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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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"For no one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law."—Romans 3:20 (HCSB)
One of the craziest things in the Bible to me is Matthew 7:22–23 (NASB). In this verse, Jesus reveals, “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.'”
Every time I read that, it seriously blows my mind. Think about it . . . Imagine if you saw someone following the law and delivering powerful, deep, seemingly inspired and authoritative teaching. Imagine if you saw someone cast out demons. Imagine if you saw someone involved in healings and other amazing works.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel like I would look on and think, Wow! What a mature child of God. I’d see them as an inspired and inspiring leader. I mean, just yesterday we learned that people are known by their fruit, and that sounds like pretty fantastic fruit to me . . . like a glorious, ripe mango!
But when the time comes, Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.” How? Simply, because “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NASB). And where I saw fantastic fruit, God saw a rotten core. Clement of Rome summarized it best when he wrote about this verse in Matthew 7: “While my name was on your lips, your hearts were far from me.”
We saw someone who performed amazing works, we saw someone who looked righteous and right in God’s eyes, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. These men were seemingly justified because they fulfilled the works of the law. But as Paul said, “No one will be justified in His sight by the works of the law.” God saw a heart that served only self, a fraud. He saw someone who never surrendered and never truly loved Him.
You see, no one achieves right standing with God through works. It’s only from a place of humility and spiritual poverty that we can have enough room in our hearts for Jesus. It’s only by true surrender and submission to Christ Jesus that we can be known by Him and experience a deep, abiding relationship. It’s not our works but His work on the cross, and all we have to do is receive Him!
DIG: How can a person do the things Jesus described in Matthew 7 and still not really have a relationship with Him?
DISCOVER: What do you think motivates a person like that? Do you think they’re self-deceived or that deep down they really think they’re good with God?
DISPLAY: Spend some time examining your heart and motives.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.