That means that they have a correct understanding of Christ, of His work, and of their state before Him. But they fail to have a relationship with Him. It’s the difference between knowing all about the president, and actually knowing the president personally.
Knowing Christ is so much more than knowing the nature of His work, His preferences, and the details of His character. Anyone can look through my blog or Facebook page to discover that I’m an author (my work), that my favorite color is purple (my preferences), and that I am compassionate (my character). That doesn’t mean someone knows me. It just means he knows about me.
But if someone can recognize my voice, anticipate my responses to various situations, and give evidence of experiences that we have shared together, then he likely knows me, personally.
In Matthew chapter 25, the basis of Jesus’ rejection of the “goats” is simply this: “I never knew you.” Even when they had a laundry list of all the good and wonderful things they had done in His name, they had failed in the one crucial aspect: the relationship.
Life, they learn, is all about the relationship.
Secondly, life is about my relationship with others.
Many pastors and theologians rightly place the bulk of emphasis on a relationship with Christ. However, I feel that many Christians today overlook the evidence of that relationship: namely, our relationships with others. While the Bible lists many evidences of true faith (joy, for example), the key evidence is this: love for others.
1 John 4:20
Matthew chapter 25 shows people who behave like Christ, lovingly clothing the naked, comforting the sick, visiting the oppressed. They don’t consider their work worthy of recognition (Luke 17:10); they simply do it out of God-born love. And His response is this:
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The judgment—or justification—of the sheep and the goats is based first on their relationship with Him, and then on their relationship with others. From what I can tell, Scripture is consistent on these two points.
LIving for relationships
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” – C. S. Lewis
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.