“Christians Know Christ”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. What do you value most in life? Many of us would answer that question by saying something about our family, our relationship with our friends, our health, or perhaps even our wealth. No doubt, those things and those people are important. On another level, we value the air we breathe, our food and water, our physical blessings, and even the country in which we live; and those things are important as well. If we had to mention something, however, that exceeds them all, what would it be? You probably know what I have in mind, it is our relationship with Jesus Christ. For most of us, that is at the pinnacle of what we consider to be most important. Jesus is the Son of God and is the greatest expression of God's love. In Him we receive the free gift of salvation and the promise of eternal life. But how well do we really know Jesus? We might know a few facts about His life and ministry; and that is good. And yet there is a difference between knowing about Him and truly knowing Him as our Lord and Savior. In today's lesson on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will focus on what it means to know and to have a personal relationship with the Son of God. I hope you'll stay tuned to the station for the next few minutes as we think carefully about knowing Jesus. Thank you in advance for studying God's Word with us today. And I invite you now to open your heart and your Bible as we seek to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Throughout my lifetime, I have had the opportunity to learn a little bit about many things. Now I won't bore you with the details, but over the years I have had many different learning experiences; and yet, I am not an expert on anything. Perhaps you could say something similar. I suppose that is something we can say, also, in regards to knowing Jesus. We might know many things about Him, but we are not an expert when it comes to knowing Jesus Christ. Obviously some may know more about Him than others, but no one is, and no one ever will be an expert on knowing Him. If I were to ask the question, today, what does one need to know about Jesus Christ, what kind of answers would I expect to receive? Well, some might say we need to know our way around the Bible, we need to know about the way of salvation, we might need to know something about morality issues or doctrinal matters. Indeed, those things are very important. However, there is one thing that is to be at the top of the list, it is to be the primary focus of our life. It is to know Jesus Christ; not only to know about Him, but to truly know Him. Jesus is to be the focus of our learning. He is to be the foundation upon which everything else is built. We are to study the Bible, not just to know about Jesus, but to truly know Him and to have a relationship with Him. When we think about knowing Jesus, it revolves around that relationship, knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection, and knowing what that means to us and the impact it makes on our lives. A few years ago, my wife and I were able to go to the Holy Land. I like to call it the land of the Holy One. And we spent some 11 days there on the ground traveling all over. We started there in Galilee, in the north, and spent time in and around the Sea of Galilee. We traveled down south into Samaria and then into Judea. We spent some three days in the city of Jerusalem; and that was a life changing experience. We walked in the footsteps of Jesus. We traveled where He traveled. We learned many things. We learned the backgrounds of many of the stories that we read about in the Bible. Oh, yes, it was good to be there and to see where Jesus was born and where He lived and where He carried out His ministry. You know, all of those things were important and we enjoyed that trip a great deal. And yet, at the same time, that does not make us experts on knowing Jesus; far from it. If we want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we need to not only know about Him but to truly know Him. And before we focus on anything else, we need to know Him above everything else. And that needs to happen if we want to lift up Jesus Christ to our communities or to the other people with whom we have association. During His three years of public ministry, many people followed Jesus. They listened to His messages. They witnessed His miracles. They knew many things about Him. They knew that His father was named Joseph. They knew that He was raised in the village called Nazareth. They knew that He had brothers and sisters. And yet at the same time, even though they knew those things about Him, they really were not His disciples. They really did not know Jesus. Here's an example of that. In the Gospel of John, chapter 5, some religious people came to Jesus questioning His authority. They thought they could trap Him into saying or doing something that went against their beliefs or their traditions. Well, Jesus responded to them in an unusual way. He knew what they were trying to do and listen to what He said to them in that 5th chapter of John, verses 39 and 40. <You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, and yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.> These religious leaders thought they knew enough about Jesus to make certain judgments. They had read and they studied the Scriptures, but they did not allow what they knew about Him, or what they thought they knew about the Messiah, to make a difference in their life to the point that they would believe in Him. Jesus basically said, yes, I understand you are studying the Scriptures, you are engaged in that, and that's a good thing. But yet those Scriptures point to Me, and yet you refuse to come to Me and believe in Me. From the thousands, even the hundreds or tens of thousands of people who followed Jesus, only a very few of them became His disciples. And they were the ones who allowed their knowledge to be transferred from their head to their heart. They took the knowledge about Jesus and made that transfer so that it could be in them and develop into a relationship with Christ. There was one man who really sought to know Jesus and not just know about Him. His name was Saul. His story is found in Acts chapter 9, and parts of it are also found in chapters 22 and 26. Saul was a very devout man. He was very devoted to the purpose that he had in his life, and he pursued it with great passion. But Saul thought he was doing what was right. In Philippians chapter 3, verse 3, he lists his credentials: He was from the people of Israel; he was from the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the Law, he was a Pharisee; Saul was zealous in his persecution of Christians; he was without fault, as he pursued his righteousness based on the Law. Now, those things were not written about Paul, but rather he wrote those very things himself. Saul was an important person, and in the minds of many he was a very righteous man. Saul lived with great passion in his life. He pursued what he thought to be important. And the credentials that he lists here were the basis for the confidence he had to do what he did. And what he did was to stand in the way of people following Jesus Christ. He persecuted those who belonged to the way called Jesus. He would put them into prison. He would beat them. He even witnessed their death. Yes, Saul was a man who knew something about Jesus, but he really did not know Jesus. He thought he was doing what was right. He thought he was headed in the right direction. Yet, all of that changed one day when he met Jesus. He met Him on the road to Damascus. Saul and some of his friends were traveling to Damascus in order to carry out his mission. He was going to persecute more people whom he found following Jesus. But while they were traveling, a great light from heaven shined down upon him. It knocked him to the ground. He was blinded for some three days and three nights. And in the midst of that great light, Saul cried out, “Who are you, Lord?” Well, the voice that came back said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Why are you working against Me instead of working with Me?” From that moment on, Saul's life was changed. It changed his priorities. It totally changed his life. And he became perhaps the greatest evangelist, perhaps the greatest representative of Jesus Christ this world has ever known. He was a great servant of God. Well, Paul, as he is now identified, wrote this, as he continues on here in Philippians chapter 3, about that experience and the change that it made in him. Let's pick up with a reading here in Philippians 3, beginning with verse 7 and reading through verse 11. <Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ -the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ -yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.> Something happened in Saul's life that turned his world upside down. It changed his name. It changed his whole priority system. And as he wrote these words, he was referring to the encounter that he had with Jesus on that road to Damascus. He was also referring to some 14 years that he spent in Arabia seeking to know Jesus Christ. The encounter Saul had with Jesus on that road was simply the beginning of a transformation process, and he spent the rest of his life seeking to know Jesus. That was his primary focus. And so we notice that Paul went from knowing about Jesus to truly knowing Jesus. And what he enjoyed, in regards to what he was, as he identified in verses 3 through 6, was absolutely nothing compared to the goal of now knowing Jesus Christ, as he identified in verses 7 through 11. Paul's confidence was no longer in his garbage or his waste, as he identified it; but it was now in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and in the power of His resurrection. When the trash can in our house becomes full, it is my responsibility to take it around to the alley and dump that garbage in the dumpster. And I try to do that on a regular basis, but sometimes I forget. Sometimes I overlook the need to do that. And when that happens, the smell from that garbage begins to stink. It fills up the garage. If we leave the door open, it will filter inside to the house; and that's not good. And so I quickly gather it up and I take it around and I dump it. I want to get rid of it just as quickly as possible. It smells. There is nothing in there that is worth any value to us, anymore. Perhaps some of you can relate to that. And that's what Saul, or Paul, is mentioning here. His garbage, his waste, all of the things of the past meant nothing to him, anymore. It was a burden. Those things were starting to smell, and now he had a new passion. His focus had changed and he was in pursuit of one thing, and that was to know Jesus Christ as His Lord. Well, according to verse 10, Paul longed to know Jesus so fully that he would recognize the significance of His resurrection from the dead. And so Paul went from working against Jesus to working with Jesus; and wherever he went, he proclaimed that Good News message about Jesus' death on the cross and burial in a tomb and resurrection from the dead. He even wrote in 1st Corinthians chapter 15, “That is the most important thing I could ever share with you, what Jesus has done through that great sacrifice.” Well, Paul was on a never ending journey. He pursued, with great passion, the goal of knowing Christ. He was even willing to go through the same suffering and death, as he mentioned. His confidence was solely in his Lord. Yes, Paul had moved from putting his confidence in what others valued, and what he himself had valued at one time. And all of that was worthless compared to the surpassing value, to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus as his Lord. A friend of mine wrote these words recently, and I quote, “God is not seeking compliance, but transformation. He cares about why more than what.” You know, Paul came to that point in his life. He came to the point that what he knew about Jesus was not as important as why Jesus had changed his life. Oh, he did not forget those things about Jesus Christ, but now he focused on what those things led him to do and His understanding of what Jesus had done for him. When we become the children of God, we too go through the process of transformation. We continue to learn more and more about Jesus, but we also allow that knowledge to begin to change us from the inside out. We allow it to make a difference in how we live and how we relate to other people. Truly knowing Jesus transforms our thoughts and our actions. In John chapter 17, Jesus prayed that His disciples would be so connected to Him that they would become one with Him, just like He was one with His Father; and that is to be our goal. And the lives people see us living are to represent the life Jesus lived. Our thoughts and our actions are to be transformed to the point that we are imitating Jesus Christ, who is our Lord and our Savior. And that very thought is highlighted in another passage written by the Apostle Paul. This one is found in Galatians chapter 2 and verse 20. <I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.> In the process of truly knowing Jesus, we are to give Him our complete loyalty. He becomes our first priority. We surrender our will to His will. We humble ourselves, and we give up our rights in order to become more like Him. Paul invites us to give up all that we have and all that we are for one thing, and that is to be filled up with Jesus Christ; and with that comes the joy of knowing Jesus Christ. The goal for Christians is not to live in Christ, but to get to the point where Christ lives in us. As Christians, we are already in Christ. We are baptized into Jesus Christ. We are in God's family as one of His children. And so with that being established, our goal now becomes allowing Jesus Christ to live in us and to be demonstrated in our life. And once we recognize the salvation Jesus has given to us, we then work that out in our own life, as Paul himself wrote in the letter called Philippians. Yes, it is a continual growth process of getting rid of the worldly and the fleshly desires so that we can be filled up with Jesus and the Holy Spirit of God. At times, I wonder where our passions lie. I wonder where my passions lie. Yes, who and what is our passion determines where we spend our time and how we give our money. It determines who and what receives our attention. And if it is not in Jesus Christ then we are really not focused on Him as our Lord. But when Jesus becomes our Lord, like He was to Paul, things begin to change and our priorities get adjusted. We have a different reason for living, and we move beyond simply knowing about Jesus to truly knowing Jesus. Here are some questions that we might ask ourselves about knowing Jesus and making that move from being a casual follower to a devoted disciple. Where and in what do I put my confidence? Is it in my finances? Is it in my associations at work? Is it in my government? Is it in my ability to do certain things better than anyone else? Or on the other hand, is my confidence in Jesus Christ and in Him alone? Someone has said that Christianity without Christ is like a car without a working engine. It is like a refrigerator without any food. It is like a corpse without any breath. And that's true, isn't it? In our pursuit of knowing Jesus, we are to get to the point where we can make this statement: Everything in which I put my confidence is considered garbage compared to knowing Jesus Christ. Well, those are not my words. Those are the words of the Apostle Paul, as we read them just a moment ago. Everything else in this world is nothing but waste or garbage compared to truly knowing Jesus, knowing Him as our Lord, realizing that He is our Savior. I'm not there. I cannot truly say that, “Oh, I want to; and I hope I am headed in the right direction.” But I have more work to do. And maybe we all have more work to do. And with that being said, maybe we begin to place our complete confidence in Jesus as our Lord by saying no to those things that really don't matter, anymore. And in the words of Paul, we count them as garbage and we focus our attention on one thing; and that is to know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Libraries like this one are quite popular, and they are used on a regular basis. People go into such libraries in order to find information about a historical event or a person, perhaps even some current events. Oh, I know it's easier, perhaps, for some to go on to the Internet and to Google certain events or people. But, the point is, we like information. We want to be in ‘the know’. We want to know about certain people or events. The same, no doubt, is true with Jesus. We want to know more about Him, about His life, and about His ministry. And yet there is a big difference between knowing about Jesus and truly knowing Jesus. To know Jesus is to develop a relationship with Him. It is to be connected to Jesus and to move from being a follower to a committed disciple. And we do that by seeking to have that relationship, to know Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior. We grow and we mature. We take the knowledge that we receive about Jesus and we allow that to be transferred into the way we live, and the way we interact with other people, and what we say and in what we do. And that is the challenge that Scripture presents to us; to move from knowing about Jesus to truly knowing Jesus and the power of His resurrection, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians chapter 3. I hope today that you are in that growth process and maturing into a disciple of Jesus who truly knows Him.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. To know Jesus as our Savior, and to submit to Him as our Lord, is one of the most important things we will ever do. There are lots of people and many things we enjoy in life. They bless us in a variety of ways. And yet, let us never focus on them more than we focus on pursuing a relationship with Jesus. If you would like to hear or view this message again, please visit our website at keytothekingdom.com. Many lessons are available and can be easily downloaded in several different formats. It does not cost anything to do so, and there is absolutely no commitment. The website is where you will also find other information about this broadcast ministry. There are one minute messages and two minute videos which provide a daily or weekly devotional thought. A current newsletter, along with our statement of belief, is also available. I invite you to spend some time on the website if you are looking for some spiritual encouragement. A free phone app is another resource which might be of interest. And finally, I hope you will find and like us on Facebook®, then share our weekly post. Thank you again for being our guest today. I hope you will tune in again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”