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Looking at God #1Malcolm Webber
The first element of transformational thinking is looking at God. The continuous experience of inward union with Christ is the source and center of all other healthy thinking behaviors.
I want to know Christ… (Phil. 3:10)
This was Paul’s cry, his passionate pursuit. To know the Lord Jesus is the greatest prize, far surpassing everything else in this life (Phil. 3:4-9).
Jesus defined “eternal life” the same way: eternal life is to know God.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
But, what exactly does it mean to “know” Jesus Christ? What does it mean to “know” God?
In the world, there are many ideas about what it means to “know God.” Here are a few:
- To know God is to serve others.
- To know God is to obey moral rules.
- To know God is to perform religious rituals.
- To know God is to have an accurate understanding about Him.
- To know God is to sense the beauty and grandeur of His creation.
- To know God is to feel the passion and depth of the arts.
- To know God is to experience wonderful emotions of peace and joy.
- To know God is to achieve an inward state of freedom from selfish desires.
- To know God is to receive forgiveness of sins and then passively wait for eternity in heaven after death.
According to each of these various approaches, if you do this then you “know God.” To do it means to know God.
According to the New Testament, however, none of these definitions is satisfactory. Biblically, knowing Christ is the gift from God of an inward experience of fellowship with Him, by His Spirit and through His Word, which results in the transformation of every aspect of life.
First, it is His gift. We can know Jesus because, by His death on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sins, reconciling us to God.
… since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand… God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Rom. 5:1-5)
It is the gift of God – and it is always His gift – that we can know Him. We do not earn fellowship with God. He gives Himself to us. Throughout our lives we grow in our union with Christ, but we never earn it – whether by external obedience or inward spiritual exercise.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb. 10:19-22)
Second, while knowing God is an experience, it is not an emotional, intellectual or physical one (although it will impact these aspects of life). In our hearts, we look at God, we receive His love, we love Him, we know Him.
And we all, with unveiled face [in our hearts, v. 15], beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18, ESV)
Third, it is by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals to us the Son of God who reveals the Father.
All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:15)
Consequently, through the indwelling Spirit we have the fullness of the Godhead abiding in us!
Fourth, we find inward union with God through His Word. The Word of God reveals Him in truth and power.
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)
Finally, knowing God results in transformation of all we are and do (Rom. 6:1-4). This will mean peace with God (Rom. 5:1), obedience (John 14:15; 1 John 3:24), holiness (Rom. 8:3-4; 1 John 2:3-6), vision and fruitfulness (John 15:5), passion for the lost (2 Cor. 5:20), endurance with hope in times of suffering (2 Cor. 4:16-18), zealous ministry work (1 Cor. 15:10), and love and servanthood toward others (Gal. 5:13-14).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17)
In our next Letter, we will begin to look at the practical dynamics of this inward union with Christ – how it “works” – particularly as it relates to Christian leadership.