Never has there been a time in history when so much Bible knowledge was available at our fingertips. The YouVersion app recently hit the 1,000 mark in terms of number of Bible translations, with over 700 languages available. Additionally, there are more commentaries accessible to the general population than ever before. If you want to understand something and are resourceful, you can find a way to learn it. As someone who has a hunger for knowledge, I’m grateful to live in the iPhone age. However, I think there are a number of dangers for us to be aware of as we navigate the every-expanding sea of information.
For those who follow the way of Jesus, one of the greatest threats that imposes itself against us is the temptation to substitute knowing about Jesus for actually knowing Jesus. We all know there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone. In a day and age where we’re bombarded with information, we must be diligent about pursuing relationship and transformation rather than settling for information. Jesus addressed this same temptation in his interaction with the Pharisees. In John 5:39-40 he stated, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” The Scriptures have never been an end in and of themselves, they’ve always been an invitation to know Jesus intimately and to receive life from him in abundance.
How do we know Jesus intimately? There are three ways that as followers of Jesus that we can pursue relationship rather than settling for mere information.
- Embrace obedience fully! It is impossible to know Jesus intimately without being obedient to his commands. Jesus made this point clear in John 14 when he said, “ Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”There are a number of things to note in this passage. First, Jesus promised to ‘manifest himself’ to those who are obedient to his commandments. The word manifest carries with it the idea of making oneself known. Jesus claims that if we are obedient, he will make himself known to us. The implications of lack of obedience are evident as well. If we are unwilling to follow Jesus, we shouldn’t expect to know or see him.
The second thing to note from the above passage is the fact that Jesus claims, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” There is a three-fold promise given. As we obey, we know the love of God, he comes to us, and he abides in us. These are all very intimate ways of knowing the Messiah and they all flow directly from being obedient.
- Abide with Jesus intentionally. In John 15:4, Jesus commands his followers of abide in him. The word abide could easily be translated, “make your home in.” This is something that does not happen by accident. It happens as we cultivate a life that is constantly aware of the presence of God and in dialogue with him continually.Much of our ability to abide in Jesus has to do with our intentions. It has to do with our outlook on life. It has to do with the practices we embrace as part of our pursuit of Jesus. The Puritans used to talk about the things that ‘stirred their affections for Jesus.’ They wanted to pay attention what helped them remember the presence of God and what helped them fall more in love with their savior. They wanted become students of their own heart.For some people abiding means engaging the Daily Office and taking multiple times each day to read the scriptures and pray. For others it means going on a walk with the awareness that Jesus is present. For some, your affections for Jesus are stirred when you gather with good friends around a good meal. For others, you need daily time in silence and solitude. What helps you abide? Have you ever thought about that before? Maybe today you spend some time asking the question, “What helps me fall more in love with Jesus?” Then, make a plan to do it.
- Encounter the Spirit personally. The Scriptures are clear, the Spirit of God dwells in you. Paul made this point in 1 Corinthaisn6:19 Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own…” What a truth; the creator God who spoke everything into existence lives in YOU.If we are going to encounter God personally, we must be aware that he dwells by His Spirit inside of us. We must also become more aware of what he promises to do within us. This week, read through John 16 and make a note of the things Jesus promises Holy Spirit will do. Jesus claimed that it was better for him to go away so that Holy Spirit would come (John 16:3)! That’s pretty high praise from Jesus, do you know why Jesus felt this way? John 16 will help you see the reason for Jesus’ reasoning.
In the end, the difference between pursing information and encounter comes down to an approach. Certainly, these two approaches are not mutually exclusive, nor are they entirely separable. However, only one of them will be our driving motivation. Paul’s motivation was, ‘knowing Jesus!’ Let’s make it ours as well.