God’s grace. His UNMERITED favour.
It is freely given, and it is without end. It is God’s saving power: “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Eph. 2:4-5 NLT)
We love talking about God’s grace. It is perhaps the most beautiful, attiring part of Christianity.
But then we have verses such as Matthew 7:22-23: “On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’” (NLT). Here we see people doing things in the Lord’s name, yet God rejects them.
And what about Matthew 25:41-43? “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’” (NLT). Doesn’t this sound a bit like a works-based religion? That in order for us to be saved, we need to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, invite the stranger into our homes and give them clothing? To say nothing of standing in contrast to Matthew 7:22-23 (see above), where we have people doing work in God’s name, and He still says He doesn’t know them!
How do we reconcile ourselves to these seemingly opposing Truths of Scripture?
It is an interesting question, one that I’ve grappled with from time to time in my walk with Christ. Then, out of the blue one day, God gave me the answer. My only hope and prayer is that I can somehow articulate what God shared with me in a way that will help you, too, as you try to balance the Truth of God’s grace with the Truths of Matthew 7 and Matthew 25!
The key, actually, lies in Matthew 7:23: “But I will reply, ‘I never knew you...'” (NLT, emphasis added). God isn’t turning these people away because of their works, good or bad. He’s turning them away because He never knew them!
This concept is confirmed in John: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (17:3 ESV). Knowing God results in life eternal; but not knowing Him results in being sent away from God. The difference, then, lies in that word, “to know”!
But what does it really mean to know God?
The Apostle John spells this out clearly for us: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.” (1 John 4:7 NLT).
John also says the following: “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6 ESV).
Thus we see here that no one who knows God will keep on sinning. Rather, they will love one another!
The prophet Jeremiah sheds more light on this: “’I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts…And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor … their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,’ says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:33b-34a NLT).
Did you see that? We will know that we know God when His instructions are deep within us, written on our hearts. These same instructions keep us from sinning, and these same instructions teach us to truly love one another.
Friends, being covered by God’s grace is more than just saying the sinner’s prayer and telling people you are a Christian. It is more than doing good deeds in God’s name. It is about knowing Him. Really knowing Him. For when we do, we will love one another, we will feel remorse for our sin and repent. That is what knowing God is all about, and that is what leads to life eternal. It has to be more than a head knowledge. It must be a heart knowledge!
So how then do we come to know God?
The same way we would come to know anyone! By spending time with Him!
We need to get His word into our hearts. We need to come to understand, “…how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” (Eph. 3:18b NLT). Simply put, we need to be in a relationship with God. We need to walk so closely with Him that our good deeds come naturally; so that when we are kind and bear the fruit of the Spirit, it is so natural to us that our right hands don’t even realize what our left hands are doing. That is what it means to know God!
If you already seek to know God more and more, you are on the right track. Just keep pursuing the prize! For when you do, on the day of judgment God will say, “‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 NLT)!
If you long to know God in this way, please email me. I would love to try and help you.
In His love,
Associate Director, Moderator, Answers2Prayer Ministries