Do I truly know Jesus Christ or do I know about Him? Do I crave an ongoing, deeper fellowship with Him or am I satisfied with my current level of familiarity? Is my soul restless with the constant pursuit of more intimate knowledge of Him and the applicable practice in my life or am I content with mere acquaintance with Him? Oh, we:
- Know the verses describing His identity and explaining His supremacy, but do we know Him, the Person?
- Seek His intimate touch, but do we spend quality time in His presence?
- Love to sing His praises, but are we as quick to surrender to His will?
- Ask His blessings, but do we as readily embrace His sufferings?
- Are acquainted with His healing, but do we pursue His transformation?
The questions are as jarring as they are real. As with any relationship, abandoning the superficiality of acquaintance and diving into deeper intimacy requires a prioritized longing that competes with no one and nothing else. If there was any doubt regarding Jesus’ desire for personal intimacy, His candid response to the superficiality of familiarity should remove it. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8). “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’” (Matthew 7:23).
So, how do we avoid such shallowness while increasing our knowledge and deepening our intimacy with Jesus? Paul brilliantly and concisely outlined the steps, intensity, and commitment involved in that journey. Each progressive step moves us from the infancy of a new relationship with Jesus to the self-denial of complete surrender to His will.
That I may gain Christ and be found in Him…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. (Philippians 3:8-10)
That I May Gain Christ
To gain Christ implies winning or obtaining His favor and fellowship. This does not suggest a works-based effort. Rather, it reveals an active engagement, fueled by intentional passion and a determined pursuit of a deeper relationship with Him. It is the rejection of mere status quo and the fevered longing of more.
This distinguishes the excitement of a new relationship from the pursuit of deeper intimacy. We cannot work our way into a relationship with Christ any more than we can gain His favor by performing more obligatory religious rituals for Him. A husband and wife love each other—that is the basis for their relationship. Performing shared household responsibilities merely deepens their connection, appreciation, and fellowship. Deeper intimacy, however, involves spending quality time together, being vulnerable and open in all aspects of life. Intimate lovers intentionally unite themselves closer than any other relationship.
Gaining Christ is all those elements and more. It also involves learning of Him and submitting to His will. As Lazarus’ sister, Mary, we sit in His presence and absorb His essence. The more we pursue Christ and deeper intimacy with Him, the more favor and fellowship we enjoy along the way.
That I May Be Found in Him
Being found in Christ means anyone who knows me is not surprised by my association with Jesus or my pursuit of Him. Any inquiry into or observation of my life should confirm my identity in and faithfulness to Him until He returns or until my death.
There is no surprise that a husband and wife are always together, associated with each other, loyal to each other. A married relationship implies those behaviors. Their vibrancy exists not in simply achieving marital status but in building an enjoyable, fulfilling life together.
Along with me knowing and pursuing Jesus, it also means He knows me and is pursuing me. We find that relational interdependence all throughout Scripture. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:17). Because of His love toward me, I am able to love Him and passionately seek deeper intimacy with Him. All of which involves being found in Him.
That I May Know Him
We know Him by gaining more knowledge through personal experience and by putting what we learn into practice. To know someone well involves spending quality time with that person through a variety of situations and circumstances. This includes heartbreaks and funerals not just birthdays and weddings.
Spouses, passionately in love with each other, are always on each other’s mind. They share funny stories, ask each other questions, and call for no reason other than to hear each other’s voice. Their conversations cover serious topics or absolutely nothing at all. They enjoy proximity with each other’s presence. They mutually encourage a deeper intimacy through understanding, support, and interaction.
We know Jesus more and more on a daily basis as we incorporate Him into our lives. This is more than daily quiet time of Scripture reading, meditation, and prayer. It is a constant sharing and conversing with Him. It is praying without ceasing. This pursuit involves passionately learning about Him. It is incorporating what we learn from His Word into our lives and surrendering anything competing with our relationship with Him. “By this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3).
That I May Know the Power of His Resurrection
Realizing and wielding the power of Jesus’ resurrection is to accept inherent strength over the fear of death and the control of sin. It is also the ability to walk in the newness of His life.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:35). Living in close relationship with The One who overcame death’s power removes its sting and permanency. Death becomes relegated to no more than a transport from earth’s theater to God’s eternal presence and celestial glory. Christians should fear death no more than crawling into bed after a hard day’s work.
Jesus’ resurrection also crushed sin’s power and influence. By daily dying to self, taking up Christ’s cross, and following Him, we claim freedom from sin’s enslaving nature. In Christ, we are set free from sin and become servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18). Sin no longer has dominion over us for we are not under the law but under grace (Romans 6:14). By passionately pursuing Christ and walking in the leading of the Holy Spirit, we gain authority over sin in our lives (Galatians 5:16).
Claiming our new life in Christ allows us to face daily challenges with His grace and power. “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Through an intimate relationship with Jesus, we have the strength to accelerate to the destinies He purposed for us—fulfilled lives that honor Him and contribute to His kingdom.
That I May Know the Fellowship of His Sufferings
Knowing the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings implies an association, participation, and partnership with His stigma in this world. Jesus said, “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). There is ongoing conflict between His light and the world’s desire for darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14). Intimately following Jesus involves gladly embracing His brand.
His sufferings include the afflictions and adversity Christians endure on behalf of the cause of Christ. Jesus warned, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through all our grief, hardships, and struggles, we take comfort in knowing He is “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3), “is near to those who have a broken heart” (Psalm 34:18) and sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15).
Intimately knowing Jesus is to be unashamed of His gospel or His brand. We own it, live it, proclaim it, and promote it as commissioned ambassadors of His coming kingdom. As a wife proudly takes her husband’s name, so Christ’s followers bravely and humbly bear any adversity associated with being His own.
That I May be Conformed to His Death
Being conformed to His death involves being made equivalent to or participating fully in it. It is the intentional dying to self, walking in the Holy Spirit, and becoming alive in Him. Paul clarified, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
We willfully surrender any and all desires to His will and sovereign orchestration. What He gives, we gladly accept; what He removes, we readily relinquish. We do this acknowledging His purifying transformation is best. When intimately and passionately involved with Jesus, we bravely state, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15) because when “He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
His transformation requires progressive refinement. We consistently put off the old man and gradually put on the new (Ephesians 4:20-24). Old things are passed away; He makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). While on this earth, our ultimate goal is “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). Yet, even after physical death, we revel in Him because, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
Oh, yes, knowing Jesus is much more than mere acquaintance or even a superficial relationship with Him. It is more than religion or being members of a particular denomination. Truly knowing Jesus is a lifetime journey of progressively intense intimacy with Him that prepares us for an eternity inseparable from Him.
Dear Heavenly Father, may we intentionally and passionately know You more and more each day. May we become so intimately acquainted with Jesus that we bear His likeness as a symbol of Your love and a witness of our association with You. Help us to embrace Your identity, power, and sufferings with equal enthusiasm. May we know You as intimately as You know us. Help us bear Your family resemblance. In Your name we ask this. Amen.