I ran across an online ad today which announced the first Sunday service of a new church in the area. Being a bit curious about it I opened the church’s website and found what I expected…a well-done website, colorful pictures, wordsmithing of catchy phrases and upcoming events. I opened the “About” menu and peeked. Read through the “mission” statement along with the “values” statement and a few other categories which described the church’s philosophy.
The mission statement was a one liner. I like that. Short and sweet. It read, “We invite people to meet Jesus as we follow Him together.” Sounds nice enough. Got me thinking about this idea of meeting Jesus and following Him. How do you really meet the real Jesus? If you meet a Christian, do you meet Jesus too? Do you meet him if you pray the sinner’s prayer or by repeating a prayer of accepting Jesus into your heart? If so, what does that look like…accepting Jesus into your heart? I’m not trying to be critical here but genuinely thinking out loud after a lifetime of not really thinking deeply on these things we Christians always say. Some of us just accept our Christianese language at face value without much thought. Some of these phrases sound acceptable, and we assume they make perfect sense after using them or hearing them over a lifetime.
But think about it. How do you meet Jesus in our human state? Let alone follow him. Jesus spoke about 31,000 words in the bible, and at most his total collective time speaking according to his word count in the bible might amount to four to five hours. On one hand you might argue that someone doesn’t need to say much to be known or followed. On the other hand, you could say a half days’ worth of speeches or recorded conversation isn’t much when it comes to devoting a life of following. When we say people can meet Jesus himself what do we really mean by that? I think often times people don’t really meet Jesus as much as they meet a religion we offer, an institution to belong to, a philosophy.
What does it mean to meet Jesus? Is it like meeting Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln or Ghandi after they are long gone? Can you meet them by learning about them? To the degree that they instructed followers how to live you could certainly follow their teachings forever. Christians haven’t really done a good job on this whole “meeting Jesus” thing I think. Some might say meeting Jesus is more of a pragmatic exercise of saying yes to God, accepting Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit. What is accepting Jesus? Are you slain in the Spirit and thrown to the ground? Is it a subtle sixth sense that something is different? Are you simply so relieved to have turned your life around finding purpose and meaning that you feel so very good emotionally (which is a beautiful thing)?
It seems to me that a vast many people who consider themselves Christian, who perhaps “used to go to church” or who barely hold to the Christian faith, struggle deeply to know Jesus “personally” in the same way we know the real people in our lives. Can we know about Jesus and concoct of feeling of knowing just like I might admire C.S. Lewis and feel like I know him because I know much about what he said or wrote and how he lived? Christianity tells us that receiving Jesus and knowing him is a work of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we then enter a supernatural phenomenon nuanced with a varied interpretation of what that means among Christians and what they experience—from speaking in tongues or being overwhelmed with unction to perhaps at best a warm feeling that something is changed inside.
Personally, these days I can attest to a likely work of the Spirit in my life in terms of a capacity in my heart and mind to have faith and belief in God and in the way of Jesus. I might attribute my deep connection to God to a deep spiritual awareness and a belief that God does exist, and He IS love and knowing this with confidence comes by the work of the Spirit. Even though I’ve at times expected so much more from the work of the Spirit without seeming success previously in my life in various seasons—attempting to speak in tongues, perform miracles, hear an audible voice of God, experience a more obvious supernatural presence and feeling—I am satisfied now to simply have a faith that tells me God is real—God loves me—God loves you. Live. Make no mistake…there is a “feeling” and assurance that comes with that kind of faith—a mighty good feeling. And Jesus coming into my life simply might also mean a work of the Spirit opening my heart to the way of Jesus—faith, hope and love.
There is a world of humans who simply want to live with a simple uncomplicated faith in God. I don’t know how you can meet Jesus other than now we see as though looking into a dim mirror but someday we will see clearly and really meet him. Jesus lived, died, and rose again. He ascended and left this realm. God meets us at the dawn of every new day and is with us in a supernatural way leaving it up to us to choose the way of Jesus.