Last night, I went with some church friends to hear John Piper and John Lennox give a talk at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Here is a thought I had based on something John Lennox said and a prayer that I wrote at the end of the night.
A five-year old child and a father are spending time together by watching cartoons. That's a nice occasion. Do you know what would be a tragic one? A twenty-five year old son and his father spending time together by watching cartoons. Why is that tragic? Because they should have other ways to spend time together! They should be going to a baseball game or to a Broadway theatre show. They should be sitting at home by the fireplace chatting about work. They should be sharing drinks at a pub chatting about married life and having children! They should debate politics or theology, share about finances or where they're going next for vacation! They shouldn't be watching Spongebob!
Don't misread me. The problem isn't the idea of watching cartoons with your dad. There's nothing wrong with that. The problem is if you have nothing else to do, no other way to relate to your father than to watch cartoons with him. That's the real problem. If you've got no other dimension in your relationship, no other things in life to share with your father, that says that there's something wrong in your relationship. It's not that you don't have a relationship with your father; it's that it is tragically shallow.
Yet this is what so many of our relationships with our heavenly father are like. Every single church have people that have been going for years, five years, ten years, fifty years... but still demonstrate the same exact knowledge of God as a new Christian. After so many years of going to Sunday school or attending Bible study or listening to sermons, they still pray the same exact prayers, state the same exact biblical truths, and live the same exact lifestyle, not having grown deeper in their knowledge of God in years. They supposedly know God and are in a relationship with him through Jesus, yet feel so little passion for the one who went to the cross for their sakes that they can't be bothered spending time with him.
John Lennox last night mentioned 2 Peter 1.5-7: "For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge and self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." The thing about all these attributes is that they do not save. goodness, knowledge, self-control... without them we would still be secure in the kingdom as long as we have the faith in Jesus that imputes on us righteousness before God. But they still matter. Why do they matter? Because they are things that we automatically seek if we have that saving faith. And if we don't seek them? "But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed form his past sins." (1.9).
To add to my faith other things does that mean that the gospel isn't central in my life. The knowledge that Christ died and was risen to atone for sins will always be central in my life. I am not departing from that truth, I am increasing in my knowledge of it in depth and breadth. As I go deeper in the Scriptures, I grasp all the complexities of the atonement that make God's redemption plan beautiful: the covenant of Abraham, the foreshadowing through the law and the prophets. As I grow in breadth of the gospel, I discover its implications for all the different aspects of my life; I grasp the way the gospel transforms my relationships with people, my pursuits in life, my finances and the way I spend money, my view of work and career, my view of family and marriage, my disappointments and regrets, my recreation and the way I relax, and on and on.
I am not unsaved if I do not add to my faith. I am saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ Jesus alone. I do not need to work to be in a relationship with God. I do not need to present myself perfect before knowing him. Christ has already secured that all for me. The problem is, if I do not add to it, then my relationship with God is tragically shallow. And who, knowing the greatness of God and his abounding mercy and steadfast love, knowing what he's done on the cross, who would WANT a shallow relationship with him?
I wonder how many people are going to go to heaven knowing pretty much nothing about God. I wonder how many people are going to know more about Jesus than the elementary ideas they learned in Sunday School. I wonder how many people are going to get to heaven, have a look a the supremacy of the eternal world over our world, and say, "If I had known what it was like, I would have invested more in it."
I resolve to making knowing God my chief pursuit in life. I resolve to consider all other investments a waste compared to the investment I make in my savior. I resolve to diligently study the Bible to know God more deeply in this present age, and in eager anticipation of the day when I will know him and see him face to face.
I resolve not to waste a second any longer on things that won't last. I resolve to know suffering and all manners of difficulty as gaining Christ. I resolve to use every challenge and difficulty to magnify Christ by declaring that he is worth me enduring every trial.
For Christ died for me, to give me himself, to secure for me pardon, to give me new life. And therefore every challenge that I face I rejoice in. I relish every tribulation as an opportunity to consider all other things loss for the sake of knowing him. I resolve to rejoice when I am counted worthy to suffer for his name. I resolve to pour out my life, reserving not a drop for myself. I resolve to know that every effort that is not made to gain Christ is an effort wasted.
I resolve to count every breath of life on earth a gift. I resolve to live my life reflecting the grace of my king, with an ever sure sense of his presence in my life.
God, help me to do all these things that I resolve to do. I know that I cannot do it of my own strength or will because in my sin I do not love your nor do I consider you great. What I need is such a revelation of Jesus' greatness, such a knowledge of his love and goodness, such a clear, real vision of his greatness and glory that my heart would be turned towards you, that I would consider you alone worthy of praise. In the name of Jesus, who bought me and who advocates for me before the holy throne of God, in his mighty name I pray. Amen.