Sometime in the early months of 1984, I met Jesus Christ. Before that moment, I knew about Him, but I did not know Him. I had a religion, but I did not have a relationship with God. By God’s grace alone, the Holy Spirit used the Bible to open my eyes to the fact that knowledge without relationship does not save. That was the bad news.
But there was good news, too.
A sinner like me could indeed have a relationship with God through personal faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who had died in my place and rose from the dead. The good news that I could have a relationship with the living God was very different than religion-without-relationship.
Religion is a never-ending quest for eternal life which, deep down, everyone wants. Everyone wants to live forever, and most people in the world think they will. Most people believe they will eventually get to heaven. Even those who believe in a fictional place called Purgatory, as I once did, also believe they will eventually leave that place and receive eternal life.
But eternal life is not about heaven. Possessing eternal life is not primarily about going to heaven when we die. It is about having a relationship with God that begins here—in this life—and continues for all eternity. That’s what Jesus taught, too. Jesus said it this way, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
How did Jesus define eternal life? He defined it as a relationship. As He prayed to the Father, He said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). If eternal life is knowing God then we must believe there is a way to have a relationship with Him. The Bible says the only way to eternal life is through a relationship with God, and that relationship comes through the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). It is this living relationship that the apostle has in mind when he writes in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.”
What does the apostle mean by “to know him”? The word “know” means to know personally, by experience. The word denotes personal relationship. To have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ requires both a one-time experience—that is when the relationship begins—and an ongoing experience—whereby the relationship never stops growing.
To know Jesus Christ means to meet Him in the experience of conversion, being transferred from darkness into light.
Earlier in the third chapter of Philippians, the apostle listed the religious achievements he had to forsake in order to obtain Christ (read Philippians 3:4-9). What happened to Paul? What would cause him to turn his back on the religion that he once gave his life to perform and defend? He met Jesus Christ. That’s what happened. Read about in Acts 9 as well as Acts 25:24-26:29.
What does it mean to know Christ? To know Jesus Christ means to meet Him in the experience of conversion, being transferred from darkness into light. Conversion is a one-time event. However, it is also the beginning of something completely new. It begins a relationship which never ends.
To know Jesus Christ means to walk with Him in the experience of a growing relationship, being transformed from self into His image.
Paul wanted to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Paul grew in his relationship with Christ by setting his mind on the risen life and walking in its power (Col. 3:1-4). What does it mean to know Christ as the power of His resurrection? To start with, reflect on just two necessities.
- To know Christ and the power of His resurrection means to pursue holiness (Read Romans 6:1-4). The New Testament repeatedly calls us to live in the power of the risen life, to put off the old self and put on the new. Why? Because the resurrection of Christ secured for us the power to say NO to sin and YES to righteousness.
- To know Christ and the power of His resurrection means to live in the light and walk away from the darkness (Read Romans 13:12-14). Believers have been transferred out of darkness into the light, out of the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of God (Col. 1:11-14).
Clearly, to know Jesus Christ—in relationship—means to cooperate in the ongoing process of being transformed into His image. But how does that happen, practically speaking? It is impossible to be growing in your relationship with the Lord without maintaining regular communication with Him. How do we communicate with the Lord and, thereby, grow in our relationship with Him? There are four primary means:
- Prayer: we talk to God.
- Bible reading and meditation: God talks to us.
- Fellowship in the church: we encourage the growth of each other’s relationship with Christ.
- Witnessing: telling others about this One whom we have a relationship with.
Scripture is the written words of the risen Word. It is impossible to have a vibrant relationship with Christ without spending time in His Word. Prayer is our speaking to God in worship, praise, and the submitting of our needs. Fellowship in the church is our growth in Christ-like love. Without being part of a local community of believers, a professing Christian becomes increasingly proud and self-reliant. Witnessing is telling others what Christ has done in our life. It is giving verbal testimony of His saving grace, which they may receive through faith in the risen Savior. All four of these means need to be active for our relationship with Christ to grow. This describes the life of faith.
What did Paul mean by revealing his heart’s longing to know Christ?
- To know Jesus Christ means to come to him, by faith, as a sinner who desperately needs Him.
- To know Jesus Christ also means to walk with Him, by faith, as a child of God who never stops growing in your relationship.
Is this the way you desire to know Christ? Like the apostle, do you long to know Christ?
[This post is based on last Sunday’s sermon. You may listen here.]