The Great Deception

I have been deceived.  That is quite a statement to begin this blog, is it not?  For my entire life of walking with our Lord I have equated my knowledge of theology, my reading of the Scripture with making progress spiritually. But I have missed the point. Those things are well and good, necessary even. But they can never be substituted in for growing in intimacy with the Lord. 

To grow in intimacy with the Lord is the goal of the Christian life. When the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3 “that I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection” he was talking about growing in intimacy with Christ.  In this chapter he talked about all the things that had become his “claim to fame.” He had a very impressive resume that included spiritual activity that brought “ooos” and “ahhhs” from those around him. However impressive, none of those things helped him grow in intimacy with the Lord.

What is your claim to fame? Your theological training? The church you attend? Maybe you have memorized all kinds of verses from the Bible. My own spiritual heritage was marked by a form of legalism that declared you were okay with God if you followed the ‘do’s and don’ts’. The truth of the matter is that our only claim to fame that is worth anything before the Lord is the fact that we are His! In looking at those things in his past Paul plainly stated in Phil. 3:8, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things (his claim to fame) and count them as rubbish.” The question that burns in my heart is this, how does one get to that point in their spiritual journey?

How can I look at all my accomplishments and say that they are rubbish? What would motivate me to consider my past as garbage?  For Paul there was something more important, more dear to his heart than anything he had every accomplished. That something became a someone, Jesus Christ.  It was important now for Paul, and for every son and daughter of God, to know Jesus more than any other thing or person in life.  

The crux of the matter is that we should know more theology, and we should be faithful at reading our Bibles. BUT these should be disciplines by which we get to know Christ more. These ought to never stand apart from the greater goal of knowing Jesus; they ought to lead us to love him more.  The commentator Matthew Henry states that this knowledge of Christ is an “experimental acquaintance with Christ.” It is personal, and it is something that we experience because of Christ’s resurrection. It is what we experience in growing more and more in Jesus.

Recently, my wife and I drove the Beartooth Highway. This road has been classified as one the 10 most scenic highways in the United States. On its route between Montana and Wyoming, one must drive on U.S. Highway 212 slowly climbing from 5,000 feet above sea level until you reach the top at 11,000 feet. There are switchbacks going all the way up in order to make that climb. The Christian life is like driving on switchbacks. The goal is to know Christ, to grow in intimacy with him, to strive each day to know him better and more fully than the day before but then comes another switchback when it seems that we are not making progress at all. The apostle Paul expressed our goal in Phillippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal (knowing Christ) of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We keep on striving with the goal of knowing Christ clearly ahead of us.

The deception that I have experienced is in thinking that the exercise of spiritual disciplines is enough. No, they are not, they are tools to help me achieve the ultimate goal, to know Christ and I dare not confuse the two. When I do then I am off track and end up with a false knowledge of God and not the real thing. Our prayer ought to be that we continue to grow in the intimacy of knowing Jesus.

If I am a Bible teacher in a seminary, my goal ought to be not only that my students learn the material I am teaching but that they grow in knowing Christ better. My goal as a pastor is not just that my people learn to have a daily quiet time but that in that quiet time they are knowing Christ more. My goal as a church member is that I personally am growing to become like Jesus.

May God help us to see the real goal for which he has made us his own! God bless!

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