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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 him more intimately.
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 ex-
perience 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 Christ
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 CV )
“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 CV )
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 CV )
It seems as if suffering followed Paul every day of his life until he was ultimately
martyred for the cause of Christ. Much of his suffering was at the hands of his own
countrymen. Of the Jews, five times he received thirty-nine lashes (see 2 Corin-
thians 6.3-10; 11.23-28; 1 Thessalonians 2.14-16).
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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 commis-
sion, the Lord directed him to Rome, which meant he had to testify or witness be-
fore 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).
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 CV )
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).
Paul’s 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.
Third , he was given an evangel, which speaks of a celestial destiny. Paul’s entire
vision was heavenly and spiritual, which is why he encouraged the saints to seek
that which is above, where Christ is, and to be disposed to that which is above, not
to that on the earth. Why? Because you have died with Christ and your life is now
hid together with Christ in God. We are seated together among the celestials in
Christ, our Life, and one day we will be manifested with Him in glory, that is,
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.
Now, this article takes up the matter of Paul knowing the heavenly Christ, 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 Christ 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 that he could not glean from the sacred Scriptures 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 Testa-
ment. 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
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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. The point is that
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 come by other means.
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 Christ, 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 Christ living in him. It had to be His life. No longer I live, but
Christ 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 be-
cause 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!
He had no life apart from Christ, and he had only one passion in life― Christ!
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For to me 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 CV/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 Christ;
there was no other life. Paul knew the Resurrection and the Life!
Paul’s passion for Christ 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. Many people misread Paul’s heart in these
words. They think that his gain was for himself in that if he died a martyr he would
go to be with the Lord at that moment. This is not what Paul meant. The gain was
to Christ alone. Paul was seeking gain for Christ 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 CV )
Paul desired to be with the Lord in glory. This was very much better than either of
the options of living or dying. Paul was not stating that in death he would be with
Christ. He was 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 CV [WAET] ). There is no
indication in Paul’s epistles that he saw any other way into the presence of the
Lord. Christ’s way out of death was through resurrection, and so it must be for His
body as well.
To gain Him and 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
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fellowship of His sufferings, conforming to His death …. (Philippians
3.7-10 CV )
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 Christ 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 Christ as he
passionately pursued Christ. For those who desire to make Christ 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 Christ, who is our life!
If our only passion is Christ, then we will have a grand entrance into the celestial
kingdom when Christ comes for His body of conquering saints. A passion for
Christ will lead 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 and praying that those who read these words of man will glean
the glory of the sacred Scriptures.
Paul willingly cast off all that had been gain to him, which were no small things
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 Christ 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 Christ, Paul desired
to gain Christ 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 Christ, 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.
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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 Christ, the more he realized that
Christ is inexhaustible. Paul sought for the inexhaustible Christ.
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 Christ in a very special way.
To know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellow-
ship 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 CV )
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 NASB ). Paul wanted to know Christ 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 Christ. He wanted to know Christ in this state of perfection,
and he was willing to go to the extremes of suffering and even conforming to His
death to know Christ 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 Christ, the perfect life we all will know on the other side of
resurrection and transfiguration, when we put on immortality.
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 righteous-
ness 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 Christ. Paul’s
righteousness produced a murderer and one who made others blaspheme. Is it any
wonder that Paul sought to know Christ, resurrected, ascended, and glorified?
But there is a challenge in understanding Paul’s heart in these verses. On the one
hand, Paul wanted to know Christ 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 a conqueror.
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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 CV )
Paul had not obtained to 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, Christ laid hold of him for perfection, and Paul sought for
this perfection. The only way he could experience this on this side of the resurrec-
tion was to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, and Paul saw that the
only way to know Christ 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 Christ had that led Him to
the cross.
So, with his desire to know Christ, Paul pressed on toward the perfection that is in
Christ as manifested in His resurrection. He had not attained to this perfection,
but he forgot all that was in the past, which meant 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 CV ). 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 CV ), God chose
those who will be in the body of Christ and who will be blessed with every spiritual
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blessing among the celestials in Christ and will be seated together among the
celestials in Christ in accord with the purpose of the eons (Ephesians 1.3; 2.6; 3.11).
The goal for the prize speaks of the glorious celestial destiny of the body of Christ.
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 Christ 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.
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 body of His glory , in accord with the
operation which enables Him even to subject all to Himself. (Philippians
3.20-21 CV )
Whenever Christ, our Life, should be manifested, then you also shall be
manifested together with Him in glory (Colossians 3.4 CV ).
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 CV )
Let us be clear that this is the upward call. Unfortunately, what many, especially
ones called evangelicals, see as their upward call is merely fantasy. Many Chris-
tians 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 Christ. The up-
ward call is about receiving glorified, celestial bodies in the first resurrection, so
that we might reign on earth with Christ. 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. The
rest of the believers who do not conquer while they occupy bodies of death will not
be a son of the first resurrection but must wait in death until the second or general
resurrection to receive immortality. God’s promise of immortality cannot be bro-
ken; however, what is not contained in the promise is the when, for this is based on
conquering.
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.
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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 experi-
enced very powerful conversions through circumstances of life. My personal ques-
tioning started when I thought I was going to die from a very serious illness that
laid me on my back for two weeks.
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. Or, we cannot expect to be like
John and be transported in spirit in the Lord’s day . After all, visions given to the
saints who wrote the inspired Scriptures, 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 sacred Scriptures.
For believers today, the answer is straightforward. We come to know the Lord
through the word of God and obedience to the word , through the spirit,
and through life’s experiences .
By the word of God.
It goes without saying that we come to know the Lord through the word of God,
especially through the revelation given to Paul. He was given this revelation to pass
along to us. It is the truth of the word of God 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 the word, studying the
word, meditating on the word under the leadership of the spirit of God, and
obeying the word. 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.
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Spirit to Spirit.
Along with the word of God, 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 great 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. 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.
I believe we must be real in our understanding of what it means to know Christ.
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 NASB ).
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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
Christ. Dying daily is a manifestation of Christ’s 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 experi-
ence 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. For example, the purpose of the eons of the
eons is not something to be experienced until we arrive at the next eon. 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 the
word; it must never replace it.
For me, the bottom line is that whether it is truth or experience, it must lead us to
see and to know our Lord more clearly and more dearly. In fact, all truth is
summed up in Christ 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 knowl-
edge 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
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the mind. But knowing a person comes through experience with the person and it
lodges in the heart.
Life experiences.
For me, knowing Christ Jesus my Lord is experiencing His life through life’s ex-
periences. We cannot know Him merely through the word of God. 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 Christ 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. 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 that 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 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
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Christ 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. As of June 2007, it has been eight full years since we made
this huge leap of faith. What is our testimony looking back over these years? The
Lord is faithful!
More recently, four years ago (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, we both 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 NASB ). 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.
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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. 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. We know Christ 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 , k nowing 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 Thessaloni-
ans 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. Suffering is the primary way
that we come to know the Lord and experience His character. The reason is
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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 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 NASB ). 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 Christ in the midst of them. Always
remember that this is the way to perfection and glory. Do not try to suffer for
Christ, just seek to know Him and trust Him for whatever comes your way. It is
through your life experiences as confirmed in the word of God and revealed by the
spirit of God that you will know Christ Jesus, my 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! If you do, then you will most surely
conquer!
Scripture Abbreviations:
CV
Concordant Version (Literal New Testament)
DNT
Darby New Translation
NASB
New American Standard Bible
By: Stuart H. Pouliot
Article #6
February, 2008
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