Thursday, January 28, 2010

Relational Vs. Theoretical Knowing

Andrew Murray, in chapter 7 of Abide in Christ, writes: "How often have you longed for wisdom and spiritual understanding that you might know God better." The answer to this is: Then "abide in Jesus: your life in Him will lead you to that fellowship with God in which the only true knowledge of God is to be had. His love, His power, His infinite glory will, as you abide in Jesus, be so revealed as it hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive. You may not be able to grasp it with the understanding, or to express it in words; but the knowledge which is deeper than thoughts or words will be given--the knowing of God which comes of being known of Him."

This is relational knowing of God, as opposed to mere theoretical knowing. God is not calling us into a religion, but into a relationship with him. How close, how tight, can this relationship be? As tight, as connected, as a branch is to a vine. The branch that is connected to the vine gets all the good stuff that is in the vine. A disconnected branch, if it had a mind, might protest that the vine is hard to get to know. The vine seems far away, distant. A disconnected branch would only know of the vine by hearsay, as a theory. The connected branch will have a hard time communicating what it's like to know the vine as it does. There will be things the disconnected branch will never understand, and even find absurd.

Philosopher of science Michael Polanyi wrote a book called Personal Knowledge. "Personal knowledge" is relational knowledge, like "knowing" how to ride a bicycle. When we ask someone "Do you know how to ride a bike" we're not asking for bike-riding theory. Our questions means: can you do it? Do you actually get on the bike and use it to transport yourself from one point to another.

There's something about personal knowledge that language cannot capture. The person in relationship knows both more and differently than the one who is out of relationship. Being in relationship with Jesus, abiding and welling "in him," gives one a personal knowledge that is far superior than someone who knows all the theories about Jesus.

Jim Hunter shares some thoughts...

Hi John:

Your words bring these thoughts to mind:

1) As you say, our job is not to try to attach ourselves to the vine or to get ourselves "in Christ" - We are in Christ - It was entirely God's work!

Writing on struggling to get "in Christ," Watchman Nee says, "Oh the folly of trying to enter a room in which we already are!"

"By Him are you in Christ Jesus ..." - 1 Cor. 1:30

"For He (God) delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son." - Col. 1:13

2) Our job is not to try or struggle to live the Christian life. The only One who can live the Christian life is Jesus! Trying is of the flesh (flesh = trusting in my own strength, abilities and resources). We are to trust Him to live His life through us - Difference of trying versus trusting - Flesh versus Spirit.

Paul repeatedly exhorts believers to allow Christ to live His life through them:

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” - Colossians 1:27

“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” - Galatians 4:19

“Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you . . .” - 2 Cor. 13:5

“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;” - Ephesians 3:17

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;” - Galatians 2:20

“Who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” - 1 Cor. 2:16

“. . . so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. - 2 Cor 4:11

"For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” - 2 Cor 4: 11

“Christ, who is your life..” - Col 3:4

3) Our job is to abide in Christ and let Him bear the fruit of the Spirit through us - "Abide in me and I in you . . . . Apart from Me you can do nothing"

Watchman Nee has some great words on how we are to abide:

"During the first three months of the Japanese war in China we lost a great many tanks and so were unable to deal with the Japanese tanks, until the following scheme was devised. A single shot would be fired at a Japanese tank by one of our snipers in ambush. After a considerable lapse of time the first shot would be followed by a second ; then, after a further silence, by another shot ; until the tank driver, eager to locate the source of the disturbance, would pop his head out to look around. The next shot, carefully aimed, would put an end to him. As long as he remained under cover he was perfectly safe. The whole scheme was devised to bring him out into the open.

In the same way, Satan's temptations are not primarily to make us do something particularly sinful, but merely to cause us to act in our own energy; and as soon as we step out of our hiding-place to do some thing on that basis, he has gained the victory over us. If we do not move, if we do not come out of the cover of Christ into the realm of the flesh, then he cannot get us.

How are we to abide? "Of God are ye in Christ Jesus." It was the work of God to put you there and He has done it. Now stay there! . . . Trying versus trusting . . . Believe me, it is the difference between heaven and hell." - Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life.

Firmly In Him,
Jim Hunter

Brandon Robinson shares some thoughts...

To abide, is to know love’s word

Wisdom is a deep topic. Sometimes, wisdom reveals more questions than answers. And before I feel that I might need wisdom, there are things that I first have to discover.

One of these discoveries is purpose. If I don’t have purpose, something important I have focused on, then I won’t miss wisdom. I can casually wander around pretty well on my own opinions. The next discovery is ambiguity. I have chosen a goal, but the way ahead is foggy and unclear. I am stepping forward onto new territory, and my normal experience isn’t enough to explain what is happening. Finally, there is the discovery of needing the essential. I have chosen a goal, I’ve stepped forward into ambiguity, and now I’m looking for the most definitive path. I don’t want to waste time and energy on partial paths, or illusory paths, or bright, glowing paths that leave me lost. I’m looking for the real path, and I realize I need wisdom.

So, if I have found purpose, ambiguous new territory, and the need for a path, I will seek wisdom. But, now, the questions. How do I find purpose? Is new territory any place that is unfamiliar? And what does a real path look like, anyway?

Those are questions answered not by explanations to be understood, but by the relationships we cultivate. When it says that ‘Jesus was made unto us wisdom from God,’ it implies that we have a relationship, through Jesus, in the Godhead. This salvation encounter with the deep wonder of love answers the three questions above. And, since Jesus is made unto us wisdom, it means not only did He author a relationship through salvation, but He has remained, in Spirit, to illuminate the way of the new life. His word leads me in love’s purposes, its new territory, and its essential path.

On a side note:

One product of ‘Jesus as wisdom unto us’ is the freedom of human ability. People are resourceful, and possessive of great potential, so that talents and abilities are sometimes chosen as the way to work through ambiguity and achieve the purposes that seem important. My personally favorite example is the philosopher who is seeking insight. But insert whatever character fits best- the athlete, musician, activist, evangelist, teacher, doctor, artist, thrill-seeker, punk rocker, lawyer, politician, etc and etc. And this character is sitting at a table, struggling with a recent project. My philosopher has a wax candle, and he’s buried his forehead in his hands. And Jesus is sitting across from him. Finally, Jesus says, ‘So, have you figured Me out yet?’ Or maybe the question is, ‘have you glorified Me enough yet?’ Or, ‘have you shown enough of My mercy, enriched enough lives in My name, or fought for enough advances in My kingdom?’ My philosopher looks up from his hands, and looks at Jesus square in the face. He responds, “No, I haven’t. I mean, really, You are God after all.”

Jesus says, “You’ve spent all this time with Me, but still don’t know who I am?”

My philosopher, who has exhausted himself to pursue true purposes, is lost at this question. He is in new territory. And over a moment, a still, thick passage of heavy time, the Spirit touches the philosopher with wisdom. “Oh,” he says, looking into the unending gaze of Jesus, “I am talking with God.”