That You May Know (1)
…and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places… Ephesians 1.19, 20
Paul’s strength and ours
On the pulpit desk of the seminary I attended, a simple bronze plaque reminds all who would proclaim from that platform what their sole purpose must be: “Sir, we would see Jesus” (Jn. 12.21).
The goal of all Christian instruction – preaching, teaching, studying, or reading – is that Christian people might increase in love for God and their neighbors (1 Tim. 1.5; 1 Cor. 13.1-13). This is the goal of Christian instruction. But Christian instruction is not the means to realizing that goal. Many people have submitted to a wide variety of Christian instruction, and over many years, without realizing the goal of such instruction in their daily lives. This is because they have mistaken instruction as the goal of Christian teaching, rather than what it really is.
Christian instruction is not the means to loving God and neighbors. Christian instruction is the way or avenue into the means whereby we increase in love for God and our neighbors. And the means for realizing the purpose of our redemption is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The task of Christian educators at every level is to lead people to see Jesus, to know Jesus, to participate in Jesus, and to enter into Jesus’ power. Jesus is the means whereby we increase in love. He is also the means whereby we are inclined or disposed or empowered to love, as the Spirit of God forms us increasingly into the likeness of Christ along the various avenues of Christian instruction (2 Cor. 3.12-18). Jesus Christ shows us what real love looks like; He also enables us to become people who love others out of our transformed lives.
But Jesus is also the love we show to God and others as we reach out in one way or another to fulfill our reason for being. When people experience the love of God through us, it is because Jesus has commandeered our lives – all our words and deeds and dispositions – that He might express Himself through us and draw others to Himself.
As we see Jesus more and more clearly and consistently, He “stretches out” in us, reaches out through us, and points others to Himself, giving them a taste of Him, creating a thirst and hunger for Him, so that they begin to desire Jesus, Whom they see in us.
Paul understood that seeing Jesus is the absolute indispensable key to the end of Jesus filling the world with Himself, which is the unwavering intention and goal of our Lord (Eph. 1.22, 23; 4.8-10). So it does not surprise us that Paul told the Ephesians that he “did not cease” praying for them, that they might see Jesus, know Jesus, enter into His power, and live as agents through whom He makes Himself present throughout the world: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (Jn. 12.32).
When Christ is lifted up to us, before us, to our deep, spiritual understanding, then He draws us to Himself. When we are in His Presence, we know Him and His power, and He lifts Himself up in us, so that we are changed. And when He goes in and through us into the world around us, others see and taste and experience Him, and He draws them to Himself (Mic. 4.1-8).
What, then, could be more important, more thrilling, more all-transforming, and more world-changing than that you and I and all believers everywhere at all times have as our prayer to God our Father, “Sir, we would see Jesus”?
You see Him
Paul wrote that Jesus is seated in heavenly places at the right hand of the Father, right now. And right now, as you read those words, you see Him there. Perhaps not very clearly, like a video with dissolving pixels. Maybe like a fleeting image you might encounter in a dream. Or an old Sunday school poster you recall from youth. But you see Him. When you read, “Jesus, seated at the right hand of God,” you see Him. Well, you see something, and not with physical eyes, but with your mind, as well as your heart. You see an image – a cognitive function or your imagination – and you feel a certain emotion – a resonance in your heart. You see Jesus. You know Him to be where Paul and many other writers of Scripture report Him to be.
But if you’re like most Christians, what you see of Jesus, seated at God’s right hand, is flat, lifeless, fleeting, trite, and not particularly compelling.
But what if you were really there? What if you were really before Him, looking upon Him as He is, being caught up in the ambience and environment of where He is seated, hearing the sounds, smelling the fragrances, being swept along by His beauty and drawn closer and closer to Him. What if that is what you see?
All the time.
If that is what you see, then you will be where David was when he wrote, “I have set the LORD always before me…In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16.8, 11).
Do you think you might linger there a while? Do you think such a vision, such a closeness, such an experience of Jesus might have transforming effects on you?
Do you think that’s the vantage point from which you might like to live your life (Eph. 2.6)?
For the apostle Paul, seeing Jesus – His face, His glory, His exalted eminence and splendor – was the crucial component of his discipleship: “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ…Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4.6, 16-18). “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3.1-3).
For Paul, seeing Jesus was the goal of every moment of His life, because seeing Jesus, he became transformed into the likeness of Jesus, and was able to live Jesus in the world.
And Paul commands us – you and me and all believers – to imitate him, as he imitated Jesus (1 Cor. 11.1).
How we can do that, and the power and joy and hope and fruitfulness that issue from that, will be the focus of the studies in this series.
1. What does the phrase “see Jesus” suggest to you?
2. How should Christian instruction contribute to our growing in love?
3. What do you think it will take for you to see Jesus more clearly and consistently?
Next steps – Preparation: In prayer, talk your vision of Jesus at the Father’s right hand back to Him. Ask Him to begin enhancing and enriching that vision today.
T. M. Moore
At the website
If you haven’t been to our website lately (www.ailbe.org), you’re missing out on our newest resources. The Ailbe Podcast, the Personal Mission Field Workshop, and the InVerse Theology Project – all on audio – provide exciting new opportunities for growing in the Lord and His service.
Visit The Ailbe Bookstore to discover the many resources to help you grow in Lord, or to use with your group in realizing together more of the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God. Two books that can help you in seeing Jesus are The Kingship of Jesus (click here) and 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.