God’s goal in His relationship with you is to have, not just a historical or an intellectual one, but a personal, experiential one. To know about Jesus is much different than actually knowing Jesus, which is what experientially “believing in Him” entails. Paul prays for the Ephesians that they would discover this relationship: that God would give them “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Philippians 1:17). The word for knowledge in this verse, epignosis, implies a knowledge “which perfectly unites the subject with the object,” and “lays stress on participation in the truth” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words), i.e., an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a living Savior.
I mentioned in my last post that when I saw that relationship in the young men who spoke in my fraternity house, I recognized something, up close and personal, that I had never seen before, and I was irresistibly drawn to it.
Eventually, I tasted this experiential relationship with God myself, right there in the Sigma Nu house at the University of Oklahoma. I noticed the Holy Spirit began to change things in my life I had not even been aware of before. Quietly, even surreptitiously, He began to change some of my attitudes and interests. I realize now, 60 years later, He had busily begun His work without my knowledge, doing just what He promised, conforming me to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
I have found this process to be a life-long one, and my initial progress was (as it often still is today!) a tortured one with multiple fits and starts. At the time I did not understand that my task in this enterprise was simply believing like a little child that the Holy Spirit is actually doing what He came into my heart to do—make me look like Jesus looked, think like Jesus thought, and say what Jesus said—spontaneously, from the inside out. No matter the evidence or lack thereof, that process is occurring. My job is to just get out of the Master’s way and trust Him!
And furthermore, Jesus told me that this is my only job. “Then they said to Him, ’What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the (not “a” but “the”) work of God (the only one), that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:28, 29)—believing He can, He will, and He is doing just what He says He is.
That sounds so simple—simply “believing”—and it is, but it’s not easy It sounds so, well, lazy, disinterested and irresponsible. We are sure there must be more we must do. After all, we are really committed to this Christian life, and we are surely not lazy, disinterest or irresponsible, are we?
But that is what “living by faith” is—believing, like a little child, just as Jesus taught. The Holy Spirit is, indeed, doing what the Bible says He is doing in my life, even if His time frame for doing it is not what I would choose. That kind of child-like faith is still not an automatic given for me today, 60 years later.
Why is “living by faith” so simple, but not so easy? How can I continue “as (I)…have received Christ Jesus the Lord, (to then) walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6), on a daily basis? That means “by faith alone,” but how in the world can I “keep on keepin’ on” in this Christian life by doing nothing but just believing in Jesus? Surely I have to DO SOMETHING to make sure this Christian life works, don’t I?
It is so difficult to understand faith as a way to live because living by trying to be good, trying to be productive and successful comes as naturally to us as breathing. Since we came out of the womb, we have lived like a fish in a lake, perfectly content living under water without ever being aware of the water! Living by the law—right and wrong, good and evil, shoulds or shouldn’ts, according to some standard—is all we’ve ever known. It is our “water” in which we have always lived. The law may be any standard we choose to follow: society’s, Sharia, the law of the gang or even biblical law, but it is still “living by the law,” and not by faith.
The Bible calls this water under which we unknowingly live the “Knowledge of Good and Evil.” In Adam, in the garden of Eden, mankind originally knew nothing of a concept of “good” and “evil” but just trusted the mysterious God above him to make all necessary decisions for him, just like little children. However, Satan led all mankind in Adam, unknowingly, into a whole system of living a brand new way, making his own decisions about life. He convinced us, in Adam, that we could be like God ourselves, be free from God’s control, and decide for ourselves how we should live. We bit, and since that fateful day, the law of God has been written on our hearts, and we can’t escape it. The world today is the result.
The cross is the way back to faith; faith like a little child again. When Jesus took us to die with Him there, we died to trying to live up to a standard we could never quite reach. Then we were raised up with Him to a whole new way to live (Romans 7:6)—by trusting His Holy Spirit inside us, by changing our wills to show us what Daddy wants us to do and then, miracle of miracles, actually make us want to do it!
Is this your way of life on a consistent basis? Do you have faith that God can actually do that in your life? That is “living by faith!”
Most of us don’t live that way. We are still trying to be obedient. We know no one is perfect, but most serious Christians believe that their earnest efforts at being good are at least bringing a measure of success. It was not until relatively recently that I saw myself in a whole new light.
I found that my addiction to the fruit of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is unrelenting. My desire to be “good” clouds my thinking and convinces me, as any effective drug will do, that I am not really addicted at all. There is “good” in me, and, if I can just get a hold on myself and try harder, I can lick this thing.
You may not have realized that you, too, are addicted to the same drug. This is Satan’s strategy: deceive you into thinking, “I’m not perfect, but nobody is. And I’m working on getting as close to that standard as I can.” Next post we will examine that strategy and propose another one.