Learning Jesus (1)
Nothing is more precious or valuable.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… Philippians 3.8
It seems a good time to look back at the ground we have covered thus far in considering the question of how we may increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul considered such knowledge the kind of “excellence” that is worth losing everything else to obtain. That is, he regarded learning Jesus “to be of surpassing value – to be exceptionally valuable, to surpass in value, to be better” than anything he possessed or might possess (Louw and Nida). Hopefully, we have come to believe that increasing in the knowledge of Jesus is extremely important. Only as we begin to take up that calling will we realize the surpassing excellence of it.
We began our study by saying that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be learners, and what we are to learn is Jesus Himself (Eph. 4.17-24). Learning Jesus is the highest calling and most excellent adventure anyone can undertake, and all who call themselves Christians and followers of Jesus are called to embark on this journey as the defining motif of their lives.
Such learning doesn’t just happen as a result of time passed in the faith. It is a “difficult task”, as Solomon explained, and we must make up our minds to take it on, to be defined by our commitment to learning Jesus, so that we increase in love for God and our neighbors as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Two primary sources are available to us in journeying toward the knowledge of Christ: the Word of God and the world of God. Each of these provide reliable insights to Jesus and the will of God. The Word of God is of the first importance, for it provides the defining light for understanding all else (Ps. 36.9). As we grow in the knowledge of Jesus, Who is everywhere present in the Scriptures (Jn. 5.39), we gain the perspective, insight, and protocols we need to seek the revelation of Jesus Christ in His works in the creation.
By concentrating carefully on these two resources, compiling insights and conclusions from each, combining and comparing our findings, communing with the Lord in them, and conversing with others about what we are learning, we may expect to see more of Jesus and to discover more of His will, so that we know, love, and serve Him more joyfully, faithfully, and consistently in our lives.
Three categories of disciplines are available to help us in our quest. The disciplines of theology are the most important, because they establish the footprint and cornerstone for the house of knowledge we are hoping to construct. The disciplines of the humanities and the sciences help us to understand ourselves, our neighbors, and our world in ways that point us to Jesus, empower us to know Him, and equip us to live richer fuller lives as His followers. We do well to make good use of these disciplines as part of our journey of increasing in theknowledge of Jesus Christ.
It remains for us, therefore, to bridge the synapses between the knowledge of Jesus Christ and what we are studying in Scripture and the world, so that the spark of learning makes the leap to Jesus, and our knowledge of Him increases. How do we get from what we’re reading or studying – in Scripture, the humanities, or the sciences – to the Treasury of all wisdom and knowledge, our Lord Jesus Christ?
Learning Jesus is a bit like looking for an image in a stereogram – a “magic eye” picture. What we see on the surface is a monotonous pattern of lines or images, connected and repeating over and over. What we’re looking for in all this is not just the lines or the images, or even the pattern by which they are linked. We’re after something deeper, something more mysterious, and more profound than what we readily observe. In each stereogram a 3-D image is embedded, and only by having some sense of what that image looks like, and by concentrating diligently, will that image begin to emerge. It does no good to seek the image of a widget, let’s say, if we don’t have some idea of what a widget looks like. But if we’re seeking an image of the Parthenon, and we know this to be a columned ruin with a triangular façade; and if we know, because the maker of the stereogram has told us so, that the Parthenon is to be discovered in that orderly arrangement of lines and images and patterns; then if we’ll look hard enough and persist long enough, in due course the image of the Parthenon will begin to emerge, more real and wonderful than all the surface images combined.
The same is true with Jesus. Our Father has told us that Jesus is there to be discovered in Scripture, in the world, in the words, works, and patterns by which God unfolds the story of redemption and keeps the world together. Finding Him can be the most exciting, most wonderful, most transforming, and most excellent experience of our lives. But we must know Him Whom we are seeking to learn more of through our reading, studying, observing, and discussing; and we must stay on task until He reveals Himself, and draws us more deeply into His being and essence (2 Pet. 1.4).
In this final section of our study, therefore, we will consider ways of bridging the synapse between Jesus, Whom we know – if only in part – and whatever we may be reading and studying in the disciplines of learning He has made available to us. In essence, we’ll be answering the question, “How do we get from here to Jesus?”
But since our goal is to know, love, and serve Jesus with increasing joy and fruitfulness, we will also consider practical ways in which our increased knowledge of Jesus might issue in grace that leads to thanksgiving and the glory of God through our lives (2 Cor. 4.15).
Knowing Jesus, and increasing in the knowledge of Christ, is not a matter of mere personal gratification. To be sure, knowing Jesus is thrilling, wonderful, joyful, and fills us with peace, hope, and contentment. But Jesus intends to overflow from us to fill the space around us with Himself – all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities (Eph. 4.8-10). We are the censer, Jesus is the incense, and the Holy Spirit is the fire Who causes all that we are truly learning about Jesus to emanate through us into the world around.
So we need to think specifically about the people in our lives, the places we go, the work we do, and all the ways we interact with culture, that we may learn Jesus so well that He shows up in all of these, increasingly and undeniably.
So let us press on to bring our journey into the knowledge of Christ toward the finish line – or should I say, the finishing line, that we may be more fully and completely finished in Jesus, and furnished by Him to spread the fragrance of His knowledge everywhere.
1. Have you made the commitment to increase in the knowledge of Christ? How are you working to improve in this most basic calling of discipleship?
2. How would you explain what it means to a new believer to increase in the knowledge of Christ? How can we do this? What should we expect as a result of this effort?
3. Have you mapped out your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video (click here), download the worksheet, and map out the people and places where God is sending you with the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ.
Next Steps – Preparation: What will you have to “count as loss” to increase in the excellence of knowing Christ? Have you developed a plan for growing in the Lord? Review that plan, then share it with a friend, and ask your friend to pray for you as you press on in knowing the Lord.
T. M. Moore
For an overview of what it means to know Jesus, and how that knowledge of Christ comes to expression in our lives, order a copy of our book, To Know Him (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.