Word of Encouragement
The Transition of Knowing Him Intimately
This is a word of encouragement for all who find them self being hard pressed & going through severe trials and tribulation.
Some have begun to enter into what John of the cross has spoken of as the “Dark Night of the Soul.” They find themselves in a place of profound dryness and gross darkness spiritually; “fired with love’s urgent longings” they are suffering to seek & find the Lord in a manner they have never thought to be possible.
And they will not relent until they have laid hold of the Lord even it means death to them or their dreams and aspirations. These brethren find themselves in a precarious position or in a tight spot as some would say.
Some have come to call this place “The Furnace of Affliction.” I like to speak of it as God’s Pressure Cooker. Its purpose is to bring the best flavor or essence out of us in the shortest possible time. For our lives are meant to be a pleasing aroma or fragrance unto God, as it is written in 2Co2:15; “For we are the aroma of Christ to God…”
This tribulation is meant to bring us into a more accurate and intimate knowledge of the Lord. The purpose for this is to cause us to enter into and live in the reality of the kingdom in the here and now. The scriptures even testify to the fact that we must enter the kingdom through much tribulation (see Acts14:22).
Knowing Him by the Spirit
2Co5:16b: “Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard Him thus no longer.”
There are only two ways we can no Christ; we can either know Him by the flesh or we can know Him by the spirit. To know Him by the flesh is to see Him through fleshly eyes or to have a material or natural understanding of Him.
To know Him by the flesh speaks of naturally (earthly) mindedness and also of intellectual assent to the truth of Him. We are told however that the naturally minded man cannot understand nor receive the things of the Spirit (see 1Co2:14).
To know him by the spirit we must see and believe through the eyes of our heart. Very few people in the church believe in such manner. Most have in fact come to a place of intellectual assent to the truth of Christ and the doctrines of the faith.
There is a difference between giving intellectual assent to the truth of Christ and believing in Him. There is a big difference between believing in our minds and believing in our hearts.
Just believing that Jesus exists will not get us saved. James even rebuked this kind of faith saying; “You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! Even the demons believe that and tremble with fear” (James2:19). It is with heart that we believe and are justified (Rom10:10).
The minority of the church believes with their hearts. To believe with our hearts will mean that we will walk in the truth and live or abide in it. This is to preach what one practices, so to say. Or as the man of the street would put it; “we must not just talk the talk but we must also walk the walk.”
Morpheus words to Neo in “The Matrix” speaks prophetically to us today; “there is a difference to knowing the path and walking the path.” This of course implies realness and authenticity to our confession and walk of faith. Unfortunately most confessing believers are superficial and shallow in their walk of faith.
For this very reason the church is beset with sin and carnality, it is tainted and corrupted by the love of things for this world, and it is powerless in its testimony of Christ. Presently most of the visible church or institutional church is anything but true and authentic or real. Sadly the opposite is true.
The reason for the church being so weak, inert, and asleep, is the same reason why its testimony is also so ineffective and compromised; they only know Him after the flesh.
The reason why the false gospel of self-centered humanism or the health and wealth gospel is so popular is also because the church knows Him by the flesh. And it is also the reason why so many are still in bondage to the law. In fact most of the church wiles and maladies can be traced back to this iniquity of knowing Him by the flesh.
If we know Him by the flesh it means that we are still eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The tree of knowledge is indicative of law and religion. It represents man’s rebellion against God and his independence from God.
If we wish to know Him by the spirit we will have to eat from the Tree of Life. This speaks of Jesus being the center of our lives and also the source of life for our existence. For we live and move and have our being in Him. This also implies our dependence on Him for everything we need to be for who we are called to be in Him.
There are still two trees in the garden of human life here on the earth that we get to choose to partake of and live from. We get to make this choice daily on a moment to moment basis.
For us to choose the tree of knowledge means to choose independence from God and separate development or self-improvement. This is the stuff that secular-humanism and religion is made up of. And both are very popular in the church today. Just take note of how many best seller Christian authors books has the terms ‘you’ and ‘self’ as its focus or even in its title.
To choose the Tree of Life speaks not only of Jesus but also the cross. We are exhorted by the Lord Himself to take up our cross daily. Jesus and the cross are inseparable.
To know Jesus by the spirit will mean that we will have to eat of the Tree of Life and it speaks of us partaking of Him and His divine nature. This is also known as divine union. This of course speaks of knowing Him intimately and by the spirit. But for us to get there however we must first go through the transition of knowing Him by the flesh to knowing Him by the spirit.
Breaking out of the bondage to the Familiar
The transition from knowing Him by the flesh to knowing Him by the spirit is exceedingly trying and tough. It leads through the dry and desolate wilderness of abandonment. This is also known as the path of the narrow gate.
To go through this transition means we must leave behind the perceived security and stability from the familiar and comfortable religious background we have grown accustomed to over the years.
The bondage of familiarity is one of the most notoriously difficult bondages to break loose from. There is always a longing for the familiar flesh pots of Egypt, even though that means bondage, whenever we face the unknown and venture through unchartered territory.
Fear of the unknown, our bondage to the familiar, and our addiction to convenience and comfort has rendered us crippled with inertia. This speaks of our inability to break out of our comfort zones or to wake up from our passivity.
God is actively busy shaking us to get us out of our comfort zones. He will even kick us out of the nest if that is what it takes.
To know Him by the spirit however we must make this transition. We have no choice but to follow the cloud of His presence through the desolate and dry wilderness of abandonment until we come to meet with Him face to face so to speak.
Our being in this wilderness in the first place is the Lord’s doing and God’s purpose for us in this hour. The Lord has in fact wooed His church into the wilderness that He may speak tenderly to her (see Hos2:14). He has done this in order to bring her back to the ultimate reality of Him being in her and her being in Him.
The Cross of Offence
For us to know Him by the flesh speaks of us being bound to religion and all its appendages; such as rituals, traditions, rules, regulations, formulas, dead works and the like. On the other hand to know Him by the spirit means to worship Him in spirit and in truth with humility and brokenness.
The Pharisees knew Him by the flesh and for this very reason He did not qualify in accordance with their fleshly requirements to be Messiah. Therefore history and the scriptures testify to the fact that they rejected Him, His ministry and His message.
They were looking for an earthly ruler and an earthly kingdom and therefore they could not receive Him. For it was so evidently clear that He was all together different from them and their religious tradition. And it was so painfully obvious that He was from a contrastingly different reality than theirs.
The Pharisees even had Him crucified because of this. They crucified the very One they were praying and hoping for over so many centuries. They crucified Him even though He was the One that were promised and prophesied as the hope and redemption of their nation. They crucified him because they knew Him by the flesh. And they still do so to this day.
For whenever a true representation of the Christ is brought forth into the earth the religious and the Pharisees rejects it because they know Him only by the flesh. The way He truly is and what He requires of us is to risqué and painful to consider if we only know him after the flesh.
For us to know Him by the flesh is to believe in Him without the cross. The gospel without the cross is powerless and there can be no salvation without it. The flesh is obstinate in its self-seeking and its self-preservation. The flesh is an affront to the cross and the cross is an offence to the flesh. There is absolutely no place for the flesh or self in the kingdom of God.
The cross will continually offend us until we receive it by faith as God’s instrument of death that leads to resurrection life. If we are not willing to take up our cross and follow the Lord we are not worthy of Him. Because He is worthy we should embrace the cross out of our love and devotion for Him.
The cross however is not meant for our destruction. The cross is our deliverance and our salvation from this world and the powers of darkness that reigns over it. The cross is meant for our glory.
Pilgrimage of Experiential Knowledge
Presently the church is busy making the long and arduous journey of transition, through the dry and desolate wilderness of abandonment, from knowing Christ by the flesh to knowing Him by the spirit.
He whose heart is set on pilgrimage will yet make it through the valley of Baca (place of tears and suffering), and he will press on until he meets face to face with the Lord in Zion (see Psalm84). This does not speak of heaven or life after death but of a present reality available to us even now.
Zion is the heavenly domain of the Lord and His saints. We can live on the earth and yet dwell in the heavens simultaneously. We are even now seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph2:6).
Those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage are sojourners or aliens on the earth. Although they live on the earth their citizenship is in heaven. Like Abraham they have gone out to a place that is meant as their inheritance. Like Abraham they went out in obedience not knowing where they were going. They have gone off the map into unchartered territory.
Like Abraham they are looking for the city with eternal foundations (Zion) who’s Architect and Builder is God. And Like Abraham they are people of faith who are blessed along with Abraham the man of faith.
As stated before; the church is now busy making the long and arduous journey of transition, a pilgrimage of knowing Him by the flesh to knowing Him by the spirit. Many are busy going through this and their lives are being shaken up because of it.
Therefore many of the brethren are experiencing extreme emotions such as anger, frustration, despair, depression and the like. This is due to them leaving behind that which gave them peace and security only to enter into the great unknown. Because of the perceived loss these people has become hopeless feeling like they have been abandoned.
We should not despair but rejoice if we count ourselves as one of these sorrowful souls. We must rejoice for we are busy moving out of religion and fleshly knowledge and understanding of the Lord into true and intimate knowledge of God. And if we remain faithful to seek Him and complete this journey His glory will yet be revealed to us and in us.
It is also true that the only way we can really get to know the Lord is through experiencing Him. Theoretical knowledge of Him is the domain of theologians and scholars. This kind of knowledge of the Lord is useless and powerless. To know Him in such manner is to know Him after the flesh.
The scriptures even warn us against this manner of knowledge; “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn6:63). And also; “…the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Co3:6).
Fellowship of Sharing in Sufferings
The flesh may profit nothing and the letter may kill but the Spirit gives life. For us to know Him by the spirit is to know Him experientially and not theoretically. But to know Him experientially also implies that there will be pain and suffering. There are an abundance of scriptures that testifies to the fact.
Gal3:4 “Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)…?
2Co4:8-11 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
Php3:10 “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death…”
These are but some of the examples in the bible that speaks of the redemptive suffering we have to enter into while living here on the earth. And we are exhorted in the scriptures to endure these sufferings in the power of the Spirit through the grace of God.
There is a fellowship of sharing in His sufferings that brings an intimate knowledge of the Lord that is unrivaled by any other experience in Him; even seeing Him with the naked eyes does not compare with this.
Show me a man with a limp like Jacob had after he had wrestled with the Lord and I will show you a man who’s experienced in the Lord. Such a man carries the presence of God in a tangible manner and will have life changing wisdom to give to those who are lesser experienced in the Lord.
Such a man will carry the marks of the Lord on His body for he will carry in the body the death of Jesus in order that His life may also be revealed and be made manifest. Such a man will be known for the power of God, for holy living, integrity, humility and brokenness and if these things are lacking he is but a liar and a cheap counterfeit of the real deal. Beware of such charlatans and windbags who preach and validates them self from the pulpit.
It’s been said before that a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument. How true this is when it comes to the difference between knowing the Lord theoretically and knowing Him experientially. The learned theologian or scholar of the scriptures with his degrees and knowledge still only knows the Lord by the flesh. But the humble devout disciple of Christ however has true and intimate knowledge of Him.
We do not need more learned and qualified men in the church we need more experienced and anointed men. The world is not in need of more gifted or learned people but it’s in need of more real and deep people.
Wisdom and the Pearl of Great Cost
The Lord still calls those who are of a humble estate, those who are not seen as wise, influential or successful according to worldly standards.
He still calls fishermen, prostitutes and tax collectors to be His disciples. Or in a more contemporary vernacular; He still calls drug addicts, school drop outs, thugs and the like. People who are of a lesser estate or lower class than those we would esteem as worthy or qualified for ministry. For even today it is expected of ministers to have some kind of tertiary degree or diploma before he can minister to us. What nonsense!
The Lord still uses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the wise and the strong. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians is just as relevant to us today if not even more; “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1Co3:18).
He who walks with the Lord and who are experienced in Him is usually considered as fools by those who are worldly wise. Even Paul the Apostle who is esteemed and even venerated by some as one of the greatest minds of all time considered himself as a fool for Christ.
Paul also had a revulsion and total disdain towards his learning and his Pharisaical qualifications. As he so eloquently puts it in his letter to the Philippians church;
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…”
Paul wanted to so clearly portray his absolute disdain towards his learning that he used very strong language in the Greek that this letter was written. The word translated ‘rubbish’ in the above text literally means excrement.
He who is experienced in the Lord through suffering receives the kingdom as the Pearl of great cost. The pearl is the only precious stone that is formed through suffering and death. This Pearl is Jesus Himself and also our knowing of Him intimately and experientially.
No value could ever be placed on this exceedingly valuable and very precious gift. It is a treasure that is in heaven which cannot be stolen or destroyed. If we have placed our hearts where this treasure is we will never suffer the loss of it. We will then even consider the loss of our lives as a very small price to pay to possess such a precious gift. The man in Jesus parable who had found this pearl sold all he had to buy it (Mt13:46). Would we esteem this gift to be as valuable as this man did? Would we go to such great lengths?
Taking the Long View
The church desperately needs an eternal perspective again. We will then esteem that which men see as absolute to be trivial and that which they value as trivial we would esteem to be absolute. We must once again fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen; for that which is seen is temporal but that which is unseen is eternal (2Co4:18).
Christ must become the center of our lives and we must have our eyes fixed on Him continually if we are to have an eternal perspective. It is the will of God for us to be preoccupied with Christ. He is the Alpha and the Omega; He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.
To take such a view is to take the long view and it is the only view that God has. For us to be able to do this we must become heavenly minded. Presently the church is so earthly or temporally minded it is of no heavenly good. We must set our hearts and minds on things above (Col3:1-2).
No matter what it is that we are presently going through; He is worthy! Therefore we must persevere and endure these afflictions as a precious gift from the Lord. For they are but light and momentary afflictions compared to the eternal weight of glory that will be revealed to us and in us, both now and for all eternity.
May each one of us who are sojourners on this pilgrimage have an experience and testimony of the Lord that will bring both healing and restoration to the nations; as the love, life, power and glory of Christ is once again revealed in us and through us as His church.
Once again we must realize that this is not possible without the cross or the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. So when it feels sometimes like you are busy dying or even if you despair of life take heart. For you feel this way only because you really are dying…to SELF that is!
I will leave you with some scripture and a profound statement by prophetic minstrel Suzy Wills to reflect on. It is my prayer and my hope that this word of encouragement will cause you to be strengthened and encouraged to persevere and endure till you meet with our Lord face to face in Zion.
Psalm116:15 “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”
2Co4:16-18 “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Psalm126:5 “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!
Hos10:2 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”
“And we will be the real body of Christ that we are called to be; with resurrection power we follow His life sharing in His sufferings.” Suzy Wills
By Marcus Visser