desires?
The Apostle Paul sums it all up it in his epistle to the Philippians. "...that I may win Christ, And be found in him..." (Philippians 3:8-9) He continues in verse 10. "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death:"
What Paul is saying is "I want to know Jesus' heart, His every desire, His friendship, comfort and correction. I want to know that the same Holy Spirit power that raised Jesus from the dead will fill me and bring spiritual life into every area of my being. I want to know and enter into the same suffering, rejection and persecution that Jesus endured. I want to know that my life, because of my surrender to Him, is conformed to His will and purpose for me so that I can die and He can live through me.
Nothing meant more to Paul than his relationship to Jesus Christ. Everything in his life took a back seat to following Jesus. This is becoming one with Christ, and being found in Him, as He was one with the Father and found in the Father. It requires us to die to self and to live in Him. The next requirement we must meet is obedience. "...depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23) Obedience is a fruit of intimacy, for without intimacy, obedience is little more than dead religious legalism.
The word iniquity is translated from the Greek word anomia. Nomia means law, the letter a is a prefix which means against or contrary to. So iniquity could be translated to lawless (ness), without law or against the law.
In the context of Matthew 7:21-23, it is doing the works of God, without the consent, direction or presence of God. These people have become a law unto themselves, all because they lacked intimacy with Jesus.
Jesus explains this in the next four verses of chapter seven. "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:24-27)
Please notice the first ten words of verse 24. It refers to Christians who hear the word and then, through obedience and the fear of the Lord, does what is commanded of them.
In verse 26, Jesus refers to those who hear the Word but do not respond in obedience as a fool. James also says, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22)
It is one thing to be deceived by another, but more tragic is one who deceives himself.
How many times have you tried to reason with someone and told them, "The Bible says..." But yet they respond with, "I know what the Bible says, BUT, it is different with me?" Or it is different with my situation, or my ministry or my problem. They have deceived themselves because they have already refused to obey the Word of God and are deceived into thinking that the conclusion they have reached is the answer to their problem. In the end, this house of self-will they have built for themselves will come crashing down, "...and great will be the fall of it."
John Bevere puts it into perspective. "The deceived take comfort in a knowledge of a God they simply do not possess." (John Bevere, Drawing Near, pg. 87, Nelson)
They do not possess His knowledge, His heart, His instruction or correction. I'm not implying they are not saved, but I can say under the authority of the Word that they have never gone on with Jesus into a relationship of intimacy.
In brother Bevere's book, Drawing Near, he describes 2 basic groups of Christians.
The first group are those who serve God for who He is. After they received Jesus as Lord, they, like Paul determined that, "I might know Him." They have realized that nothing is more important for them then to find His presence, to be taught and nurtured by Him and to become a vessel of honor in order to bring glory to His name.
They continually seek Him and find Him and now nothing else takes priority over their continued intimacy and obedience.
While in the presence of the creator of the universe they had heard Him say, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love;" (John 15:10) "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:14) "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:" (Hebrews 12:14)
Their answers ring like a mid-evil church bell through the hallways of heaven. "Yes, Lord, Yes, Lord", because winning Him and knowing Him is their heart's cry and ultimate goal.
The second group follow Jesus only for what He can give them. Because they are children of God they have come to the conclusion that they have a right to be wealthy. They have a right to all the blessings in the Word. All they have to do is find it, name it and claim it. They say, "If we can see it in our mind - it's ours."
Many have traded their Bibles for tape cassettes and note pads. Their ministers have no fresh Word from a holy God, rather they have become echoes of one another.
A holy hunger for Christ no longer motivates this group, only getting their needs and wants fulfilled.
False prophets are drawn to this group like gnats to a fruit salad. "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways: by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:..." (2 Peter 1-3)
The Word of Faith and Prosperity gospels are popular with this group because they cater to the group's desires, wants and covetousness rather then directing them to Jesus in order to find His will and do it.
Their favorite scriptures are about sowing and reaping, yet their fields are spiritually dry, hard and fruitless, all because their focus is no longer on Jesus, but rather on themselves. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and reign righteousness upon you." (Hosea 10:12)
The first group's focus was Jesus, the second's focus turned inward to themselves, but there is a third group. This group has very little or no focus at all.
This group, once saved, stopped any forward progress into the kingdom of God. They will tell you that once they were saved they received all that God had. Their spiritual and eternal destiny was settled and there is nothing left to reach out to God for. They study the Word but it brings little change in their lives. They see no need to live a life of holiness and righteousness because their false interpretation of God's grace tells them that even if they do sin, God doesn't judge sin the same way He did in the Old Testament. When they sin, they believe that God will not judge it for what it really is and only penalize them with the loss of a reward or two at the Judgment Seat. Many within this group who resist the Spirit's call to intimacy usually end up heaped in religious traditions and ceremonies, while all the time thinking they are in the center of His will. When we refuse to humble ourselves before God, pride will always enter that void in our spirits. With it comes arrogance and rebellion to God and to His delegated authority.
OUR ONLY HOPE
We must understand that everything Jesus does is to bring us to Himself. When we were lost and enemies of God because of our sin, He sent His Spirit to convict us and draw us to Himself for salvation. "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in his sight." (Colossians 1:21-22)
Now that we are born again, He commands us to draw ourselves to Him through intimacy and holy living. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubled minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:8-10)
James' message is to the church, not the world. It is completely opposite of what is being recited from many of today's pulpits. But it is the only thing that God will accept.
If it is our intention to hear Jesus say "Welcome, good and faithful servant," rather than "I never knew you", it stands to reason we must change. When we get into His presence, that will be where we are able to hear Him speak. He will speak to us because He loves us and has a specific plan for our lives. Out of that love will come encouragement and hope as well as correction and instruction. All to bring us to Himself in intimacy and obedience. He has set forth His heart's desire for us and sealed it in prayer.
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21)