On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matt 7:22-23).
This isn’t the first time I’ve written on this subject. But it’s hugely important, so I’m going to share more about it.
You have heard it said that you should live for Christ. You should do great things for Christ. You are a student leader so you can do more for Christ on your campus.
But if you aren’t doing them with Christ, it’s wasted effort.
Jesus didn’t call us do things for him; he called us to do things with him. We are no longer mere workers, but friends (John 15:15). Our command is not to do, but to follow.
If you are only living for Christ and not with Christ, you are wasting your life.
You cannot earn your place in heaven. You can never be good enough. You can never do enough. You cannot say, “God, I’ve earned this.”
That’s what is going on in Matt 7:22. These people are protesting to Jesus, saying, “But Lord, I did all these things for you! You are my Lord and I am your worker! You are my master and I am your slave! I’ve done so many things! Haven’t I earned my place?”
And Jesus’ response is, “No.”
Because the Father’s house is not an apartment for slaves but a home for family. Only the family of God lives there. If you want to live in the Father’s house, you need to be part of his family.
This is why we are the bride of the Son and adopted children of the Father. We are not merely slaves but friends. We are not merely workers but family.
And being family means doing work. Theologians love to debate over the relationship between faith and deeds: Is faith alone sufficient or do deeds factor into your salvation?
A son picks up a hammer and imitates his father as the father works because he loves his father and wants to be like him. A younger sister does her best to be like her older sister, doing the same things her older sister does because she loves her sister and wants to be like her. A husband works in the house for his wife and a wife works in the house for the husband because they love each other. The children of the Father do what the Father does because we love him and want to be like him. And the bride of Christ does what Christ does because we love him.
Because of love, we do what God does. Because we follow Christ, we do the work of Christ. Not because Christ needs us to do the work, but because we are following after him, growing to be more like him.
As Brother Lawrence says in The Practice of the Presence of God, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
And look, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20b).
When Christ gave us the Great Commission, he did not send us out to work the fields while he stayed home. He went with us so we would work alongside him.
More than anything, God desires to be with us, to know us, and to be known by us.
This is why he has worked since we left him, shaping the world so that everyone might come back. Humanity abandoned him, and he has never stopped pursuing us. From the moment of our fall, God has been working to lift us back up.
Because he wants us. A deep, personal relationship. With you.
This is why it’s not enough to live for God. How many people live for Justin Bieber, and how many of them actually know him? How many people live for music, when music isn’t even a person and cannot know you? You can live for someone or something and never have a relationship with them.
So live with God. When you wake up, say good morning to God. When you eat, eat with God. When you work, do your work with God. When you fall asleep, fall asleep talking with God.
When you’re helping freshmen move in next week, carry those boxes with God. That was something I did last week: I was carrying something heavy for the ministry, and all the way I was saying, “Lord, carry this with me!”
When you’re inviting people to come to your small group, listen to God and follow his leading. When you’re setting up your large group meeting, move those chairs with God.
This is the life of constant prayer that Paul talks about in 1 Thess 5:17.
If you are interested in finding out more about how to live a life with Christ, I’d strongly recommend the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. It is short and you can find free PDFs of it everywhere online, since it pre-dates copyrights. That is a great place to start with learning how to live with God rather than only for God.
If I have one prayer for you for this next week, it is this:
May you know God and be known by him. May you live with God rather than merely for him. And as you get ready to launch a new school year full of ministry, may your mind always be with the One whose ministry it is.