"The greatest single hindrance to evangelism today is the secret poverty of our own spiritual experience." ~John Stott
Talk to any grandparent for five minutes and what's the most likely topic of conversation? The grandchildren. Ask any mother how her week has been, and what will her response include? The daily lives of her children. Spend significant time with any engaged man or woman, and you will leave knowing all about his or her future spouse. We all do it. We all talk about the people we know and love the most.
So what does it mean when our conversations do not naturally lead to Jesus?
I would rather not think about the answer to that question. Because the truth behind it is not something I can acknowledge and then simply continue on my merry way. The truth behind it is this: we do not know Him. Not really. If we really knew Jesus, we wouldn't be able to stop talking about Him. We wouldn't be able to stand the thought of someone else not knowing Him.
Oh, I know Him a little. I've spent time with Him. I've talked with Him. I've asked for His guidance, and I've even followed it many times. I've experienced His presence and power in my life enough to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). And I can attest to the fact that those are the times when I can't wait to share what He's done with the first person who will listen. Which is why I can also say with certainty that John Stott is right: if we are experiencing life with Jesus, we are going to be talking about it. If we are not talking about it, the spiritual poverty we try so hard to cover up with pious-sounding words and religious activity is far more tragic than any slum on the other side of the world. I've hidden in that slum more times than I care to admit.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:21-22) You mean it is possible to prophesy and drive out demons and perform miracles in His name without knowing Him? Jesus seems to think so. You mean there are people who verbally acknowledge Jesus's lordship but have no real relationship with Him? That's what it sounds like to me.
I shudder to think of what it would feel like to hear Him say, "I never knew you."
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5)
My first inclination after typing these verses was to backtrack--give a little disclaimer that I'm not questioning my own salvation or trying to cause others to question theirs. And then I thought...why do I feel the need to be p.c. and do that? The Bible commands us to test ourselves! I'm not doing anybody any favors by sugar-coating that command. Do you, do I, know Jesus? I mean really.
If not, He's worth knowing. Not for blessings on this earth or the promise of eternity in heaven, but simply for Him. He is life. He is joy. He is peace. Nothing is worth more.
The apostle Paul seemed to have that much figured out when He said, "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith." (Philippians 3:7-9).
It seems so obvious. Of course, everything is garbage compared to knowing Christ. I can say that with no hesitation. But do I live that way? If I examine how I spend my time, my thoughts, my money--is knowing Christ truly my priority? And what does it mean to really know Him?
"I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11).
To know Christ is to become like Christ. But wow, participate in His sufferings and become like Him in His death? I'd like to think I would be willing to suffer and die for Him if it came to that, but to say that I want it? Do I want to know Him that badly? It's easy to look at those verses and feel frustrated. I don't know if I can say that, Lord! I want to know You, and I know You're worth it, but I'm not there yet! I'm glad the apostle Paul kept going...
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14)
I'm also glad it's not dependent on my own efforts and motivation. "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13).
And He can be trusted to finish the work He started. "Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)
Dear Jesus, open our eyes to see our own secret poverty. Forgive us for placing people and things above our relationship with You. Enthrall us with Your presence, and draw us to pursue You above all else. Let us experience You as our life, our joy, and our peace. Burden us for those who have never known You, and let our words and actions constantly reflect the richness of knowing You.
*If you are not sure what it means to be a follower of Christ and would like to know more, click here.