Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 1:15-23 Princeton Christian Church 06 June 2021
Let me ask a question as we begin our time together today. What is the single most important thing in your life? Think about that for a moment. We all have things or persons who are of utmost importance to us. But, this morning, I want us to consider that the most important thing in our lives should be KNOWING CHRIST. If we are truly in Christ, there is absolutely NOTHING that matters more in the lives of any of us. If we are truly in Christ we know that He is the only hope for this world. Knowing Christ is the primary and foundational message of the entire Bible.
In Ephesians 1:17 Paul gives this prayer for those who follow Jesus: “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.”
The English word for “know” is generic. It has multiple meanings and applications. As an example: I “know” that 2+2=4. I also “know” my wife, my daughters, my granddaughters. Those are two very different kinds of “knowing.” “To know” can mean to be aware of a fact or to learn a lesson. “To know” can also mean knowing a person, implying a two-way relationship. That is, that two people know each other in a personal relationship.
As a lover of United States history I have read about a lot of people who have contributed much to the building of our country. But, I have never met any of those people personally. I admire them and appreciate what they have accomplished. But I can’t say that I know them in the way that I know members of my own family.
The difference lies in the fact that I have been around my family members all of my life, or more likely, all of their lives since I am the patriarch (that means the oldest) in the family. I actually spent time with them. I know their voices when I hear it. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know if they are reliable and if they keep their word and commitments. I know what are the most important things to them.
In other words, I KNOW these family members. But I only know ABOUT all the people I read about from our history
But Jesus is not JUST a person who lived in history. Jesus still lives today. Through His Spirit, Jesus Christ can have a very real and personal relationship with you and with me … in the here and now.
So when Paul prayed for Christians to KNOW Christ better, he was talking about the personal relationship kind of knowledge. So, how can we know Jesus? Here is an important way that we can KNOW Jesus. It is very simple, really. We need to know Jesus as the LAMB, as our LORD, and as our LIFE.
1. First, let’s look at Jesus as the LAMB.
Jesus was first introduced to the world as the LAMB of God. John the Baptist was preaching to large crowds in the wilderness when he saw Jesus approaching in the distance. He told the crowd, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This was not just a name John thought would be appropriate to describe Jesus. When He called Jesus the LAMB of God, He was quoting the prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 53.
John already knew Jesus in a personal way because he and Jesus were cousins. But it took divine revelation from God for John to know that Jesus was the Messiah – the LAMB of God who takes away the sins of the world.
From a young age, if you grew up in Sunday School, it is likely your teachers talked about Jesus as the Lamb of God. Before we can start to know Christ, we first have to understand our own sinfulness … and our need for a savior. In our confession of faith, we say, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, and my Lord and Savior.”
Every week, when taking the Lord’s Supper, we remember the central truth in all of history --- that Jesus … the perfect LAMB of GOD … willingly endured cruel, severe beatings, his blood pouring out as he gave up his life in order to take away the sins of the world.
Next, let’s look at Jesus as LORD.
Knowing Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is where we begin, but it is not the full Knowledge of Christ. The better we get to KNOW Jesus as our Savior, the more we want Him to be the LORD of our lives. For some, who lack knowledge of Jesus, look at Christianity, and Jesus as Lord as volumes of rules to be followed, and strict restrictions on life and living. But, knowing Jesus as LORD means so much more than just following a bunch of rules. Jesus is not looking for rule-keepers.
Listen to this warning from Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, "Not everyone who says to me, ’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ’I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matthew 7:21-23
Did you notice how Jesus says they addressed Him? LORD, LORD! They thought that doing things Jesus said to do – “keeping the rules” - was the same thing as actually KNOWING Him. But these people didn’t really KNOW Jesus at all. Did they know FACTS about Christ without knowing Christ himself?
Obedience is important … but not so we can show off how many good works we can do. Obedience to Jesus matters because it is only through obedience that we grow in personal KNOWLEDGE of Jesus. We grow in our relationship to Christ as we pass the test of obedience.
Every act of obedience on our part helps us learn to trust Jesus for greater and greater things. Every act of obedience helps us to know Jesus better and to love Him more. This is what it means to KNOW Jesus as LORD. It is so much more than obeying Him. It is obeying Him SO THAT we can learn to understand and know Him better and better.
And that leads to the third way that we can truly KNOW Christ. Knowing Jesus as the LAMB is the way we first connect with Him. Knowing Him as LORD is the way we grow in our knowledge of Him.
But if we don’t come to know Jesus as our LIFE, we will never experience the amazing JOY and PEACE that He wants to give us.
Think back to the time when you connected with Jesus as the LAMB of God who took away all my sins and brought me into God’s family.
Then, you began to learn and practice obedience! Day by day, if we were diligent you began to KNOW Jesus as my LORD. Day by day you learned what it meant to obey Christ. Some of that was likely learned a lot of things the hard way … by messing up … and then trying to get back on track.
Every time you obeyed, you learned that Jesus had your best interest in mind. And every time you DIS-obeyed, you learned that I should have obeyed!
Those times should help us to understand what Paul tells us in Romans 7:15 when he wrote: “I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions … such as they are … don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (a paraphrase)
The Apostle Paul discovered that that the harder he tried to obey Jesus, the more he found himself falling short. He WANTED to know Jesus as LORD, but his body of the flesh drew him toward disobedience and sin. And if that’s how it was for Paul, you know that’s how it will be for you and me!
Here’s what Paul said in Romans 7:24-25: “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can do something for us and he does. (again, a paraphrase)
Answers come to us when we start to KNOW Jesus as our LIFE. It’s a hard thing to explain, but let’s see how Paul explains it. … so I’m not going to try to explain it myself. I’m going to let Paul do it. Look in Romans chapter 8 starting in verse 5. (Again, I’m going to paraphrase)
“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!”
You may, at times hear someone express a desire to get “closer” to Christ. Think about this: Jesus already lives IN you. How much “closer” could you possibly get? As soon as you put your trust in Jesus, His Spirit comes to live IN you. Knowing Christ as your LIFE starts with believing that His life has already been joined with your life.
Paul went on to say: Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ending up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
It doesn’t do much good to BELIEVE that Jesus lives in you if you spend all your time thinking about yourself and trying to somehow MAKE yourself behave the right way.
The difference is to stop thinking about yourself and … instead … put all your focus on GOD. Instead of putting effort into TRYING to do right, use all that energy to keep your focus on GOD.
Look at what Paul said next: When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life anything? There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give the old life a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons.
Doesn’t that focus make more sense than the way we sometimes try to live the Christian life? Trying to whip yourself into shape, using only your own willpower and determination? Wouldn’t you rather just place your trust in Jesus … who is already living within you?
The secret of the Christian walk is not trying harder to do everything on your own. The secret is to KNOW CHRIST. Know Him as the LAMB who took your sins away. Know Him as your LORD. And Know Him as your LIFE. Jesus has joined HIS life with yours. He is already living inside you. You don’t have to find a way to bring Him closer! Just focus your effort on believing that He lives in you. Keep your mind focused on Him. Let go of that urge to control everything and begin to discover the JOY of allowing Jesus to BE your LIFE.