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Christianity: A Revelation of Jesus Christ
By David A. DePra
Christianity, which is CHRIST IN US, involves an on-going REVELATION of Christ in us. Thus, to know the Truth, is to know Jesus. Not surprisingly, Jesus said, "I am the Truth." (Jn. 14:6)
This tells us exactly the place of doctrine. Doctrine is not true merely because it agrees with the Bible. I said, "merely," because, obviously, true doctrine WILL agree with the Bible. But more than that, true doctrine agrees with the Person of Jesus Christ. In other words, my doctrine must tell the truth about the Truth!
The written Word of God always agrees with the Living Word of God. The two cannot be separated. There is no revelation given which is not in the Bible. Yet there is no revelation in the Bible that is not found in the Living Christ. This does not mean that the Bible is Christ, or that Christ is the Bible. It simply means that the Bible, and all true doctrine, explains, represents, and teaches us about the PERSON.
To draw an example, suppose that you have never sat behind the wheel of a car. You have never learned how to drive. But you have memorized the drivers manual. In fact, you are have memorized how to take a car apart and put it together. You can even teach these facts to others. Does any of that mean you can actually drive? No. But once you do get behind the wheel of a car, and learn how to drive, then you say, "Ah, THIS is what all of those facts mean! Now, I see!"
It is like that with Jesus Christ. Biblical doctrine teaches us about Him. We are given many facts, even insights, into God’s mind. But this is not yet the same as HAVING the mind of Christ, or of seeing Him. Notice how the necessity of seeing Jesus does nothing to negate the need for Biblical doctrine. No. But the doctrine is supposed to move us forward into seeing and living with the actual Person.
Christians by the thousands know what the Bible says. But do we really know what it MEANS? Perhaps we even know what it means intellectually. Doctrinally. But do we know what it means because we know HIM?
The reason the apostles were so certain about Jesus Christ involved MORE than the fact that they had been with Him, and had seen Him raised from the dead. They were certain about Jesus Christ because He was IN THEM – they had an inner revelation of Jesus that carried them through life.
In no case is this more evident than with the apostle Paul. Paul had never seen Jesus before His conversion – I base this on the assumption that Paul would had told us he had seen Jesus, if he had. I find it difficult to imagine him leaving out that fact. Yet Paul said he had an inner revelation of the Christ that was more real than any physical presence could be.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: (Gal 1:15-16)
Some of us get the idea that conversion to Christ is simply a matter of us buying into a good argument, or a matter of us adopting a belief system. If that is all Christianity is – a good argument – then our faith will only be as strong as our argument. But Christianity, despite the fact that it IS based on sound, historical fact – the resurrection – is not based on FACTS alone, or upon arguments. Christianity is based on a revelation of CHRIST IN US.
The objective fact of the resurrection is essential if Christianity is the Truth. But the subjective fact of our resurrection IN CHRIST is the outcome of that objective resurrection. If Jesus Christ did not literally and historically rise from the dead, then you and I are NOT raised. We are still in our sins.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Cor 15:13-19)
Now, what all of this tells us is quite simple: Jesus did rise from the dead. But for proof of that, we have no pictures or videos. (Even if we did, people would say they were faked anyways.) What we do have is the testimonies of the eye-witnesses. We have the Bible. And we do have some historical written evidence outside the Bible. This is compelling evidence, and not to be disdained. But critics are quick to point out that this alone isn’t enough evidence to prove Christianity. And you know what? They have a point.
Sure. And the Bible itself SAYS they do. If all Christianity is, is nothing more than a belief system based on a historical fact, how could we ever really be sure that this one fact is accurate? If all that Christianity is nothing more than a religion based on the written testimony of those who claim he rose from the dead, how would that actually change you and I? I mean, even if the story was totally true? It really wouldn’t do much to change us at all.
Think about it. Many of those who were converted to Christ in the early church did not have the New Testament. They did not have access to churches, teachings, or doctrines. They did have the apostles, but most of them had left the immediate area. Yet their conversion was so real that it turned the world upside down. How? Because people bought into a convincing argument? Because they just believed the apostle’s word?
No. Despite the fact that Jesus DID rise from the dead, and despite the fact that we do have the Bible, and the testimony of the apostles, Christianity is based on much more. Christianity is based on an INDWELLING of Christ Himself. Christianity is based on a personal revelation of Jesus. We really are raised with Christ. Unless that is true, the best there is for us, is a dead religion about Christ – based on facts that can change no one.
If our Christianity is real, then it is based on the fact of the resurrection. But His resurrection must become OURS. That means that we must RECEIVE into ourselves – from the OUTSIDE of ourselves – a life that we were not born with. Indeed, our old life must die, and we must be born again. And if that happens, then we have received into ourselves, through the Holy Spirit, the very life of Jesus Himself. Along with that, we receive all of the potential for an on-going revelation of Jesus, for with His life, comes the light of His life.
According to the Bible, THIS IS THE EVIDENCE – His life within us. That is the certainty. Not to the exclusion of the historical facts – but His life within is the outcome of those true historical events. CHRIST IN US is the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Because Christ is in us, our body is dead because of sin, but our spirits are alive because of righteousness. (Rom.8)
In other words, Christianity is not the outcome of buying into a religious argument. That genders NO new life. Christianity is not the result of upbringing, religious training, or academic education. Christianity is not theology. All of those things cannot birth us anew. Rather, Christianity is the result of our death and resurrection IN JESUS CHRIST. And what emerges is HIS LIFE IN US. THAT is the evidence.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (1 John 5:9-13)
What this tells us is that CHRIST IN US is supposed to be so real that He stands as the greatest evidence of all. This is no mind game, or product of brainwashing. His life in us, and the revelation of Himself to us, ought to be what governs our entire lives.
Each Person Mature
So why is this so lacking today? Because the Body of Christ has missed the boat. The purpose and function of the Holy Spirit in the gifts is supposed to be to EDIFY each other in Christ – in other words, we are supposed to have as our goal, "to present each man mature in Christ." But instead, what is often the goal is to present each church as successful. Or, to teach people how to get God to do what they want Him to do. Or, often we think that the goal of the Christian life is to come to understand the meaning of Bible verses.
But how do we become mature in Christ? If the church, in general, were operating according to the will and purpose of God, how would this all work out in making people mature in Christ?
Well, first of all, we would be teaching people not only the necessity of carrying their Cross daily, but HOW to walk with Jesus in that way. Life comes only from death. Thus, in order for Jesus to be experienced, the flesh must be crucified.
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:1-12)
Paul says, "We have THIS MINISTRY…." What ministry? Well, the ministry described in this passage – that of dying so that Jesus might live through us. When is the last time THIS MINISTRY was the dominant ministry of the general church today? Answer that question and you have your answer as to why CHRIST IN US doesn’t seem as real as the Bible describes.
Of course people object to this line of teaching because, to them, it seems so negative. After all, doesn’t God want us to be happy? Yes, He does. But in NOTHING but Himself as the core and center. Furthermore, the reason this line of teaching seems so negative is that we start UPSIDE DOWN to the life of Christ in us. But if we think that UPSIDE DOWN really is RIGHT SIDE UP, then when God begins to try to turn us RIGHT SIDE UP, we will think that He is turning our lives UPSIDE DOWN!
If you have done everything you know to do to seek Jesus Christ, through faith, obedience, and surrender, but it has turned into disaster, either eternally, or internally, this may be why. You expected that the result would be resurrection – and about that you were right. But you had no clue as to the Cross. The Cross, which is the life of Christ in us bringing down OUR kingdom, may bring you to an absolute despair over yourself. That will seem UPSIDE DOWN – and as if Christ cannot be real. But it is really RIGHT SIDE UP. You are in the process of DYING. It won’t last forever, even though it seems like it.
God will orchestrate the scene of our crucifixion. We must obey and follow where He leads. God will often use circumstances which expose our great NEED. In such cases, we will need – not the interpretation of a Bible verse, or a bit of information to get us through – but we will need a revelation of Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what we will experience if we will die the death God has before us.
The purpose of this Christian life is NOT that God might reveal true doctrine to me. The purpose is that He might reveal HIS SON IN ME, AND TO ME. Then, our doctrine will line up, won’t it?
Theology isn’t going to get you through. That is because theology isn’t a living relationship. It simply describes it – if it is Biblical. For example, theology tells us that we ought to die daily, that He might live through us. We just read that from the above passage. But is this really happening? That is the question, isn’t it?
This kind of death always carries with it a sense of NO ESCAPE. You know that if you surrender to God that there is going to be NO WAY BACK – and that it is going to be totally up to Him what becomes of you. Here we see the example of Jesus when He said, "Into Your hands do I commit my spirit."
All of this is actually the mark of true discipleship. Did Jesus say: "If any man would be My disciple, let him pick up his theology and follow Me?" No. Did He say: "If any man would be My disciple, let him get ready for a big party?" No. He said that to follow Him, we must pick up our Cross. The Cross is the instrument of death. And there is more in us that must die that we can imagine. Yet on the other side of the Cross is a resurrection. It is in HIS NEW LIFE IN US that all of the positive comes in. If you want peace, joy, and love, and all of those good things, they are in Christ alone. But you need to be crucified out of the way first.
Jesus Christ said that the key to freedom was knowing the Truth – which, He said, was equal to knowing Himself. But knowing the Truth isn’t just knowing the meaning of Bible verses. Knowing the Truth means to experience the Truth – to experience Jesus Himself.
Jesus also said, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. " (John 17:3) It is clear that He could not have been talking about theology. No. Theology isn’t eternal life – it tells us what the Bible says about it. Rather, Jesus was talking about experiencing God Himself. He was saying that eternal life embodies, not only the fact that you are saved, but embodies the on-going revelation of God Himself.
What does it mean to KNOW GOD? To KNOW JESUS? We have been seeing that it means much more than simply an intellectual knowledge of facts, or of the meaning of Bible verses. To know God speaks of an inner, experiential knowledge. And the fact is, once we understand that THIS Is what it means to truly know God, we will then realize that there is no way for any of us to receive it except by REVELATION.
That may shock some people. Others may object, thinking that I am saying there is revelation outside of the Bible. No. I am simply stating what the Bible states – that Truth comes by revelation. That a knowledge of Jesus Christ comes by revelation. That isn’t revelation which is outside the Bible, but it is the very thing the Bible itself states about revelation.
There are a group of Christians today, who think that sitting and reading the Bible, and then chewing on what the verses might mean, is what revelation is all about. Sort of like revelation is nothing more than a big Bible study. Somehow absent from their concept of revelation is a PERSON – Jesus Christ. Somehow, these folks have little frame of reference for the revelation of the Holy Spirit showing us Jesus through the trials of life.
There are people everywhere today, with degrees in theology, and years of experience in the church, but with no real knowledge of Jesus Christ. These people have much brainpower, and have often learned the techniques of operating in churches and ministry. But in the eyes of God, this means little. They have learned about Jesus Christ, but the question becomes, "Have they LEARNED CHRIST?"
To learn facts about Jesus Christ is good. It is necessary. But to LEARN CHRIST is quite another thing. "To learn Christ," means to not only experience Christ, but to have everything about you changed, adjusted, trained, and brought into conformity to Him – because of that experience of Christ. We see this in this same epistle to the Ephesians:
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:17-24)
Now note: If to LEARN CHRIST means to be changed because of Him, into conformity with Him, this automatically tells us why the work of the Cross is necessary. The work of the Cross is necessary because in order to LEARN CHRIST we have UNLEARN OURSELVES. We have to have everything about us – our thinking and our motives and our source of security – dismantled, and then built back up again on another foundation – Jesus Christ. We have to have the fabric of our being – mind, will, emotions, and moral conscience – completely altered. Few of us have a clue as to just how drastic of a change this requires, or what is necessary to make it possible.
To show a contrast between learning about Christ, and learning Christ – through the work of the Holy Spirit, we need only stay in Ephesians. In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, he wrote to them many wonderful teachings, commands, and exhortations. It is a wonderful letter, isn’t it? And it is the inspired Word of God. But despite all of that, notice what Paul does – Paul prays for them, that they might have their eyes opened. Opened to what? Open to what all that he is teaching means. Open to the Christ about whom Paul is writing.
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. (Eph 1:15-20)
If the revelation to us of the Truth, of the Person of Jesus, simply consisted of our understanding of the meaning of Bible verses, or facts ABOUT Christ, Paul most certainly would not have to pray for us or them in this way. All he would need to do, in that case, is explain to them the meaning of what he is writing. And really, He DOES that! But Paul nevertheless prays that God might give them, "the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." This is not information Paul hopes they receive. Not facts about Christ. Neither is it a prayer that they might increase their brain power, and finally understand his theology. Paul wants them to see Jesus Christ – to know Him experientially. He knows that this is the only way they will really understand anything he has written them.
So we see that the fact that Truth must come by revelation does in NO WAY omit the Bible as vital. No. All Truth that DOES come by revelation will agree with the written Word. And the Bible itself states that this is exactly the way the Holy Spirit works.
The Holy Spirit
If you have the Holy Spirit in you, and you do if you are saved, then that same Holy Spirit is, right now, seeking to guide you into all Truth. Jesus said so. Or, to put it another way, the Holy Spirit, right now, is seeking to reveal to you the Person of Jesus Christ. The beginnings of this work may come in the form of theology, or understanding of the Bible. But in the end, the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to you a Person.
This is exactly what Jesus taught the Spirit would do. He said:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:12-15)
The great need for the Body of Christ today is to get back to this fundamental purpose of God, that we might KNOW HIM. We need to begin teaching that this is the purpose of God, and we need to begin teaching how to present ourselves to God for this great work. If the Body of Christ truly did this, it is almost certain that the knowledge of Jesus Christ, instead of being a rare thing, would be a prevalent thing in His church. Rather than take years, it would take much less time. For the purpose of God through the gifts would finally be happening:
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)
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