Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Our Greatest Need

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
1 John 3:4-6 (emphasis added)
Last week I had the great privilege of spending a week at Hume Lake as a counselor for 11 high school young men. Here I was for the first time ever at Hume, as a counselor, while pretty much all of my campers were seemingly Hume veterans. It was a great time in the Word and having lots of fun in recreational competition, all for the glory of God. I'd love to go back.

For each day we were there we had a memory verse. And for each camper (and counselor!) who correctly recited the day's memory verse, our rec team would earn points. What a great way to encourage Bible memorization! The first verse we had came Monday: 1 John 3:4-6 (see above).

I was particularly struck by the second half of verse 6: no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.

As I have meditated on this phrase, the theological implications to me seem huge. Plain and simple, John is saying that those who live in sin ultimately have one problem: they haven't seen or known Jesus.

Now I believe that John is talking about those who have not been born again by the power of the Holy Spirit because he later goes on to make a similar statement about continual sinning, in which he declares that this is impossible for those who have been born again:
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9
But the reality for all those who have been born again is that though we don't make a practice of sinning, there is a way that we keep on sinning. And we do so daily. We become angry, fearful, anxious, impatient, jealous, covetous, lustful, and the list goes on and on. Why? One answer is that we have remaining corruption in our flesh. Though some Bible interpreters would argue that Paul is writing Romans 7 as an unconverted man, I believe that it is a born again, inspired apostle who writes these words:
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:16
So, yes, born again Christians have sin living in them that causes us to continue to sin. But I think there is something we can take from the apostle John's words that gives us insight into what else contributes to our ongoing sin problem. If an unbeliever's continuing in sin is owing to the fact that he hasn't seen or known Jesus, then could it be that the believer's continuing in sin is owing to the fact that he doesn't see or know Jesus enough?

If this is true, then the greatest need of the unbeliever is to see and know Jesus Christ. And the greatest need of the believer is to see Jesus Christ more clearly and to know Jesus Christ more fully. To see Jesus Christ is to know Him. To know Jesus Christ is to see Him.

But is this true biblically?

When it comes to unbelievers, the apostle Paul seems to agree with his fellow apostle John when he says:
In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4
Paul is saying, just like John, that the unbeliever's problem is that he can't see the glory of Christ. And then notice how he relates this seeing to knowing two verses later:
For God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6
Verse 4 describes what unbelievers don't have. Verse 6 describes what believers have. Therefore, verse 4 also describes what believers have and verse 6 describes what unbelievers don't have. According to verse 6, unbelievers don't have "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." What does Paul mean when he says "the light of the knowledge"? I think he is relating, just like John, seeing to knowing. He is saying that to see the light is to have the knowledge. To have the knowledge is to see the light. Seeing is knowing. Knowing is seeing. This is a seeing with the eyes of the heart because that is where Paul says the light shines. Just like John, Paul is saying that the unbeliever's greatest problem is that he hasn't seen Christ. He doesn't know Christ.

So does Paul believe that the believer has the same problem? That he doesn't see Christ clearly enough? That he doesn't know Christ fully enough?
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe...
Ephesians 1:15-19
Paul goes out of his way to make sure that we know that he is addressing believers and not unbelievers. But notice what he is praying would be given to those who believe:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know...
Paul prays that believers would be able to see and know. And according to Paul's prayer for the believer, there is no separating this seeing and knowing. He is praying that the believers would have more light shed in their heart so that in their hearts they would see Christ more clearly and so that they would know God more fully.

The unbeliever's greatest need is to see and know Jesus. The believer's greatest need is to see Jesus more and to know Jesus better. Understanding this truth helps us to get at the problem beneath all the different symptoms so that we might know that the solution is the same whatever the symptoms.

Is lust the problem? Then, according to Paul, we are like the Gentiles who do not know God:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
Therefore, the solution is to know Him better so as to not be like those Gentiles.

Is anxiety the problem? Then, according to Jesus, we are like the Gentiles (who do not know God):
Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Matthew 6:32
Therefore, the solution is to know Him better so as to not be like those Gentiles.

I'm full of anxiety. I'm full of fear. I'm full of all kinds of filth that governs my thinking. I don't trust God enough. Why? I don't see Christ as clearly as I need to. I don't know Christ as fully as I need to. How do I come see Him more clearly? I have to get to know Him more. How do I come to know Christ more fully? I have to see Him more clearly.

One way that I want to give myself to seeing and knowing Christ more is by beholding Him in the gospels since that is where He is most clearly and fully manifested. What might my life be like if there wasn't a day during the year when I wasn't reading and meditating on Christ in the gospels? I think it would be radically different. So my tentative plan is to, once I finish my latest journey through the wisdom books for my evening Scripture reading (a few more days as I only have the Song of Solomon left), I will give my evening Scripture reading to the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. And where will I go after I finish John? Back to Matthew. I'm greatly looking forward to it.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Even still, I know that in this life I will never see Christ clearly enough and I will never know Christ fully enough. But I will give all that I am to have in this life more of the fullness of what will be had in that day when finally I behold Jesus face to face.
Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:2
How shall we be like Him? We will no longer sin. Why? Because we will see Him perfectly. It is this lack of perfect seeing and knowing that is our greatest problem here in this life.

Oh Father, help me, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


Mel said...

Excellent post! I am so grateful that God led me to this website. I join you in praying to see and know Christ more fully, every single day.

pilgriminconflict said...

Thanks Mel. I wish it were as easy in practice as it seems in theory. But I do believe with all my heart that is true and pray to know Him more and more!

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
Hosea 6:3