And he will reply, "I tell you, I don’t know you. Go away, all you who do evil." – Luke 13:27 NLT
Over in Matthew chapter seven, we have the companion passage to this lesson taught by Jesus. In both cases, you have people who, at the time of judgment, will come forward claiming that they had done all kinds of things for God. In the Matthew passage they say, "Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name" (Matthew 7:22 NLT). In the Luke passage they say, "We ate and drank in Your presence , and You taught in our streets" (Luke 13:26 NASB). In one case, they seem to be depending on their good deeds to save them. In the other, they are putting their hope and trust in the fact that they have some kind of a relationship with Jesus. But in both cases, it doesn't work out too well for them. Jesus basically tells them, "I don't even know you!"
Self-effort can never earn us favor with God. Self-righteousness can't produce true righteousness. The Pharisees had been trying it for years and they still stood before God as sinners, condemned, unclean. But if you try to rely on just a surface relationship with Jesus, you will also be sorely disappointed. Many claim to know Christ, but have not placed their faith in Him. They have a knowledge of Him, but not a relationship with Him. He doesn't know them because they are not really His. I love the way the New Living Translation puts it: "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21 NLT). Religion and rule-keeping are not enough. Doing things for God is not enough. Knowing about Jesus is not enough. God is looking for a relationship based on faith in His Son's atoning death on the cross. That requires us to give up our quest for spiritual perfection on our own. It requires that we give up relying on some surface, skin-deep understanding of who Jesus is. In other words, it requires surrender to God's only plan for salvation. Faith in His Son as my sin substitute. It is NOT what I can do for God that matters. It is what Jesus Christ has already done for me on the cross. It is not knowing about Jesus that matters. It is knowing that He lives within me. "I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 NLT).
Father, I know I can't earn favor with You by doing more for You. You have already shown me Your favor by sending Your Son to die on the cross in my place. I know I can't rely on a surface knowledge of Christ, but must constantly remember that He lives within me. It is His presence in me that transforms me and makes me Your child. You know me because I am known by Him. You see me as righteous because You see me through Him. And for that I am grateful. Amen.