TO KNOW AND BE KNOWN

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When was the last time you had a song stuck in your head that you couldn’t quit singing?

No matter what you did, you couldn’t change the channel. This happened to me recently, so I turned to the internet to search for a home remedy. One article guaranteed that chewing gum would make the song miraculously disappear. I was so excited when I read this that I grabbed my purse and pulled out not one, but two pieces of gum to increase my odds for success. Unfortunately, the only thing I increased was my ability to annoy everyone within earshot. I promise, smacking on gum while repeatedly screeching out a jingle will not win friends or influence others—and it didn’t even make the song go away!

Since the song was here to stay, I decided to think about the lyrics:

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came…”[i]

“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” was the theme song from the 1980s television sitcom Cheers. To highlight the truth of the title, every time one of the characters walked through the doors of the neighborhood pub, he was happily greeted with a unanimous, “Norm!”

Everybody knew his name.

If you want to see someone’s eyes light up, just call them by their name—especially when they don’t expect it. It’s like music to their ears! I make an effort to thank the checker at the grocery store by name and they always seem surprised and happy that I took the time to acknowledge them. I even found a verse in the Bible to back this up: 3 John 1:15 says, “ …Greet the friends by name.”

People love hearing their name because we all desire to know and be known.

With the advent of social media, the need for relationship, validation, and approval from others has never been so visually apparent. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of calculating their value and worth as a human being on their online reputation—how many friends, followers, likes, retweets, and comments (the list goes on!) they can collect. The sense of self-fulfillment they seek never arrives, so they chase higher and higher numbers. I’ve read far too many news pieces of people falling to their deaths just to get the perfect Instagram shot to post online. People are dying to be seen.

Social media is a powerful tool. Like the name suggests, it’s a social activity–and we are social creatures. We want others to know us and approve of us. I recently heard about a 104-year-old woman who was asked the best thing about being her age. She replied, “No peer pressure!”

We’re created in God’s image and He is relational, so we too are relational to the core. We were created to need both Him and each other to be happy and thrive. Doubt and insecurity occur when we get the order backwards. Our first priority should be to know God and be known by God. If we look to Him first, our relationships with others have ample space to flourish because we no longer need our peers’ validation. To have lasting peace, confidence, and joy, we need to look to God alone. No amount of worldly success or social media popularity can come close to the indescribable gift of knowing God and being known by Him.

POINT TO PONDER:

Knowing of someone is different than knowing them personally. You can have hundreds of social media “friends” that you know of, but your true friends are the ones you know on a personal—and more honest—level. The more time and attention we give to one another, the closer our relationship will be. This applies to our relationship with Jesus as well: when we seek Him first, everything else falls into place.

[i]Songwriters: Gary Portnoy / Judy Hart

Cheers lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC


HE STANDS AT THE DOOR AND KNOCKS

Jesus proved His love for us by dying on the cross on our behalf. He paid the fine for our sins and suffered in order to restore the relationship between God and man. What more could He have done to prove that He wants you to know Him and He desires a personal relationship with you? What an amazing thought, the God of the whole world wants you! But like any relationship, it goes both ways. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

Jesus stands at the door toyour heart and knocks, but you have to invite Him in. In the same way you wouldn’t want a forced marriage, God doesn’t want forced fellowship. He gives every person the ability to receive Him or reject Him. He is a good God who presented us with free will. Think about it: He didn’t give us the privilege of choice only to demand that we choose Him. By the same token, He didn’t create choice without consequences, so we are responsible for the decisions we make. Each person must decide whether they want to know God and be known by Him, or navigate the many choices in life by themselves.

To those who choose to look to Jesus and put their trust in Him alone to save them, Nahum 1:7 is a beautiful, comforting truth, The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

For those who never take the time to enter into a relationship with Jesus or accept His free gift of salvation, they will get the sad outcome of their decision when they hear Jesus say “…‘I never knew you; depart from Me…” Matthew 7: 21-23

God creates a path for everyone to come to repentance. He gives each one of us many opportunities to look to Him and be saved. It is only those who absolutely refuse to acknowledge their sin and repent who come under His judgment.

POINT TO PONDER:

Good people don’t go to Heaven. Forgiven people do.


LOOK AT ME DADDY

When my daughters were little, every day we heard them say, “Daddy, look at me!” Whether they were doing cartwheels in the yard, dancing to the radio, or riding their bikes without training wheels, they wanted to be seen, validated, and encouraged by their father. I believe this is an earthly example of our desire to be seen and known by our Heavenly Father.

In the Old Testament, one of the names used to describe God is El Roi, which means “the God who sees me.”In the New Testament there are many accounts of Jesus proving He is the God who sees, including John 1:43-48:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

I’m very grateful this exchange is included in the Bible. Nathanael wasn’t perfect, in fact, he had just insulted everyone from Nazareth, to include Jesus! Jesus, however, saw past his statement. Instead of condemning him for his bigotry, He chose to encourage him. The result: Nathanael was immediately overcome by the goodness of God. He knew in that moment that Jesus saw him, heard him, and even knew his thoughts! Nathaniel made the great confession of faith and is credited as one of the first to publicly declare, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

Like Nathanael, peace is found in knowing that God sees everything—who we are on both our good and bad days—and still calls us to Himself. After hearing the words of Jesus, Nathanael chose to follow Him, earning his right to forever be seen and known by El Roi, the God who sees.

POINT TO PONDER:

Like a little child, when you say, “Look at me, Daddy” and desire God’s praise and attention over all others, you will receive it. He never takes His eyes off His children.


HE KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU

The saddest consequence of sin is separation from God. When our desire to be seen by God is removed, hiding from Him is often our first reaction to the presence of guilt. Darkness is more appealing than light when we want our actions to be overlooked. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, the first thing they did was cover themselves and hide. That’s one of the many sorrows sin provides: it destroys relationships. When we participate in deeds of darkness, we flee from the light.

In John 4 we read a story about a Samaritan woman who encountered Jesus as He was sitting by the well where she draws water. Jesus looked at her and asked her to give Him a drink of water. She was surprised that Jesus noticed her, and even more amazed that He spoke to her! Jesus explained that if she knew the gift of God, their roles would be reversed. She would be the one asking Him for Living Water. The woman accepted His invitation and asked for the gift of Living Water. Jesus replied with an unexpected request: “Go and get your husband.”

Astonished, she replied, “I don’t have a husband.” Jesus confirmed her words when He replied, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

His words must have conveyed compassion, concern, and truth because she stayed with him at the well and the conversation continued. She told him, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am He.”

Jesus, in His love and mercy, made a dedicated trip to Samaria just to meet the woman who needed a Savior. The Bible made it a point to say that it was noon when she went to draw water. Why would she choose this hour when most people filled their water pots in the cool of the morning, not in the midday heat? It seems to me like she was trying to avoid engaging with others. Was she tired of hearing the judgmental whispers and gossip aimed at her life choices? Was she wearied by the haughty eyes of contempt that rolled when she approached? Word gets around in small towns. If her reputation preceded her, then the ostracism she felt drove her to hide in the shadows.

What a surprise it must have been when she saw Jesus sitting at the well. He knew her heart was longing for the Messiah, so He met her where she was, in a place of basic necessity. He was not tolerant of her sin—He actually exposed it—but He spoke to her with such understanding that she left her water jug behind, went back to her town, and began to evangelize!

“Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John 4:29-30

God knew everything about her and still wanted her to be part of His family. She was completely seen, completely known, and completely loved in spite of her failures and mistakes. Jesus is the God who sees the brokenhearted and responds to those who call on His name. The same woman who had been ashamed and separated from her community now held her head high, filled with the confidence that she would lead many in her town to Jesus.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” John 4:39

POINTS TO PONDER:

One of the most important things you can do is, like the woman at the well, bring people to Jesus. There is power in your testimony.

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Jesus didn’t shy away from confronting the Samaritan woman’s sinful behavior, but He did it in a way that she was willing to receive and listen to His words. His kindness brought her to repentance. May we be like Jesus and have the courage to confront sin while at the same time loving the person and inviting them to receive Jesus, the Living Water that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Saint Augustine put it this way: Act with love for the persons and hatred of their sins.


UNSEEN 

A few years ago, I offered a blanket to a homeless man. He told me he already had a sleeping bag but thanked me for trying to help. I admitted that I didn’t feel like I had helped him very much. His words brought tears to my eyes when he responded,

“You’ve helped me more than you know. You looked at me.”

I thought back on all the times I had averted my eyes from people in the midst of struggle. The man with the tin can on the street corner asking for money, the homeless woman pushing her shopping cart… If I didn’t have anything to offer them, I turned away. I didn’t realize that it hurt them to be unseen.

Studies have been done on people who are “unseen” for long periods of time in solitary confinement (sometimes referred to a prison within a prison). They are far more likely to engage in self-mutilation and attempt suicide at rates that are higher than the general prison population[i]. Even people who might be called “hardened criminals” can’t survive being isolated for very long without losing themselves.

Jesus described Hell as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The validation every heart seeks will be forever out of grasp, replaced with a void that can only be filled with regret, sorrow, and shame. The souls in hell will finally understand that Jesus did everything He could to keep them from this eternal misery, but they rejected His free gift of salvation again and again. What more could Jesus do? He paid the fine for our sins on the cross, but that gift must be received, accepted, and then lived.

C.S. Lewis in his book, The Great Divorce, said it this way,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

I pray that everyone reading this devotional will accept Jesus as their Savior so you will never have to hear the scariest words in the Bible, when Jesus says, “Depart from me. I never knew you…”

It hurts to be unseen.

POINT TO PONDER:

There is an old song by the Newsboys called, “They don’t serve breakfast in Hell.” It’s a reminder that every good thing in this life, no matter how small or big, is a gift from God. Hell isn’t a party. Hell is torment for eternity with no second chances. The choices we make while we are alive will determine where we go after death. 

 

[i]According to Stuart Grassian, a board-certified psychiatrist and former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, he found that roughly a third of solitary inmates were “ actively psychotic and/or acutely suicidal.”


REMEMBER ME

For many years, I have volunteered at a pregnancy center where I have the privilege of sharing the gospel with others. During my conversations with the women I meet there, I observed that one of the most common reasons they haven’t pursued a relationship with God is because they believe they’ve messed up too many times. They think—falsely, of course—that they are unworthy of forgiveness.

As a counselor, I would much rather hear that confession instead of, “I’m a good person. I’m fine, I haven’t done anything wrong.” To those who aware of their sin, that’s good news. It means their conscience is working properly and they are reflecting on their actions. This is the perfect state to receive Jesus. 

The Bible confirms this in the account of the two criminals who were being crucified on crosses next to Jesus:

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong. ”And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:33-43

Like the criminals on the cross, we are all guilty sinners who have broken God’s laws and have earned death. Jesus, being fully man and fully God, loved us so much that he suffered for our sins and died on our behalf. In courtroom terms, He paid a fine we could never pay, so God the Judge could dismiss our case.

Each of us has to decide what we will do with our sins and guilt. Will we ask Jesus for His understanding and mercy, or hide from his gaze for the rest of our lives? Of the two criminals on the cross, one looked to Jesus, confessed his sins, acknowledged Him as King, and asked Him to remember Him. Jesus in His overwhelming grace and mercy granted him Heaven in place of Hell. He said these beautiful words: “today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

The other criminal mocked Jesus, refused to confess any wrongdoing, and never turned to Him to be saved. Both men died that day, but probably with different destinations. We know for sure the one who confessed his sins and asked Jesus to remember him followed his Savior into Paradise. If the other man continued his rebellion all the way to death, then I can promise he is eternally regretting his decision—separated from the God who loved him so much that gave His one and only Son so that he didn’t have to perish but have eternal life with Him. If this most precious gift was rejected, what more could He have done? The only sin that can’t be forgiven is to reject Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

In conclusion, to those who know God and are Known by God, a beautiful, unanimous greeting awaits your arrival in Paradise—where everybody knows your name.

POINTS TO PONDER:

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

His forgiveness is available to ALL who repent and ask for it, even criminals on a cross.

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Right before Jesus died and gave up His spirit He said, “it is finished” (John 19:30) which means the debt has been paid in full. The Greek translation for this is one word: tetelestai. This is an amazing word! Back then when a convicted criminal had completed his sentence and was freed from prison, a sign saying “tetelestai” was nailed to the door of his house as a token that he no longer owed a debt to society. It was also stamped on receipts to mark them as “paid in full.” 

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