T HE S ECRET OF H IS P URPOSE …. T HE P LAN FOR THE F ULLNESS OF THE T IMES
TO HEAD UP ALL THINGS IN THE KING,
E VERYTHING IN THE H EAVENS AND ON THE E ARTH ,
IN JESUS ….
By – Stuart H. Pouliot
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Knowing Jesus—Paul's Living Example
March 2019
Those who conquer through the life of Christ are those who know Him and continually seek to
know Him, the very love of their life. Do you see Him as the love of your life? If the answer is yes,
then you are one who must know Him, for if we love someone we want to be with that person
and know that one more personally. As discussed later, knowing our Lord does not come through
romanticizing about the Lord, as if acting like some star-struck bride, but through the experiences
of life and quite often through the sufferings of life.
Paul was most surely a conqueror who suffered much. At least among men, he is our example to
follow. He sought to know his Master and Lord, and he did as he pressed on toward the goal.
Now, most of us have not had and, most likely, will never have as dramatic an experience as Paul
had on the road to Damascus. Paul's experience, as well as his whole life experience, was unique
and for a very specific purpose. A light out of heaven appeared to Paul, and the light of the world,
the risen, glorified Messiah of Israel spoke to him, commissioning him to take a specific evangel
to the nations.
And He said to me, 'Go! For I shall be delegating you afar to the nations.' (Acts 22:21 CLV)
"But rise and stand on your feet, for I was seen by you for this, to fix upon you before for a
deputy and a witness both of what you have perceived and that in which I will be seen by
you, extricating you from the people and from the nations, to whom I am commissioning
you, to open their eyes, to turn them about from darkness to light and from the authority
of Satan to God, for them to get a pardon of sins and an allotment among those who have
been hallowed by faith that is in Me." (Acts 26:16-18 CLV)
Jesus also appeared to Ananias as he was instructed to help Paul.
Yet the Lord said to him "Go, for he is a choice instrument of Mine, to bear My name before
both the nations and kings, besides the sons of Israel, for I shall be intimating to him how
much he must be suffering for My name's sake." (Acts 9:15-16 CLV)
It seems as if suffering followed Paul every day of his life until he was ultimately martyred for the
cause of His Savior. Much of his suffering was at the hands of his own countrymen. Of the Jews,
five times he received thirty-nine lashes (2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 11:23-28; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-
16). In spite of the conflict and suffering, Paul faithfully testified to the Jews in the area around
Judea and Jerusalem, and when he had completed this part of his commission, the Lord directed
him to Rome, which meant he had to testify or witness before the nations and kings with what
he called his evangel (Romans 2:16; 16:25; 2 Timothy 2:8). He was entrusted to dispense the
evangel to whom the Jews called the uncircumcision (Galatians 2:7).
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Now the ensuing night, standing by him, the Lord said, "Courage! For as you certify to that
which concerns Me in Jerusalem, thus you must testify in Rome also." (Acts 23:11 CLV)
Paul's testimony until his last breath was that the Lord stood with him and would bring him to
His celestial or heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:17-18). His uniqueness among the apostles was
not in that he suffered, for all the apostles suffered, and all but John died as martyrs. Paul's
uniqueness was three-fold.
First , he persecuted the ecclesia of God.
Second , he met Jesus after He had risen and was glorified. He never knew Jesus as He walked the
earth in His humiliation. (I wonder if he passed by Jesus at some point.)
Third , he was given an evangel, which speaks of a celestial or heavenly calling. Paul's entire vision
was heavenly and spiritual, which is why he encouraged the saints to seek that which is above,
where the king is, and to be disposed to that which is above, not to that on the earth. Why?
Because you have died with Jesus and your life is now hid together with Him in God. We are
seated together among the celestials in the Son, who is our life, and one day we will be
manifested with Him in glory—celestial glory (see 1 Corinthians 15:42-49; Ephesians 2:6;
Colossians 3:1-4). There was little of the earth in Paul's vision. But please do not take this to mean
Paul abandoned the earth and those on it. A proper understanding of the so-called (misnamed)
rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is not about going to heaven but about escorting Jesus, the
King of the earth, to earth. The point is—Paul's heavenly mindedness was about heaven coming
to earth, not His people dying and going to heaven.
This might seem to be contradictory from the last sentence, but bear with me. This article takes
up the matter of Paul knowing the heavenly man from heaven, not the earthly Jesus. The fact of
the matter is that all that Paul knew of the Lord came from direct contact with Him out of heaven
and what he had gleaned from the Hebrew scriptures. Over a period of fourteen years (Galatians
2:1), undoubtedly, Paul searched the sacred text to see Israel's Messiah as unveiled through the
prophets. His eyes were opened to see that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel, but
one thing he could not glean from scripture was the character of the one who appeared to him
as a blinding light out of heaven.
Today, we have the full text of the Greek scriptures, which we call the new testament . We can
read the gospels and see something of the nature and character of our Lord. Paul had no such
luxury. It is easy for us to lose sight of the fact that Paul did not have access to the four gospels.
The fact of the matter is that Paul wrote some of his epistles, if not most of them, either before
or in the same period the gospels were penned under the inspiration of the holy spirit. Scholars
do not date all the writings of the new testament in the same way, so we cannot be sure of all
the dates. Yet, it is generally accepted that the epistles to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians,
and Thessalonians were written before Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Some commentators
believe that the four gospels might have been written after even the epistles to the Ephesians,
Philippians, and Colossians. If this is true, then Paul did not receive his understanding through
the gospels that we read today; consequently, he did not know Jesus as presented in these
writings. His entire knowledge of Jesus had to have come by other means.
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Knowing Jesus—Paul's Living Example
March 2019
For Paul, knowing Jesus started with a tremendous truth; one that perhaps we have taken for
granted or not fully understood its import. The truth is in Christ.
Christ Lives in Me
Paul saw himself in Christ, and he saw Christ in him.
I am crucified with Christ, and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me…. (Galatians 2:20 DNT)
Spiritually speaking, apart from the resurrected Jesus, Paul was a dead man. At the cross of
Calvary, Paul died with Christ, and for this reason Paul declared that he no longer lived. He was
in Christ when He died and when He rose from the grave. How else can a dead man live unless
he is given a new life? Consequently, the only way that he had life was by the Messiah living in
him. It had to be His life. No longer I live, but the king lives in me !
This sort of thing was not revealed to the Hebrew prophets and would have been unheard of to
any devout Jew. Paul never asked Jesus to come into him and take up residence, as so many
today are told to ask Jesus to do. No; when Jesus broke into his life, by His spirit He took up
residence in Paul.
By extension, when we first believed, the same thing occurred in our life, not because we asked
Him to come into our life but because it is the only way we are saved (1 Corinthians 15:2), are
being saved (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2 Corinthians 2:15), and will be saved (1 Thessalonians 5:9). Of
course, there is another side to this truth of Christ lives in me , and that is, the life we live once
we are given the faith to believe is a life not lived for our self but for Christ. It is no longer to be
a life based on "I" but on "Christ." It is to be Christ -centered and Christ all-encompassing.
Paul had only one perspective on life and, we could say, only one passion― Christ Jesus! He had
no life apart from Yeshua, and he had only one passion in life― Jesus!
To be Living is Christ
In this respect, Paul's heart was most clearly expressed in his very personal letter to the
Philippians, in which he declared: For to me to be living is Christ, and to be dying, gain , or For to
me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21 CLV/NASB).
The only life worth living is a life for Christ and a life in Christ. But it is even more than this, for
life itself is Christ. Do you see the difference? Life to Paul was King Jesus; there was no other life.
Paul knew the one who is the resurrection and the life!
Paul's passion for the Lord Jesus was so intense that no matter what he did he desired gain for
his Master. If he lived, it would be gain to Christ, and if he died for the cause of Christ, it would
be gain to Christ. In my opinion, many people misread Paul's heart in these words. They think
that his gain was for himself if he died a martyr. Surely, dying as a martyr for the Lord has gain to
it, but this is not what Paul meant. The gain was to Jesus alone. Paul was seeking gain for the king
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in his life or in his death. He was hard-pressed to choose between the two options. However,
there was something very much better than living or dying for Christ.
(Yet I am being pressed out of the two, having a yearning for the solution and to be together
with Christ, for it, rather, is much better.) (Philippians 1:23 CLV)
Paul desired to be with the Lord in glory. This was very much better than either of the options of
living or dying. I don't think Paul was establishing some new doctrine about "dying and going to
heaven." He was simply sharing his heart's desire—reinforcing what he had written to the
Thessalonians and the Corinthians regarding the resurrection from among the dead. The out-
resurrection was the very much better way. Paul stated his very much better way later in this
same epistle: If somehow, I should be attaining to the [out] resurrection that is out from among
the dead (Philippians 3:11 CLV [WAET]). He saw our adoption as sons (sonship) coming through
the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23), and this requires a future bodily resurrection, at
which time we are transformed as we are fully conformed to the image of the Son of God
(Philippians 3:20-21). Christ's way out of death was through resurrection, and so it must be for
His body as well. I don't see that Paul veered off this path and made everything so spiritual that
the physical has no part to play in the future. Such a view is very platonic. Just as heaven and
earth are destined to come together, so is the spiritual and the physical. Another way to state
this is that the spiritual will have physicality.
To gain Him; To be found in Him
The point is that while Paul was alive, he had only one passion― Christ . Again, this is most clearly
seen in his epistle to the Philippians.
But things which were gain to me, these I have deemed a forfeit because of Christ. But, to
be sure, I am also deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge
of Christ Jesus, my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming it to be refuse,
that I should be gaining Christ, and may be found in Him, not having my righteousness,
which is of law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is
from God for faith: to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of
His sufferings, conforming to His death…. (Philippians 3:7-10 CLV)
Paul was willing to cast aside all that was of value to him just so that he could know and gain
Christ, and be found in Him, even to the point of sharing in the sufferings of Jesus and being
conformed to His death. What a passion!
How many of us are willing to follow this path to glory? Paul told the saints to be imitators of
him, walking as he walked and passionately pursuing the Lord Jesus as he passionately pursued
Him. For those who desire to make Jesus their passion, Paul is the example to emulate; but it is
not Paul that we emulate; it is his example, or we could say, his heart.
Oh, that the spirit of God would lead us to be passionate for Jesus, who is our life! If our only
passion is Jesus, then we will have a grand entrance into the celestial kingdom when He comes
for His body of conquering saints and they usher Him back to earth. A passion for Christ will lead
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us to love the thought of His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). May the eyes of our heart be enlightened
and we passionately pursue the love of our life― Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Are these mere words to you, or are they life to you? I often wonder if while Paul was dictating
his letters he stopped and said to himself: "I wonder if they will understand the glory of what I
am sharing with them. Will they understand just the words and miss the depth of their meaning?
Are there other words that the holy spirit would have me use to enlighten their hearts with this
revelation that has been given to me?" There must have been some level of frustration on Paul's
part or at least some question if he was getting through to the heart of the saints. As a writer
trying to explain Paul's epistles, I have a level of frustration myself, always wondering if those
who read these words of man will glean the glory of the scriptures.
Paul willingly cast off all that had been gain to him, which was no small thing when we consider
his high rank among the sons of Israel. Nevertheless, he forfeited all because he compared what
he had known before to what he then knew of Christ, and he determined that the knowledge of
Christ was far superior to anything that he had held as a Pharisee. We need to remember that
the Pharisees were the leaders of knowledge among the Jews. Essentially, Paul placed all that
knowledge in the trash heap once the knowledge of Israel's Messiah came to him.
But it was more than mere knowledge that Paul sought. He sought to gain Christ and to be found
in Him. Even after many years of walking with the Lord, Paul desired to gain Him and to be found
in Him. We would think that sometime in all those years he would have come to the place of
gaining Christ. What was Paul thinking? It is very simple. The more that Paul saw of the risen
Jesus, the more he desired to see of Him. The more he gained of Christ, the more he desired to
gain of Him. The more he found himself in Christ, the more he desired to be found in Him. In
other words, he could not get enough of Christ. Christ was his all-encompassing passion.
We could say that he sought to know the breadth, the length, the height, and the depth of Christ;
and the more he discovered of the Messiah, the more he realized that the Son of God is
inexhaustible. Paul sought for the inexhaustible Yeshua.
Is this your heart? If so, you have the heart of one who is running to win the prize!
To Know Him
Paul not only sought knowledge of Christ, but he also sought to know Him, which is far greater.
Is it any wonder why Paul was consumed with Christ and knowing Him? He was astounded that
the one he had sought to destroy, forgave him, even wiped away his sins, and then charged him
to be the apostle of the nations. Wow! This led him to desire to know the risen, glorified Savior
in a very special way.
To know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
conforming to His death, if somehow I should be attaining to the resurrection that is out
from among the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11 CLV)
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Jesus declared that He is the resurrection and the life. He was declared the Son of God with power
by the resurrection from the dead, according to the spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4). Paul wanted
to know Jesus as the resurrected and ascended one in such a way that his life on earth conformed
to the power of His resurrection. Paul sought to attain to the highest state of perfection and
holiness that is found only in Him. He wanted to know the very Son of God in this state of
perfection, and he was willing to go to the extremes of suffering and even conforming to His
death to know the Lord in this way. This was not a death wish. It was a holiness and righteousness
wish. God's principle is that life comes from death. There is no other way. But it is not merely life
that Paul sought to know in Christ; he sought to know the perfect life of the Son of God, the
perfect life we all will know on the other side of resurrection and transfiguration, when we put
on immortality as adopted sons of God.
We need to go back to Paul's condition when a light out of heaven appeared to him. He was a
persecutor and a murderer of the ecclesia. Surely, as he reflected back on this time, Paul saw
himself as the farthest thing from holiness, and his righteousness was as filthy rags. This is why
he sought for the righteousness which is from God for faith and discarded his righteousness from
the law. His righteousness did not work and, in fact, proved to be an utter failure in the light of
God's beloved Son. Paul's righteousness produced a murderer and one who made others
blaspheme. Is it any wonder that Paul sought to know Jesus—crucified, resurrected, ascended,
and glorified?
In understanding Paul's heart in these verses, we see that—on the one hand, Paul wanted to
know Messiah in the power His resurrection—and on the other hand, he wanted to attain to the
out- resurrection from among the dead. But Paul saw the way to attain to this resurrection was
in seeking to become perfect. Again, this is the heart of one called and chosen (marked out) of
God to be a conqueror.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on in order
that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do
not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind
and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NASB)
Whoever, then, are mature, may be disposed to this, and if in anything you are differently
disposed, this also shall God reveal to you. (Philippians 3:15 CLV)
Paul had not attained the resurrection from among the dead; he was still in his earthly tent. Also,
he had not been perfected, for which he was laid hold of by Christ. In other words, the risen
Messiah laid hold of him for perfection, and Paul sought for this perfection. The only way he could
experience this on this side of the resurrection was to know Jesus in the power of His
resurrection, and Paul saw that the only way to know Him in this power was through suffering
and being conformed to His death. Notice that it is conforming to His death but not necessarily
to die. Conforming to His death was Paul's way of saying not my will but Thy will be done , which
is the same submission to God's will that Jesus had that led Him to the cross.
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So, with his desire to know the Lord, Paul pressed on toward the perfection that is in Him as
manifested in His resurrection. He had not attained to this perfection, but he forgot all that was
in the past, which included his days as a persecutor as well, and he pressed on to what was ahead.
Notice that in verse 15, Paul made reference to those who are mature. Some translations use the
word perfect but, concordantly speaking, the word mature is more accurate. Paul's heart was for
the upbuilding of the body of Christ, unto the end that we should all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature of the
complement of the Christ (Ephesians 4:12b-13). Paul's heart for the body of Christ was maturity,
to be a mature man in Christ, to be truly His complement or image, and this is what he conveyed
to the Philippians. Maturity leads to perfection.
The Upward Call
This leads to my signature verse and the driving force of Paul's entire life.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians
3:14 NASB)
The call that was given to Paul to dispense to the nations is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Before the disruption of the world (Ephesians 1:4 CLV), God chose those who will be in the body
of Christ and who will be blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials in Christ and
will be seated together among the celestials in Christ in accord with the purpose of the eons
(ages) (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6; 3:11). We could say that God birthed them for this very purpose and
put them on His path to sonship as a first fruits of all humanity.
The goal for the prize speaks of the glorious destiny of the conquering body of Christ. [As stated
elsewhere, I use the term conquering not to indicate a special people out from the body of Christ,
but to indicate that the body of Christ, in toto, is a conquering body!] The goal is to be conformed
to Christ, to be perfected in Christ, to be the complement of Christ, to be glorified as He is
glorified. The goal for the prize is in Christ, and it is Christ. It is the Son in glory.
Let us be clear that this does not come about in death but in resurrection from among the dead
when this mortal must put on immortality—a life beyond death (1 Corinthians 15:53). Paul saw
the out- resurrection as the prize, for only then would true perfection through immortality be
manifested. Paul's upward call is not about going to heaven, as in "dying and going to heaven."
It is about rising from among the dead in likeness to Jesus' resurrection and becoming like Him in
glory. It is about the redemption of the body, for without a body, we are not the complete human
that has been in the heart of God from even before the foundation of the world. Today, we
occupy nature-animated bodies—in that day, we will occupy spirit-animated bodies. Obviously,
our new creation bodies will be different in great measure; but they, nonetheless, will be bodies.
Humanity is not destined to be spirits floating on clouds.
For our realm is inherent in the heavens, out of which we are awaiting a Saviour also, the
Lord, Jesus Christ, Who will transfigure the body of our humiliation, to conform it to the
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body of His glory , in accord with the operation which enables Him even to subject all to
Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21 CLV [italic added])
Whenever Christ, our Life, should be manifested, then you also shall be manifested
together with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4 CLV).
Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving
God, who are called according to the purpose that, whom He foreknew, He designates
beforehand, also, to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among
many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He
calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also. What, then,
shall we declare to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:28-31 CLV)
Let us be clear that this is the upward call. Unfortunately, what many see as their upward call is
merely fantasy. Many Christians in our day speak of going to heaven when they die and walking
on streets of gold and living in great big mansions in the sky. Scripture does not teach this; it is a
tradition of man that robs and distorts the glory that is ours in Jesus. The upward call is about
receiving glorified, celestial bodies in the out-resurrection, so that we might reign on earth (and
in heaven) with King Jesus. Those who attain to the resurrection of the next age, being sons of
the resurrection (Luke 20:34-38), are ones who will put off mortality and put on immortality as
promised when they believed on Jesus.
This was Paul's passion. But what does this mean to us? What is our passion? How are we to
know Christ in this day? Let us consider this last question.
Knowing Jesus Today
Obviously, we are not Paul, and we were not called in the way that he was called nor given the
service that he was given. Paul's experience was quite dramatic and unique. However, this does
not mean that some do not or will not have a powerful conversion experience. Many drug addicts
testify to very powerful encounters with Jesus as their eyes were opened, and they were
delivered from the death-trap of drugs. Jews often have very powerful encounters with Jesus.
Others have experienced very powerful conversions through circumstances of life. My personal
questioning started when I thought I was going to die from a very serious illness that laid me on
my back for two weeks and kept me out of work for a month.
Every believer has his or her own story to tell of how they first met Jesus. It is our own personal
story, written by God, and all our stories put together speak of the marvelous grace of God in
Christ Jesus, our Lord. It is good to periodically reflect on the day that Jesus broke into our lives
and to reflect on the many changes that have occurred since that day. In looking back, we will
see how faithful our Lord has been in keeping us and revealing His love for us.
But how do we come to know the Lord? What does it mean to know the Lord? We cannot expect
Jesus to show up and physically walk with us on this earth as He did with His twelve apostles. We
cannot expect Jesus to appear as a blinding light that causes us to fall to the ground as Paul
experienced—nor can we expect to be like John and be transported in spirit in the Lord's day .
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After all, visions given to the saints who wrote what we call scripture , whether Daniel with his
kingdom visions, John with his Patmos vision, or Paul with his heavenly vision, were for the
specific purpose of completing the scriptures.
Through Scripture
It goes without saying that we come to know the Lord through scripture, especially through the
revelation given to Paul. He was given this revelation to pass along to us. It is the truth of scripture
that opens the eyes of our heart to behold our Lord Jesus, seeing who He is, what He has done,
and what He will yet do in heading up all in His life. This comes about by reading scripture,
studying it, meditating on it under the leadership of the spirit of God, and obeying it when so
directed, and walking by faith. As we do this, our understanding of Jesus grows and we come to
know His ways and His many attributes. We could say that this is the primary way that our
knowledge of the Lord increases and grows.
Spirit to Spirit
Along with scripture, we come to know our Lord by communing with Him in spirit in prayer. Being
a believer is not only about holding by faith to facts or the truth as presented in scripture, but it
is about a personal relationship with our beloved Lord. It is a spirit to Spirit relationship.
What this looks like or, rather, how it is manifested may vary among believers. Some must have
a set time, often called a quiet time , to commune and pray, while others commune with the Lord
throughout their day as they go about their normal activities. A combination of the two
approaches is probably the most healthy and productive type of spiritual life with the Lord.
Personally, when I am about my daily activities, I often talk out loud to the Lord. Most times, He
does not respond in my spirit, but I know that He is listening, and He is keeping every word, and
in His time and in His own way He will respond, if a response is needed.
Often during prayer, we receive impressions in our spirit that we attribute to the Lord as speaking
to our spiritual heart. However, we must exercise some caution over these impressions, for our
minds can give us thoughts that are not from the Lord. We might have such a great desire for
something that we think it and say it was the Lord speaking to us when the Lord was never in it.
For this reason, we must be cautious and not immediately react to impressions. One safeguard
is that the impression must never conflict with scripture as we understand it at the moment. We
must remain open that we might not be seeing things clearly or even correctly. The other
safeguard is to take the impression to the Lord and inquire as to its source and the Lord's heart
on the matter. Sometimes, in fact most times, we simply have to wait on the Lord until, in His
time, He reveals His heart on the matter.
Some saints seek for a personal relationship with the Lord that could be described as romantic,
as if He were literally standing face to face with them and holding their hand. If this approach
draws a saint near to the Lord, then praise God. But the fact of the matter is that He is not
physically standing face to face with us in these days, but He is in spirit.
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I believe we must be real in our understanding of what it means to know Jesus. Another way of
stating this is that we must be practical in our expectation and not make it some mystical or
overly romanticized or sentimental expectation.
We do not see much, if any, romance in Paul's walk with the Lord. We do get a certain sense of
romance in John's walk, the abiding apostle whom the Lord loved and who rested his head on
the Lord's bosom. However, even John placed a high premium on the truth (1 John 1:6, 8; 2:4,
21; 3:19; 5:7; 2 John 1:1, 2; 3 John 1:4, 8, 12). According to John, the spirit is the truth, and we
are to know the truth, abide in the truth, and walk in the truth. In his gospel, John made fourteen
references to the truth, thirteen of which were quoted from Jesus. You will know the truth, and
the truth will make you free (John 8:32).
The truth is that we know that He first loved us and that we are to love Him, but often this love
is overly romanticized, almost like two teenagers becoming infatuated with one another. This is
not the love we see in the Lord. What we see is a mature love, a love that causes one to lay down
one's life for others, a sacrificial love.
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives
for the brethren. (1 John 3:16 NASB)
This is the love we see in our Lord, the love that was manifested through the lives of the apostles,
and the love that must be manifested through us for one another. Paul died daily for the ecclesia.
One cannot die in this sense apart from the love of the Son. Dying daily is a manifestation of
Jesus' love for His body.
This leads to the matter of truth and experience.
Truth or Experience?
Some people debate which comes first, truth or experience. Some say that truth always precedes
experience and others say that experience precedes truth. I do not think it matters much which
comes first. What matters is if the Lord is in it.
In my own experience, it works either way. At times, the Lord has led me through an experience
that I did not realize at the time was to reveal a spiritual truth to me. Other times, I have seen a
particular truth, but it took years before I had an experience that I could equate to the truth.
On the one hand, some truth does not require experience to validate it, and some truth cannot
be experienced in this life. The best example is what has already been discussed—a glorified
spirit-animated body in the image of God's Son. Until then, we glory in the expectation of it by
holding to it by faith.
On the other hand, experience cannot stand alone. It must relate to the truth of scripture; that
is, it cannot contradict or add to truth. It must be validated by scripture; it must never replace it.
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For me, the bottom line is that whether it is truth or experience, it must lead us to see and to
know our Lord Jesus more clearly and more dearly. In fact, all truth is summed up in Him who is
the wisdom and knowledge of God. Of what value is truth or experience if we miss the Lord Jesus
in it? Was this not the heart of Paul? Most assuredly, Paul's entire service in the Lord was to
sharply focus on the Lord Jesus. As we have seen, Paul's personal longing was not to have just
knowledge of Christ Jesus but also to know Him. There is a difference between having knowledge
of a person and knowing the person. Knowledge of a person comes through facts and figures
about the person. This is what could be called objective truth . Even the world at large holds some
objective truth about who Jesus is, even if it is only that He existed as a real person. Objective
truth is something that remains in the mind. But knowing a person comes through experience
with the person and it lodges in the heart.
Life Experiences
For me, knowing Jesus my Lord is experiencing His life through life's experiences. We cannot
know Him merely through scripture. His life must be experienced. There is no other way, and I
am convinced it is God's way. It was meant to be this way. If you study Paul's life, you will see
that he experienced the Lord's life as the Anointed One was living in him and through him.
By His life, I mean His attributes or character, such as His love, His grace, His mercy, His power,
His patience, His holiness, His sovereignty, His faithfulness, to name a few. These are the things
that we come to know about our Lord and experience through our life experiences. Think about
it—is this not the way we come to know one another? When we are asked to describe someone,
we can do it one of two ways. The first way is to describe the person by his or her physical traits.
The second, which is the more personal way, is to describe the character of the person, e.g., the
person is loving, cheerful, giving, gracious, kind, faithful, etc.
Obviously, we cannot know the Lord Jesus in this life by what He looks like. One day, we pray
soon, we will see Him as He is and marvel at His beauty and ours as well, for we will be like Him.
But until that day, the way we come to know Him is by knowing His character or attributes
through experience, as we walk out His life in faith. When we do, we behold the marvelous
beauty of His character, which, frankly, is far more important than what He looks like. When Jesus
walked this earth, He was not a man of physical beauty, but His very life and character were
incomparable to any man that had ever walked or will ever walk this earth.
Dear brethren, we can read all day long about grace and love, to name two of our Lord's most
prominent features, and never truly know the grace and love of our Lord. We will be able to
intellectually talk about it or even write about it, but it will remain locked in our mind and never
reach our heart. However, if we have a life experience in which Jesus' life in us manifests His
grace or love in the situation, then it becomes special to us. It becomes part of our story and our
knowing Him personally. Once it is in our heart, it will remain there and encourage us in
subsequent life experiences. Another way of stating this is that once Jesus gets into our heart in
this way, He remains there in this way and He encourages us in subsequent life experiences.
I recall many years ago I was having a very difficult day at work. There were a lot of pressures on
me and a lot of conflict in the things going on around me. At the end of the day, as I left work and
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was walking to my car, I cried out to the Lord, "Lord, why are these things happening to me; they
are so difficult for me." Without any hesitation, I heard the Lord speak to my heart; "You are
going through these things because I love you." I began rejoicing in the Lord and thanking Him
for His love. The trial of that day vanished as my heart melted in the love of Jesus for me. Since
that day, I have never doubted the Lord's love for me, most of all when I have been in the most
severe trials.
When the Lord impressed on my heart that I was to leave the job that I had held for nineteen
years and leave the labor pool altogether, to come out and sit at His feet, it was a major change
of life for me and my wife. We were launched out into the deep with the Lord. It was a huge leap
of faith for us. What is our testimony looking back over these years? The Lord is faithful!
In 2003, my wife was diagnosed with a very serious illness that was life-threatening. The doctors
were not very hopeful. When the doctor informed us of her condition, both of us, simultaneously,
were flooded with the peace of the Lord. We were not anxious; we were not fearful; we were
not angry. We simply were at peace, and we knew the peace that surpasses all understanding.
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let
not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27 NASB)
His peace remained on both of us during subsequent surgery and treatment until she was fully
recovered, and healed by the Lord, all to His praise, honor, and glory. His peace over this matter
remains to this day. What is our testimony? The Lord is our peace.
Many of the Lord's attributes became personally known to both of us during this trial of our life.
We learned of His faithfulness, His peace, His grace, His love, and His glory; all to the praise of
God. What is the result? As Job declared: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now
my eye sees You" (Job 42:5). In like fashion, we declare: "We have read of You in Your word; but
now we know You in our heart."
Now, this leads us back to Paul, for of all the saints in scripture he stands out as one who sought
to know the Lord through his life experiences. Paul is our example and encouragement in this
regard. But even more than this, he has left us a tremendous truth that greatly adds to this matter
of knowing the Lord. Our life experiences are not separate from the Lord, as if we are on the
earth and the Lord is seated in heaven. On the one hand, Paul declared that we are in Christ. On
the other hand, he declared that Christ is in us. To coin a slang expression, our Lord has us
"coming and going." Can you imagine anything more secure than you being in Christ and Christ
being in you?
Throughout his epistles, Paul stressed the greatness of being in Christ. This is a positional and
objective truth that cannot be changed. Once we are in Christ by grace through faith, we can
never be taken out of this place. It is as secure as the throne of God is secure.
However, Christ in you is more than objective truth; it is subjective experience. Subjective means
that His presence in you is very personal. His presence, or rather, His life is for you to experience.
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We are to experience all His attributes in a personal way. Another way of stating this is that His
life not only lives in us but also walks us through our life experiences.
Suffering
This leads to the one subject many believers do not want to hear about but which is the most
vital and essential way of knowing Christ Jesus. We know Jesus in suffering. I might add that it is
through suffering that we truly conquer.
Paul was no exception in this regard, for all the apostles suffered in some fashion, and some of
the ecclesias of Paul's day suffered as well. Suffering came through trials and tribulations. The
fact of the matter is that Paul encouraged the saints that they must suffer for Christ. Consider
the following verses.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings
about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and
hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:3-5 NASB)
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children,
heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order
that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present
time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans
8:16-18 NASB)
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer
for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in
me. (Philippians 1:29-30 NASB)
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:3 NASB)
Therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your
perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you
endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered
worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
NASB)
We do not have to seek for suffering; it will come to us as we are in the service of the Lord,
pressing on toward the goal for the prize. I believe the sufferings we experience are all in the plan
of God—especially suited for us and God's call on our lives.
Suffering is the primary way that we come to know the Lord and experience His character. The
reason is because we become the neediest in trials and tribulations. At times, we almost become
immobilized as we do not know which way to turn. We know that unless the Lord reveals Himself
in the situation, the situation will consume us. Yet, at other times, we might seem so weak and
unable to cope and the Lord reveals His character in some way. This was Paul's experience in
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regard to His grace with the messenger of satan that taunted him. What did the Lord do? Well,
one thing He did not do was remove the thorn in the flesh. Instead, He gave Paul grace to endure
it. Did this lead Paul into despondency? Hardly! Paul embraced the grace because it led to
perfection.
Jesus said: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Paul responded:
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may
dwell in me (2 Corinthians 12:9). Through this thorn, Paul not only came to know the Lord in His
grace but also in His power.
Beloved in Christ, do not despise trials and tribulations and the accompanying suffering. Embrace
them and seek to know Jesus in the midst of them. Always remember that this is the way to
perfection and glory. Do not try to suffer for Him, just seek to know Him and trust Him for
whatever comes your way. It is through your life experiences as confirmed in scripture and
revealed by the spirit of God that you will know Christ Jesus, your Lord.
Your life experiences are His story of your life, which is what our His tory is all about. Seek to know
Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, conforming to His
death, as you press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus! As
you do, you will most surely conquer! This is what you have been called to and God knows how
to bring you through to His glory.
God is love, and love never fails!
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