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Whenever I speak on the subject of knowing the Lord, I’m typically sitting in a living room with a small group of Christians who are gathering outside the traditional church. We spend days discussing practical ways of exploring Christ, encountering Him, fellowshipping with Him, and loving Him as individuals as well as a group. It’s always been a life-changing experience for virtually everyone involved.
We will not be leaving the ozone layer in this post, however. Instead, I want to spread a wide canvas and share some thoughts that I hope you’ll find both insightful and encouraging. They are things which burden me very much.
I will start out by saying that there is a difference between seeking God’s blessings and in seeking Jesus Christ. And there’s a difference between pursuing spiritual things and pursuing Christ Himself.
When I first became a Christian, I was turned on to what is often called “Revivalist Theology.” That theology is built on a single supposition: Now that you are saved, God’s ultimate purpose for your life is that you get others saved. You and I exist to be soul-winners, delivering people from hell.
As a result of imbibing this message, I was jazzed to win others to the Lord. For a number of years, as a college student, I experimented with all sorts of ways of presenting the gospel to the lost. What was I doing? I was pursuing evangelism—a spiritual thing. I wasn’t pursuing Jesus Christ.
When I use the phrase “knowing the Lord,” therefore, I have something quite specific in mind. I have heard Christians speak about “knowing the Lord” as if they possessed an exclusive corner on it.
“I know the Lord” . . . “I met the Lord” . . . “I touched the Lord” . . . are common phrases that they wear like badges. I find this quite troubling to be honest. What comes to mind when I hear people talk like this is as follows: “Excuse me (cough), but were you aware that you cannot be a Christian unless you know the Lord? Has it ever dawned on you that all genuine Christians know the Lord?”
Consider the words of Jesus Christ in John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
What is salvation? It’s meeting Christ. It’s touching Christ. It’s knowing Christ. So if you are Christian reading this book, you know the Lord. Period, end of sentence.
Western Christianity has been preoccupied with two things. One is getting people to heaven. The other is getting those who are going to heaven to live good Christian lives on the earth.
For years I sought these two pursuits. I never questioned them. The gospel that was preached to me since I was a child was about saving souls and being a good Christian with a tiny footnote on the Kingdom of God, and an even tinier footnote on the church, and an even tinier footnote on knowing Christ deeply. And as far as God’s ultimate purpose went, well, there was no footnote.
In April 1992, that all changed. I was introduced to a gospel that was infinitely higher than anything I had ever heard before. I had taken a full dose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. En. According to Romans 16:25-26, Ephesians 3:1-11, and Ephesians 6:19, the full gospel includes the mystery of God’s eternal purpose. As a result, my understanding of the Christian life was profoundly upgraded.
I discovered that God’s ultimate purpose was not to save souls. God created humans not in need of salvation. Go back and read Genesis 1 and 2 and you will discover that there was no sin in the universe when human beings made their appearance. God had a purpose for men and women before the Fall. And it’s His pulsebeat.
The Lord in His good mercy gave me a ground breaking revelation of what Paul called “the eternal purpose.” That revelation floored me. It struck me deaf and dumb. It set my soul on fire and my heart to dancing. I was spiritually intoxicated, enthralled, and shaken to my core.
But it did more than that. It marked me for life, opening up an entirely new universe that I never knew existed. In a word, it ignited a still-burning fire with me.
I’m well aware that some Christians find the word “revelation” to be quite mysterious. Perhaps spooky even. This is understandable. I’ve been in several Christian movements where there was an unspoken segregation between those who “had revelation” and those who didn’t. I’ve always found this to be as silly, let alone harmful.
The New Testament authors use the word quite frequently. Hopefully, I can de-mystify (and defang) the word here. A revelation is simply an unveiling or an uncovering. When God “reveals” a spiritual truth to one of His children, whether it be through the reading of Scripture, listening to someone preach, or through another avenue, they are receiving revelation.
What does it look like? Have you ever heard someone preach a message and you’re reaction was, “Oh my goodness, it’s true.” Or have you ever read something in a book or in the Bible, and you thought to yourself (or you blurted it out), “Wow. That’s awesome. That’s incredible. I never saw that before.” Well, you just received revelation. The Holy Spirit “uncovered” and “unveiled” something of Jesus Christ to you.
There are those revelations that cause us to say “Oh my goodness, it’s true. What a Lord.” And there are others which bowl us over, knock us to the ground, and forever ruin our lives. The latter is what I call an “earth-shattering” or “ground breaking” revelation. The revelation of the Lord that I received in 1992 was of that type.
The revelation of God’s eternal purpose came to be like a blinding vision. In one flash of light, I saw that everything in the Bible shared one common thread. It was all connected by one controlling narrative.
The spiritual gears within me began to drop into their proper slots. Deeply cemented paradigms began to shatter, and a storm of change took root in my entire understanding of Christianity.
I realized that God had an eternal purpose and being a Christian was joining in that purpose. In addition, I saw that the purpose of God was His central passion. It was the missing ingredient that explained everything—the Christian life, the church, the creation of the universe, mission, etc. I have never recovered from that first sighting. It’s become an ever-growing unfolding within me.
Sadly, I, as well as most of the Christians that I knew, were blissfully ignorant of the Divine purpose.
Some fourteen years later, I attempted to set forth in print the vision of God’s ultimate purpose with the same power and incise clarity with which it was revealed to me. That setting forth is contained in my book, God’s Ultimate Passion. This book is a retelling of the Biblical story to contemporary ears. It’s a stab at narrative theology—a theology that flows out of reflecting on the broad story that Scripture tells. And that story is the story of God’s eternal purpose.
I will simply say that no church, whether traditional or non-traditional, should exist for any other reason than to fulfill the eternal purpose of the living God. To do otherwise is a scandalous failure in my opinion. Indeed, the church after God’s own heart is a church that has the eternal purpose flowing through its veins.
This post has been revised and published in Frank Viola author’s The Rethinking Series.
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