KNOWING GOD AND CHRIST
Copyright © 2012 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Apostle Paul spoke of his determination to know Christ. The Lord Jesus said that the knowledge of God and Christ is eternal life. We understand that this does not mean to know about them, but to know them — just as we would know a close friend or relative.
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. (Philippians 3:8)
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:10)
Many sermons are preached urging people to “accept Christ.” I believe numerous people have come to a saving knowledge of Christ by “accepting Christ.” Actually I prefer the expression “receive Christ,” since that expression is in the Bible. “Receiving” Christ has more of the idea of coming to the Man. “Accepting” Christ sounds to me more like a religious conversion, but that may be a problem with my own thinking.
In any case, I have never heard a sermon on “knowing” Christ. This is interesting, since knowing God and Christ are eternal life. Also, knowing Christ was the goal of the Apostle Paul (after many years of ministry). Probably the preceding sentence gives us a clue to knowing God and Christ. A lifetime of walking with the Lord is necessary if we are to know Them.
Also, we become a witness of God by learning to know God.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.” (Isaiah 43:10)
It is my impression that numerous American Christians do not know the Lord. The reason I say this is that they are willing to accept other religions since our American ideal is to be friendly to all people. We pride ourselves on regarding all religions as equal, and we welcome their adherents with open arms.
I am not saying we should be hostile or cruel toward anyone because of his or her religion. But if we really knew the Lord, we would not take the attitude that “many roads lead to God.” They do not. Only the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the true God — and He becomes jealous when we flirt with other gods. He has a way of revealing His jealousy, which we will see in America in the near future, if I am not mistaken.
What do we learn when we come to know God? That He is faithful, merciful, strict, wise, patient, kind. By faith we realize that He is working all things for our good. When we trust and obey Him, He always is leading us toward eternal righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
In presenting our body a living sacrifice, we learn His personal will for
us as an individual
There only is one valid will in the universe, and that is the will of the Father. Jesus obeys this will at every moment. This also is to be true of us. Since the creation of man, human beings have endeavored to plan their own way in life. This is true of the world and of the Christian churches. We do not often find an individual believer who listens carefully to Jesus throughout every circumstance of his or her life. But to not live like this is to be a rebel against God. No person possibly can find righteousness, love, joy, and peace by walking according to his own understanding. Only the Lord God of Heaven knows the way we should go, and will guide us if we will listen to Him.
If we will ask Him to, God will work in us to will, and also to do, His good pleasure. God not only expresses His will in us as we listen and obey. He also does the “doing” of His will as we learn to obey His Spirit.
God has His specific will concerning us as an individual, but also a way of carrying out that will. When we are doing our best to listen and obey, we find that God is gentle, kind, cheerful, and has a ready sense of humor. He does not drive us, as Satan drives his followers.
God is reasonable and uses “good sense,” shall we say. He is patient, but He is not foolish and does not tolerate foolishness. If we are to please God, we must be diligent to always do our best. There is no time to waste. God does not approve of wasted time.
Yet, as I said, He never drives us. When we ask Him to give us rest, He does that. He is easy to be entreated. Yet laziness is a sin. In the parable of the talents, the Lord referred to the servant who did not put his Kingdom gifts to good use, as a wicked, lazy servant. The servant’s gifts were given to another and he was sent into the Land of Darkness.
God cares for animals, as Jesus pointed out concerning the sparrow that fell to the ground. No person who is cruel to an animal knows God or is a friend of God.
I myself am learning to live by the Life of Jesus. This means that during every conscious hour of every day I am talking to the Lord, giving thanks for answered prayer, asking for freedom from dread and worry, asking for wisdom and help, asking for physical health and strength, seeking His guidance in the smallest detail of life.
This constant communicating with the Lord is bringing to me a continual sense of the Lord’s Presence through the day and part of the night. Also, part of the time, it is the Father who is speaking to me. The Father and the Son are alike in Their personalities, but gradually we can tell the difference.
I know that the Lord Jesus is my Brother. I honor Him with due reverence, but we talk over matters like friends. I think Jesus is more anxious to be a close friend to us than we are to have Him in this relationship.
Part of the problem here is the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, although it properly upholds the Divinity of Jesus, leads to cloudy thinking concerning God. We cannot tell whether Jesus is the Father, or an expression of the Father, or something else. This inability to perceive Jesus as a Man and a Person does not lead to fellowship as a brother.
One minister of the Gospel, who is more Oneness than Trinitarian, asked me what I thought about the relationship of Christ to the Father. I answered, “Jesus Christ is God’s Son.” The minister kind of chuckled at the simplicity of my answer. But this really is the truth. The Lord Jesus is the Father’s Son. But then, so are we. Christ was born of God. So were we. Christ is the exalted Head of the Creation of God and has been given all authority by the Father. This is not true of us. Christ has inherited the nations and the farthest reaches of the earth. We are co-heirs with Him.
We have been invited to be part of the Oneness that is God — we in Christ
in God as one Being, one royal priesthood
We through Christ are partaking of the Divine Nature. It only is because of the Divine Nature that we rightly may be viewed as God’s children and brothers of the Lord Jesus.
There is one Divine family in Heaven and upon the earth, and it takes its name from the Father. Each member has been chosen by the Lord. Although we must respond to our calling diligently and obediently, our salvation is not from our own efforts but from the God of Heaven.
The Lord Jesus is the great high Priest of God. We are members of the royal priesthood, and living stones in the eternal House of God of which Christ is the Chief Cornerstone.
Since we all are members of the one Divine Family, when addressing the heavenly Father, we rightly can say, “Abba, Father.” This is a term of affection. The truth is, God and Christ are far more anxious to be friendly with us than we are to be friendly with them.
Part of this lack of communication is due to the wholesome awe and reverent attitude which we maintain toward the Father and the Son. The other reason for the lack of friendship and communication is our sinful personality.
In the distant future, we will be more comfortable with our role as members of the family of God. God will be our Father whom we love, and Christ will be our elder brother who helps us to properly enjoy our Father.
But in the meantime, there are the lusts and passions, worldliness, self-will and self-centeredness in our personalities. It is because of these three elements that we cannot see the face of God, as can the angel of the little child.
What is needed is a massive, comprehensive program of reconciliation so that we can get along comfortably with the Father and Christ. Christ came into the world to bring us to the Father!
The program of reconciliation, or redemption, began on the cross of Calvary. There, the blood that provides legal authorization for our reconciliation to the Father was shed by God’s Lamb. When by faith we place our trust in the blood atonement, our sins of the past are placed behind God’s back. This is the beginning of the eternal reconciliation of man to God and God to man. Now we are guiltless of our past sins. This much reconciliation has been accomplished.
What is it that prevents full reconciliation? Our sinful nature. When is the full reconciliation to take place? The program of full reconciliation has begun now, and will extend until the end of the final resurrection and judgment. It is the spiritual fulfillment of the sending out of the camp the living goat of the Jewish Day of Atonement.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43)
The passage above informs us that the time is coming when “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” will be weeded out of God’s Kingdom. When that passage is fulfilled, there will be complete reconciliation among God and His people.
I have said that the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement has begun. How does this affect us as an individual?
- If we are living in the Spirit of God, listening to Jesus at all times, the Holy Spirit will point out to us some aspect of worldliness, a sinful passion, or self-will and stubborn determination to pursue our own course in life.
- Confess the sin clearly and specifically. It is less than useless to say, “I am filled with wickedness. God, deliver me from all my sins.” To get deliverance, we must be specific. “Lord, I am too involved in the world.” “God, I am bound with fornication.” “Lord Jesus, I know what you want me to do but I do not want to do it.” We won’t get anywhere unless we confess some behavior we actually are guilty of, not something in the past, not some accusation that Satan whispers in our ear but which we have not done and have no intention of doing.
- After confessing the specific sin to God, denounce it clearly, calling it “Evil”! This is half the battle. Confession will not accomplish anything unless we clearly, without compromising, address this spirit as sinful, having no place in the Kingdom of God. To this point, we have confessed and denounced.
- Now, pray for the strength to renounce the specific behavior. Tell this spirit that you will have nothing more to do with it for eternity. You are through with it. You never will behave this way again. Tell it to leave your personality.
When I say “spirit” instead of “behavior,” it is to remind us that many of these compulsions in our personality actually are spirits that dwell in our flesh and cause us to misbehave. Some believers have maintained that it is impossible for a true Christian to have an unclean spirit in him or her. If this is the case, why do they act as though they do? A good question, isn’t it? The truth is that sincere Christian people often are bound with gossip, lust, hatred, rage, jealousy, envy, unforgiveness, debate, a homosexual spirit, and every other unclean spirit imaginable.
Confess; denounce; renounce. This last, renounce, may distinguish deliverance from “penance.” If my understanding is correct, “penance” includes confession and then some kind of punishment, such as saying the “our father” twenty-five times. In this way, we are showing that we are sorry for our misbehavior. True “renouncing” is repentance. To repent is to change course; to never again sin in this specific manner. You can see from this the vast difference between penance and repentance. Penance is an expression of remorse. Repentance is a determination to never again practice this specific behavior.
If we really are determined to renounce the specific behavior, Christ will assist us if we ask Him. When we are dealing with a longstanding sinful behavior, a “king” we might say, we must renounce the behavior with all the determination we can muster. The spirit will not let go until it sees that we are utterly determined to be free from it.
I have noticed that sometimes when people come forward in church to be delivered from alcohol, they make the right confession and do the right thing. But in the deepest part of their minds they realize they are going to get drunk again. It feels so good. So right here we have the difference between the victorious saint, and the believer who is not determined enough to be freed from the behavior. There are tremendous rewards of rank and service in the Kingdom of God for the believer who does put forth the supreme effort to be delivered. Christ will help such a one. But the believer who wavers, not being able to bring forth that utter renunciation of the behavior, will not receive the rewards offered to the victorious saint.
Perhaps the non-victorious believer will be saved as by fire, meaning that his inheritance is burned away and he enters the new world of righteousness as a small child who is under the rulership of a more determined believer. Or, God may perceive that the person never will make a success of the new world of righteousness, but after lengthy instruction will still fall back into familiar patterns of behavior. God will not be reconciled to him, because he is not sufficiently determined to turn aside from acts that are not of the image of God.
The conflict is real, and deadly. The rewards and inheritances are real. The punishments are real. We make a great mistake when we imagine the statements of the Bible will be modified in terms of the current philosophy of Humanism.
I think that the exercise of religion often is a substitute for knowing God and Christ. It appears to me that people can spend many years serving in a religious setting and never come to know God and Christ. How can this be? It is because religion is a man-made system of beliefs and activities by which human beings hope to gain the approval of God.
God and Christ are Persons that we can come to know and trust. They are not man-made. They have likes and dislikes. They make moral judgments, while the angels carry out the sentences of the judgments. Angels are never permitted to make moral judgments.
However, man, being in the image of God, under the right circumstances is authorized to make moral judgments. When we denounce one of our behaviors as evil, we are making a moral judgment. This is the doctrine of “eternal judgment,” mentioned in Hebrews chapter six.
One of the great errors of today’s Christian preaching is the overemphasis on God’s love. Surely God giving His Son on the cross to reconcile God to man gives proof of the enormity of God’s love for His creatures. But the flood of Noah, and the turning of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, are evidences of the enormity of God’s wrath. Because of this overemphasis on one part of God’s Personality, and the neglect of the other aspect of God’s personality, many American Christians are babies. They cannot endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. In fact, they do not believe it is necessary for them to endure any hardness. In response to this misunderstanding of God’s Nature, they have invented a “rapture” that will keep them from being inconvenienced in the day of trouble.
One common saying is, “Christ suffered so I won’t have to suffer.” One lady was heard to say, “If I thought God would allow me to suffer, I would not serve Him.” Such an individual has little knowledge of God or of life. She does not understand that God created the fiercest of wild animals. She has not been a witness of the cruelty of people to other people, that God could have prevented but didn’t. I guess she never has read of the Christian martyrs.
It is God who created the world in which we live. It is Satan who causes the misery and torment. God does not prevent Satan from doing his destructive work because God is using wicked spirits and wicked people to perfect those people whom he has predestined to be rulers of the new world of righteousness. God does not spare us from suffering, because by suffering we are freed from sin.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
Jesus told us that if we want to be His disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. We deny ourselves when we choose to do what God wants rather than what we want.
Our cross may be the deferral of our most intense desires, or it may be a prison that compels us to live in circumstances that we do not enjoy. This prison may endure for many years.
The victorious saint will bear his cross, live in his prison, until Jesus brings him forth. If he finds a way to escape, he disobeys God. He always must pray that God will give him the desires of his heart. But he must not reach out and grasp what he desires. If he does, he loses this chance to be reconciled to God.
There are few believers, it seems, who are dedicated to knowing God and Christ, but there are some. These are God’s Firstfruits. I refer to them as an army of judges, because they will be resurrected when the Lord comes and then descend with Him to install the Kingdom of God on the earth. They are described in Revelation chapter 14. You can tell from the description that they know God and Christ to a greater extent than is true of many Christian believers:
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)
The fact that these believers have the Lamb’s name and the Father’s name written on their foreheads reveals that they are especially close to God and the Lamb; they belong to God and Lamb; and they always do the will of God and the Lamb. Wouldn’t you like to be that close to God and Jesus? I would.
It is the “Lamb” and not “Christ” who is emphasized because we are married to the Lamb by eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
They are standing on Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the heavenly Jerusalem.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, (Hebrews 12:22)
And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. (Revelation 14:2)
Such a celebration! And why is this? It is because the Lamb and the Father are rejoicing over these who have chosen to give themselves wholly to God and the Lamb. All Christian people are invited to be part of this blessed assembly. But so few, it seems, are determined to set aside their own lives that they might live by the Life of the Lamb.
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57)
I suspect that many believers are afraid to give what they are and have to the Lord Jesus, believing they will lose everything of value. The truth is, every treasure of true worth, that we have set aside for the Lamb’s sake, is waiting for us in Heaven. Sometimes we receive them back in the present world.
Heaven is not the vague country in which people float around in sheets. I know this is what people think, but it is not so. Heaven is a city in the spirit world. This is where the elect are located, learning more about God and Christ and waiting for the day they descend to the new earth as the new Jerusalem. This is the royal priesthood, and there is no more marvelous destiny than this!
The rewards we hope to gain by following our own course in the world are pitiful and threadbare compared with the rewards God’s King will give to those who turn from their own lives to do His will.
And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. (Revelation 14:3)
You can tell from the verse above how special these believers are to the Lamb and the Father. Why could no one else learn their song? It is because that song comes from within the individual. It is composed, line upon line, as the person listens carefully to Jesus and obeys His will at all times. The music and the words are not written in the casual Christian!
These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they kept themselves pure. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (Revelation 14:4)
“Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled,” the Bible says. So we know the verse above is not referring to human marriage. Rather, the “women” who defile are the idols that we embrace, whether people, or money, or a talent, or a job, or some other circumstance that we worship instead of God.
If you want to know whether or not you are defiling yourself with some person, or thing, or circumstance, ask yourself if there is something that you would find almost impossible to give up if the Lord should request it. If there is something like that, even your own child, place him or her by prayer on the Lord’s altar. God will have no other gods embraced or worshiped other than Himself. He is very strict about this, because He knows such worship will deprive us of everlasting righteousness, love, joy, and peace. These are His goals for us, so trust Him in this matter.
They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. The Lamb has given up His privacy that wherever He goes, there they are. We can do this today. We can look to Jesus continually, so that we are living by His Life. As He is thinking we are thinking. As He is speaking we are speaking. As He is acting we are acting. This is how Jesus lives as part of the Father. It is the eternal Sabbath, the “rest of God” of which the book of Hebrews speaks.
At the present time, whoever has the Father also has Jesus. Jesus wants it to be true that whoever has Jesus has you also. Would you like that? Then go for it.
They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. It is contrary to our American, democratic ideals to have some people favored over others. But this is not a Kingdom ideal. The 144,000 (whether literal or symbolic) are “firstfruits” to God and the Lamb.
No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. I am 86 years of age. I have a good education — a doctorate in education from the University of Rochester in New York. I have at least average intelligence, and have worked with children and adults most of my life as a public-school teacher and principal and now as a pastor. I have concluded that civilization is one huge lie. The world spirit is of Antichrist. The media lies most of the time. The political leaders are known for their lying. It is true of you and me. Most of us do not tell the truth all the time. If we think it will help our cause, we may lie. Isn’t it so? It seems we all are born liars.
But God Himself is Truth. So is Jesus Christ. If we are to be reconciled to Them, we must be purged of all forms of lying. It takes us a while. But with the assistance of the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can renounce all the lying that we do as it is pointed out to us. This makes it possible for us to come to know God and Christ.
Jesus is the Truth and He wants each one of His brothers to be the truth, thus bearing a true witness of Him.
Why were the 144,000 purchased from among men and offered as Firstfruits to God and the Lamb — the first and best of the entire harvest of mankind? Because they chose to make Jesus Christ the focus of their lives. We can do that. It is up to us to decide whether it is worth the cost to come to know the Father and Christ. We can remain heavily involved in the antichrist world spirit, worshiping money and pleasure, yielding on occasion to the unclean lusts and passions of our flesh and spirit, stubbornly insisting on living our own life according to our own plans and ambitions. Or we can give it all to the Lord Jesus, trusting Him to bring us finally to our heart’s desire.
What is it worth to you to have a personal relationship with the Father and Christ? Is it worth everything? He left Paradise and came to earth, experiencing all of our temptations, and finally dying as a criminal. In the process He, for a moment, lost the Presence of His Father, if you can imagine that. Christ bore that unimaginable load of sin and death that you might be reconciled to your Father in Heaven.
What are you going to do about it?
(“Knowing God and Christ”, 3367-1, proofed 20211012)