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GUEST COLUMN: Seeing Jesus in an unexpected place

November 2017 | by Roger Hitchings

Being a Christian means that we know the Lord. This is part of the New Covenant, set out in Jeremiah and quoted in Hebrews 8:10-12: ‘This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

‘No longer will they teach their neighbours, or say to one another, Know the Lord, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more’.

It is how Jesus defines eternal life in John 17. And yet it is also Paul’s great desire for his own life and future: ‘that I may know Him’ (Philippians 3:10). So, we have seen, that we know Christ through grace, and yet we go on to know him better as we walk in obedience, meditation and prayer.

All of this is important for us, because knowing Jesus has a significant impact in our lives. It is not just self-indulgent. It is stimulating to the soul, but also essential for our lives and witness, and for our church life.

Daniel 11 describes the people of God facing huge difficulties. How will they cope, how will they stand? ‘Ah!’, says Daniel, ‘The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action’.

Knowing the Lord enables believers to stand firm in turbulent times and act in remarkable ways. Alongside the sheer bliss and delight of a growing knowledge of the Saviour, there is strengthening to be effective for him. Knowing Jesus truly is a life-enhancing relationship.

Blessed in fellowship

The apostle Paul, in his prayer for the Ephesians, tells us how we may know the Lord better, and what that knowledge will look like: ‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe’ (1:17-19).

This enlarging knowledge is not about sensational happenings or deep mystical experiences. Rather, it is gaining a better grasp of the wonder of the Saviour, as we know what he has done for us, what he has made us by his death and resurrection, and what he will do in us by the indwelling Spirit — all coming out of ‘knowing him better’.

We are looking at transformative engagement with our Lord and Saviour. Imagine coming down to breakfast and seeing a jar labelled ‘Strawberry jam’. You fancy that. You spread some of its contents on your toast and taste it — delicious strawberry jam. It was the tasting that proved the reality. The psalmist says, ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him’ (Psalm 34:8).

In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul describes the impact of contemplation of and fellowship with Jesus. He speaks of ‘being transformed into his likeness’, ‘from one degree of glory to another’ (ESV), or ‘from glory to glory’ (NKJV). It is the glorious, progressive, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.

Truly you become what you look at. Constant consideration of Jesus in the Word develops likeness to him. That, I suggest, is what our churches need more of, and certainly it is what the world around needs to see.

Been with Jesus

To the Jewish authorities, they were disturbers of the peace, who needed putting down: uneducated fishermen who had gotten above their station. For their own part, Peter and John had known what it was to have that extraordinary time with the Lord after his resurrection, which had been so life-changing.

And then they had received the Spirit enabling them to speak effectively of Christ. Despite their hatred and prejudice, the Sanhedrin were ‘astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus’ (Acts 4:13). Of course, like their Master, they were to be despised and rejected by those authorities. But what an impact they had on others!

Their lives as well as their words were different and powerful, and Christ could be seen in them. ‘Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me!’

Brotherly love

This engagement with Christ and progressive conformity to his likeness also has an impact on relationships. Think how often in his letters Paul links faith in Jesus Christ with love for all the saints.

A recent article on the Christward Collective (part of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals) pointed out that: ‘True knowledge of God manifests itself in love for all the saints. Growing maturity in Christ evidences itself in growing love for his people. The more we grow in Christ, the more we will love his bride’.

Our churches may be known for all kinds of qualities: good music, warm welcome, powerful preaching, faithfulness to truth — all very good things. But I have never heard mentioned, ‘people who are reflections of Jesus’. Surely that is what we should be? And what liveliness, warmth, faithfulness and power that characteristic would display? We need to know Jesus better!

Since his retirement from full-time pastoral ministry, Roger Hitchings has pursued an itinerant ministry. He also regularly speaks and writes on old age and dementia. He is chair of the Reformation and Revival Fellowship.