You Asked for It Part 1
Getting to Know Jesus
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 3, 2003

 

Main Passage: Philippians 3:2-11 (NLT)

 

Around 1915, Mohandas Gandhi set a goal for himself… political freedom for his native India. And over the next three decades he led his people in their quest for freedom until it was granted to them in 1947. Albert Einstein said of Gandhi:

“Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.”
~ Albert Einstein

Sir Edmund Hillary set a goal for himself, too. He wanted to climb Mount Everest. No one had ever done this before, but he was determined that he would. In 1951 and 1952 he climbed part way up the mountain, but in 1953 he didn’t stop part way. He climbed all the way to the summit and returned to tell about it. He set a goal and attained it.

Earlier in the service we read from the book of Philippians in the Bible. This is actually a letter that was written by the apostle Paul while he was in prison. And in it Paul sets a goal for himself, too... to know Christ.

History tells us that Paul was born between 5 BC and AD 10. Most likely it was right around AD 5. This letter to the Philippians was written about AD 61. So Paul was getting along in years, especially for this time period when life spans were shorter than they are now.

In fact, there’s another letter written by him in the Bible to a man named Philemon, in which Paul refers to himself as an old man. Scholars tell us that this letter was written about a year before the letter to the Philippians.

So here we have Paul, one of the most influential people in the Christian church, the man who wrote more letters that are included in our Bible today than any other person, the man primarily responsible for the spread of Christianity beyond the Jewish community, sitting in a Roman prison as an old man.

And what was the #1 desire he had? Does he want to be released from prison? Probably, but he doesn’t comment on that. In some of his writing, Paul refers to a thorn in his flesh, which many believe to be a physical problem like poor eyesight. But does he want to be healed? Again, he probably wouldn’t mind but it’s not foremost on his mind. What was it that he wanted above everything else? He tells us in verse Philippians 3: 10. The NIV puts it this way:

Philippians 3:10 (NIV)
“I want to know Christ...”

That was his goal. Think about this: Paul has one of the most amazing track records of any man who’s ever lived except for Jesus, he’s raised the dead, he’s opened the eyes of the blind, he’s cast out demons, and performed many other miracles. And yet his supreme desire is that he may know Christ more and more.

So what we’re going to do here this morning is look at three different levels of “knowing” and identify which level we’re at, and we’ll also look at some ways that we can know Christ better.

 

Three Levels Of Knowing:

 

1. Intellectual Level - To know of

For example, I know that Hungarian Erno Rubik, a professor of architecture, designed this cube as a mental exercise for his students. I know that this cube that he designed has over 43 quintillion different combinations. I don’t know him personally, but I know of Erno Rubik.

I also know that in the 1860’s a teenaged Levi Strauss invented new tough pants for the San Francisco miners who were constantly tearing their pants because of their rugged work. I know that originally he made the pants out of canvas, dyed blue to hide the dirt, and with gold rivets so the miners’ tools wouldn’t tear the pants at the seams. And I know that a few years later he started making the pants out of a softer material from France, denim. I know of Levi Strauss.

But knowing of someone does not necessarily equal knowing them personally.

Let me share a couple of passages with you from the Bible.

James 2:19 (NLT)
Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror!

The demons know of God, but they don’t know Him personally. Here’s another passage similar to that one.

Acts 19:13-16 (NLT)
A team of Jews who were traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus. The incantation they used was this: “I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul. But who are you?” And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and badly injured.

Knowing of someone is one level of knowing. And I would say that is where a lot of people in our society are today. They know “of” Jesus. They may even say they believe in Him. But that knowing or that believing has absolutely no affect on their life.

That’s not the level of “knowing” that Paul was talking about. Knowing facts about Christ wasn’t what Paul was after. Simply believing that He exists was not enough for him, and it’s not enough for us. Paul wanted to know Christ on a deeper level. So let’s take a look at the second level of knowing.

 

2. Experiential Level - To know by

What is experience?

Experience is a comb which nature gives to men when they are bald.
~ Eastern Proverb

(I don’t know if I like that quote or not…)

To know by experience means you know by witnessing something or by participating in something. We’re told in the Bible that Adam and Eve didn’t know sin until they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Does that mean they didn’t understand the difference between good and evil? No. If that were the case, they wouldn’t have known that it was wrong to eat from that tree. They had an intellectual knowledge about what good and evil were, but they had never experienced it. They had no first had knowledge. But after they ate from that tree, in direct disobedience to God, they knew sin. They knew it by participating in it.

I’ve been to many Christian concerts and rallies and conferences and camps where people experience Jesus Christ. They sing the songs and raise their hands and cry, but many times there is no lasting effect. They have known the presence and power of Jesus Christ. They have experienced Him. But nothing permanent happened.

Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23:

Matthew 7:22-23 (NL T)
“On judgment day many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘1 never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’”

These people will have experienced Christ. They will have done incredible things only possible with the power of Christ. Yet Christ will tell them “I never knew you.” Interesting.

I commented earlier that I thought a lot of people in our society are stuck on the Intellectual Level of knowing Jesus. I would all that a lot of people in churches are stuck on this level. They experience Jesus… they go to church, learn about Him, see what He can do, they feel His presence, they do good things… they experience Jesus. But according to those verses in Matthew a lot of people who experience Jesus this way will someday hear Him say to them, “I never knew you.”

What is Jesus saying? He’s saying there’s a deeper level of knowing Him than just experiencing a few things and participating in His work. He’s saying that you can do all kinds of things for Christ, but if you don’t take the time to really know Him on a personal basis, beyond any intellectual or experiential knowledge, you’re missing the mark. It’s important to have an intellectual and an experiential knowledge, but there’s still a deeper level. Christ wants us to know Him on an intimate level.

 

3. Intimate Level- To know, period

Check out this passage about two friends of Jesus: Mary and Martha.

Luke 10:38-42 (NLT)
As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her.”


In these verses, Martha is preoccupied with doing good things and serving Jesus, and those things are important. It’s important to give to the needy, it’s important to be involved in the ministry of God, it’s important to do good things and serve each other. But they can’t be done to the detriment of really getting to know Jesus on an intimate level.

Shera and I are still growing in our relationship, but we’re usually able to recognize each others moods and feelings, we can tell if the other is worried or tense, sometimes we can even tell what each other is thinking, which has actually worried Shera at times. We know each other in a personal, intimate way. We’ve gotten beyond facts to discovering what makes each other tick (and what makes each other ticked off).

Here at Sunrise we’ve had a couple of infants born since we launched our services in October. And I always find it interesting to watch the first year of a baby’s life as the child and the parents learn to communicate. You see, when a young baby cries, it isn’t being bad. Outside of movies like “Look Who’s Talking”, babies don’t speak in any coherent form of language that we can understand. So they develop their own language through crying. It’s just trying to communicate.

In fact, as time goes on, a parent can start to recognize the different cries that a baby has and can learn what each one means. They can tell by the cry whether the child is hungry, or cold, or lonely, or tired. The parents develop an intimate knowledge of their child. They start to know what they feel and how they think, what they like and what they dislike. And it can be quite a process, but this intimate knowledge can develop over time. It can even get to the point where the child just wants to hear to voice of the mother or the father. Then everything can seem right with the world.

Listen to what Jesus said in John 10. In this passage He’s talking about a shepherd and he says…

John 10:4 (NLT)
“After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice…”

And later on in the same passage he adds:

John 10:14 (NLT)
“1 am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me...”

Paul said he wanted to know Christ. This is what he was talking about. He wanted this kind of intimate knowledge of Jesus. Even after serving and suffering for Jesus for decades, he didn’t think he had arrived. He knew that his intimate relationship with Christ could still grow. He wanted to know Christ in His fullness, and in fact, to become like Christ.

 

All right. So if knowing Christ is the goal how do we get to know Him? Let me give you seven suggestions to help you. There’s nothing spectacular here, just the basics. In fact we’ve talked about all of these here before. But I guarantee you that if you will start to implement even just one more than you are currently practicing on a consistent basis in your life you will notice a significant improvement in your relationship with Jesus. You will know Him better.

 

Seven Ways To Know Christ Better:

 

1. Talk with Him

We’re talking about a relationship with Jesus, and the biggest part of any relationship is communication. There’s no secret art to talking to Jesus, and He invites us all to talk to Him as a friend. It’s what we call prayer, and we’ll be looking at it in a bit more depth in a few weeks.

 

2. Read His Word

In building a relationship it’s important to learn about the other person. One of the principal ways God tells us about Himself is through His Word, the Bible. By reading it you can learn His likes and dislikes, His values, and His plans for you. If you’re just starting with this one, I would suggest beginning with the book of Luke, and make sure you have a readable translation like the New Living Translation or the Contemporary English Version. And set goals for yourself as you read, whether it be to read a chapter a day, 15 minutes a day, doing it five times a week, or reading along with a devotional book.

 

3. Memorize His Word

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Sins are the things we do or neglect to do that hurt God and break down our relationship with Him. So we’ve got to stop sinning. How does memorizing the Bible help this to happen? It gets you thinking about things that are pure and good. It will come to mind before you commit a sin. Try starting with the two or three verses included in the Sunrise Update each week.

 

4. Read a Devotional Book

There’s an endless supply of devotional books that you may find helpful. These books have sections usually a page or two long meant for daily reading. You can find some great books by modern authors such as Chuck Swindoll or Chuck Colson as well as by classic authors such as John Wesley or Andrew Murray or Oswald Chambers. In fact, when we draw from the communication cards at the end of the service we’ll be drawing for a classic devotional book by Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest… probably the most famous devotional book of the 20th century.

 

5. Worship Him

Regular worship directs your attention and energies toward God and reinforces His priority in your life. It is the expression of your love to Him, and it pleases Him.

What are some forms that worship takes?

PARTICIPATION

Worship is done most commonly through music, but it takes other forms as well, such as writing a poem to God, fasting, or giving of our resources to Him. And it doesn’t have to be confined to Sunday mornings.

 

6. Be Involved in a LIFE Group

Have you ever noticed how much you can learn about someone through other people? Through involvement in a LIFE Group you can gain the insights that other believers have about God and about different issues, you can find encouragement as you share and face crises together, and you can build a support group with people doing the same thing that you’re doing—getting to know Christ better. Our LIFE Group ministry is on summer hiatus right now, but when we start up again this Fall be sure to join in and be part of it.

 

7. Grow with Others

Be part of a local church either here at Sunrise or someplace else that loves God and honours His Word, surround yourself with other people who are eager to get to know Jesus better, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, mentor each other, and love each other as we all strive to know Him more and more.

 

So that’s it. Three levels of knowing God—each being important—and seven ways to get to know Him better. So where are you at? Do you find yourself craving to know Christ more? I sure hope so. But perhaps you’ve found yourself stuck in one of the first two levels and you haven’t really gotten to know Him in an intimate way. Let me tell you, you can.

I’m going to ask everyone to just close your eyes for a minute. My challenge to you this morning is this: If you don’t really have a personal intimate knowledge of Christ but you desire to build that kind of a relationship with Him, and you’re willing to take a step toward it by implementing at least one of these suggestions for getting to know Him better, then I’m going to ask you to raise your hand and hold it up for just a few seconds.
 

 


 

 

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