What I knew about my husband when I first met him was that he was from Sydney, he lived with his sister, and he worked in the music industry.
As our friendship developed I began to know who he was. He was confident but not egotistical. He was good at thinking on his feet. He had a great sense of humour. He was trustworthy and responsible. He was loving and kind. Thirty years later I am still discovering traits of his character and personality that deepen my love for him.
In any relationship what you know about the other person (the facts) becomes less important than who you know the other person to be (their character).
If I were to ask “What do you know about Christianity?”, what would you say?
Let’s travel back in time to the Roman Empire around AD64 to AD68. Nero is the Emperor. Nero is an evil tyrant who had murdered his own mother and two of his wives. Nero instigated the Great Fire of Rome and then blamed the Christians, who suffered extreme barbarities at his hands. And yet the persecution against the Christians only helped Christianity to spread further. Why was this?
Scripture tells us that the apostle Paul is imprisoned in Rome during this time. Paul knows that he faces his final days, and that he could be executed at any moment. It is in this seemingly hopeless context that Paul writes these passionate words:
…do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.2 Timothy 1:8-12 (ESV)
Did you notice what Paul did NOT say? He did not say “…for I know what I have believed…”
He said “…for I know WHOM I have believed…”
Those early Christians knew WHO they believed. They knew Jesus. His Holy Spirit lived in their hearts. They knew His character. In fact they were so convinced of His character, His miracles, and His resurrection as the Son of God that they were willing to continue spreading the Good News of the Gospel despite Nero’s atrocities towards them. We’re talking christians being used as human torches, or crucified, or being fed to the wild beasts in the arena as a sport.
They were willing to die if necessary rather than to stop telling the world the good news that Jesus Christ is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life!
(side thought: Whoa. Makes any petty woes as a twenty first century western christian seem so trivial. Would I be willing to die a tortuous death for my faith? Or be imprisoned? It’s happening to christians today in places such as China and North Korea!)
Back to my initial question. What do you know about Christianity? Everyone can actually answer this question. Everyone has an opinion or idea as to what Christianity is.
But who is Jesus?
Are you believing in what you know?
Or like the apostle Paul, can you say confidently “I know in whom I have believed”?
“Knowing in whom I have believed” implies a relationship. Knowing about my husband is different to knowing my husband.
In the same way, God does not want us to know about Him, His greatest desire is for you and me to know Him.
It is possible only through Jesus.
It truly is not what you know, it’s who you know.
And your eternity depends on it.