Where Knowing Jesus Meets Advocacy

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Carly has felt disillusioned with Christianity for a while. At church she puts on a nice smile, and knows how to answer the typical Bible questions, but deep down, she knows there has to be more to this. She tries to pray, but never seems to see the answers. When she reads the Word, it seems kind of dry. Carly does not understand why she feels so empty when other Christians seem to be thriving.

Do you ever think the way Carly was thinking?

In a passage in Isaiah, we find the Jews being addressed. According to Isaiah 58:2, they were doing many good things:

  • They were seeking God daily
  • Did not forsake the ordinance of their God
  • Cared about justice
  • Took delight in approaching God

Yet there was something wrong. God needed to tell the Israelites something very serious: "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (58:1).

What could be the problem? It was that next verse that seemed to brag all about them; how they delighted to know His ways, didn't forsake His ordinance, and took delight in approaching God. So what's the fuss?

God knew the hearts behind the actions. The people even said: "We're fasting God! Don't you see us? I’m putting myself through all this for you, and you're not even going to take notice of it?!" (See Is. 58:3).

But God had something to say to the Israelites:

"Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exalt your labors. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen?  A day for man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day unto the Lord?" (58:3-5).

Yep, they were fasting. With heads bowed, sackcloth (clothing of mourning) and ashes and everything, but their hearts were yet very far from God. They may have been going without food, in the name of glorifying Him, but they still went out to work each day and abused their workers and fought with the others around them.

Like Carly, they were doing just fine on the outside in lots of ways. So where is the bump in the road? How is it that their disciplines were actually driving them further from Him? Carly and the Israelites, though they may have never met, have a lot in common. Both of them find themselves in a place where, although they outwardly seek God, their hearts are exposed for what's really there.

Jesus has greater things for us in our times with Him than just for us to check fasting and Bible reading off the list. Are we participating in discipline for ourselves? For our own glory? God has such great purpose in giving us His Word! He wants us to KNOW HIM! Not just skim through a bit of it every day, but actually know Jesus -- the person -- better.

One of my Ellerslie teachers, Nathan Johnson, has such a great picture of this. There are several words for "Know" in the Greek (the language the New Testament was written in). One of which--Gnostos--is the one you're probably thinking of right now. This word speaks of knowing facts, information, and data. When you're reading the newspaper, studying for a  test, or watching the news, you're experiencing Gnostos. Then there's the word "oida" which means to perceive something. You understand the concept behind something and have insight. But Jesus wants to have a "Ginosko" relationship with you. Ginosko has the idea of knowledge that's found through experience or relationship. To "ginosko" something is to know it intimately. [1]

You may know many facts about Jesus (Well, He died on the Cross!), and those very well may be extremely important thoughts, but does your understanding of who He is lead you into greater depths of intimacy with Him? John 17:3 says: "And this is eternal life, that they may know [ginsoko] You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

One passage that seems to scare a lot of Christians is Matthew 7:21-23: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew [ginosko] you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

Maybe, much like Carly and the Israelites, you find yourself with some "good" things to your account. Bible reading, serving in church, praying from time to time, putting some money in the offering plate. But you know something is yet missing.

Jesus wants to have a ginosko relationship with you. The type of relationship where you know Him not simply intellectually, but truly intimately! What if you were so in love with Jesus that your life started to look like His, and you started talking like Him, and acting like Him? 

If we ginosko know Jesus, then the things burdening and breaking His heart, will be on our hearts as well. If you came home today to see your little sister crying in the kitchen today, how would you respond? Would you say: "Well, theologically, I think the best response to this is to analyze what kind of crying this is. Most likely it's non-imperative, and thus doesn't really apply to me..." No! You'd run over to her and see what was wrong, right?

The Israelites were at a loss. "Why isn't this fast working?" They asked [Is. 58:3]. God had something to say in response: "Is this not the fast I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" [vs. 6-7].

The point of the fast was not for the Israelites to bow their heads and mope around. There were people being oppressed that needed to be set free, chains to be broken, bread to be given to the starving, poor people to be cared for.

In knowing Jesus intimately, have you ever thought about how this has to lead to knowing Him so well that the things which break His heart break yours too? God doesn't begrudgingly stand in the gap between the oppressor and the orphan. Jesus created every little life, and His heart aches over even one being lost to abortion or death of any other kind. Our Father loves the widows and provides for them.

He does these things through the body of Christ.

Is your heart breaking that over 60,000,000 lives have been brutally ended since Roe Vs. Wade? Have you thought of the thousands of orphans who went to bed hungry tonight because even the village trash has been eaten? Is it our great delight to honor those who are elderly and help them as much as possible?

You could get up right now and do something with a legalistic “Well-I-guess-I’m-not-saved-if-I-don’t-get-moving” kind of attitude, or you could set your mind on Truth--the person of Jesus Christ. We broke our Father’s heart to pieces and spat in His face, and yet He sent Jesus, who died a brutal death so that you could be set free from sin and made alive in Christ.

Have you realized how worthy He is?

We don’t go out to help the destitute as a means of humanitarian aid; as it has been said:

“We can help people bandage wounds, we can bring them fresh water. We can give a lot of help in our human nature, but if the help is not birthed of Jesus, it ends with men. We are not the savior of the world! When we are filled with the Spirit of Life--when we are surrendered to Jesus Christ--His rivers of life flow through us… When we are in Christ, He places His nature into us; then we can help others in a way that is glorifying to Him” (Sandi McConnaughey).

After Isaiah told the Israelites of how God desired for them to stand in the gap for the oppressed, he said this: “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, ‘Here I am’... And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday; and the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” [vs. 10-11].

Have you drawn out your soul to the hungry? Have you satisfied the afflicted soul? God doesn’t simply suggest these things, rather they should be a natural outflow of a passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. We are not built strong in Him so we can just sit and feel nice about ourselves; He calls us to step forward and pour out His love. Verse 12 goes on: “And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.”

1. Nathan Johnson's illustration taken from: Ellerslie Discipleship Training Notes - Book 1, Summer 2017 Semester (Copyright 2010-2017 Ellerslie Press, Windsor, Colorado).  PP. 214-215.