Matthew Bohin, Seminary Student
We often look at successful people and wonder how they’ve achieved their notoriety, influence, or wealth. We devour their blogs, books, and articles to get a glimpse into their “secret” of success.
In the Christian world, Paul was arguably the greatest Apostle. Paul authored at least thirteen books of the New Testament, established many churches, journeyed throughout Asia and Europe as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and even encountered the risen Christ. Yet, these accolades paled in comparison to his main desire: to know Christ and to be like him.
Paul describes the one driving principle of his life this way: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord… One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8, 13-14). Here, Paul states that all his accomplishments, both the spiritual accolades he once possessed in Judaism along with his accomplishments in service for Christ, weren’t of the same value as knowing and being like Christ. To Paul, knowing Christ held “surpassing worth.” Having a deep, close, and personal walk with Jesus, even after he had seen the risen Christ, was of utmost importance to Paul. Moreover, he saw Christlikeness as a “prize” to be obtained. The phrase, “upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” refers to a believer’s glorification. However, Paul knew that while on earth, he was daily to strive to be like Christ.
Paul therefore viewed knowing God as having the utmost worth, while being like Christ as a prize to be cherished.
Making Paul’s Desire Our Own
How then did Paul come to this mindset? What value did Paul see in knowing Christ and being like him? He understood three essential truths about knowing God and being like him.
But This Takes Work…
Like any relationship, knowing God takes work. I’ve been married about five months. For those of you who don’t know yet, marriage takes work. Yes, marriage is wonderful, but the blessings of marriage don’t come without putting in effort.
Likewise, we want to think that a relationship with God comes easily. We would love to think that God just instantly makes us know him. Think with me again about marriage, however. If, while we were dating, my wife put in time, effort, and energy into our relationship, yet I didn’t make an effort to take her on dates, call her when we were separated, or buy her gifts, she would eventually stop pouring into the relationship. Now, this illustration does break down eventually. Theologically speaking God does pursue believers even when we don’t naturally desire him. However, Scripture is clear that God reveals himself to those who diligently seek him (Deuteronomy 4:29, Hebrews 11:6).
Does your Bible smell like the gym? Does it smell of hard work or sweat? Is it soiled with tears, highlights, or crinkles due to the use it’s received? Knowing God takes work.
… And a Soft Heart
At the same time, knowing God also demands a soft heart. God reveals himself not only to those who diligently seek him, but to those who come submitted to him. In James 4:6, James exhorts us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Earlier in the same book, he states that God indeed does give wisdom liberally, but only to those who are of a mind totally committed to him (James 1:5-8).
God pours himself out to those who diligently pursue him and approach him with a humble, submissive spirit.
Let’s Get Practical
By now I hope you’ve all come to understand that knowing God is the reason why we’re saved. God has called us into a relationship with him. This relationship then drives us to become more like Christ. Even as Christians we don’t naturally have a relationship with God or a Christlike disposition. As stated above, it takes work along with a soft heart. I would like to provide for you some practical ways of putting in the hard work of pursuing God through Scripture.
Just like any job you undertake, you need the right tools for Bible study. These include having the right resources, the right plan, and the right questions.
A Final Reminder
I hope these brief words of wisdom have helped to create in you a desire to be in Scripture this new year. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention one thing. In all of our Bible study, we are dependent upon the Spirit for help. None of us naturally understands the things of God. Without the guidance of the Spirit, all of our efforts to know God would be in vain (1 Corinthians 2:12-16).
This year, pursue God with everything you have. He wants to be known, and he is waiting to reveal himself to you.
*If RSS feed is not working for you, please add it to your app or software manually by adding this url:
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.