Friday, July 11, 2014

My Quest To Know Jesus

"And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:
The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying,
Sir, we would see Jesus."
John 12:20-21
(KJV)

#5 in the Legalism Series


"Sir, we would see Jesus."
Every time I read this, it stirs me.
It strikes a harmonious chord...way down deep...
because the desire of these Greeks resonates and echoes the deepest yearnings of my own heart.

During Jesus' tenure on earth, 
there was just something about Him that drew people to Him everywhere He went.
A powerful magnetism...that compelled Peter to drop his fishing nets and follow Him.
A constraining, coercive pull....that persuaded Matthew to leave his shady job as a tax collector 
in order to walk lock-step behind Him.
These Greeks...they had that same, deep-down yearning.
To get close to Him.
To see Him.
To know Him.

The Apostle Paul had it, too.
In the 3rd chapter of Philippians, he gives a detailed account of his personal credentials.
He was circumcised on the 8th day, just like Jewish tradition dictated,
he was of the stock of Israel,
of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew of the Hebrews,
a blameless Pharisee, steeped in Mosaic law.
In Acts 22:3, he gave this personal description of himself,
"I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia,
yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel,
and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers,
and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day."

Gamaliel was a highly-respected Pharisee and doctor of the law.
(Acts 5:34)
Paul's education, social standing, and background were extraordinarily impressive.
He had a lot of reasons to feel self-sufficient and proud...and ultra-religious.
But, in spite of his clout, training, self-righteousness,
and exalted Pharisee-status prestige,
there remained in the deepest part of him an unfulfilled longing.
He knew the law...inside and out.
But, He craved the Lawgiver Who came to fulfill it.
He was steeped in Messianic prophecy, but he yearned for an intimate acquaintance with the Messiah.
  He had this thirst...this craving to search for Him until he found Him, and for this, 
he was willing to let everything else go and cast it all aside.  
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:
for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung,
that I may win Christ, 
And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, 
but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:  
That I may know Him, 
and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, 
being made conformable unto His death..."  
Philippians 3:7-10

For this one, constraining pursuit, Paul was willing to give everything else up...
to hand it all over...
to lay it all down.
Because, he had found out the hard way that nothing in this world can fill this void except the One Who placed it there in the first place.


I clearly remember when I reached my Philippians 3:10 point....
that point where nothing meant more to me than knowing Jesus Christ...
when everything else in my life paled in comparison to this one prominent, ardent desire...
to know and to see Him more clearly and more intimately than I ever had before.

I genuinely and sincerely gave my heart to Him at the age of 10.
That is where my Christian journey began.
And since that moment, I have truly loved the One Who saved and died for me.

But, three and a half years ago, I truly experienced my own personal, life-altering Philippians 3 epiphany
where that single, burning desire became all-encompassing and all-consuming,
to the point that I was willing to do whatever it took to obtain it.

It was New Year's Day, 2011.
I had contemplated, along with the rest of the world,
what my New Year's Resolution(s) would be.
Of course, the typical aspirations came readily to mind...
lose the unwelcome 50 pounds I've wanted to lose....for the past several new years,
read the Bible more,
be more patient, compassionate, merciful, etc.,
you know...those lofty goals to which we all aspire.

But, that day was different.
I wanted more.
I had this overpowering, overwhelming desire...
to see Jesus Christ...more clearly.
To know Him.
It was on my mind...all.the.time.
I yearned for more of Him...
His Divine presence...
His Spirit....
Him.

I had felt this way before...but never, ever had it been this intense.
Never had I craved Jesus like I did right then...
and like I have ever since then...
and like I still do.


I just desperately want what is real, you know?
Minus the hypocrisy.
Minus what is man made.
Minus what is non-Bible-based..
Minus man-instituted traditions, rules, regulations, and restrictions.
Minus the organized religion part.
I just want Jesus.

That New Year's Day,
coming to know Jesus more than I had ever known Him before
was the most pressing, front and center thing on my mind and in my heart.

Time passed.
New Year's Day came...and went.
January turned into February.
February into March.
Soon, half the year was gone.
But, unlike nearly every other New Year's Resolution I have made,
this one didn't fall by the wayside.
I didn't start out like gangbusters, only to fall off the wagon by mid-January.
This resolution intensified...and grew...and deepened...as 2011 passed and became 2012.

It turns out, it wasn't just an ordinary New Year's Resolution after all.
Because even though I had "known" Jesus for nearly all of my 44 years of life,
and though I had attended church pretty regularly since I was born,
I just didn't know Him like I wanted to.
 I started, that day, on a journey
that has been more like an ongoing, perpetual, relentless pursuit.

Getting to know Him has not led me anywhere near Easy Street.
It has led me to spiritual paths paved with extreme difficulty.
It has required me to walk away from what is familiar...
to trod a rugged, untested, uncharted, unpopular, misunderstood path.
To pick up my feet, not knowing where I would next put them down.
There have been many tears.
Much uncertainty.
I have tasted....just tiny, minuscule drops of the dregs of bitterness He drank for me...
so long ago from that unpassable cup He begged His Father to take from Him.


Looking back, I find it ironic that a few months after I began this intense search,
the voice of our gentle Shepherd began to call us out of legalism.
I find it interesting that to come to know Him...like I really wanted to...
required me to venture to the outside of its confining, prison walls.
To leave what was comfortable and known and familiar.
To leave organized religion in order to become better acquainted 
with Jesus.
Kind of like the outcast from my previous post.

We heard his voice with distinct clarity...
calling us to step forth and walk by faith.
Felt the reality of His presence...until He seemed close enough to touch...
until we reached an entirely new level of understanding of who He is.
And, after it all, I find I have not even skimmed the surface....
because a knowledge of Jesus is fathomless.
Seeking after Him is an ongoing quest....
and a quest so worth the effort and refining it requires.
In the process, I have changed.
I am changing.
Because the more I come to know Him,
the more I realize how unlike the "religious" He is...
and how unlike Him I am.
The more I realize how unlike Him I am,
the more I yearn to change...
to be transformed...into His image...
into the person HE aspires for me to be.

I will never forget the day I was driving along in the car,
burdened to a point that was beyond being able to put into words,
going through some of the most intense spiritual warfare of my life,
tears falling like rain...coursing down my cheeks...
when all of a sudden, out of the blue came Jesus' familiar, still, small voice,
"Now, do you know Me?"
All of my words came back to me...in that moment...under the wheel, driving along.
How I had told Him I wanted to know Him,
my desperate pleas begging Him to reveal Himself to me,
the fervent yearning in my heart.
I had asked for this.
I wanted this...more than anything else in this world.
This was the only way to understand and know Jesus.
How else would I ever understand how He felt when He was rejected...
had I never felt rejection's sting?
How else would I have ever entered into His suffering of betrayal,
had my heart never been broken over being betrayed?
On and on the scenes and situations played through my mind...
like a movie reel.
It all began to make perfect sense...all of it.
And, sitting there...I did not regret one thing...
because I could trace His guiding hand, and it all had to happen in order for Him to give me the deepest yearning of my heart....to lead me to this place of knowing Christ.
My heart was more full of Him than it had ever been,
and though we had enjoyed many precious visits, this was the sweetest communion He and I had ever had.
This was communion on a whole new...and deeper level.

Walking with Jesus is like a marriage.
The longer we are part of this union, and the more we go through together, the more one we become.
The more we share in His sufferings, the more we can better understand and come to know Him.

Tears of heartache turned to tears of worship-filled praise there in that car.
And I knew.
This is the essence of life.
Coming to know Him has been...and still is...a journey that continually leads through an unexplored passage,
but each step I take feels freer than the last.


With this deeper knowledge has come a deeper fellowship...a deeper compassion....
a deeper tenderness in my heart towards Him and all He suffered for me.
I have always felt a measure of that tenderness...
always felt a deep appreciation to Him and a keen conscientiousness to please Him.
But, this is different.

After hearing and speaking His precious name for most of my life,
I find that I can hardly hear or speak His name now, 
without the immediate flow of tears.


 Click here if video doesn't load.

He makes my heart soft.  (Job 23:16)
I cry often...just thinking of Him.
Though I've read them all my life and been somewhat affected,
I now find that my eyes are blurred by flowing tears while I am reading His Words in red letters in my Bible.
They just seem so much more precious...and personal to me now...
like He is saying them....directly to me.

It is one thing to hear about Jesus and to know about Him,
but, it is quite another thing altogether to actually know Him and to really see Him.

Looking back over the anguish, I realize that when we have a desire to see Jesus, 
to really know Him, an elimination of self has to take place.
To know Him and the power of His resurrection
requires us to enter into a fellowship of His sufferings.
(Philippians 3:10)
Dross has to be removed, because impurities are like spiritual cataracts 
that cloud and distort our spiritual vision.
"Blessed are the pure in heart:  for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8

It is only the pure in heart who will see Him,
both in this world and the next,
and the purification process is not an easy one.
But, isn't it worth it?
To see Him?


At the bitter end of Job's intense, severe testing and trials,
he said this,
"I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear:  but now mine eye seeth Thee."
Job 42:5

I had heard His name all my life,
Mom and Dad taught me about Him from the moment I could comprehend words.
They taught me to end every prayer I pray in His name...
to lean on Him in hard times...
to go to Him when I am in distress...
to praise Him always.
My parents introduced me to Jesus,
they deeply instilled a genuine love for Him in the core of my heart,
and that is the most precious gift they could have ever bestowed.
But they could only go so far past the introduction.
They faithfully went as far as they could, but the rest is up to me.

One thing I have learned is this...
it is impossible to really see Jesus and focus on Him,
when we are so caught up in trying to 
please and appease other people.
It is impossible to wholeheartedly worship Him, 
when we are bowing down to the god of a legalistic set of rules.
It is only when we let go of all of that,
when we stop trying our utmost to win the approval of man
that we come to a place of winning the sweet approval of God...
of really being able to unashamedly look into His face and see Him...
and come to know Him.
After pursuing the formerly-blind outcast in my previous post,
Jesus found him and later said,
"For judgement I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; 
and that they which see might be made blind.  
And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words,
and said unto Him, Are we blind also?  
Jesus said unto them, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin:  
but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth."  
John 9:39-41
It is often the ones who perceive themselves to be the most spiritually-enlightened who are, in reality, the most blind.
Self-deception is the worst beguilement of all.
When speaking of the offended Pharisees in Matthew 15:14, Jesus said this,
"Let them alone:  they be blind leaders of the blind.  
And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."
They were so intent and fixed on holding true to their man made traditions and calling those traditions Biblical doctrines
that they failed to see Jesus...
Who was standing right in front of them.

In Revelation 3:17-18, Jesus dictated a letter to John 
to be delivered to the Laodicean church.
In His letter, He said,
"...because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; 
and knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:  
I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; 
and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of they nakedness do not appear; 
and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see."
These people truly did not see nor realize their own miserable spiritual condition.
They thought they were without spiritual need.
Their eyes were completely blinded to the truth and the reality of how things really were.
They were so used to going through the motions, that they had become mechanical, 
oblivious to the fact that it was all a hypocritical farce....an empty shell...completely void of what is real.
Jesus told them where they really stood.
Once His light shines into a situation, 
there is no excuse to remain in darkness.
How wonderful that after exposing the truth to them, He did not leave them without hope.
He offered an eye-opening salve that would remedy their spiritual blindness, 
but it was up to them to apply it to their own eyes.
Sometimes, we make the choice to stay in our blinded state, 
because we don't want to acknowledge where we really are.
We refuse to embrace the reality of our own wretchedness.
Our apathy, aversion to change, and paralyzing fear of
 the unknown convinces us to stay in the familiar,
however miserable it may be.
Sometimes, it is just easier on the flesh...to remain blind...
because stepping out of what is considered the norm is not easy.
Our dear Lord wants to open every blinded eye to the glorious vision of who He is.
He wants to elevate our vision above what is man made and legalistic 
to the beautiful glory of knowing Him and the liberating power of His resurrection.
And knowing Jesus is worth whatever it takes to make His acquaintance...
even if we have to find Him on the outside.


(To read Post #1 in this series, entitled "The Binding Stronghold of Legalism", click here.
To read Post #2 in this series, entitled "The Greatest Post-Legalism Danger", click here.
To read Post #3 in this series,
entitled "The Second Greatest Post-Legalism Danger & How To Avoid It, click here.
To read Post #4 in this series, entitled "Jesus And The Outcast", click here.  )

26 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. :) I hope you never stop blogging because I think you reach out to more people than you realize. I sent a link of yours to a friend and she told me it was exactly what she needed to hear that day. :)

    Also wanted to tell you--I thought of you the other day when a storm was brewing and you had written about your father-in-law (I think...I hope I didn't mess that up) who was so calm during the storm you all were in. It just put a nice mental image in my mind. :)

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    1. Oh, dear friend! Your sweet comments brought tears to my eyes! I am so touched by what you said. May the dear Lord bless you with a wonderful day filled with His peace and love. You are a dear encouragement to me. Much love to you!

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  2. Hi Cheryl,

    I enjoyed this post, I need to back up and read the entire series. I've had lots of things going on in my life for the last few months and could use prayer if you think of me.

    I'm glad that New Year's Eve became the day of really, really knowing Him like you've never known Him before. Like you, I grew up in church and have been going almost my entire life (fell back for 5 years and didn't go, or pray in my younger adult life) but thankful for His mercy & grace and for keeping me.

    Marissa
    Hugs to you sweet lady.

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    1. Hi, Marissa! I am so happy to hear from you...I am so sorry you are going through a rough time. I will surely be praying for you. Feel free to email me anytime you would like or need to talk. Please keep encouraged! Much love and hugs to you, dear friend.

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  3. You are full of so much wisdom and knowledge - thanks for constantly speaking TRUTH!!!

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    1. Oh, dear friend! You brought tears to my eyes and blessed me so much, as always. Thank you! Love and appreciate you!

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  4. What a beautiful testimony. I think the Lord gives us these moments of clarity to sustain our faith and love when life can be so difficult and His presence seems so far away.

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your sweet comments. YES, I believe He does, too...there is nothing like walking through the fiery furnace with Jesus to open up a clear and intimate picture of who He is. Those memories are very sustaining indeed. God bless you!

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  5. Cheryl, as always, a powerful, meaningful, and heart-touching post. I know what you speak of. For the past few years, I've heard God say to my heart, over and over again, "Sharon, it it really just Me?" And though my heart says, "YES," sometimes the way of knowing Him is full of tough times and suffering struggle. It's like my spirit is willing, but sometimes my flesh is weak!

    But, at the end of the day, this is what I truly desire, with my whole heart. I am reminded of this verse (Psalm 27:4, NLT):

    "The one thing I ask of the LORD--the thing I seek most--is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD's perfections and meditating in his Temple."

    Yes.

    This year my *word for the year* is JOY. And I came up with this acronym for it - Jesus, Only You.

    As the year unfolds, I am finding out what this means as many things are being taken from me. I am being *carved deeper* as my post talked about today, but the end result is that I see Him for who He is, and I am made whole in the process.

    "We would see Jesus..." Indeed.

    GOD BLESS!

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    1. YES, dear friend, the constant cry of my heart echoes yours. Thank you for your sweet visit here today and the encouragement you always leave behind. I will head over to your place as soon as I can. I love reading what the Lord puts upon your heart. I love your acronym...Jesus, Only You. How wonderful! Much love and many blessings to you.

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  6. It's amazing in all of our lives as well as all of the history of mankind, anything done solely in the flesh fails. Only what's done for Christ will last. If there is pride, there is only filthy flesh, following rules as if they had the power of God to make them. When there is humility, there our Father. Awesome testimony. He changes us from the inside out!

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    1. Wonderful, true words, brother. I so appreciate you stopping by and leaving your thoughts. You know, as I think about what you said, it has to be driven by pride when people exalt themselves up above others like that and make their own man-made rules then expect everyone else to adhere to them and come under bondage to them. I am SO thankful He does change us from the inside out...for truly that is the only change that will last. Your comment about "only what's done for Christ will last" reminded me of my dear Mom. She used to say that all the time. Thank you so much for your encouragement. God bless you!

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  7. Hi Cheryl. I know about this intense longing or yearning for more of the Lord. I have felt it and I have received more and more, but there is always a longing for much more. Each day I feel like there's something more I need to know from Him. I love the "revelation days" when the Lord reveals something wonderful to me. It makes me long for so much more. We are limited in the flesh and in this fallen world, but I love when the Spirit takes me on a "joy ride"!! I can't imagine how wonderful Heaven is going to be, to be forever in His presence.
    I love your posts!
    Much love,
    Chris
    So Much At Home

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    1. So thankful for you and your sweet comments, Chris! It is so wonderful to walk this Christian journey with those of like mind and kindred spirit. YES, Heaven will be wonderful...like the old, Fanny Crosby song, "Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine..." THAT is what God gives us in this life...just a small taste and glimpse into what eternity will be like with Him. God bless you, sweet friend. :)

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  8. Just beautiful Cheryl! I especially like the analogy of your relationship like a marriage and growing closer as ONE every day. It is a wonderful way to look at it! Thanks for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays too :)

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    1. Thank you so much, JES! So thankful for your visit and kind words. :)

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  9. We want to see Jesus! That was such a precious request and as we realize that we too desire to see Him in all His glory soon for the present He lives within us. Breaking free of man made rules and regulations and taking the scripture as our guide brings freedom. Thank you for sharing your lovely post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.” At: http://letmetelluastory.blogspot.com/

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    1. YES, taking the Word and the Spirit as our Guide brings freedom...in the fullest, purest sense of the word. Praise God for the glorious freedom we have in Him! So thankful for your visit today, Hazel. :)

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  10. It's an amazing testimony to your story-telling and the harmony of The Holy Spirit that even as I read your words, I started humming "Give me Jesus" ... seriously. And then there is was in your post. Yes. Yes. You can have all this world. But give me Jesus! Thanks for linking at Unforced Rhythms.

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    1. Wow, Beth! That IS amazing how God works in and through His people! That precious Witness deep inside...so sweet and dear to our souls! YES, I just LOVE that song...its words are the constant cry of my hungry heart!! So happy and thankful for your visit and edifying words...thank you so much!

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  11. Cheryl, thank you for posting this.
    I have been in church most of my life, and presently going through the strongest Spiritual Warfare I know of.
    I feel a leading to step out of church for a while. Thinking it may have become ritualistic in nature.
    I know there will be much opposition, but I feel it's something I need to do for me.
    I don't want my faith to be all show and no go.
    Blessings to you!

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    1. Bless your dear heart, Michelle! My heart goes out to you so much, as I surely understand the intensity of your battles. Please hold tightly to JESUS through it all...He is the only reason we are still standing and able to press on. It is so easy to become completely overwhelmed in this process and lose hope, but God is with you, and He will continue to lead and guide you as you willingly follow Him. YES, dear friend, you will undoubtedly meet with opposition...oh, my...we could write a book, but God has the grace for you to just meekly hold the position He is calling you to and stand your ground. It is sad, but sometimes it is more of a discouragement than an encouragement to be in a church setting. It shouldn't be this way, but, sadly it is. I trust God will give you courage and strength to take those difficult steps and do what you need to do to stay close to HIM, in spite of all. I am praying for you. If you need me, I am here...you can always contact me anytime. God bless you.

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    2. Thank you Cheryl!
      You are such an inspiration to me.
      May God bless you!!

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    3. And you are such a blessing to me!! God bless you and keep you in His care.

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  12. To know God and make Him known...that's what we should be about! Love "Give me Jesus". Thanks for sharing on What You Wish Wednesday. Please link up this week.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Leslie. God bless you.

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