“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
This passage always seemed vaguely menacing to me. After all, the deeds listed sound so good and spiritual. Aren’t they all things that God loves seeing done? So what is wrong? Do we need to be scared that Jesus would say ‘I never knew you’ to us, after we thought we were living for him?
Here’s a clue: We know that Jesus says he wants us to put his words into practice. And there is a way we can know we are on the right track as we try to do that. When I go running, I like to wear a heart rate monitor to track my level of effort. And Jesus has given us a spiritual heart monitor.
How does that work? First, note that all three of the activities in verse 22, prophesying, exorcizing and healing, are activities that are done in public. But that means there’s a huge danger that they can become public displays that draw attention to the doer rather than to Jesus!
The Beatitudes give us a remedy for this risk: they focus not on what we are doing but on our heart attitude. Look at this one especially:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.(Matthew 5:8)
It’s far better to be doing quiet stuff that few people see while having the right heart attitude, than to do flashy visible stuff with the wrong heart attitude.
So now we see that Jesus kicks out people who seek after self-glory rather than his glory.
Do you ever wonder whether you are seeking his glory or your own glory? Sometimes it is hard to distinguish. But the mere fact that you are even bothering to wrestle with this issue, admitting that it might be a problem, is a great sign that you are on the right track.
We press on with good deeds, not worrying about publicity or recognition. Inviting Christ to keep working in our hearts leads to an excellent result: At life’s end, Jesus welcomes us into his kingdom, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant”!