“Do you know everybody in this town?” a boy asked me one day when we were out and about together. I had exchanged greetings with friends in the diner, talked with people in the stores, waved at a couple of friends driving by and he figured I surely must be some kind of celebrity. That’s the way it is when the major part of your life is lived in the same place in the kind of ministry I have that is involved with people every day. Yes, it is true that I have many acquaintances and each one adds something to life, some unique gift, for which I am thankful.
But, then there are those friends who really know my heart. They are the ones who have ‘gone through the fire’ with me at some point in time; partnering in ministry, walking through sorrow together, doing life!
If you want to know Christ – most deeply, most intimately – prepare to walk with Him through some painful, trying circumstances. If your relationship with the Lord is kept superficial, if you only engage with Him when it’s convenient, if you excuse yourself from service, if you won’t deal with His call to become loving, good, and pure – you just will never know the ‘real Jesus.’ Intimacy means that you let Him lead through places that break your stubborn will, that pierce your pretensions, that make you come to know that He, alone, is your life. If you’re intent on staying on the ‘Hallelujah side,’ always smiling, never willing to walk with Him into the dark, you will never know the depths of His love, never treasure His grace, and never know the sweet mercy found in the Cross.
Intimacy with Jesus begins to take shape in our worst failures! David knew the Lord God and wrote beautiful songs (Psalms) about Him. But, only later in his life, after he had fallen flat on his face, disgraced himself and failed God in the most miserable ways, did he discover the grace of the Lord. Psalm 51 reflects his brokenness, his longing, and his realization of the steadfast love of the Lord. He came to see that all the Psalm-singing and sacrifices were no substitute for a heart of worship. “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17, NIV)
Don’t misunderstand my point here. Nobody should go out and sin in some huge way thinking it leads to God! We don’t have to go looking for brokenness. If we live authentic, God-seeking lives, it will find us in this world where ego, self, power, and greed are everywhere.
Perhaps I am overly cynical, and if so, I ask your forgiveness, but I do not think you will find a lot of an authentic Jesus in many American churches. You might find a “Moral Jesus” in some that insist on religious rules. You may find a “Cool Jesus” in others that are intent on gutting the Gospel of the harder parts and making Him “relevant.” You will find the “Blessings Jesus” in many churches where worship is more akin to a party than an Encounter with the Divine. To keep the pews full, many gatherings work to keep things light and happy, intently offering self-help programs to make you a more ‘successful’ person. Few will invite you to think on the Cross, to follow Him radically. His sorrow, the Cross – while talked about, is not loved all that much.
Read this familiar passage. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, 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 and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11, NIV)
Paul compares every accomplishment, honor, and recognition of life as “rubbish” compared to knowing Jesus. (You get the impact of his word when you understand that ‘rubbish’ is a weak translation of the Greek word, skubalon, which literally means, animal excrement!) Yes, Paul says that knowing Jesus makes everything else in life about as valuable as dog poop by comparison.
I find Jesus very present when I’m sitting at the bedside of an old saint who has forgotten who I am but who brightens when I read her a Psalm, who clasps my hand tightly as I pray, while tears slip down both of our cheeks. I experience Jesus’ presence when I go and walk among the aged of a nursing home and sing to people who have come to the margin of life. I have felt Him personally present when sitting with my late wife in the chemo room of the hospital. Yes, He walks with those who struggle to trust Him through huge disappointment, with those who know rejection, with those who serve without fanfare in the most obscure places.
Here is a challenging invitation for this Monday morning. As we open our hearts and minds to the Lord, as we pray, let us do so with humble, joyous welcome of the Real Jesus. “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:17-21, NIV)
There’s Something About That Name
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus-
There’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus-
Like a fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus-
Let all heaven and earth proclaim;
Kings and kingdoms may all pass away,
But there’s something about that name!
Copyright William Gaither