21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
We make a big mistake if we approach Jesus with a list of our accomplishments. The people in Jesus’ story bring their spiritual CV to Jesus – "didn’t we do this in your name…". But Jesus says He doesn’t know them!
We can’t approach Jesus with a list of the good things we’ve done, because the bad things far outweigh the good and the good things are claiming His work as our own!
What do we have to do? Jesus says in this passage that we need to obey the Father. At first glance, it looks like the people in the passage have been doing that - casting out demons, doing mighty works. The clue is that Jesus says He never knew them. All the things they were doing were good, but obeying the Father means accepting the way He has provided for you to come to Him: Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus takes all our sin (public, private, thoughts, words, deeds) and gives us His righteousness, His perfection. He puts His name on our CV. If we try to come to God in our own strength, on our own merit, then we are not obeying Him. We are saying we didn’t need Jesus’ sacrifice.
The question is: Do you and Jesus know each other. Talking about Him doesn’t mean you know him, going to church doesn't mean you know Him, being a "nice" person doesn't mean you know Him. Being a Christian is not like a job interview where the thing that counts is what you can do or what you have done. It’s more like a party where the thing that matters is whether you know the host.