It probably seems strange to ask whether or not you know Jesus by fact or truth. Isn’t a truth also a fact? However, a fact may be far less than a truth, because truth can transform a person in a way that a mere fact cannot. The best statement to this effect that I know of is by A.W. Tozer.
“The essence of my belief is that there is a difference, a vast difference, between fact and truth. Truth in the Scriptures is more than a fact. A fact may be detached, impersonal, cold and totally dissociated from life. Truth on the other hand, is warm, living and spiritual. A theological fact may be held in the mind for a lifetime without its having any positive effect upon the moral character; but truth is creative, saving, transforming, and it always changes the one who receives it into a humbler and holier man. At what point, then, does a theological fact become for the one who holds it a life-giving truth? At the point where obedience begins. When faith gains the consent of the will to make an irrevocable committal to Christ as Lord, truth begins its saving, illuminating work; and not one moment before.”
I have one major question regarding Tozer’s statement. How does faith gain consent; or put another way, what part do you and I play in faith and obedience? It is not certain to me what Tozer meant by faith gaining consent of the will, but the Bible speaks in this way.
“…just as you have always obeyed …work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12, 13)
It is essential to understand that even the willingness to obey God must come from Him. Continuing from my last blog, intimacy with God is the most important and relevant factor. Jesus said, apart from Him we can do nothing. Therefore, abiding in Him, resting in Him, and allowing Him to take up residence in our heart is essential to obedience. To abide, rest, and desire Christ to reside in our heart are actuated through the privacy of prayer.
There is one thing more than all others that will keep us from prayer – sin. Jesus said, we should go into the closet, that is to say, we should spend alone time with God. Prayer brings faith to its place of completion. Prayer is where we ask God for what we need, and learn to see ourselves as we actually are, that is, in desperate need of Him. However, praying is not merely saying words. If prayer is not deeply heart-felt and personal, it dishonors the One to whom we pray.
The year was 1979, walking into the chapel of the Bible Institute a voice became audible. Someone was obviously having a conversation, but the closer I got to the person the more evident it became that he was alone. He was having a heart to heart to be sure, but it was with no person that could be seen. It was not like any prayer that I had ever heard. The intimacy level took prayer to a place I’d never been. Suddenly it became clear that I was intruding on a private conversation. All I could do was to walk quietly backwards and let myself out. As serious as the conversation was, there is no doubt in my mind that he was not aware of my presence.
Prayer is never to be done as a ritual or something on a check list. If prayer is not as a personal transaction with the person of God, it accomplishes nothing good. When our faith goes to work, then we willingly invite God into our lives, recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, and thereby, live a life of obedience.
As we pray and meditate on the truths of scripture, and consider them against the backdrop of our own ignorance, biases, cultural mores, and sinful desires, then God speaks to us through His word. Only intimacy with God can overcome the perils of the world, the flesh, and the devil that distort a proper interpretation of scripture.
Again I say, faith is made complete in prayer, and God honoring prayer always honors God’s revealed word more than our own misunderstandings. Only then do we hear Him with a willingness to believe Him and obey. To know Jesus Christ in this way is to live a new and transformed life.