“Phillip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us. Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me Phillip…” John 14:8-9
As of this writing, I have been walking with the Lord for well over thirty years. I have had a lot of experiences in God. I have seen Him do marvelous things for myself, and those around me. I have watched Him heal bodies and save souls. He has enlightened minds and exalted saints to ministry. I have seen many miracles of provision when nothing was around and there was no possible way or means in sight. Food…bills…taxes…I have seen wonderful supernatural provision in myriads of conditions.
The promises of His Word coming to pass and the overwhelming presence of God have done marvelous things that I have been personally used to perform or have watched them first hand…just like our friend Phillip!
Phillip was a dedicated follower of the Lord. He was one of Jesus’ original apostles. He was handpicked to walk with Jesus and to co-minister with Him. Phillip and multitudes of others saw loaves and fishes multiplied and witnessed the dead being raised. He heard detailed instruction that taught him how to uproot mountains or to heal any sickness and cast out any devil. He was with those that returned from a traveling ministry and was marveling that so much power was being released through them that even devils had to obey him because of Jesus’ name.
Yet with this incredible resume of education and experience in the things of God…
…Jesus asked Phillip how is it possible that even after all the time he had spent with the Lord, and accomplished many amazing things for Him, he (Phillip) really did not know who Jesus was in His essence and Person...
Phillip didn't have a clue!
I believe there is a great lesson to be learned for all of us here…so let’s talk about it.
How many of us have been guilty of thinking we know the Lord just because we do things for Him? I certainly have. And when the realization hit that conclusion isn't right, I was miserable. As a result, I had to start asking, even after years of serving the Lord, "What in the heck is this all about?" It's easy not to have considered that claiming we know Him intimately because of what we do or what we have witnessed is like saying we know personally our favorite movie star because we have seen all their movies or read their biography! We might have put on a good show...but that's about it.
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40
This verse is one of my all-time favorites. Jesus nails it in what is in my opinion the number one mistake folks make…I certainly have…when measuring their success in God. I have learned to filter all my spiritual endeavors through this principle. In this verse, in my opinion, is the "water in the desert"...the hot shower after a day in the snow and freezing rain...the Tylenol to the pulled muscle between your shoulder blades when you slept wrong...the...ok...you get the hint :)
Many of us were taught that to make sure we are “good Christians”, we need to be really “nice” and go to church a lot and memorize the Bible. And so, we set out and work at these things really hard. We smile when we don’t feel like it…we give up our newspaper and morning breakfast to be to church on time…then we read the Word and do our best to retain the information.
By the way…none of these things are bad. What I want us to understand is though they certainly are part of a process…they are not the “endgame”!
It’s easy to fall in love with the process and completely miss out on the purpose of the process!
When it comes to serving God...we can be like the woman in this picture! Never an end in sight!
All right. Go with me here and let's start going a little farther down the "rabbit hole" to really consider "the nature of the thing".
Without thinking, we can be like the Jews the Lord was addressing, who thought text memorization and admiration with surgically precise obedience to their laws was the goal of “spirituality”. Yet these things are only true if they are a means to get to the proper end. In the past I had confused “information and action” as spirituality, rather than fellowship and intimacy with my Lord and God being the highest in spiritual endeavors.
I have even had atheists argue that they are “just as good” as any other religionist and there is no difference between their morality and someone else’s…even a Christians. Ever seen that "CoExist" bumper sticker with all the religious symbols together implying they are really all one and the same? The only way that could be valid is if the cosmic end game of all this was some certain code of ethics and behavior. And when "religions" are compared, many argue "What's the difference?"
When folks say these things, they are missing the fact…and sadly so do many Christians…that morality in itself is not what the Lord was ultimately looking for when He took the form of a man and came to the earth. "...who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." Philippians 2:6-7
They are believing that mimicking a certain action is the same as possessing the understanding and the life and instigator behind it.
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Please pay careful attention to what I am about to say. If you take it out of context, you will miss the point that I…actually the Lord in the Scriptures…was making.
Jesus did not call us to be a moral people as the consummate evidence of our relationship with Him. Ultimately He called us into union with Him. Knowledge based on internal exchange which certainly must result in external demonstration.
In all our doing or studying or praying...we necessarily should be continually going to Him to find that very life to which we are on a quest! Think about this carefully in context with John 15:15…specifically when He was very clear “…without Me you can do nothing!”
So here it is…
We should understand that genuine morality is God Himself revealing Himself through us…not us playing copycat!
And with that..
Consummate morality is nothing less than God producing His character through the individual. God Himself is the fruit He produces.
In the same way painting a picture of an apple tree in no way allows someone to partake of the fruit as realistic and lifelike the copy may be...so is believing you are morally righteous and have a genuine understanding of who God is simply because you can mimic and or describe what is "right". True morality can never be separated from Him...because genuine morality is nothing less than God Himself in His own motions! All His "doing" is BOTH the substance and truest definition of righteousness.
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14:6 Jesus proclaimed. Again...He is THE LIFE!
"Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." Colossians 2:7
Jesus was clear...as were those who testified and witnessed afterwards...and to which I myself can attest that to a fair degree I absolutely get this and have found it to be the primary means of pleasing Him and enjoying His favor...that He is in no way some humble religious scribe and spiritual illuminist. He is the grounds of which the entire creation finds itself embedded and therefore rooted within. When we come to Christ, we are assimilated within Him and it is from there alone we find genuine spirituality. True spirituality in it rawest and most primitive form is simply a restoration to that which is the fundamental of what God has designed in His own purposes as He is THE Spirit of all spirits.
"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." John 4:24
It is as you grow in understanding and experience in these very fundamental principles of what Christ came to bring that you will not be as Phillip who confused mimicking...even participating in religious demonstration...as that which brought him to know God. After all his labors, He still asked Jesus to point out God for him
Jesus wants us to understand that we know Him in the richest measures not as the result of a great lecture or a deeply philosophical book on Kindle...or that we bought Girl Scout Cookies and walked an elderly person across the street...but because of Himself revealing Himself through us as a result of our humbly returning to Him in all things. This degree of "learning" and experience is astronomically greater than an outward instruction.
We have tried to get people to come to Christ so they can "change" and be good people and go to heaven. And those are certainly wonderful benefits. Yet Jesus was clear...crystal clear...that the ultimate reason we come to Christ and He to us is so a union would take place that the Source of all life would once again be internally and eternally joined within us...not the self will of the individual separated from his God doing "the best it can."
Someone else figured this out too:
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ…I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.” Philippians 3:8,10 NLT
The Apostle Paul had learned this lesson well. He compared all his previous attempts at being a success in his religion by his personal actions and brilliance to garbage and a pile of crap! Let’s not confuse this. He wasn’t saying his knowledge and obedience wasn’t useful. The Lord used this man’s brilliance and knowledge and dedication as the foundation for his ministry and was able to appeal to these things many times in defense of the gospel.
But what Paul did consider so disgusting, was the idea that these things alone were attaining for him some success or position in God.
Paul figured out what Jesus had made very clear…that all Scripture, frankly all anything, should be in the end that which reveals Him and His Person. Jesus’ actions personally or through His people, reveal who He is, not just what He can do. All of our “means” need to arrive at one end…. knowing Him intimately.
He performs great deeds to reveal Himself, not to stay busy.
So let me encourage you today, to begin seeking to know God, not just work for Him. Learn his heart, not just His words. Phillip was expected to see and know the Lord in and through his religion, not see it as the end itself. Learn to regularly ask yourself… “How do I know Him more through this?” Whether in your personal devotion, church service, even acts of ministry or service you perform, seek to know Him as One Who is working in cooperation within you...not simply an Audience with a grading pen and report card.
As the lungs in a suffocating man cry out simply for air, so let your spirit reach out and crave this life that is found only in Him.
"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13
Remember the end game of our existence is not to perform for Him, but to know Him and walk with Him. He was clear…we can’t do a thing without Him!
It's either you for Him…or you in and through and with Him.
Big difference. Huge. Think about it.