John 17:3; 1 John 4:7-8
January 7th, 2007
On the plane back from Phoenix I witnessed someone respond to what God has done… I saw someone receive the gift God has given.
The plane was completely full… a gentleman walked up and asked if he could sit in the seat beside me. I told him I would be glad if he did.
About an hour into the flight, I pulled from my brief case the book I have been reading, entitled, The History of Christianity, by Justo Gonzalez.
The man saw the title and said, “That must be an interesting book.” I said, “It really is, it’s the second time I have read it.”
That launched a 2-3 hour conversation in which the man exhibited a profound knowledge of the Bible, freely and fluently, quoting verse after verse, sometimes from what you might consider rather obscure parts of the Bible.
And at first I was sure that if this man wasn’t a professor of Bible at some seminary that he most certainly had to be a believer. But then I began to grow suspicious in noticing how he kept phrasing his expansive knowledge of the Bible in the form of questions; some rhetorical, others much more direct.
I am a black and white kind of guy and thus, I wanted to know for sure. So, I asked him if he was a Christian. And he looked downcast and said, “I cannot say that I am.” He then went on to explain to me that he was 56 years old and had been reading the Bible since he was 6. He read many other things as well, but that he read the Bible often. Based upon his knowledge of the Scripture, I had no doubt that they what he said was true. But he then acknowledged that for some reason he just could not get to the point of belief.
And so I asked him, “Wouldn’t it be great to have the joy of all the Scripture you know?” And then he looked at me and said, “There is a sadness in my heart.” He went on to admit, in other words, that he was still waiting for God to do something, show him something… something to yet convince him to take the step of belief.
I said, “Learning is good and knowledge is important. But no amount of knowledge can substitute for faith. There are some things you will never be able to understand, no matter how much you learn, until you believe. What is most important is not filling ourselves with knowledge, but first emptying ourselves of pride. God rarely honors those who look for knowledge when they are really looking for reasons to disbelieve, not to believe. But He is quick to honor the search of those who truly long to know and experience the truth” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
And together, from memory, we exposited Job 38, Romans 1, John 3… and discussed what it meant that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son… and we discussed how the coming of Christ brought both the judgment and salvation of God, which He becomes for us depends on what we chose concerning Him. And that God has revealed Himself so fully in Christ that there could be no greater revelation.
For some reason I did not feel compelled in my spirit to ask if I could “lead him to the Lord,” as would be my normal practice. And I felt it strange at the time why I didn’t. But I just encouraged him to give more consideration to what we discussed and told him that I hoped he would call upon the name of Christ and come to Him in belief. And for a moment I thought that this would be chalked up to another conversation of planting seeds I hoped would be harvested by someone else.
ÿ Jesus said that salvation is found in knowing God – not knowing about God!
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3 (NRSV)
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:19 (NLT)
ÿ God sent Jesus to show us who He is and how to know Him better!
27 “My Father has given me authority over everything. No one really knows the Son except the Father, and no one really knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
ÿ We come to know God when He chooses to reveal Himself to us.
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
When God chooses to reveal Himself to us He’s allowing us to experience Him!
The Lord chooses to reveal himself to us in different ways at different times. Sometimes, God chooses to reveal himself to us as a “protector” at other times He chooses to reveal Himself to us as a Healer and yet other times He reveals himself to us as an encourager. All of these could be in response to the same need!
ÿ We come to know God when we experience Him.
Remember – it’s about knowing Him – not knowing about Him. We only learn to really know another person when we experience them for ourselves. We can learn to know about another person through the stories of friends or acquaintances who know them also, but we don’t really learn to know them until we experience them ourselves. So it is with God. We
Write down some ways that you have personally experienced God:
Write down some ways that you would still like to experience God.
The Names of God.
Knowing God’s Nature
ÿ The call to a relationship with God is also a call to be involved daily with God’s mission in the world.
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:7-8
ÿ God is Love –
Not the secular romantic version of what the world says love is! God’s version of love is more than just giving something to someone else – it’s characterized by Jesus – who gave us himself! Without knowing this we cannot know love and thus cannot know God! That is why Jesus said if you have seen Me you have seen the Father.
Scripturally, the fullness of God’s love needs to be seen in light of three other words – Truth, Justice and Grace.
ÿ His will is always best!
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:16b
ü God’s commands are for your good.
3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and really, that isn’t difficult. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. 5 And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
1 John 5:3-5
ü The purpose of God’s commands are to free us, not to restrict us.
24 And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these laws and to fear him for our own prosperity and well-being, as is now the case. 25 For we are righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.’
ÿ God is All-Knowing – His directions are always right!
5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
Well, the man told me he would give it thought. And he did, right then and there. And then he began to verbally summarize our lengthy conversation for himself. He then asked me why he should put it off any longer. I returned the question. He was again silent for a moment.
And then he lifted his head and said, “My wife will not recognize me when I get home. I can’t wait to call her.” He began to lament all the years he spent walking around Jesus, and not coming to Him in belief. He said, “I have worked hard all these years, earning money, starting businesses, saving money for retirement. And in a few years I can retire, retrieve all the money, and then I die a few years after that. What will it matter then?”
And then he told me that things were going to be different for him now. He would use his life and resources differently. And hearing him talk reminded me so much of the story of Zaccheus that I said to him, “Then truly, today, salvation has come to this house.”
And then I saw what I can only characterize as a quickening of the Holy Spirit within His soul. With amazement on his face, and on his voice, he held out his hand in front of us, as if holding the Bible. And he said, “I understand now! For the first time in my life, I understand. Now I think I can explain to my brother the questions he has long been asking me about.”
I could see that he was a bit perplexed by what just happened. And I explained that the reason for what he just experienced was because up until that moment the Bible had always been that story. But now it is his story. The people in the Bible had been those people, but now they were his people too.
He then leaned over a little closer to me, and in almost a whisper, he said, “I do not want to let my emotions get the best of me, but right now I feel as if I could run down that aisle and jump for joy!” We both laughed. There is no doubt in my mind that, while that man got on the plane a skeptic, he got off that plane a believer.
I said earlier that it felt strange at the time that I did not feel compelled to “lead him in prayer to accept Christ.” But in hindsight, it is almost as if God was holding His arm in front of me, to hold me back, saying, “don’t get in the way here, just sit back and watch what I am going to do.”
ÿ God is All-Powerful – He can enable you to accomplish His will!
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”