By Bob Manuel
There are many ways to summarize what following Jesus, what being a disciple of His looks like. In our own local church, we have a mission statement that states it this way: “Jesus has called us to make disciples of Jesus Christ who respond to His Gospel by committing ourselves to loving God, one another and the world in Christ’s name.” Another way I have seen discipleship summarized is in the title to today’s blog: “To Know Jesus and to make Him Known”. As we look forward to our “ministry year” which typically starts in September and runs through the end of June, I would like to unpack this statement as a way to remind us what we are here for.
To Know Jesus. First, perhaps the most obvious thing is to remind us that before we can make Jesus known, we must know Him. I really can’t effectively tell someone about Jesus unless I have some knowledge of Him, some relationship with Him. I must know Him. And, as it has often been said, we must know Him, not merely know about Him. It is possible to know accurately many facts about Jesus, to even have some orthodox theology, but if these truths do not transform our lives, it does no one any good. And, let’s be honest. Sometimes our knowledge of Him, even our desire to know Him wanes. Oh, for the faith to know Him, to want to know Him. And, for those days when I’m not even sure I want to know Him, I ask for the grace to want to want to know Him. I really want to know Jesus, and, I hope you do too. hope that makes sense! As an illustration of knowledge about vs. knowledge of something or someone, I can tell you a lot about the Appalachian Trail (AT) for example, but if I have never hiked any of it, experiential life changing knowledge is missing. I would also rather talk and walk with someone who has actually walked the AT than just read about it from a guidebook. Of knowing Christ, I often think of two key texts: John 17:3 and Phil.3:8-10. First, in John 17:3, we have perhaps the shortest “definition” of what eternal life entails. We read, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” What we read here is a knowledge of the Father and of Jesus, not merely a knowledge about. As for Philippians ch.3, Paul is contrasting his great spiritual pedigree before he knew Jesus to His present and growing knowledge of Jesus. We read there, “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 want to know him.“ Can I honestly say that whatever I desire in life, in my heart, emotions, will, choices, etc., it would pale in comparison to knowing Jesus? When we truly and consistently desire to know Him above everything and everyone, then I would submit to you, we would be 1) eager to make Him known, and 2) People would listen to us because even though imperfectly, our lives are demonstrating Jesus as our greatest treasure. Now Imagine with me having enjoyed the most fantastic meal you’ve ever had in your entire life. For me, perhaps, that meal would be a perfectly seasoned and grilled steak, with a baked potato. What completes the pleasure of that meal? I suggest when we enjoy something supremely, we naturally tell someone about our experience. Likewise with Jesus He is the most perfect “meal” you’ve ever had. When we truly taste of Him, we want to share Him with others. When I was a new Christian, it’s interesting to ponder that no one had to tell me to tell someone else about Jesus. I didn’t have to take an “evangelism class”. I was just obnoxious (hopefully lovingly so!) in wanting to tell everyone about Him. So with regard to this, making Him known – can I gently ask you: when is the last time you have shared the “meal” Who is Jesus with someone else? Oh, I know, we might say, “I let my life speak”. Well, there’s some good in that, but your life is not the Gospel, and, let’s be honest. We don’t always want someone “reading” our lives if their hope for enteral life depended upon us. We can be so inconsistent in how we make or do not make the teaching about God our Savior attractive (Titus 2:10). So, if it’s been awhile since you have shared the words of the Gospel with someone else, may I suggest you go back to the beginning? That is, “To know Christ”. Sit down with Him and feast on Him. We are told to “Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. . . Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fae. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3) He loves you so much. He gives you His body and blood as a meal for the Life you need. So, do you truly know Him? Better yet, does He know us (Matt.7:23)? Go back to getting to know Him. Enjoy Him. Listen to Him. Talk to Him. Read His love letter to you (the Bible). If we truly know Him and truly enjoy Him, the overflow of our joy in Him will gladly be shared with others. Again, as we approach the Fall season of ministry, may we ask for God’s grace, to know Jesus and to make Him known.