A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church. Find another day here.
Wednesday July 1, 2020
1 John 5:20
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
As we enter our fifth month since the world was turned upside down more or less overnight, I almost hate to admit that while I have personally encountered many unique challenges that I would never have imagined in a thousand years, there have also been some unique opportunities that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. The greatest of these opportunities has been the blessing of being able to spend much more time at home together with my family. While there are a great many benefits to full-time, vocational ministry, one of the downsides is the number of evenings, weekends, and dinners that are missed for “work.” As the world ground to a halt, our family went through a period of getting reacquainted with each other doing more “normal” family things. Perhaps the most favorite of our new habits and rhythms, which included daily afternoon walks and sharing 3 family meals, was our Tuesday evening live Family Hymn Sings with the world-renown hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty. Because we were essentially cut off from all human interaction outside the walls of our home, it was as if the Getty family became part of our quarantine family. Keith and Kristyn, along with their beautiful daughters, weekly invited us into their cozy Nashville living room, not only leading us in praise and worship music, but allowed us to sing happy birthday to their girls, opened up about the challenges of attempting to work from home with four young children needing constant attention, and were a very real and welcomed distraction to all of the chaos happening around the rest of the world. Although the Getty Hymn sing had thousands of live-viewers from all over the globe, the Kish girls would regularly ask us when it was going to be our turn to sing for our new friends, and after the virus was gone, when would we be able to visit them for a playdate, you know, since they just live up the road in Nashville? Yet, for as much as it felt as though we were developing real relationships with new friends, we were really not in a relationship at all. While we got to know all about some of our favorite singer-songwriters, enjoying an extended window into their “real” life, they didn’t know anything at all about us. While we now know quite a lot about the Gettys, we don’t really know the Gettys.
There is a substantial difference between knowing about a person and knowing a person. One revolves around knowledge and information, while the other is based on a relationship. I promise that I can tell you way more information than you would ever want to know about pretty much every member of any professional sports team in Pittsburgh, just like the Gettys, I am pretty sure there is not a single professional athlete anywhere who is even aware of my existence. As John the apostle wrote this letter, he did not do so because he knew a lot of information about the Son of God that he wanted to pass along, or he had studied the Old Testament and developed a theory as to who the Son of God might be or some of the things He might do. Rather, John wrote because he KNEW the Son of God; John saw Jesus, touched Jesus, and spoke with Jesus. Not only that, but after multiple years of studying Jesus’ every move, John was fully convinced, believing with all his heart, that Jesus was not just the long-awaited Messiah, but the true God and exclusive source of eternal life. Even the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus did not put an end to John’s relationship with Jesus. Although Jesus was no longer physically present with him on the earth, John understood that their relationship could not just continue through fond memories, but had actually intensified, growing stronger through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in his life. Jesus had bodily left the earth, but John was now actually united IN Jesus.
John was not content with just knowing Jesus for himself, he devoted the rest of his life to helping other people encounter and know Jesus for themselves. John concludes his letter just as he began it, with the exhortation that a relationship with God begins with knowing and believing in the humanity and deity of Jesus, believing that Jesus is who He said He is: the Lamb of God that loves so deeply He gave up His life to take away our sins. This incredible statement is even more remarkable when we recall what the Bible tells us about who we are: active enemies of God, spiritually dead as a result of our trespasses and sins. John didn’t want anyone to fall into the fatal mistake of thinking that they knew God when they only knew about God. To know God is to know and have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the way to the Father, He is the author of life. He offers life to all who believe, not because of anything they have done, but because of what He has done for them. Sadly, there are a great many people, even in churches, who believe some version of the idea that God owes them for the things they have done for Him. Yet, speaking directly to this lie at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns that there will be “many” who will come before Him believing that they have earned their place in His kingdom because of the works they did for Him and in His name, who will ultimately be turned aside because He never “knew” them. Jesus doesn’t just desire our good deeds or our right thoughts about who He is, He wants an actual relationship with us. He died so that we might know Him in a personal and intimate way, the way John knew Jesus. He longs for us to spend regular time with Him, getting to know Him through spending time in prayer and reading His word. We can know Him with not just our minds but with our hearts, our souls, and with every breath that we take. Do we know about Jesus from afar? Or do we know Jesus for who He is? May we accept His invitation of life and welcome Him into our lives each and every day.
Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we humbly confess that there are many times where our faith feels much more like learning about You than getting to know You. Forgive us for treating You, and Your word, as a subject to be mastered instead of a relationship to cultivate. We thank you for Your Word which speaks life and truth to our darkened and weary souls. Open our eyes to receive Your love and forgiveness, and open our hearts to offer it freely to others. We do not just want to know You for ourselves but to see you continue to move and transform our world and the people we love. We ask this in Your incredible name, Amen.