Knowing Jesus as a Person
I’ve been a follower of Christ since I was 12 years old. That was a long time ago. I have been involved in various capacities of ministry for over 20 years. I am not a novice when it comes to church life, the Bible, preaching, praying, or anything else that goes along with the Christian life. One thing that I have experienced many times in my walk with Jesus is that every now and then He will take you on a journey of deep self-discovery. It’s an internal journey and oftentimes isn’t pleasant. He reveals things to you about yourself that you don’t like to see nor care to admit are a part of your life. He does this in a loving way, never in a condemning nor condescending way, so that you can grow through it. A couple of years ago that Lord began to take me on such a journey. It’s a journey that I am still on albeit at times I wish there was an exit ramp! Throughout this journey I’ve come to realize how strong my character is (and how weak in spots it is). I’ve seen what strengths I have and what weaknesses lie within the core of who I am. God has certainly given me some wonderful insights for my life and my relationship with Him, but I’ve also seen some things about myself that I just haven’t liked nor wanted to deal with.
One such understanding that I’ve came to realize is that in all the years I’d walked as a follower of Jesus I had never really known Jesus as a person. That is to say that I had never really understood His heart. This was probably the hardest lesson I ever had to learn. Now I know that sounds strange coming from a minister, much less a Christian. I love God. I am an avid follower of Christ. I read my Bible, live my life according to it, and spend time in prayer. I preach to others for heaven’s sake (pun intended). However, I realized that what I had been operating on were concepts, principles and understandings of who Jesus Christ is — as Lord, Savior, God, Healer, etc. But He is a person! I was more concerned with knowing about the rules of following Jesus that I had neglected to really get to know His heart. He loves me for me and for who I am. He cares for me in a personal way. He loves me in a personal way. He wants to spend time with me personally. He wants to talk to me personally. He is a person. I had the philosophies down but I hadn’t really gotten to know Him as a Person. Again, that may sound strange but I know there are many Christians in that same boat. I thought that He was more interested in me obeying the rules than in getting to know me personally.
I loved the idea of a Savior and Lord. I loved the concept of a personal God that knew me and loved me in spite of my failures. I loved the concept of Jesus, but I began a journey of knowing Jesus as a person. I guess more accurately I began the journey of knowing His heart. Now, please understand, I am a Christian. I have accepted His death & resurrection. I have put my faith in Him. I am going to spend eternity with Him. I am all that, yet I’ve failed to know Jesus as a person.
Let me try to explain this with an example. A person can study the life, sayings and writings of Abraham Lincoln. A person who has become an expert on his life could say, in essence, that he knows Abraham Lincoln. However, this would be a false statement. He couldn’t know Abraham Lincoln because Abraham Lincoln is dead. The only way one could really know him would have been to spend time with him personally, sharing intimate thoughts and conversations. I find that many Christians are like the “Abraham Lincoln expert” of my illustration. We have studied the life of Jesus, His sayings, teachings, etc. But until we learn to spend time with Him (and this goes beyond just simply saying our prayers to Him) we will never really know Him. We never get to know His heart.
Now I know that some people will immediately say that I wasn’t saved during this time. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying here. I know and have known that Jesus is a Person and that He is alive. But I was more into the performance side of Christianity. I was always trying to be a better Christian. I was always trying to get God’s attention by what I did or by what I refrained from.
When God began to reveal the heart of Jesus, and ultimately His heart for me, then I began an incredible journey of discovering a love affair that is totally mind blowing. I am still in the process of this journey. God has totally redefined my theology and the way I look at things. This awareness has led me to think differently about things. It’s caused me to look at people differently.
We get to know Jesus when we allow Jesus to really get to know us! When we allow Him into our innermost areas we will know Him personally. When we allow Him to touch our deepest hurts and offenses we will get to know Him personally. When we allow Him to speak into our lives in the deepest, possible way then we will get to know Him personally. I have discovered through my internal journey that I had walls up against Him and wouldn’t allow Him into the innermost parts of my being. But now that I am allowing Him to do that, I am coming to know Him as a person.
It’s hard for us sometimes to really open up to God. We live such inauthentic lives because we are more into performance and trying to obey the rules. Some people are really afraid to allow God into their innermost depths. Even though He knows us better than we know ourselves it’s still possible to shut Him out. It’s possible to be “a good Christian” and yet miss the whole point of what God really wants – a relationship that is vulnerable and transparent. I had always believed that God was most interested in my obedience. Through this journey He has shown me that He is most interested in my love.
Once I began to work on my relationship with Him through love and grace, realizing that it’s not about following rules, my whole life took on new meaning. I hope that if you are stuck on becoming a better Christian that you will allow Jesus to show His heart for you and that you will see Him as a Person rather than a rule-giver. That one change has made all the difference in my life and I know that it will yours as well.