Being with Christ

A friend shared with me that a global Chinese Christian leader told a recent gathering of Chinese pastors “how we Chinese are good at knowing (pursuit of knowledge) and doing but lacking in the being (the personal relationship with Christ)”. This accurate observation is true for most Christians, regardless of ethnicity. We need to reflect on our call to being with Christ.

Why do we shy away from what is at the core of Christian discipleship? Or forget that eternal life is defined as knowing God the Father and the Son (John 17:#) – an essentially relational knowledge?

It has to do with how we come to know a person. But the sinful juman heart tends to reduce God to an “it”, a habit that began at the Garden of Eden when Satan promised the knowledge of good and evil if Admin and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Satan had deftly distorted and reduced true knowledge to factual knowledge. He injected a big lie into the human race;s thinking processes by saying that the purpose of life is to know something.

This directly contrasted what God had designed. The purpose of life is to know Someone. God made Adam and Eve to know Him and each other, and He visited them daily for walks (Gen 3:8). But because of their sin, Adam and Eve hid from God (and from one another).

Since then, humans beings have substituted relational knowledge with the pursuit of informational knowledge. This can be seen in many forms, even in piety. Jesus challenged the Pharisees that in knowing all the details of the Law, they had ignored the Lawgiver and did not know Him. They had bitten deeply into Satan’s lie.

For those who are turned off by the idea of becoming religious encyclopedias, a form of piety that feeds on endless activism may be more attractive. Theirs is a breathless form of Christianity, their frantic busyness hiding their lack of relational depth.

W. H. Griffith Thomas rightly noted: “We cannot make up for failure in our devotional life by redoubling energy in service.” Yet, many Christians seem to be on a spiritual treadmill, wondering why they are not making any progress in their knowledge of God and His ways. They have yet to discover that silence (Habakkuk 2:20) and stillness (Psalm 46:10) are good antidotes to mindless busyness.

Jesus described how we would be judged at the end. Many would reply on their knowledge of something and their list of religious achievements, but they would be sorely disappointed. Some would take pride in their Bible knowledge.

Scripture does say that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32). But how easily we turn scriptural truths into superficial mantras! We become presumptuous and easily misled. Thus Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He was not contradicting Scripture, but challenging the kind of Scripture reading that is merely informative rather than deeply formative.

Jesus also said that many who would claim to have been busy doing good things (prophesying, exorcising, doing miracles) in His name would also be turned away from His kingdom because they had missed the most important truth: they had failed to be with Jesus. “I never knew you” is a divine statement that exposes the lack of a relationship between busy servants and their Master, and turns all their apparently good deeds to evil deeds!

Because the Lord has made it clear, we cannot claim ignorance or ask to be excused. Instead, we must learn to seek first to spend unhurried time in getting to know Jesus, listening to His voice, marveling at His character, discovering His will, understanding His ways, and enjoying His presence.

Then our fact-finding and doing-good mission will find focus and fulfillment in the light of our being with Jesus. Then we can avoid ending up with heads crammed with information and schedules filled with activities, but hearts empty of God. We will discover that the most profound thing to say the end of life is not “I thought” or “I did”, but “I loved”.

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Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon was Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore from 2000 to 2012. Currently retired, he now keeps busy with an active itinerant ministry speaking and teaching in Singapore and overseas.