Knowing (Experiencing) Jesus

This is a condensed repost of two earlier blogs I wrote a couple years ago. It was on my heart again. 🙂

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There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them.

I write and talk a lot about legalism and religious Christianity vs a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It sounds good in theory. I’d much rather have a friendship than a list of rules to follow! But how does it work?

God often feels like a celebrity to us. We know (or think we know) a lot about Him. We read articles, blog posts, and books about Him. We listen to sermons, podcasts, and songs about Him. We hear lots of people’s opinions of Him, both positive and negative. But do we actually KNOW Him personally?

How do you get to really know someone like God?

I believe that everything God wants to tell us about Himself can be found in the Bible. One of the things that He tells us over and over again is that if we looks for Him, we will find Him. Check out some of my favorite verses.

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Paul speaking to the religious but lost people of Athens said:

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God promises that if we look for Him, we will find Him. He says that even if we have our eyes closed and are bumping around in the dark feeling for Him, we will find Him because He is close by. God wants a relationship with us! He wants us to KNOW Him, not just facts about Him.

Jesus made this relationship possible! We can’t get to God by doing good things, following all the rules, praying a prayer, raising our hands, or going forward in church. We can only get to God by trusting that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for our sins.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

This is great news! But, how do we actually experience a relationship?”

When you get to know someone like the God of the Universe, you have to think outside of the box. He will blow your mind. You might not understand or being able to explain Him. And that’s okay with me!

God often seems kind of crazy, and He doesn’t usually make sense. Experiencing Him might make you cry, a lot, even when you’re not sad. But, He will also make you laugh. His love is ridiculous, and overwhelming, and amazing.

There is no magic formula for being a friend of God, no three step process. But, here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible. Sometimes we think we know what the Bible says, but we actually know what people SAY the Bible says. It might surprise you to actually read it for yourself. I highly recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual chunks of the NIV with some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit on a bluff at a cemetery overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and peaceful, and made me think about how short life is. Now, I just try to get up before my children. Haha!
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then His Spirit already lives inside of you. So, it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon or podcast and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

Will you take a chance, and step out in faith, and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? You were created for a relationship with Him. This is the true point of Christianity. You will not regret it!

 

No Condemnation!

 

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I remember the exact moment when I realized that Jesus not only loved me, but He also liked me unconditionally. Somehow in my mind I had confused the two. Love seemed like something He had to do because He was God, but I was pretty sure He only liked me when I was performing correctly.

It makes sense, sort of… Parents and teachers like us better when we follow the rules, and we feel their dislike when we are making poor choices. It’s hard to imagine God being different.

We put God in such a tiny box, a box made out of our own human reasoning and logic. Silly us! He is only more, always more, than we could ever imagine!

I was in my early 20s, about four years out of my “cult”, looking pretty normal to the untrained eye, wearing jeans, having cut my waist length hair, dating my boyfriend (now husband), and going to college. In the past I’d always been the rule follower, the people pleaser, the “good” girl. I did the right things to make people and Jesus happy with me.

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I might have perfected the art of looking good, but on the inside I was a wreck. Worry and stress were consuming me. I was fighting with anger and resentment. Regular panic attacks  were freaking me out. And because I didn’t know what they were, I thought I might be dying (but wouldn’t tell anyone). To top it all off, I felt guilty for being so out of control. I knew that there was no way God could be happy with me.

In desperation, I went for a walk in the woods to talk to Jesus. My goal was to confess my sin, and get right with Him somehow. As I walked, and talked, and cried, I came to an opening in the woods. The trees thinned out, and sunbeams broke through the leaves in long, warm rays. A gentle breeze tickled my hair. I stopped. It was so beautiful and peaceful. As I stood there, it was as though God put His arms around me. I felt His Presence, and I could almost hear Him whisper, “I have never loved you more than I do right now.”

I wanted to believe that it was God speaking to me, but I couldn’t because I had memorized Romans 8:1.

The group I grew up in was a KJV or NKJV only kind of place. These were the words streaming through my mind as I stood there in those quiet woods. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Maybe I’d heard a sermon on it or maybe it was just my own interpretation, but I had always thought that this verse was telling me that if I was performing correctly, in the spirit, then there was no condemnation. However, if I was walking in sin, in the flesh, then I was definitely under condemnation.

I went home and got out my Bible so that I could prove Jesus wrong, but the second half of the verse was missing! As part of the recovery process, I’d gotten a different Bible version. My English Standard Version only said this, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

What? That couldn’t be right! I went to the Internet and started looking up various Bible versions to find the missing half of the verse. None of the other versions had it. There was just no condemnation to those who were in Christ Jesus, period.

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I was in Christ Jesus! I had trusted Him as my Savior. I was His child. This was something I had never doubted. That meant that God did not condemn me! I sat on the floor of my bedroom and let it sink in. He had never loved me more than He did right now, even though I felt like a complete and total failure.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I embraced this truth. I basked in it. I reveled. I let Jesus love me, and like me, even though it didn’t make sense. He was so crazy! And amazing! And wonderful! It was my first glimpse of the beauty of grace.

So, friend, are you under condemnation? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then it’s not God’s condemnation! Let go, and live loved, and free, and forgiven! Embrace a God and His grace that doesn’t make sense. What would it take for you to believe this?