We’ve entered a new era, sort of anyway. Maybe you remember the TV show Cheers, a comedy set in a Boston bar room. One of the characters was a know-it-all postal worker called Cliff. Every week he would pull out some obtuse and trivial fact that wasn’t quite right. For instance, “It’s a little-known fact that the tan became popular in what is known as the Bronze Age.” Imagine Cliff pushing one of his truth nuggets today and everyone fact-checking him on their smartphone. In a way, knowledge has changed from knowing something to knowing how to find something. But it’s not the same is it? Instead of really internalizing knowledge we simply brush up beside it, knowing that we can always find that bit of information again if needed. Christians have been doing that for years, brushing up against the truth but not really making it a part of themselves.
Now, I’m not against using tools like Google. I have a library of fully indexed and searchable Bibles and books on my laptop. I frequently use those tools to find answers. I even used Google to locate that quote from Cliff about tanning. But having all of that knowledge at my fingertips doesn’t make me a better follower of Jesus. Just as being able to look up facts about the Higgs-Boson particle doesn’t make me a physicist. Growing in Jesus only comes by knowing Him. Paul had this same concern for the believers living in Ephesus. One of his prayers for them says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, NASB95) Look at Paul’s language in the prayer – strengthened, inner man, dwell, rooted, grounded, comprehend, know, and filled. This is more than just being able to recall a verse. This is a deep and abiding connection.
We want to do more than just be able to pull out an appropriate Bible verse at the right time. Nothing wrong with that, but following Jesus is so much more. Scripture only means something if we internalize it by making it a part of our lives and doing what it says. Even more importantly, taking what we read to Jesus and making Him a part of our lives and doing what He says. That is perhaps the difference between being a pharisee and being a follower. One follows the letter, the other follows the person. Look again at Paul’s prayer. What is the one central thing we are to be “rooted and grounded” in? What are we to comprehend? What are we to know? Paul underlines a paradox, we can know the unsearchable unknowable depths of Christ’s love way beyond our own ability. It’s kind of like being an astronomer that is able to see the whole sky yet is constantly discovering something new. There are no greater riches than knowing Jesus and His love for you. But don’t just brush up against this. Grow roots in it. Let it anchor your soul. Let it become a part of who you are. Knowing Jesus is more than a feeling, it’s life.