Back when Cole was in second grade, our friend Nate ran for State Representative. Nate invited our family to join a group of friends walking with him in the 4th of July Parade, and we accepted the invitation.
We had never walked in a parade before! As we lined up, and put on our matching red t-shirts that read, “Nate 4 State”, Nate gathered our group together. He thanked us for walking with him, and said all we needed to do was smile, wave, and pass out candy.
But about a quarter of the way through the parade, Cole decided to step things up a notch. He became the self-appointed town crier. As Nate weaved from one side of the road to the other, shaking hands and introducing himself, Cole ran behind him. He would point at Nate and yell to the crowds, “This is Nate! Vote Nate for State! Nate for State!!” (See him, there in the blue shorts?)
He had an absolute blast, running along behind Nate. And I had fun watching his passionate personality emerge in the face of the crowd.
As we drove home that day, Cole said, “I really like that guy. What’s his name? Mr. Veerman?”
“You mean Nate?” I asked. “Mr. Vriesman?”
“Yeah, Mr. Vriesman,” said Cole. “I really like him.”
This made me laugh. How can you run behind a guy for a mile, urging hundreds of people to vote for him, and yet not know his name? We love Nate, and consider him a friend. We’d vote for him every time, and even march in another parade with him if he ran for office. But our family knowing Nate wasn’t the same thing as Cole knowing him personally.
This is the mistake I think we often make with Jesus. We think that because we’re part of a family, or another group of people who love and promote Jesus, we know him. But we know him in a “what’s-His-name” sort of way; not personally–which puts us in grave danger. Christ says that there will be those who worked His campaign–marching and waving banners in his name–who are turned away from the entrance to heaven. They will say, “Lord, didn’t we do mighty works in your name?” ie: Didn’t we wear a Christian t-shirt and march in a parade? Didn’t we go on missions trips? Didn’t we invite friends to Christian concerts?
But Christ will say, “Away from me, I never knew you.” (Matt. 7:21-25) My friend Chris Brauns, says that nothing scares him more as a pastor, than to think that there are people in his own congregation who think they are going to heaven, yet aren’t. It should scare us, too.
Campaigning for Jesus as a stranger, even earnest campaigning, is pointless. Jesus isn’t as interested in gaining our endorsement as He is in gaining our friendship. He died on the cross to absorb the punishment and offense for our sin, so that the barrier between us us and God could be removed! He did this because He wants to know us. He wants us to know Him. Personally.
When Jesus says, “Depart from me,” it will only be to the people who don’t know him.
Do you know Jesus? Consider carefully, for there is no greater question in life. Eternity hinges on your response.