One of the scariest statements in the Bible comes near the close of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount:
"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. 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?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23, emphasis added throughout).
"I never knew you!" I don't know about you, but when I see this statement I find it quite sobering. It makes me look deep inside and ask whether Jesus might say that to me. I follow Christ and call myself a Christian, and I sure don't want Him to look me in the eyes and say those words.
Those are words someone might say to an enemy. Is it possible that you or I could be enemies of God Himself?
Enemies of God
Let's look at a dramatic example.
The book of Revelation shows us a prophetic image of armies gathering to fight Jesus Christ at His second coming:
"Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon [Satan], out of the mouth of the beast [an end-time political leader], and out of the mouth of the false prophet [an end-time religious leader]. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . . And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (Revelation 16:12-16).
Now in chapter 19 of Revelation we see more details. It reads this way:
"Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, 'Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.' And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army" (Revelation 16:17-19).
What does this mean? How could men gather to fight God? It's one of the most puzzling scenes in the Bible. Yet there it is!
Here's the tough question we need to ask ourselves: Will you or I be in this army? Could we find ourselves fighting against Jesus at His second coming? The only way that we can avoid being in this army is by not fighting against God in our lives beforehand. So we need to be submitting to God in our lives right now.
Christ's own words compel every one of us to look deeper into what He's really saying to us.
In the New Testament is the story of a man who thought he was the friend of God but one day discovered he wasn't. This man was fervently religious. He went to worship services every week. He knew the Bible thoroughly. He could quote it verbatim. But one day he was confronted by God with the hard reality that he was actually an enemy of God.
This man was Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul. He dedicated his life to fighting against what he considered to be false teaching. But in reality he was fighting against His Creator, Jesus Christ.
Could you or I be in the same position—thinking we're doing the right thing but in reality fighting against God? We need to open our hearts and minds and perhaps be able to see ourselves in the story of Paul.
Even Christians can find themselves in a position where they become enemies of God by fighting against His purpose in their lives. The story of Paul is very sobering. He was a devout man, and by his own description he was "without blame" in observing his religious faith. If such a man could be wrong in how he worshipped God, then how important is it that you and I examine our religion? Are you a friend of God or an enemy?
Consider the army foretold in Revelation that will gather together "to make war" against Jesus Christ at His return. Who makes up this army? Who is this who fights Jesus Christ? This army is made up of people to whom Jesus will say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matthew 7:23).
Now ask yourself: Am I practicing lawlessness?
Paul was challenged by God because he was fighting God. The encounter deeply impacted the rest of his life. From this event he learned that mankind has a fundamental problem. It's a problem he wrote about in a letter to the Christians at Rome. Look at what he said:
"And even as they [those of the pagan world] did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (Romans 1:28-31). This is a powerful statement that should make each of us stop and think!
Paul then includes a list of behaviors. He mentions sexual immorality, wickedness and murder—all what we might be tempted to call "big ticket sins"—sins you would expect to be included on a "top 10" list of sins. Sins that you say aren't a part of your life.
He also mentions deceit, evil-mindedness and backbiting. He says pride is a problem, too. He talks about boasting and being disobedient to parents. He warns against not being able to forgive or to show mercy.
Paul is unsparing in this list. He compiles human mistakes that reflect to one degree or the other the human problem of not retaining God in our hearts and minds on a daily basis. Such behaviors wear down a relationship with God. These are the types of behaviors that make us enemies of God. Sin is sin, and it takes an enormous toll!
What Paul writes here in Romans tells us the reason there is an end-time army that gathers to fight Christ at His coming. Because people do "not like to retain God in their knowledge," there develops an animosity to God that distorts His true image. Mankind cannot recognize God because of sin.
Lawless transgression of God's revealed way of life is what keeps the world in darkness today and will cause nations to rise in defiance when Christ appears in glory. Again, we have to ask, will you or I be found in this end-time army?
Who is a friend of God?
If God has enemies, which we see that He does, does He also have friends?
We have an example in the Bible of a man God considered a friend: "And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God" (James 2:23).
Wouldn't you want to be called a "friend of God"? I would! What does it take to be a friend of God?
Abraham was a man told by God to start a journey to a new land. He was called to leave his past behind in search of a new life. God said, "Get out of your country from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you." The Bible tells us, "Abram [as he was then called] departed" (Genesis 12:1-4). Put yourself in his shoes. What would you have done?
Abraham listened to God. By leaving his home to go to the land God promised, he began to demonstrate faith—the active, living faith that it takes to become a friend of God. He went out into an unknown world purely on faith in God's Word and command in his life.
He pulled away from the familiar religious teachings of his time. Abraham obeyed a God no one else seemed either to know or to want to know. Abraham began to believe and do things to follow and obey God that others did not. He started to get to know God by living the right way of life—God's way.
It's by living God's way that we get to know Him better and more intimately. When we live God's way, we become His friend and not His enemy. And we experience life as God lives and intends for us to live.
I ask again: Are you a friend of God or an enemy of God?
You can become God's friend now
The apostle Paul spent much of his life unknowingly as God's enemy. Through an intense wake-up call he stopped fighting against God and became His friend through obedience.
Abraham was a man who became God's friend by listening to God and doing what He said to do. We can follow his example by developing a firm intent to know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Understanding and obeying the Ten Commandments of God is an important starting place for coming to know God and becoming His friend. But it takes even more than that. It takes a deep-seated, heartfelt desire to know God and to know Jesus Christ. A desire to know God and to obey Him is the starting point for the kind of faith held by Abraham, God's friend.
Think again about the army that will fight against Christ at His return. Where will you be when that takes place? Will you be in that army, standing against your Savior? If we don't keep God at the center of our lives right now, we could find ourselves as His enemy.
But the good news is that we can know God, and we can become a friend of God just like Abraham. God wants to make you His friend, but this requires that you stop fighting against Him.
What are you waiting for?
Just like He did with Paul, God can turn your life around and make you into one of His disciples. The choice is yours. Will you consider that you don't know—fully know—and understand God as a Father, and the "only true God and Jesus Christ whom [He has] sent" (John 17:3)?
Are you fighting against God? Don't assume you're not! It takes more than belief to be a friend of God. It takes faith with action.
The end-time army that fights against God will be made up of people who fail in asking themselves these hard questions. They will not be characterized by looking deep into themselves and comparing their life choices with God's Word. They will go with the flow of society and end up on the wrong side of that battle.
When Jesus returns and that army rises up to fight Him, what will the soldiers essentially look like?
They'll look like you and me. If we don't consider where we stand with God and strive in obeying Him as His friends, we could be found to be fighting against God.
Are you a friend of God or an enemy of God? Everyone is one or the other. Which will you be?