Hey, Daddy. It’s me. It’s Gregory, your son. How you doing, Daddy?"
With a very confused but firm look and with a very weak but serious voice, the 94-year-old gentleman lying in his nursing home bed drew his head back, looked up and said, "I don’t know you."
"Yeah, Daddy, you do know me! I’m your youngest child, your only son Gregory."
The response was similar, "I don’t remember you. I don’t know you."
"Oh, Daddy. You know me! I’m your son! I’m the one who used to follow you around everywhere you went when I was a boy. I rode in the saddle with you when I was just 2 or 3 years old, too young to ride by myself. You would set me down under a tree so I wouldn’t get hurt while you gathered up the cattle. I remember when the cows came running up I would begin to cry because I thought they were going to get me and you would come back on your horse and pick me up so I wouldn’t be scared."
"I don’t remember. I don’t know you."
"Yeah, Daddy, you know me! I’m your son Gregory. Remember? When I got a little older, probably 4 or 5 years old, you found that old mesquite tree near our house that had a limb that curved and grew out horizontally at just the right height that I could climb up on it and get on my horse by myself. You even built me a little chute for my horse beside that limb to keep him still while I climbed in the saddle. You know me Daddy. I’m your son Gregory."
"Who are you? I don’t know you."
"But, Daddy, you do know me. Remember all those days when I used to help you burn thorns off the cactus on the ranch so the cattle could eat them? Remember all those days we worked so hard?"
"No. I don’t know you," was again the response.
This story unfolded while I was in Texas with a dear friend back in March of this year where my friend Gregory’s dad is in a nursing home. I was excited to have the opportunity to finally meet this Cowboy of Cowboys I had heard so much about. A man who had fought as a Marine in Iwo Jima in World War II; had spent much of his life serving the Lord in a children’s home for Mexican children in south Texas; who had been inducted into the South Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame; who had been a husband, daddy, granddaddy and great-granddaddy; and who had obviously touched the lives of so many people.
I know what a solid, respected and Godly man Gregory is, and I know from what Gregory has shared with me that his dad had played a major role in shaping him into the man he is today. From meeting much of the family from multiple generations, I could tell their character and love for God was one that had been intentionally and thoroughly taught and passed down to each generation.
As Gregory and I stepped out into the hallway so he could gather his emotions, he shared with me how those words had pierced his heart. His dad’s mind and body were failing fast. He knew all the memories he and his dad had shared for the last 60 years, but it hurt that his dad could not remember him.
However, what touched me most was when Gregory said, "What pierces my heart the most is the fact that so many people will one day hear God say the same thing – not because of memory loss, but because they never really had a relationship with their Heavenly Father."
My mind went immediately to Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV) when Jesus said: "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!’"
The Bible tells us that most people will not make it into Heaven! "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many will enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."(MT 7:13-14)
These people who Jesus said He will turn away on the Day of Judgment because He never knew them, did all this work in Jesus’ name: prophesying, driving out demons, performing miracles, etc., yet they were not known by Jesus. What is missing?
My guess is there will be those who will not even be able to boast of this level of accomplishment or works. Many will only be able to say, "Lord, Lord, wasn’t I baptized?" "Wasn’t I a member of _________ church?" "Wasn’t I confirmed?" "Was I not an altar boy?" "Wasn’t I a deacon, Sunday school teacher or preacher?" "Didn’t I read the Bible?" "Didn’t I live better than most people?" "Didn’t I give my money for this or that building to be built?" "Didn’t I try to always do what I thought was right?" "Didn’t I live a moral life?" "Don’t my good deeds outweigh my bad ones?"
The list can go on and on, but the result will be the same if we expect our good works, our religion, or even our having lived a good life to earn our salvation, make us acceptable to God and get us into Heaven! Jesus said He will only know those who do the will of His Father.
Doing the will of the Father will involve service and living a good life, but these must be the result of a daily, intimate, loving relationship with the Lord Jesus which transforms our lives and motivates us to serve Him out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us - not out of obligation or legalism. Doing the Father’s will will always result in loving and serving others. Doing the Father’s will will always glorify His Son. Doing the Father’s will will always be to be led and empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Doing the Father’s will will always lead us to obedience to God’s Word. Doing the Father’s will is not what we do for Him, but is allowing His Son to live and work in us and through us.
You can know Him and be known by Him, but only through your relationship with His Son Jesus and what He has done for you and wills to do through you. Instead of hearing, "I don’t know you," we can hear Him say, "Welcome home my child!" Accept His forgiveness. Allow Jesus to be Lord of your life. Follow, obey and glorify Jesus in all you do and you will do His Father’s will.
Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.