A couple of weeks ago, one of the pastors at my church, Pastor Dave, delivered one of the most challenging sermons I’ve heard. Rereading through the text that his sermon was based on, Matthew 7:21-29, forces me to think about what God is saying to me in this text. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be a person that Jesus tells “depart from me for I NEVER knew you”, and I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be that person either. I want to think of myself as the wise man who builds his house on the rock, that is Jesus, and to be in a deep intimate relationship with him. I want to look at this passage and overlook the challenge, feed into my self righteousness, and think that I’ll be ok on that day. I want to do these things, but when I read the text, all I can say is “Lord, Lord, I’m superficial”.
When my wife and I began attending CCF NYC, Pastor Kenny told us a quote, which seems to be a core concept to the fabric of what CCF is about, from Pastor Rich which states “To be loved and not known, is superficial. To be loved and fully known is intimate”. This relates to confession, praying for one another, carrying each others burdens, and developing true relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, similar to the early church in Acts 2:44.
Matthew 7:21-23 has to be one of the toughest verses for a Christian to swallow. We see people do mighty things in the name of Jesus, address him in a way that shows knowledge of him, but are called evildoers? It would be very disheartening if our hearts are focused on the wrong things. That’s where I find myself. In a culture and city where the most important thing we have is our resume and reputation, it’s almost impossible to think that Jesus could do this to people that follow him. It isn’t as if these were filthy “sinners” trying to con Jesus. They were doing great things! You definitely don’t prophesy or cast out demons without the Holy Spirit’s power.
Unfortunately, we miss the point of the text, and the whole Sermon on the Mount, if we reduce Jesus words and teachings into benchmarks of works we could do in Jesus name to prove we have salvation and intimacy with him. For a very long time, I felt that the more I did for Jesus, the more it proved he was working in me. This isn’t necessarily bad, faith is shown through the works that we do. But when we turn a GOOD thing into a GOD thing we’re left with NOthing. What I loved more than Jesus was my pride, the works, and the false sense of security I felt that by doing more only proved my authenticity to Christ.
GOOD —O—> GOD= O
My idol was my own self-righteousness, and superficialness, rather than the maker and sustainer of the universe. My own abilities and strength became my places of refuge rather than His power and righteousness. It’s safe to say I completely missed the point of the text. Jesus wasn’t saying they didn’t do enough, or didn’t use his name correctly. Jesus is saying they didn't love Him deeply or intimately. The knew of Jesus and his power to do great things, but they didn’t know Him deep enough. That apart from love, true deep intimate relationship with him, all of these things were worthless. Serving others and serving in the church are great and wonderful things, but they can be done without truly building a deep intimate relationship with Jesus by reading the Bible, praying and resting in his power to overcome sin and be conformed to his image. Sadly I’m the proof that its possible.
I’m great at being superficial, or rather, I do a very poor job of building intimate relationships with people. For a while, I thought it was ok. Its easy to do the bare minimum, to stay in comfort and convenience, to exchange pleasantries and move on. Building intimate relationships is hard work, and I wanted no part in it. But Matthew 7:21-29 radically challenges this. Loving Jesus can’t be superficial, because He never loved you or saved you superficially. One of the reasons why I want to stay superficial is because I don’t want people to think any less of me when they realize my faults and failures. This is why we put on a mask in public to try and hide our true selves. We don’t want people to know we snore, forget simple math, or carry bitterness. We think that if we can hide these things for a while, we can get people to like us before they see our ugliness. What we really want to do is feed into our own self righteousness and pride.
But Jesus doesn’t love superficially. He knows all of our past, present and future sins. He knows our faults and insecurities. He knows us, and sees right through the facade that we fool others with. Yet, He died for us in spite of these things, because He loves us deeply and intimately. He died for you and me so that we could be conformed to his image, and not the superficial image we would rather portray. When I exchange this truth for anything else, I act just as superficially as the people mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23. If I rest my hope on anything but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then the truth is not in me and I really don’t know Him.
Lord, Lord, I’m superficial. I need you to help me be more intimate.