What does it mean to really know Jesus? This question has become one of great importance to me the longer that I am in ministry, spending my life doing things for Jesus.
One morning I spent some time reflecting on something Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and the longer I reflected on his words the more they forced me to consider the nature of my relationship with him.
“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 deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:22-23 NRSV)
The Single Most Important Thing in Life
Jesus is very clear. The single most important thing in life is knowing him. Nothing else even comes close to being as important as this. Not ministry. Not family. Not health. Nothing at all.
Yet, we seem to put simply knowing Jesus at the end of the list when it comes to important things in our life. Maybe not in our confession, most would confess that knowing Jesus is the most important thing, but what about in our functioning? Do we function (live life) in such a way that demonstrates the importance of knowing Jesus? Do we function (live life) in such a way that demonstrates the importance of knowing Jesus? Click To Tweet
Simply consider your life today, up until the time that you read this post. If an objective outsider were to look at your life so far this day, up until this very moment, what would the conclude was the most important thing to you? The news? Your email? Your kids? Your bills? Your ministry? Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that ministry is not synonymous with knowing Jesus.
Ministry Isn’t Enough
I’m sure that some of you may be asking the question, “What does it mean to know Jesus?” This is where I usually find that we over complicate the matter. Let’s put it another way. What does it mean to know someone? The moment we begin treating Jesus as a strange sort of mystical ghost figure, who is somewhere out there, we immediately change all the rules of relationships. This absolutely cannot be done! We must, absolutely must, see our relationship to Jesus as a real relationship. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that ministry is not synonymous with knowing Jesus. Click To Tweet
How do I know someone in a real relationship? The obvious answers are things such as being with them, spending time together, conversation (which implies listening and not just talking), and I’m sure you could go on and on. Just think of your closest friend. What is your relationship like? How do you know them so well? You have to see your life in Christ in relational terms that move it into the realm of “real life relationship” and not something bizarre and foreign to you in a spooky sort of way.
One thing that is clear, though, is that being in a relationship with someone is more than simply doing things for them. That is why Jesus said to those who had prophesied, cast out many demons, and done many deeds of power, all in his name, that he never “knew them.” But most of us have somehow disregarded these words of Jesus and turned the whole concept of “knowing” Jesus into little more than “doing” things for Jesus.
Because we relate to Jesus as someone we do things for, even someone we dedicate our lives to serving, we can wrongly assume that we know him. The result is that we never really experience him as a real person, much less as a real friend. Let me illustrate this in a way that is not too dissimilar.
If Jesus Was a Candidate
Imagine this election year that you are very excited about one of the candidates (just bear with me for the sake of the example!). You don’t actually know the candidate personally, but you agree with their platform. You share the same views that he or she does and wish they would be elected. You actually become so convinced of his or her policies and need to be elected that you join the campaign. You make phone calls, you knock on doors, you wear t-shirts and buttons with his or her picture on it, etc. In the end your candidate is elected and becomes the president. You feel great about this. You feel like you helped out in the cause and gave your life (at least a year of it) to this person. Hurray!
What do you think would happen if you flew up to Washington and stopped off at the White House to have a cup of coffee with the President? We all know what would happen. You’d be turned away. Why? Because the President doesn’t know you. Just because you campaigned for someone and their policies does not equate intimacy with that person.
To say it another way, how many of the people sitting in the stands on any given Sunday actually know the guy whose jersey they are wearing? How many of the people in the stands on Sunday know the guy whose jersey they are wearing? Click To Tweet
How Jesus is Different
Here’s where it gets really amazing. Political candidates are happy for you to campaign for them without knowing you, but not Jesus. Jesus wants to know you. He wants more than anything for you to be with him and converse with him and allow your life to be defined by this relationship. He is not interested in someone campaigning for him and working for him that is simply an enlisted cog in the wheel.
You woke up this morning and the King of the universe wanted to have coffee with you. He wanted to eat breakfast with you and hear about the day you have ahead. He wanted to share with you comforting words to put your mind at ease and call peace into your business. What an amazing thing!
I want to encourage you to begin relating to Jesus as a real friend. Begin your day with him each day. Wake up in the morning and speak to him before you get out of bed. Then speak to him while you are making coffee. Then speak to him while you are eating breakfast. Then listen to him while you sit quietly at the table.
Have you known Jesus today? Has he known you? Why not do so now?
- Sit still before the Lord and take a couple of deep breaths to slow your frantic pace.
- Confess to Jesus that you are preoccupied and don’t want to lose sight of him this day.
- Invite the Lord to join you for the rest of the day in all that you are doing.
- Now…marvel at the fact that the most important person in the world just accepted your invitation!
Wow! He said yes! King Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth has accepted your invitation. He is going to join you in washing the dishes, returning emails, going to the store, picking up kids, going to the doctor, having lunch with another friend, sitting in traffic — yes, everything you to do today he is going to be with you. So talk to him. Listen to him. All day long! Know him!
What a great day!