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That I May Know Him
By David A. DePra
Christianity is a revelation. How many of us have realized that? It is a revelation of a Person to us by God, from the OUTSIDE of us, into us. THAT, according to the Bible, is the only way in which you and I can truly KNOW CHRIST – possess what God calls, "the knowledge of God."
Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is some sort of mysticism or Gnosticism, ask yourself the question: How much Truth were you born with? None. Fallen man has no Truth in him whatsoever. In fact, we are told that we are born in darkness. But if darkness is our condition to start with, from where do we get the Truth of God in Jesus Christ? From ourselves? No. There is no resource in us; no material to work with. Thus, the Truth MUST come from the OUTSIDE of us INWARD – and MUST be put there by God Himself.
Here we need a definition of the Truth. The Truth is not information about God. It is not teachings and doctrines – not even true ones. Those merely tell the truth – they aren’t THE Truth. The Truth is a Person: Jesus Christ. So when we talk about, "knowing the Truth," we are talking about knowing Jesus.
Now how do we receive Truth? Some of us have the notion that we can study our way into it. We think brain power is the key. It is unfortunate how arrogant some Christians can be simply because they know what the Bible says. The question remains as to whether they know what it means. Unless you know the One who wrote it, you won’t know what it means, at least not beyond that which is shallow. The fact is, Truth comes by REVELATION – a process of revelation initiated by God Himself.
Actually, this is good news. For if Truth comes by the revelation of God, there cannot be any mistakes. If it were up to you or I to figure the Truth out, then we could never be sure we had it. But if God reveals the Truth, we can be sure that He wants to reveal THE TRUTH!
Not Merely Doctrine
When you and I hear the term, "the knowledge of Christ," or the phrase, "knowing Christ," we usually jump immediately to doctrines and facts ABOUT Christ. But when the Bible uses those phrases, it NEVER refers to either doctrines or facts about Christ. Rather, it refers to knowing Christ Himself THE Person, AS a Person, indeed, as the Person who lives in us.
This is a fact that cannot be overstated. It just comes natural for us to think of Truth as Bible facts, doctrines, and teachings. No. The Truth is a Person.
This does not mean that doctrines and facts about Christ are wrong, meaningless, or things to belittle. No. Doctrines are an OBJECTIVE statement of the Truth. They are vital, and must be right. Our doctrines need to tell the Truth about God, for they serve as traffic signs in leading people in the proper direction with regards to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They point us in the right direction, and if we get off the track, point us back to the Truth. They are the means by which we communicate many things to each other with regards to our Christian living.
In this we see the REAL importance of doctrine. True doctrine tells the Truth about the Person of Jesus Christ – His nature, character, plan and purpose. False doctrine lies about Him on those same matters. Thus, doctrines can greatly affect our lives because once we set them up as our objective barometers for Truth, we will interpret all else by them. They can become the framework around which we will build our lives. The reason why essential doctrine must be the Truth is therefore obvious.
If you believe lies about a friend, those lies – or really, your belief in them as true -- can destroy your relationship with that friend. How much more if we believe lies about the Lord. Yet having said all of this, we must keep our doctrine in it’s proper place. Doctrine is not Christ. It is our statement about Him. We still need to know the Person about which our doctrines speak.
What all this means is this: Doctrines are objective statements about Jesus. But Jesus isn’t merely an objective concept. He is a Person with whom we are made ONE. Doctrines describe Him. Imagine if we had NO formal doctrines, but had Christ. Would we not be able to formulate doctrines? Sure. This is exactly what happened in the early church. But now Imagine if we had only doctrines, but not Christ. Where would we be? Unfortunately, where many Christians are today: With lots of religion, but with little or no knowledge of the Person. Thus, let us have our Biblical doctrine, but go on to the One about whom it speaks.
The knowledge of God is absolute knowledge. It is not generated, originated, or drummed up by any of US. It is REVELATION. God reveals Jesus to us. And that is the ONLY WAY to see the Truth.
We need to get that settled once and for all: Christianity is a revelation. In the final analysis, it is just that – a revelation. But not merely a revelation of doctrine. Rather, it is the revelation of a Person. I can know doctrine from start to finish, and that is good, but once God reveals to me through His Holy Spirit the PERSON – this will shake me to the foundations of my being. It will set me free.
One side note: Revelation is not – in itself – salvation or freedom. No. If light has come into my world, I have a choice. Light illuminates and exposes – showing me the real nature of things. But I might still choose whether to love light rather than darkness, or whether to love darkness rather than light. (see Jn. 3:19) I must surrender to the revelation God brings or it will condemn me.
This explains a couple of scriptures which are often misunderstood. Jesus said, "No man can come to me except the Father who sent Me draw him." (Jn. 6:44) This means that God must take the initiative to DRAW someone to Christ. How? By showing that person who Christ is – by giving them an elementary revelation of the Person of Jesus. Included in that is a revelation that this person is a needy sinner without hope, except for Jesus. This revelation may not happen in a flash, but may be worked out over a period of time, and through circumstances. But God must bring this revelation. We cannot do anything to drag it down from heaven.
But – can we see that this is NOT God acting upon someone to save them? God does not save people by, "election." No, He draws them to Christ by election. But once God does draw them and reveal to them the light necessary to them to choose Christ, then that person must COME to Christ. Notice the distinction in Jesus’ words in the verse we quoted: "No one can come to Me EXCEPT the Father draw him." Can we see that God DRAWING a person, and that person COMING, are two distinct things? God must draw. But the person who is drawn, must come to Christ by faith.
Jesus also said, "All which the Father has given Me will come to Me, and he that comes to Me I will in no case cast out." Does this mean we are compelled to come to Jesus, and will do so, no matter what, if God elects us, as Five Point Calvinism teaches? No. Jesus is merely repeating what He said in John 6:44. The verse reads, "All which the Father has given Me will ARRIVE AT ME, and he that COMES to Me I will in no case cast out." Again, there is a distinction between a revelation which enables you to choose, and actually coming to Jesus. God draws us to Christ so that we, "arrive" at the choice. He does this even while we are yet sinners, without salvation. But we must then COME as sinners. And YES we can do that – once God draws us – and only because He does. We can also refuse to come. If there was no possibility of seeing Christ and turning back, then why would Jesus bother assuring us that He will cast out no one? Why the warning of John 3:19.
I mention these distinctions because we must see that the teaching of unconditional election, and irresistible grace, as taught in some churches today, are error. God’s election IS irrevocable. Once He calls us, we cannot go back. Light has come and we are accountable. But His election is not irresistible or unconditional. We can refuse it and resist it. Grace is not irresistible. If it were, it would not be grace.
Christ In Us
So God must reveal Jesus Christ to me. There is nothing if God does not do that. But there is much more. Christianity is not merely a revelation of Jesus Christ TO ME – who He is and what He has done. It begins there, and necessarily so. But more, once I surrender to God’s revelation of Christ TO ME, Christianity is a revelation of Jesus Christ IN ME.
Christianity is a union – through death and resurrection – with God Himself through Jesus Christ. You and I are ONE with Christ if we are IN HIM. And that means we are ONE WITH THE TRUTH HIMSELF. Now, THAT changes everything, doesn’t it?
Notice the words of Paul to this effect:
As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. (2 Cor. 11:10)
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Gal 1:15-16)
And they glorified God in me. (Gal 1:24)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col 1:27)
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. (1 John 5:9-11)
The only kind of Christianity the Bible knows anything about is that which is the result of Jesus Christ IN US. Jesus isn’t merely revealed TO US, but IN US. We don’t just believe in Christ, Christ lives IN US. This is why we come to know Him, and grow in that knowledge. He lives in us. We are in a union with Him.
Do we realize what this means? It changes almost everything! For instance, it means that God not only IMPUTES us with the righteousness of Christ, He also IMPARTS us with His righteous! Sure. If Christ is in us, His righteousness is in us!
When I put my faith in Jesus Christ, God IMPUTES to me all the righteousness of Christ. This is JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH, and is the basis upon which everything stands. But God does merely impute to me righteousness. He imparts to me the life of Christ Himself – which is a LIFE which is righteousness. Sure. God is not going to declare anyone righteous without providing them the means by which they can be righteous.
This tells us much about Christian growth. It means that Christian growth is not a matter of God making ME into something special, but is a matter of God crucifying me, so that Christ might shine through me. It means that I don’t need to any longer worry about whether I am making the grade with God. Christ is in me and He IS the grade. It means I no longer need to struggle to complete myself in the eyes of God. If I am in Christ, I am complete in Him, for He is all.
These are not just words, or little plays on words. They are as sure as God in heaven. If Christ is in you, everything He is, you inherit. It is just that simple.
Now back to the fact that Christianity is a revelation – a revelation which is just as much a miracle from God as is the new birth itself. The term, "revelation," mandates that knowledge be imparted from the OUTSIDE of us INTO us. Can we see that? And this is precisely what Christianity is.
Those of us who grew up in churches, or perhaps fancy ourselves to be among the smarter Christians as to brain power, usually don’t see this Truth. In fact, some of us resent it. Why? Because if Christianity is a revelation it completely strips us of our assets. It makes the ground level at the Cross, and tells us that our brains mean NOTHING in the eyes of God, and that they will not help us in any way to find the Truth.
Get that: Brains CANNOT help you! But if you are arrogant enough to place your trust in them, and foolish enough to invest your ego in them, they might be your undoing. Lots of people think they KNOW. They INSIST they know lots of things – and it has created a terrible spiritual pride in them which only a severe dealing of God can break. For they don’t know – because they don’t know HIM. They just know facts about Him. The trouble is, so does the Devil. He knows all the facts too.
If you want to know what it takes to know Jesus Christ, Jesus told us. He said you must become like a little child. This by-passes completely natural intelligence and puts things on the moral basis of trust and reliance. God would say to us, "You are intelligent enough to know that you must trust me as a child. You’ve got that teaching memorized. You are really smart. But have you ever done it? Have you ever actually come to nothing in yourself and trusted ME?" God doesn’t want spiritual giants in His kingdom. He wants little children. Therein is the real issue – if we dare to face it honestly in the Light of God.
Everything in this Christian walk is supposed to be the OUTCOME of a relationship with, and a knowledge of, Jesus Christ. Everything. Obedience is the OUTCOME of being devoted to Jesus Christ by faith. Faith is the OUTCOME of knowing God is faithful. The list could go on. But we don’t even have a list unless God takes the initiative and reveals TO US Jesus Christ – and then after we receive Christ – reveals IN US His Son.
Christianity is a revelation. But it is a revelation based on objective historical FACTS. Jesus did live, die, and was raised. Historical facts provide an essential point of accountability. Indeed, if Christianity was not based on historical fact, then it would not be the Truth, would it? No. The FACTS are there. You can prove historically that Jesus lived, died, and rose again. Thus, despite the fact that Christianity is a revelation to the individual person, there is objective proof to back up the subjective revelation. This is essential.
Having said all of that, however, history alone cannot convert anyone to Christ – not even if we believe those historical facts. Conversion is the outcome of a moral surrender to a Person. It is not the product of a history lesson.
Furthermore, it is quite possible to take the historical facts of Jesus Christ, and to filter them through your subjectivity and bias against Christianity, and to emerge with something other than the Truth. People do it all the time. They conclude what they intend to conclude. They write books. They even rewrite history. They say that Christians just think they know Jesus – but that we have created a condition of mind. Thus, we are right back at the mercy of our subjectivity. We say they are subjective, and they say we are.
Now, this really ought to tell us something. It ought to tell us that the only way in which Christianity can be true, and real, and that the only way we can truly know Christ for sure is if God does indeed bring a revelation to us from the outside. Do you see that? Otherwise, we would be at the mercy of our subjectively. I mean, let’s face it, we are anyways, on many things. That’s why there is so much error, division, and interpretations in the church today.
It is therefore a fact: Christianity is a revelation that does not leave us at the mercy of subjectivity. It actually sets it free from subjectively, and makes absolute certainty possible. Why? Because Christianity is absolute Truth revealed in us of an Absolute Being.
Let’s ask: On our own, is it EVER possible to possess ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY? To be totally and purely objective? Ever? The answer is NO. It is impossible. The only way to do that would be to be able to step outside of yourself and your bias. Hmmm. But left to ourselves we cannot step outside of ourselves, can we? No. We have only ourselves to work with from the start. Even our, "stepping outside," would be flavored with bias.
Think about it. In order to possess absolute certainty about anything, two things would have to be true. First, you would have to have all the facts about the thing in question, and you would have to know you have all the facts. That is for starters. There could be nothing outside of your knowledge of the thing in question whatsoever. In short, you would have to be all-knowing. Secondly, you would have to be completely free of all subjectivity. Completely free of it – for that would be the only way you could be sure that you weren’t interpreting the facts through any bias, and therefore mistaken about it. But you would have to be perfect to see things perfectly – without bias. Therefore, if you grasp what I’m saying, you would have to be God.
Absolute certainty is impossible for anyone except an Absolute Being. But what would happen if an Absolute Being deposited in us a revelation of Himself? Would not that result, in time, in a absolute revelation? Can God do that? Yes. Indeed, that is exactly what He does. And if we understood it, that is great news. It means that revelation does not depend on our brains or abilities. It depends upon God. We need only do what? – be open to God.
Now, if we grasp what I am saying it ought to make some sense. I’m not saying that all revelation comes at once. No. It does not. We do not have capacities for it. Rather, we have to GROW to know Jesus. But not through brains. No. By moral surrender. By faith. By opening ourselves to God. Your capacity to see what God is revealing is directly tied to your unconditional devotion to Him. So underneath it all, God is dealing with our unbelief, self-will, and natural thinking. THAT is what hindered us seeing the Truth. Let God deal with that, and you will see.
Too many of us strain to see, without letting God deal with us. We cannot see. Instead of straining to see, we need to surrender ourselves to God – continually. Then we will grow to see the revelation God gives.
Note: It isn’t the surrender that brings revelation. It is surrender that changes US so that we can see Him. God doesn’t adjust the Truth so we can see it. He adjust US so that we can see the Truth. God is revealing Jesus Christ to us and in us. But He must adjust us so that we can see Him.
Those who are more mature in Christ can testify to the fact that we struggle and strain to see the Truth, but it never really comes until we surrender to God WITHOUT SEEING. Once we surrender, we see. And then we wonder why it was so hard to come to that point! If was hard because this is the stuff of which we are made.
But again – and we must state it over and over. Seeing the Truth is NOT seeing teaching and doctrines – although we may explain what we see in those forms. Seeing the Truth is seeing a Person.
If we will allow God to do a work in us, He will create a growing sense of absolute certainty about Himself in us. We may not be able to be absolutely certain about many things, but we will be absolutely certain about the Absolute Being. We can be absolutely certain of God – of His faithfulness.
To KNOW CHRIST means that you have been impacted with a revelation of God from the outside of you -- into you. Thus, if you really KNOW Jesus, the way the Bible means that term, your knowledge of Him is a GIFT. It is not the product of brains, intelligence, or human effort. The brains and intelligence are only things which click into gear once the gift of revelation is given.
Notice what Paul desired for the Ephesians:
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. (Eph 1:15-19)
Read this prayer of Paul for the Ephesians and ask: Why would Paul pray for such a revelation for them if revelation is merely doctrine and teaching? He wouldn’t, for he himself could tell them what they needed to know. And frankly, isn’t that what the epistle does? Sure. Yet Paul prays this prayer. He prays it because there is revelation that is necessary from God to each one of us as individuals. There is a reality in Christ which is beyond objective words, doctrines, and teachings. There is a subjective, certain, revelation, that is vital.
It is clear that Paul thought knowing God was a revelation of God – and that it is progressive in nature. That is, even after conversion, there is an on-going need to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. The Ephesians were converted! Furthermore, if you read the passage, it is clear what is necessary to receive that revelation: Faith. Surrender. God is not going to force revelation upon anyone. So as is always the case, the one thing we must do, and the only thing we can do, is open ourselves to God. This includes faith and any necessary obedience. God brings the rest.
A Place for Christ
It has been rightly stated that if ten individuals are looking at the same object, they will see that object ten different ways – despite SOME agreement. Why? It’s the SAME object – unchanging and static. Well, they all see the object differently because their perception is determined by the condition of their hearts, minds, and soul. They each BRING TO the object something which they read INTO IT. This is, of course, what we mean by SUBJECTIVITY.
This is what God has to deal with in each one of us. We don’t see God the way He is, not because He is hiding, or changing, but because WE are either blind, or have poor vision. We bring to God bias, fears, self-will, pride, and ignorance. This determines HOW we see God.
This also tells us what God has to deal with in us before we can be set free. He has to clear out all of those things which negatively affect our ability to see Him as He is. That is the work of the Cross.
Now, if you will notice, there is not one word here about brains or IQ. That is absolutely, completely, and totally IRRELEVANT. How good it would be if Christian leaders – especially – would wrap their hearts around that! But then again, it would sort of make all the degrees and credentials a little less meaningful, wouldn’t it?
God desires that all people be saved, and come into the knowledge of the Truth. The Truth will set us free. But notice: We have already seen WHO the Truth is: Jesus Christ. It is therefore KNOWING CHRIST that sets us free from all of the lies, darkness, and bondage.
Try to throw doctrines and teachings at bondage and see if doing so works. It won’t. Because you have no clue as to what you are dealing with. Furthermore, errors and lies about God are not THINGS we fight, anymore than Truth is a THING. Error is the RESULT of sin. Or the result of ignorance. And that comes right back to US. If you want to get free from error, don’t attack error by beating it over the head with Bible verses. Surrender YOURSELF to God.
There are REASONS why you believe error, or are comfortable in error. Sometimes it is just a matter of not knowing, or ever having a chance to know. In that case, the real condition of your heart will come out once God brings the Truth. Other times, the reason we believe error is because it pays us to. We won’t say that, mind you, or even necessarily be aware of what we are doing, but it is a fact that people tend to believe what fosters their pride and puts them in the best light – and if need be, they will create that light out of their bias.
We see this in everyday relationships. Have you ever noticed how eager we are to believe something bad about someone we don’t like, or who has offended us? And how quickly that whole perception dissipates once our attitude changes? Our perception is governed by our attitude – by our spiritual condition. It always is. Again – there are REASONS why we believe what we believe about God – and those reasons are almost always found in US. So God has to deal with those reasons that we might be set free and know the Truth.
If I will open myself to the Truth of God, God will do this work in me. But I need to understand what I am asking for. This isn’t simply about an ability to interpret facts or information. It is about becoming completely adjusted and altered as to my perspective. And that is going to cost me everything about my old perspective. It will get at the heart of what makes me tick. We are talking about receiving eternal Truth, here. And in order to receive it, you have to be made morally and spiritually fit for it by the Cross.
Do we want to know Truth – to know Jesus Christ? Then we must be prepared to say what Paul said:
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Phil 3:8-10)
Truth – seeing the Person of Jesus – comes only by the revelation of God. Yet in order to see Jesus, our eyes must be opened. The Christian life is a continual unfolding of who Jesus is and what He is doing in our lives.
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