We live in an era of reality TV and social media. Our culture is obsessed with celebrity, even though some seem to be famous just for being famous. Anyone who has a favorite celebrity can follow that person online to get the latest posts, tweets, and scoops on the person’s life, whether he or she is an athlete, singer, actor, or television personality. After a while, it becomes easy to think we know the people that we are fans of. It feels like they are part of our lives. But if we ever happen to meet one of them, it will be instantly clear that we don’t really know each other. There isn’t an actual relationship.
This same principle is true of many people with God. A person can know all about Him and still not actually know Him. Yet the difference between knowing about God and having a relationship with Him is the difference between life and death. Those who do know Him realize that it takes more effort to follow Him than it does to follow a celebrity on social media. Many who go to church this Sunday to join in the celebration of Jesus’ victory over death, will go because they feel obligated to attend on this holy day. Rather than experiencing the joy of worshiping their Risen Savior, the church service is likely to leave them feeling empty. There is knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done, but it has not permeated their hearts.
Jesus warned that many who think they know Him, and who call Him ‘Lord,’ will be surprised to find themselves excluded from heaven. It will be like running into a celebrity on the street and being confronted with the truth that you are a stranger to him. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 7:22-23: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me. . .'” I pray that no one reading this will ever hear those words of condemnation.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned – every one – to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
I fear that many who think they know God are actually further from salvation than those who openly reject God. Too many believe in God, go to church, read the Bible and think they are ‘covered.’ They confuse knowledge of God with knowing Him. They may hold tightly to their knowledge, but they continue walking their own path. Actually knowing God is a relationship, and relationships require time and sacrifice. Imagine if two people got married, but did not move in together. What if they each continued their lives as before, and their relationship consisted of occasional phone conversations and a standing date once a week? No one would consider that to be a healthy marriage relationship.
When people marry, they join their two lives into one life that they live together. We are called to love Jesus because He loved us and gave Himself up for us. How can we love Him without it changing how we live? Love does not insist on having its own way. What kind of love says, “Okay, you can be in my life, but don’t expect me to do anything different because you’re here.” True love doesn’t invite along, it follows after, like Ruth clinging to Naomi and insisting on going with her (Ruth 1:16-17).
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1 John 2:3-6
Salvation is a gift that we cannot earn, but it is also a gift that transforms our lives. We love Jesus for all that He has done for us. When we see His holiness, we realize the depth our sin and how unworthy we are of His love. It draws us in, to love Him more for the mercy He has bestowed. It inspires us to flee from sin. We share our cares and struggles with Him because He loves us and wants to carry them for us. We realize that life is better if we follow His path, even to death. We find joy in devoting ourselves to Him.
Have you felt the joy? Have you known in your heart His peace that passes understanding? When difficulties come, do you find rest in Him because His love and faithfulness are real in your life? Do you know Him? It is not an empty practice for each one of us to evaluate our hearts. Is God reigning as Lord of our lives, or is He on par with our favorite celebrity?
The Apostle Paul considered all things in his life as garbage “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” That is the kind of devotion I want. I don’t want to care about the scratches I put on my car this week, so as long as “I may gain Christ and be found in him.” Here is my Easter challenge for myself, and anyone who is still reading this: To know Him more.