"And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:23)
How can a person think that he knows the Lord and then come before Jesus on Judgment Day and hear Jesus say to him, “Bro, I have no idea who you are; depart from me because you have lived a life that is contrary to what I desire and command (i.e. you are workers of lawlessness).”? How does something like that happen?
I’m not sure how that happens but let me share two thoughts on when I think there’s a potential for that to happen.
One: When a person’s Christian life is only defined by what he does and not also by why he does it. It is very possible for someone to abstain from behaviors like gambling, cussing, adultery, stealing, or lying, and engage in behaviors like attend worship service, faithfully earn a living, study the bible, provide financially for family; and do it all not for God but for himself. I know this is possible because many of us have done this ourselves! Many of us grew up in the church and went through the motions of “Christian” living until one day, by the grace of God, He exposed the motivations of our hearts and showed us that we were ultimately living for ourselves and not for Him. We realized we lived “Christian” lives because it was the identity we wanted (or for some other self-serving reason); but it was not because we passionately loved and worshipped Jesus. If God had not convicted our hearts and if we had not repented, many of us would have continued to live a life that appeared to be lived for Christ but was actually only lived for ourselves.
Two: When a person equates knowing about the Bible or about God with truly knowing God. They are not the same. In the bible, to know someone was not merely head knowledge about a person but it meant that you had an intimate relationship with that person. You truly knew them and loved them. So, in Genesis 4:1, when Moses wrote that Adam knew Eve and she conceived and bore Cain; he wasn’t saying that Adam knew her name, her height and weight, hair color, favorite food and then “Bam!” out popped Cain. That’s obviously not what he meant. He meant that Adam knew Eve intimately in relationship and physical union. When we equate knowing about God (knowing a lot of doctrines and teachings of the bible) with intimately, relationally knowing God, then we fool ourselves into thinking we know Him when in actuality we might not know him at all.
These are just two thoughts that come to mind when I think about how a person can think that they know Jesus but in truth not know him at all. If you have other thoughts you’d like to share with me about this, please do. I’d enjoy hearing them.