Image via Author, White Cloud Peaks, Idaho
Our God has created us and redeemed us for very important purposes, though a great many church goers would be hard-pressed to tell you what they are. Certainly, to love our God above all other loves, including above ourselves, is one of them You can read about this in the last few content posts on this blog. He also created and redeemed us to know Him intimately and to walk in communion with Him daily.
Jesus Himself made these purposes for us clear in John 17:1-3. “After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jesus is identifying the nature and purpose of our relationship with our God, a relationship He calls “eternal life,” as knowing our God intimately and deeply. The Greek word used by Jesus is a parallel to the Hebrew used by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 9:23-24 (previous content post) that means a deeply intimate knowing at the most personal level. The Greek is “ginosko”, meaning “to know,” especially through personal experience or first-hand acquaintance. It is used as a term of deepest intimacy in Luke 1:34, “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be since I do not know a man?’” She is referring of course to sexual intimacy.
Jesus defines eternal life as this deep intimacy with our God. There is no room in His words indicating that we can have eternal life apart from an intimate, experiential knowing of Him. Jesus goes on in John 17 to describe our eternal life as complete and intimate union with our God.
For centuries, the institutional church has largely defined the faith in terms of religious knowledge, duties, and practices. The goal of these duties and practices is to make us fit for a future eternal life, which is something we gain in the future after we have died.
In the scriptures we have a different picture of eternal life. Eternal life is the present possession of every person who turns to our God in full submission and surrender. It includes an immediate, everyday intimacy and union with God Himself. It is not only somewhere in the future; it is here and now, and it will be ongoing for eternity as well.
In a very real way, knowing our God as the Bible describes it is intrinsically connected to our Great Commandment love for Him. The two are inseparable, for when we love our God deeply, we will know Him intimately. And when we come to know our God intimately, it will increase our love for Him greatly.
This is a life-long pursuit for us. This loving, knowing union with our God is both the definition and the summation of the life of the Christian. Jesus offers no other way to experience eternal life with Him. Religious works, learning facts, or being part of an organization will not take us there, no matter how devout we are to these.
Jesus stated that He is the way, the truth, and the life. He did not state that He knew the way or would tell us the way. Neither did He state that He came to teach truth to us so we can teach others. He did not state that He came to show us how to live life.
He is the way, the truth, and the life. We can experience these aspects of Jesus in us only when we are joined into union with Him, when we commit to loving Him and knowing Him intimately. When the life of Christ Himself is lived in us, He becomes for us the way to God, the embodiment of truth within us, and the life of our God lived in us.
This deep love and intimate knowing of our God has radically transformed my living every day. Not because I am some kind of spiritual giant, for I am not. The transformation has come because I have given up on being anything in and of myself so that Christ Jesus can be everything in me. The less of me there is each day, the more of Jesus there is in my place.
The path to this life is not one of accomplishment or attainment, but one of abandonment. The goal of the Christian life is to come to total abandonment of self, for in so doing we apprehend Jesus as our way to God, our internal source of truth, and the life of God Himself in us. When we are no longer full of ourselves, we can finally be full of our God. In this filled-full relationship we finally come to know Him with the deepest intimacy and richest union.
All these things interconnect – loving our God, knowing Him intimately and experiencing our union with Him daily. And when we live in this life we encounter our God as never before and as few ever do. He goes from being a “God up there” to a best friend, the lover of our souls, the One whom we know with deep intimacy. We encounter the fullness of life and blessing promised in the scriptures. This is life; it is life to its fullest.