“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3
Do we know Jesus? Scripture tells us that knowing Christ involves much more than an intellectual belief that He exists. It goes beyond respecting what He has said and done. To truly know Christ signifies a deeply personal relationship in which we not only know Him but we are known by Him. In John 10:14, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
There is a huge difference between knowing Christ and knowing about Christ. I was preparing to teach at our weekly ladies’ bible studies when I was reminded of this incident that happened while I was traveling.
More than a decade ago, I was shopping for souvenirs on my last day in the city of Prague, Czech Republic, when I had what we could call a miscommunication (though not an unpleasant one) with the owner of a store that sold beautiful handmade crystal items. While I was browsing, he approached me and asked where I was from, and I said Cleveland, Ohio. I half expected him to say “where is that?” But to my surprise, his face lit up as he instantly asked his next question, “Do you know Lebron James?” I smiled and said, “Of course, I do! I know Lebron!” and proceeded to say a few things about him because me and my family were real fans (at that time). I could tell that this gentleman was fascinated to hear all that I had to say about LBJ. All throughout my time in the store, I was treated very well, and was given a generous discount on my purchases. Later, as I was packing the things I bought into my suitcase for my flight back home, I kept thinking about what exactly happened. I knew LBJ had fans internationally and I obviously met one of them. But the VIP treatment this LBJ fan extended to me felt like I was one of LBJ’s own friends. Oh my goodness! That explains it. In hindsight, I recalled that while I was in the store, I did hear the owner tell the other sales clerks, “She knows Lebron.” I think that somehow, I inadvertently gave the impression that I knew Lebron personally, even though I only knew of him, just like any regular Clevelander would know LBJ.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor 2:2
Christianity is knowing Christ, not just knowing about Christ. Affiliating with a Christian church doesn’t guarantee that one would come to know Christ any more than living in Cleveland would guarantee a personal connection with its then celebrity athlete. Neither does the ability to discuss facts about Jesus make one a Christian; not until God’s grace finds its way into the heart that is seeking to know Him truly.
Knowing Christ is a matter of the heart and entails an intimate love relationship with our Lord and Savior. The apostle Paul considered this to be of utmost importance, that he was willing to lose everything for the sake of knowing Christ.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Phil 3:8
I initially thought that knowing Christ was at the top of Paul’s agenda. But it sounds more like it’s the only item in his agenda. I am not a theologian and I have to be cautious about my opinions. But the more I get to know Jesus, the more I believe that it is impossible to truly know Christ and not be radically in love with Him. I am a long way away from where Paul has been, but this apostle’s single-heartedness for Christ is something I pray the Lord will create in my own heart. I’ve often shared the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus and I will do so again, because it is true that the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Daily I hear about family and friends whom I once walked with in churches and in prayer groups, who have since declared their departure from what they’ve been taught in Christian circles, in order to follow their own minds about life, morality, God, eternity, independent of the authority of God’s Word. While such news are heartbreaking, these stories also alert me to the fact that it is God’s grace that governs the process of truly knowing Him and therefore I do not lose hope. I do not lose hope because it is up to our great God and not me. It is His light that shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5). Perhaps in the past these friends of mine only came to know about Jesus. There is still hope that one day they would know Jesus.
J.I. Packer, author of the book Knowing God said, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”
Do you know Jesus?
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
hymn by Helen H. Lemmel