When I pull my iPod out of my back pocket on one of my worship walks to replay a song, it means that something has grabbed me. This week was no exception.
The place was Serrano Canyon along the Pacific coast near Oxnard, and the song was “Something About You,” by MercyMe. It was the chorus that caught my ear:
“Still, there’s something about You that keeps me in pursuit of who You are.
I will spend my days finding ways to praise the glory and the grace of who You are.”
Those words prompted me to ask myself this question: am I so eager to OBEY God that I give minimal attention to KNOWING God? Am I so busy searching for ways to please Him that I give lip service to the pursuit of who He is?
We focus quickly on obedience, which has the advantage of being clearly understood. God doesn’t stutter, so we know what He asks of us: “…do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8); “…abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess 4:3); “Honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19). These commands (and many like them) are understandable, in some ways measurable, and rightfully occupy an important place in the life of any Christ-follower.
But there is danger here. It’s deceptively easy to reduce our spiritual life to a checklist: “This week, I did some justice, saw improvement in my love for mercy, and walked humbler than last week. I’m doing good!” You can add any number of other steps of obedience to that list: I spent time in God’s word every day, I faithfully went to church, I controlled my anger and my lust, I loved my kids.
Those are good steps. But the sad truth is that we can do all of that without cultivating a deeper connection with God. In fact, we can do all of that without ever thinking of Him at all.
I know this is true, because I’ve done it. I’ve done all of the above and much more, including preaching, teaching, and leading communion services, in seasons of my life where God seemed very distant. There MUST be more to it than the checklist!
There is more to it. Paul gives us the answer in Philippians 3:8. After revealing his checklist from the old days (tribe of Benjamin, Pharisee, blameless before the Law, etc.) he says that he now considers all of that to be loss compared to “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
There it is – “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” He could have said “obeying Christ Jesus the Lord,” but he didn’t. Think about that. No, really, stop reading and think about it.
Do you hear the intimacy in the phrase “knowing Christ Jesus?” Do you catch the sense of pleasure in the use of the personal pronoun, “my Lord?”
Here is the most important question: are you and I amazed at the opportunity not just to obey God, but to know Christ Jesus our Lord? Does everything else pale in comparison to that incredible privilege?
Knowing Him is more complicated than obeying Him. It takes more time. It’s harder to measure. And there’s that inconvenient fact that we are seeking to know someone who is ultimately incomprehensible. But the fact that we can’t know Him completely does not mean that we can’t know Him at all.
If knowing Christ is the key, then whatever we do to cultivate that knowledge is the most important part of our lives. Whatever frees us to focus on Him, allows us to contemplate Him, pushes us into His presence to stand in awe of Him and expand our grasp of Him, matters more than just about anything else.
What is there in your life that significantly deepens your knowledge of Christ? Protect it with a passion – it matters! If you are at a loss to give an answer, I can commend Sabbath to you. I’ve found that the regular and diligent pursuit of contemplative, Christ-centered rest has done more to increase my knowledge of Him than just about anything else I’ve ever tried.
Knowing Him is of surpassing worth. Nothing else comes close. I want my life to prove how true that is, and I hope yours will as well.
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