As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.
THE RIGHT FOUNDATION IS NEEDED TO BUILD ANYTHING – ESPECIALLY A RELATIONSHIP
I’ve done a fair bit of building in my life. I know how important it is to get the foundations right. And when it comes to building a relationship with anyone, especially with Christ, it’s important to know who it is that you want to get to know.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said,
“Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him,
“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you,
but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,
and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then He strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that He was the Christ.
Matthew 16: 13-20
This passage presents us with Jesus questioning His own disciples about who people were saying He was. Quite possibly they have seized this opportunity to offer their own guesses. ‘Some say You are John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the other prophets!’ The problem with their answers, despite them each being great men of God, they were not who Jesus really was. Despite the disciples having already spent three years living with and following Jesus, it seems they were influenced by other people’s views about who they thought Christ was. The sad reality was that the disciples didn’t yet know who Jesus actually was. Within a few weeks Christ would die, rise again, commission His disciples to preach the gospel to every nation and then ascend back to His glory. But before this could happen, they needed to come to know who Jesus really was. Thus, rather than leave His disciples clueless, Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” It was then that Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Unlike Christ’s disciples, we may not enjoy the physical presence of Jesus and privilege of sitting with Him in conversation as they did, but that doesn’t let us off the hook! Jesus has still revealed to us who He is through the beauty of the world He has created, and most clearly through His Word to us. Thus, Christ’s question to them – ‘Who do you say that I am?’ – should still ring in the ears of every believer today, and challenge us to accept what the Gospels reveal that: He is the eternal One, God the Son, the Lord, the Saviour, the Judge of all mankind, and the One who loves us unconditionally! To understand this, is for me, the foundation of a strong and binding relationship with Christ that will withstand the storms of life!
HE IS OUR ANCHOR IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S STORMS
And speaking of life’s storms, I am currently reading through the Book of Job in my daily devotions. In the first two chapters God describes Job as “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 2:3). Based on this we would have to say that Job knew God and was close to Him. Yet his relationship with God was sorely tested by the trials he had to endure. Perhaps, it we could have asked Job, how can we know God more? his own experiences might have led him to respond, Just hang in there. Even when you don’t understand what’s happening, trust what you already know about God! This is precisely what we see Job doing when in the midst of his own stormy trials he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” This speaks to me personally. It is sufficient for me to keep trusting Him and to honour Him in the way I live my life.
KNOWING WHO JESUS IS HELPS US TO COME CLOSER TO HIM AND TO REFLECT HIM TO THE WORLD
Knowing that Jesus is the eternal Christ, the Son of God, and Saviour of all who turn to Him, should cause us to honour and revere Him and to live under His Lordship over our lives. That means that we would endeavour to lead lives that would reflect Him. This is reflected in our speech, conduct, attitudes and actions.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ
I have often wondered whether I do reflect Christ and perhaps it is not always the case, but I want to share an encouraging incident in my life. I commenced a new position in the early 2000, where I was trained by a person who was leaving in a week in order to take over his role. A few months later it happened that we both attended the same Christian event where he came up to me and said, “I thought you were a Christian! I thought you were not by what you said, but by how you lived!”
TO BE CLOSE TO CHRIST IS TO KNOW HIS HEART!
If Jesus really is the LORD, then what He has said recorded in His Word is also true and gives us the correct way to live. It is through drinking in His Word prayerfully that we can grow closer to Him and know His love for us.
Some people have become Christians as “eternal-life insurance”. They simply want to avoid Hell and be admitted into the eternal bliss and paradise of Heaven after they die. But when tough issues arise in their lives, they struggle and doubt, and sometimes walk away from their supposed faith in Christ. I have found this bewildering because I would believe that the promise of the resurrection and eternal life through Christ is a far greater and a far more difficult promise for God to fulfil than any promises to get us through our fleeting difficulties in this life! This is where I have to wonder, Did these people ever develop their relationship with Jesus?
In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
I love the above scripture as it is for all believers and gives us so much confidence and assurance that we have been sealed with the King’s Seal and no one can break it or take it from us. It also invites us to know Christ intimately through: prayerfully reading His Word so that it shapes us; being in the community and fellowship of a church family; and, worshipfully praying constantly to the Father.
I mentioned earlier that there are things that hinder or enhance our relationships and I have written this from the perspective of one that has battled with these hindrances and one who has discovered the joy of things that enhance them. So the question that Jesus asked His original followers still stands ready for you to answer for yourself: But who do you say that I am? It is my hope that you will come to know that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, and your Saviour. And that this will then be your foundation for being a growing relationship with Him.
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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