I Never Knew You

Numerous times over the years, yes, I have a few behind me now, I have heard Matthew 7 referred to regarding those who did things in Jesus name being rejected because they didn’t actually ‘know’ Jesus. That is, they never developed an actual intimate relationship with Jesus. I agree. At the same time, I want to look at the broader context. First the well-known verses.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21–23 (NKJV)

It is obvious from these verses that moving in sign gifts and affirming that Jesus is the Lord is not a guarantee of entering the kingdom of heaven. However, the issue in the passage  isn’t whether someone was moving in sign gifts, it is about the relationship with Jesus that they demonstrated. Scripture is clear that we are to both pursue love and desire spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 14:1). We are to make love our priority and use His gifts to demonstrate it.

In the broader context in Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus tells us that we can discern true and false followers by the fruit they produce. After His subsequent warning about the need for intimacy in doing works He goes on to highlight in verses 24-27 the importance of heeding what He taught (Matthew 5-7. The summation of the Sermon on the Mount). Obeying Jesus words is like building our house/life on a firm foundation while ignoring His teaching is building our house/life on shifting sand, which lead to it collapsing.  

Now let’s take a closer look at the context of what Jesus taught. First, a phrase you may be familiar with, that it is important to repeat. Broadly the scriptures were written for us, not to us. In this case Jesus taught these things on the other side of the cross to an Israeli audience. Yet contextually it is clear that Jesus was looking ahead beyond the cross because He was referencing end of the age events in terms of a coming judgment.

For us, we need to read and heed this looking back. It isn’t enough to do things for Jesus, we are called to do things in partnership with Jesus. Part of that is understanding the cultural context of those who heard Jesus. His hearers were intimately familiar with the Great Shema. It is rooted in Deuteronomy 6:4 and begins ‘Hear O’ Israel.’ The Hebrew word for ‘hear’ is Shema and means to hear with the intent to obey. The regular morning and evening prayers began with that phrase. The hearers of the Sermon on the Mount understood that love was an action. To love Jesus was to obey Jesus. You could not separate the two. Intimacy was about walking together, being yoked with Jesus and doing works for and with Him rather than for attention or to make a name for ourselves. 

That is the real warning of Matthew 7. If we are wise, we will walk with Him doing works as He leads while remaining attentive and obedient to His voice. When we are seeking His face and walking in what He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10) we can be confident of the ultimate results of our faith and obedience.

On Time

            In business in recent decades there was a movement to the practice of ‘just on time’ inventory. Rather than businesses needing to stockpile parts and take up warehouse space they planned for when they would need their inventory and ordered it for that time period. It was a way to save money and function more efficiently. Covid kicked that idea to the curb. The shutdowns created massive backlogs in both the creation of needed products and their shipping and delivery. When goods began moving again antiquated port systems were clogged with container ships waiting weeks, at times months, to unload their cargo. I watched a 60 minutes episode and there were problems up and down the system with the separate parts all pointing the finger at one another. I recall talking to the owner of a local bike shop who lamented that his orders were two years behind! ‘Just on time’ just wasn’t working!  

            Now to the scriptures. There are different names for time in the New Testament. We have chronos, chronological or sequential time, and kairos, things that take place at just the right time, the opportune moment. As Christians we assert that God is outside of time. That makes sense given that time, space and matter all began at the moment of creation. At the same time (yes the pun is intentional) Jesus is always on time now that we have it. Let’s look at that a bit.

Scripture tells us that Jesus was born in the fullness of time, a kairos moment.

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4–5 (NKJV)

Creation was pregnant with opportunity and Jesus showed up on the scene. The Greek word that fullness expresses is the same word used for being ‘filled’ with the Spirit. The planet was ready for the arrival of the Messiah and Jesus appeared on the scene.

Now we will look at an example in the life of Lazarus. Jesus was informed that Lazarus was ill and Mary and Martha were asking for His help, so He rushed off to heal Lazarus. Actually no, He stayed for two more days (John 11:1-6). When Jesus finally arrived, it was too late.

17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. John 11:17 (NKJV)

At least from the perspective of Mary and Martha, I’m not so sure about Lazarus, Jesus was too late. In verses 21 and 32 Martha, then Mary, both point out to Jesus that if He had been there Lazarus would not have died. I am sure you know the rest of the story; Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

            The important part is the reason behind Jesus waiting. In the cultural tradition the Jewish mystical teaching was that a person’s spirit stayed around their body for three days then departed for Sheol. After that only the Messiah could raise someone. Jesus was demonstrating who He was in raising Lazarus. It was a kairos moment.           

Now to apply this to our lives. I think there are a variety of ways to present this but I will focus in on one. Are there dreams in your life that have died with the passage (chronos) of time? I know I have them. Yet because I trust Jesus I know that if those dreams are from Him then if I hold on to them and remain focused on Him they will come to pass in the fullness of time, my karios moment. I pray we can all bring our hearts to a place of rest in Him as we wait and seek to be found faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Following Part 2

            In the verses below I want to focus on a single phrase that I will address below.

14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them. Deuteronomy 28:14 (NKJV)

1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. 2 Chronicles 34:1–2 (NKJV)

27 Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27 (NKJV)

Not turning aside ‘to the right or the left’ is the phrase. Let me give you my paraphrase, ‘Ignore distractions and remained focused on the task at hand.’ When it comes to following Jesus, this is sound advice.  

When we choose to follow Him this is what He desires to do in our lives, lead us in the way of wisdom and follow the path He is leading us on. An interesting analogy I see comes from my hiking. I have hiked up a lot of mountains and sometimes there is a clear view of the trail ahead and other times you can hardly see around the next bend. When the trail narrows in the trees you can see the person in front of you, often not beyond them or very little. You stay on the path by focusing on the person ahead of you and trusting their leading. If we take that back to following Jesus there is an important truth. As we walk through life when we will encounter difficult times and it becomes difficult to see the road ahead. This is when we need to be more aware of and dependent on His leading.

As you walk with and seek to follow Him here are some things you may find helpful. I regularly focus on them in prayer and they are rooted in my awareness of Ephesians 2:10. He has works and a plan for me so I want to discern and walk it out with Him each day. My goal is to be sensitive to His leading and respond with obedience. To that end I reflect on or pray about these areas.

  • Jesus, I begin my day connecting to Your presence and focusing on You aligning me for today.
  • Holy Spirit, as I sit and walk with Jesus, I ask You to draw me into the subtleties of the interaction that I might deepen my awareness of Your presence and leading.
  • Father/Jesus, I thank You that You are here. I give myself to You afresh today. What do You have for me to do today? (Over saturating our soul with activity dulls our spirit.)

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

            If we approach our walk with Him with this type of perspective, I think we will find ourselves not ‘turning to the right of the left.’ I don’t anticipate any of us will do this perfectly but I believe doing it will lead to us staying focused on and attentive to His agenda and avoiding distractions.

Following Part 1

We may desire to follow Jesus but doing so is a daily choice as we compete with the siren call of our culture. Jesus has called each of us to daily follow Him and He expressed it this way.

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. Luke 9:23–24 (NKJV)

            We need to do a little excavating of the context and text to understand this passage (see also Matthew 16 and Mark 8). Jesus presented this challenge just after the 12 recognized Jesus as the Messiah and He predicted His pending death and resurrection. The larger context is that while the 12 and the crowd were familiar with crucifixion, they didn’t understand at the time that Jesus was to be crucified so Jesus wasn’t calling them, or by extension us, to crucifixion. He was calling us to follow Him.

            Matthew, Mark and Luke were all pointing to something and all wrote on this side of the cross, while Jesus spoke these words on the other side of the cross. He told us that we needed to deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Him. Bear in mind, many of His hearers had already sacrificed a great deal to follow Him. What was put before them here was the need to maintain this heart attitude of daily choosing to follow.

Jesus’ cross was His purpose. We see this as He begins His final journey to Jerusalem.

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51 (NKJV)

At this point nothing was going to deter Jesus from His purpose. He was headed to Jerusalem where He knew crucifixion and death awaited, followed by a resurrection. Our following Him doesn’t mean literal death, though in some cases it may. It means laying down our agenda and taking up His. This is where the denying part comes in. For some of us in our day it may mean openly sharing our faith at work when we think it safer to remain silent. For some of us denying ourselves will mean remaining silent when we want to speak up. For others it may mean standing against oppression or tyranny.

            The cross may be different for each of us. Where it is the same is in our need to lay down our agenda and take up His. It is counting the cost and setting our face to follow Jesus. I close this post with a brief illustration. Many years ago, my friend Evelyn (who is now with the Lord) shared an encounter she had. She was in the spirit realm and Jesus appeared to her. She said He never said anything, He simply looked at her then turned around and started walking. She said she knew what it meant; He was calling her to follow Him so she did. I won’t share all the details but she lived her life denying herself and following Him and the fruit was very evident to all who knew her. I pray we each make that same daily choice.  

            Next week I will go more into some practical details around how to follow. However, today we are between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so listen to Forever by Kari Jobe as she captures the significance of both events.

Kari Jobe – Forever (Live) – Bing video

A Fragrance Poured Forth

Easter looms large for the church each year as we celebrate Jesus sacrificial death and resurrection. As we prepare for Easter it is helpful to reflect on an event. In the days leading to Jesus sacrifice we have the oft told story of Mary anointing Jesus with oil. I don’t know about you, but had I been in Jesus’ place I would have been very uncomfortable with this level of public attention and public demonstration. Embarrassment would have likely been my response. Yet Jesus not only accepted the attention, He embraced it. I think there were two reasons for that. Frist, when we view Jesus’ interactions in the gospels He presents as utterly unselfconscious. Second, He knew the prophetic purpose of Mary’s anointing, preparation for His crucifixion and burial.

8 “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.”  Mark 14:8 NKJV

To go deeper let’s set the stage a bit. We know from the different gospel accounts that the event took place at the house of Simon the Leper/Pharisee (the passages from Matthew, Mark and John are below). We can safely conclude that Jesus had healed him or there would have only been the two of them at the meal given the culture of the day! We also know that Judas was Simon’s son (John 12:4) so this event appears to have taken place in his family home. This explains Judas taking such offense when publicly rebuked by Jesus. Judas being the son of a Pharisee also explains his easy access to the religious leaders to betray Jesus.

Having set the stage consider the event. The main characters are Mary and Jesus. The others have a role but Mary takes centre stage by way of her sacrifice. She breaks an alabaster box filled with spikenard. Referred to as spikenard or nard, this costly oil was made from the dried roots and stems of the nard plant and imported from India. Not only does Mary engage in an extravagant financial sacrifice, she engages in an extravagant social sacrifice.

Mary defies convention, and out of love for Jesus violates custom and interrupts both the meal and the discourse. She pours the fragrant oil on Jesus’ head and feet and cleans His feet with her hair. The fragrance would have permeated the room and since she poured it on Him, then rubbed it in, the fragrance would have lingered for days on Jesus’ hair and clothes (They didn’t get up and have a hot shower every day in that time and culture).

Now we come to us. What Mary really poured out on Jesus was her love and devotion and the fragrance spread to others. She was willing to sacrifice to love Jesus and He calls us to do the same. I am confident that Mary was directed by the Spirit in what she did, simply based on Jesus’ response. Mary’s sacrifice cost her something precious that she poured out on someone she considered more precious.

As we are in this season of reflection on Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection let’s consider what we have or are willing to sacrifice out of love for Jesus. I know I have poured out my worship on Him, I can’t say that I have loved and worshipped like Mary. When she did this nothing in scripture suggests Mary had any awareness of Jesus pending crucifixion and resurrection. I believe her love for Jesus caused her to act. We don’t know how she felt as she stepped into the room and all eyes turned to her as she broke this box, we do know that her focus was on Jesus not the other guests. Let’s focus on Him and see where it leads us as we seek to leave a lingering fragrance through our worship.

John 12:1–7 (NKJV)

1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. 4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. 7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial.

Mark 14:1–10 (NKJV)

1 After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. 2 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.” 3 And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. 4 But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. 7 For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. 8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 9 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.

Matthew 26:6–16 (NKJV)

6 And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, 7 a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. 8 But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.” 10 But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. 11 For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. 12 For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. 13 Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” 14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.

Jesus Culture Look to the Lamb