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The Real Need: To See Jesus
By David A. DePra
The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. (John 12:21)
The great need today in the church is to SEE JESUS. It would seem that we have our eyes on almost everything else. But in the end, we need to see HIM.
This is not some whimsical, impractical statement. In fact, it brings us right back to the very core of what practical Christianity is supposed to be. The moment we got off of the PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST onto something else, we are not walking in the Truth. Indeed, this possibility is so real – and so subtle – that the epistles are filled with warnings against it.
If we read the New Testament, it becomes plain that at the end of the apostolic age, the stage had already been set as to what the REAL BATTLE would be in the church. The battle would be against GNOSTICISM.
Most Christians have either never heard of Gnosticism, or if they have, classify it as an ancient Greek religion which gave the church trouble at one time. Few realize that Gnosticism – the kind that got into the church -- is identified in the Bible as the embodiment of the very spirit of antichrist. Even fewer realize that Gnosticism is TODAY everywhere in the church, under one guise or the other.
Gnosticism is present when the Person of Jesus Christ in the believer is replaced by religion about Christ. It is present wherever religious brainpower, degrees, and mere learning is elevated to the place of true spiritual life. Gnosticism is working when Christianity is nothing more than a bunch of wonderful ideas and concepts and platitudes, instead of the very life of Jesus Christ in people.
True Christianity is result of a REVELATION. And that revelation is of a Person, Jesus Christ. Once that revelation is embraced, then Christianity is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:27) Gnosticism, however, is never a revelation OF the Christ, but, at best, accumulated intellectual knowledge ABOUT Christ. Furthermore, Gnosticism is never, "Christ in you." Instead, it is the knowing of a doctrine which states that Christ is in you. Failure to see the difference is a dangerous vulnerability.
So many people think that believing that the doctrine of salvation is true is equal to being saved. So many think that to agree that Jesus died for them means they have placed their faith in Him. So many imagine that understanding the doctrine of justification by faith, or the doctrine of the new birth, means they are justified by faith, or are born again. KNOWING these things is a necessary start – for we must know them. But knowing them doesn’t do anything unless we find the ONE to whom they all point. In the end, we need to SEE JESUS, KNOW JESUS, and come into a ONENESS with Jesus. If we don’t, then all of the knowing, will do us no good. Indeed, it might even condemn us, for we knew and did not surrender to God.
A Denial of Christ
Gnosticism is a mystical religion which essentially states that salvation comes from knowledge. If you know the right things about God you have arrived at the place where you have eternal life. "Gnostics," are "people who know", and their knowledge at once constitutes them a superior class of beings, whose present and future status is essentially different from that of those who, for whatever reason, do not know.
In Gnostic thought, a divine seed was imprisoned in every person. But all physical matter, including the human body, was considered evil. Therefore, the purpose of salvation was to deliver this divine seed from the physical body in which it was imprisoned and lost. Knowledge was the means of that salvation. Reawakened by knowledge, the divine element in humanity can return to its proper home in the transcendent spiritual realm.
Now, the remarkable part of this is that Gnosticism entered the church even while the apostles were alive. But it wasn’t called, "Gnosticism." It was called, "Christianity." It did a great deal of damage, and merited many of the writings of the apostle John warning against it. In, "Christianized Gnosticism," Christ was the divine redeemer who descended from the spiritual realm to reveal the knowledge necessary for this redemption.
We can see while Gnosticism gained a foothold in the church. First of all, Christianity is a personal knowledge of the Person, Jesus Christ. "Christianized Gnosticism," accented knowledge as the means of salvation – indeed, accented knowledge ABOUT Christ as that means of salvation. If I could just accumulate enough facts about Christ, indeed, discover the secrets of the universe, then that knowledge alone would BE MY SALVATION.
It may sound incredible that professing Christian people could believe such nonsense. But they did. Moreover, they do TODAY. In fact, if there is one brand of Christianity today which is widely accepted, instead of the real thing, it is exactly the Gnostic brand we have been describing. Christians by the thousands think that knowing saves them. They think that knowing facts and doctrines and theology ABOUT CHRIST and ABOUT the plan of salvation is the means of that salvation. They would never SAY that, mind you, but their faith rests in their knowledge about Jesus, not in the Person of Christ.
Can we see that knowledge ABOUT Christ isn’t the same as a revelation OF Christ? No. Salvation is the result of the knowledge OF Jesus Christ – which comes by revelation. But it is also the result of a moral surrender to Him, through repentance and faith. It is not so with Gnosticism. The spirit of Gnosticism is present when I think that knowing doctrines or facts about Jesus is enough to save me. There is no real faith or surrender necessary.
Christianity is a revelation – from outside of us into us by God. We are born with NO TRUTH in us, and therefore, any Truth we have seen is the result of revelation. Thus, by definition, there is no possible way to study or learn my way into Truth. There is only the revelation of God – through many means – and my open heart and embracing of it. Gnostics do not teach that Truth comes by revelation. They teach that Truth is already in you by birth. You just need someone to come along and show you how to unlock it. That is how you are saved.
The Gnostic Christ was the one who came along and did this. He descended from the divine realm to reveal to us Truth. He was not really a flesh and blood human being, not God Incarnate, for remember, all physical matter is evil. God would never BECOME flesh – so the Gnostic Christians taught Jesus just appeared to be flesh. His sole purpose on earth was not to die for the sin of the world, or to be raised, but to teach the knowledge necessary for salvation.
The Spirit of AntiChrist
Now we can understand the words of John the apostle, which were written to combat this heresy which was invading the church:
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)
The fact that Jesus was God, and BECAME a man, is essential Christianity, and anyone who denies it is of the spirit of antichrist. The reason ought to be obvious. For once we deny Jesus was really a flesh and blood man, then we have denied that He bore our sin in His body, and we have denied that He shed His own Blood for us. We have likewise denied the reality of the resurrection, for if Jesus did not bodily die, He was not raised. Gnosticism is therefore a denial of Jesus Christ Himself in every way – of His identity and of His redemptive work.
Now that is bad enough. But once Gnosticism denies the Person of Jesus and His redemptive work, it also denies the application of Jesus and His redemption upon human lives – indeed, denies the NEED for human beings to be redeemed. Can we see that? Once you deny the Redeemer, you deny the need for redemption, and thus, you must completely REDEFINE the meaning of SIN, the meaning of GRACE, and the condition of fallen man. Once you deny Christ, you must redefine a Christian.
We see from the above passage that essential Christian stands upon the fact that Jesus Christ became a flesh and blood human being. But we also see that just as important is the outcome of that for US – that today Jesus Christ continues to come in the flesh – in OUR flesh. Through salvation, and then the work of the Spirit, God wants the WORD TO BECOME FLESH in each Christian. That speaks of REAL CHANGE. It speaks of POWER. It speaks of a transformed life.
Again, Christianity is, "Christ in us" – and must include all of the impact upon us that this suggests. Any notion of Christianity – whether spoken or not – which makes it nothing more than a, "belief system," or a lists of doctrines to believe in, or a list of rules to follow, or which limits it to knowledge ABOUT Christ, or ABOUT doctrines, is Gnostic in flavor. Christianity is NOT merely, "Christ talked about, " or, "Christ worshipped," or, "Christ prayed to," or, "Christ learned about." No. Christianity is CHRIST IN YOU.
"Christ in you," is a Truth which embodies the Incarnation, the Redemption itself, and the reality of the very life of the Son of God resident in people. If Christ is in you, He got there because you came to the Cross and relinquished your old life to Him, and were raised with Him as a new creation. If Christ is in you, then your life has been turned right side up, and youcan never be the same again.
Christianity, as mandated by I John 4, and the rest of the Bible, is to be lived and experienced by flesh and blood human beings. But not just, "in their head." It is beyond that. Christianity is the result of a revelation OF Jesus Christ – from the outside of me – coming to me. And once I embrace Him, He becomes one with me in a spiritual union. These are not mere ideas or doctrines. They speak of death and resurrection unto newness of life.
The Person of Christ
There are many subtle ways in which the Person of Christ is minimized in favor of doctrines about Him. For instance, we know that God gives us eternal life. But how many of us make the mistake of thinking that eternal life is a THING God gives us? Sure. Most of us make that mistake. Eternal life isn’t a THING God gives us. Eternal life isn’t a bucket of stuff God hands to us. Rather, God gives us HIMSELF in Christ, and that is why we live – Jesus in us IS eternal life.
Doubt that? Here is what Jesus said about the issue:
Jesus said unto her, I AM the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26)
How about Truth? We think Truth is a THING – a list of doctrines found in the Bible, and if we believe those doctrines, that we possess the Truth. Now, I’m not putting any of that down. But it is quite possible to know all of the doctrines of the Bible and not even be converted. Truth is not a list of Bible doctrines.
How about the way to God? Many of us think that the way to God is a THING we must find in some secret place. People for centuries have been fashioning a way to God called, "religion." Religion is man’s way of working his way to God. Some of us may not have bought into someone else’s way of finding God, but perhaps we have our own way. We think that we must do this or that to find the way to God. Or perhaps we fear we have missed the way. Perhaps there is some secret way to God that has eluded us, or some secret formula that other people seem to have, but we don’t. (This is actually a description of Gnosticism!)
Is Truth a THING? Is the way to God a THING? Nope. The Truth is a Person. The Way to God is a Person. Both are Jesus Christ.
Doubt that? Here again is what Jesus said:
Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. (John 14:6-7)
How about righteousness? Wisdom? Sanctification? Redemption? Many of us think that these are THINGS that God either gives us; THINGS God does to us, or THINGS that we must attain to. Wrong again. These are all the result of a PERSON in us – for Jesus is the personification and embodiment of these so-called, "things."
Doubt that? Here again is what Paul said:
But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:30-31)
So we see that we don’t need THINGS. We don’t need to SEE THINGS or TO KNOW THINGS. What we need is HIM. We need to see Jesus and know Him. We need to experience Christ.
The epistle to the Colossians is written to a church which had strayed from the Person of Jesus Christ onto THINGS which spoke about Him. Paul continually uses the phrases, "in Him," "in Whom," "through Him," and, "by Him." It is all about HIM – not about THINGS having to do with Him. Failure to see this has accounted for more error in the church than we can imagine.
That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. (Col. 2:2-4)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col. 2:8-10)
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the substance is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. (Col. 2:16-19)Paul continually warned the churches that Christianity is not a philosophical argument. It is not a theological construct. It isn’t a bunch of smart people sitting around discussing the meaning of Bible verses. Christianity is CHRIST IN YOU – and is the result of being crucified and raised in Him. Christianity is, "Jesus come in the flesh," – your flesh! Without that, we are not even saved, much less qualified to be talking about it.
The Sad Facts
It seems that every few years or so, there is a new THING in the church going on, some THING that is the most recent FAD. Usually these things have to do with how to grow your church, some new format, or some gimmick. We have seen everything from the purpose driven church, to a seeker friendly church, to the church without walls. Well, I’m not coming down on anyone. I’m simply suggesting a CHRIST DRIVEN CHURCH. Could it be that those other angles people come up with are nothing more than evidence that we lack the REAL focus upon Christ, and that they are trying to figure out what is wrong? – and fix it?
Let me save everyone lots of time and effort: The only solution is the Person of Jesus Christ.
We have to see Jesus and we have to know Him, and we have to experience Him. Until the church returns to that, things will keep getting worse, not better. Once one fad burns itself out there will be another. And it will never end.
I will also guarantee you this: If Jesus Christ were ever made the center of our churches today, two things would happen. First, everyone who isn’t interested in Christ would either protest or leave. Our churches would erupt into a state of turmoil. Secondly, everyone who is interested in Christ would rejoice, stay, or come to church. Preaching Jesus Christ crucified makes it absolutely impossible for anyone to sit on the fence. For once you preach Christ, the Holy Spirit comes in and starts sorting things out. Truth divides between light and darkness before it unites in the Light. And there is plenty of both in the churches today.
But you see, few are willing to disrupt the status quo. Few are willing to pay the price of facing turmoil, or of losing their job, place of leadership, or pay the price of losing face. Instead, many would prefer to have a happy place to socially congregate on Sunday mornings, and oh yes, have some church.
I’m not trying to be sarcastic. There is nothing wrong, and everything right, about the social aspects of church, for both young and old. We NEED those things. But at the expense of Christ? As a substitute for Him? Instead of Him? What IS the purpose for the Body of Christ, anyways?
But of course, I’m dreaming if I think that the Body of Christ is going to turn around without great trials to press us in that direction, if even then. This isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Many in leadership won’t pay the cost – even if they know what is wrong. And most of the people who are the real power in churches aren’t interested in Christ first. They are interested in church first. Many of the people who hire and fire pastors, and who are the ones who are really able to determine what happens in their church – even more than the hired ministry – are, in many cases, not even converted to Christ. Or others have no business in leadership at all. They are not interested in the treasures found in Christ. They are interested in treasures found in the offering plate. And the sad thing about it is that they actually have no consciousness that there is anything wrong with this kind of thinking.
The average lay person would be absolutely shocked if they knew the extent of the power struggles and politic battles which occur in the churches – maybe even their own church. It would seem that the number one goal of leadership in many churches is to make sure the pastor doesn’t mess with their church. To make sure he knows who is boss – and it isn’t him! And it would seem that the goal of many pastors is to find a place to hide so that they can keep out of trouble and keep their job. Where is the Person of Christ in all of this?
At the other end of the spectrum, where the pastor of the church and the leadership are getting along, the reason is often not because of anything having to do with Christ. If the pastor is bringing in lots of people, then all is well. But again, what has this to do with Christ?
If we knew the meaning of, "Christ in you," none of this would be happening. If we knew the eternal ramifications of what we are dealing with, it would make us shudder! The church needs to wake up. God is not concerned about anything but His Son – and about our lives as it pertains to His Son. He is not going to foster and feed and bless anything else but, "Christ in you." He just isn’t.
The next time you get into a trial of faith and think that you need to see an answer, remember that what you need is to see JESUS. The next time that you are perplexed at what God might be doing, and think the solution is to see some THING, remember that what you need is to see is JESUS. Often when we become confused as to what God is doing in our lives, it is because we have forgotten that this is all about a PERSON – One who is living in us, and One whom God wants to continue to reveal to us. What we need is CHRIST – more of Jesus. Nothing else will do.
It is so easy to think that God is doing this or that THING in our life – working out a purpose as to career or whatever. But in the end, what God is doing is revealing Christ to us. The THING is simply there as a vehicle, or issue through which God is working unto the end of Christ. God cares about such things, of course. But we need to see and know Jesus Christ. The rest will be added to us as it serves THAT purpose.
But the groundwork we have laid with regards to Gnosticism ought to alert us to the fact that what I am talking about here is NOT the need to learn doctrines, the meanings of Bible verses, etc. No. That is not what I need. Indeed, if I would SEE JESUS, the meaning the God’s Word would come to me in a way that I will barely be able to keep up with. For then I will have seen the One whose Person is the Truth. What we need, rather than to merely see the meanings of Bible verses, is to see Jesus.
So often I have faced this issue in life. I have wanted to see an answer of some sort to my present trials – some of them terrible trials. I have asked God to show me the, "secret key," or, "the piece of knowledge," that would get me through it, or get me out of it, or make it possible for me to merit a blessing. This is disguised Gnostic thought. I don’t need knowledge of THINGS. I need to see Jesus.
Remember Job? He spent 40 written chapters trying to think and reason and argue his way through his trial. He wanted to see the reasons for his suffering. He wanted God to come down and give him the information that would explain and justify what was happening to him. Around and around he went. Indeed, around and around is the only way such a thing can go, because we can never find the Truth by thinking or reasoning – for we haven’t the Truth to begin with. THAT is the problem. The solution for Job was not to see explanations. It was to see God Himself. And that is exactly what happened:
I have uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not…..I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees YOU. (Job 42:1-3)
Job had uttered things where were TRUE about God – God says so later in this chapter twice. But he had to finally admit that all those true things he had believed about God – as teachings and doctrines – could not solve his problem. Only when he saw GOD HIMSELF were things settled.
The only solution for death is life, and the only solution for error is Truth. And both life and Truth are found, not in ideas, doctrines, or teachings. They can only describe them. The reality of life and Truth are found in a Person, Jesus Christ.
Divisions in the church, and varied interpretations of scripture, are not the fault of God. Neither are these things caused by a lack of education or brain power – for there is more of that than ever. The root problem is that people have not SEEN JESUS – and become devoted to Him. So it is only natural to resort to being devoted to my cause, my principles, and my particular power center. If you don’t see Jesus, you are basically left to your own vision and interpretation of things. It is only when we view the Bible, and each other, through Jesus, that we can see anything clearly.
If believers would see Jesus, then we would not merely put aside our differences. No. We wouldn’t HAVE ANY. Do you think this impossible? Well, certainly it is prophesized in the Bible that unity in Christ for the entire Body of Christ will NOT happen in this age. That is true. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s will, but rather a testimony that the church will not seek it. It could if we would see Jesus. It’s just that we won’t see Jesus. We are too busy looking at other things.
Unity is not the result of jointly discovering theological principles, or of agreeing to disagree over them. That is not unity – it is simply an agreement to avoid overt disunity. Sometimes this is nothing more than pretending you have unity for the sake of unity – i.e., peace at all cost. The idea that if we just all agree not to argue, but rather to, "love," each other is commendable if from the right intent. But in the end, you can do all of that and have a wonderful agreement to disagree – without anyone seeing Jesus.
The only real unity is that which comes about from people seeing Jesus. Then, in time, all of the theology comes into unity. But we don’t believe that. Indeed, most don’t even know there is such a suggestion at all. We have settled for less than God wants for us, and have been sold a bill of goods by the enemy.
I will share one such experience that illustrates this problem. I believe that Five Point Calvinism as a unit is heresy. I do not believe that this is too strong of a word, because we need to come to terms with the fact that it either IS the Truth, or isn’t. And with that system, we are talking about the essentials of Christianity. Five Point Calvinism denies that Jesus died for all people, denies that man can respond to God, and denies that man can resist God. Anyways, I was sitting across a table for a minister who is a hard-line Five Point Calvinist. He brought up the subject of election and, of course, said that Jesus did not die for all people, but only for the elect. I disagreed, but then made the following statement, "We are here talking about the Redemption of Jesus Christ. Nothing could be more important. Surely God would want us to find the Truth on this matter. Would you be willing to hold discussions on this, seeking the Lord’s Truth?" His answer was to scoff. Of course, he probably scoffed because he thought I was a fool, or because he figured I wouldn’t come over to his view. But the point is that most people are more interested in digging their trenches and defending their positions than they are in finding the Truth. I was willing to put my belief out there for discussion and scrutiny. He wasn’t. This is how people just go on, without ever getting free of error, living in the little box they have made for God.
This problem about Calvinism is solved one we see Jesus. Once you see Him, you see that Calvinism cannot be the Truth. Call that subjective, and scoff if you will, but the Bible backs up my statements. Yet if you don’t see Jesus, or if you just think you’ve seen Him, you will spend your life wallowing around in theology and philosophical arguments. In the end, they get you no farther than your mind can take you apart from God. Which is nowhere.
We must SEE JESUS – the Person. Of course when I say that, many people haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. I know this, not only because I once had no clue either, but because I’ve been around. Frankly, I am afraid for those, who, when hearing that the solution is to see Jesus, scoff, and think you are a fool. Go ahead and scoff and hang your degrees and credentials up on the wall. In the end, you will see Jesus at the judgment, and only then realize your entire life and ministry were based on that which must be burned.
Pure in Heart
Do you want to see Jesus? Christ Himself said, "Blessed are the PURE IN HEART, for they shall see God." That is the answer: A pure heart.
What is a pure heart? A sinless heart? Not sinless in the sense that we might think. A pure heart is one which is SINGLE towards God. In other words, a pure heart is one which is unconditionally surrendered to God. Paul said, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. " (Heb 12:14) Holiness and being pure in heart are the same thing – at the root.
We think of sin as things we DO. But sin, at its root, is really the OUTCOME of where our devotion is. If I am devoted solely to Jesus Christ, I may not act perfectly, or always have a perfect attitude. But if my heart is single then I have the faith that equals a pure heart. That is what is necessary if I am to see Jesus.
But this does involve a process. Don’t think that if you say, "Ok, God. I am now pure in heart. Show me Jesus." It doesn’t work that way. All we can do is hand over our hearts to God. HE must make them pure – through our walk with Him. And then, as part of this process, we grow to see Jesus. He is revealed to us.
There is simply no other way God can work. I cannot see Jesus by reading about Him in the Bible – although I can see lots of good things about Him. I cannot see Jesus through any capacity I will find in myself. I can see Jesus only by revelation – to a pure heart.
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