In a past meditation on this anthem, we noted that the lyrics personify some of the qualities and accomplishments of Jesus: Holiness has a name, it’s Jesus; Victory has a name, it’s Jesus; the Word and Redemption also have the name of Jesus. This personification is important because our faith is rooted and built, not on some philosophy or mysticism or set of rules to follow or principles to understand, but on a living relationship between us and our God and Savior. All of the above qualities (and many more) are personified in a Person (Jesus), and, in turn, we must encounter all of these qualities in His person, not merely in understanding the concepts or facts.
This can be a bit confusing, especially for those who have not yet encountered Jesus through faith. It can be difficult for those who have come to faith in Christ to explain what it means to know Him personally. How would we explain light to someone who had been blind from birth? How would we convey the flavor of honey on our tongues to someone who had never tasted it? Some things must be experienced to be truly understood. All we believers can do is explain the truth of the gospel, then pray for the Holy Spirit’s work to bring the spiritually dead to life, and impart the life of Christ into this new-born believer, beginning the journey of knowing the person of Jesus.
For those of us who have believed, we must ask ourselves how well we know this Person, Jesus. Have we experienced these personifications found in the anthem? Do we know the Holy One, the Victor, the living Word, and the Redeemer in increasing intimacy? Are we encountering Him in expanding measure, growing deeper in love with Him, ever more grateful for our salvation, knowing His ways and yearning to walk in them more faithfully? Are we experiencing Him in ways which form us more and more into His image? These do not occur through mere intellectual assent of Christ’s nature, but only by time in His presence through the Word and the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts eliciting the great Amen in our souls.
In the former devotional, we emphasized the word behold, and a large part of our deepening in our encounters of the person of Jesus is as we behold Him—gazing on Him. This is not merely to analyze and tick off all the things we know about Him factually (although that is often a great place to begin). In his book, Prayer, Timothy Keller discusses the Puritan, John Owen’s, thoughts on beholding Jesus. Keller says, “When Paul spoke of beholding Christ’s glory, he could not be talking of mere belief [intellectual assent to a fact] that Jesus is glorious.” Keller goes on, and quoting Owen and giving his own thoughts, he boils it down to the fact that we don’t behold Jesus in order to merely acknowledge or describe His qualities, but to allow the knowledge to pierce our hearts and transform us through experiencing Him.
Not only that, these encounters with God prepare us for heaven where we will be with Him for eternity. It was never meant that we be saved here and wait to fellowship with Him there. We are meant to begin that fellowship here, in ever-deepening measure. In fact, Owen said that no one “will ever behold the glory of Christ by sight hereafter [in heaven] who doth not in some measure behold it by faith here in this world.” In other words, if we are not concerned with beholding and being in His presence here, we need to examine if we truly understand the gospel, the purpose of our salvation, and if we, indeed, have a living relationship with Jesus.
Owen, while very strongly stressing the primacy of Scripture for the foundation of our encountering Christ Jesus, says, “The spiritual intense fixation of the mind, by contemplation [beholding] on God in Christ, until the soul be as it were swallowed up in admiration and delight…” He goes on to describe admiring and adoring Christ as we pray to be our goal.
Keller concurs, saying, “We must not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart.” He continues, “It is one thing to know of the love of Christ and to say, ‘I know He did all of that.’ It is another to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. What Paul is talking about is the difference between having something be true of you in principle and full appropriating it, using it, and living in it—in your ‘inner being’ (Eph. 3:16) or ‘in your heart’ (v.17).
It is way too easy to slip into comfort mode in any relationship. It can be particularly challenging to be in a relationship with someone who continually confronts our unholiness, holds us accountable, refines us, grows our faith through testing, etc. But the rewards of such a relationship so far outstrip the challenges. The effects of it are eternal. The joy, peace, love, courage, bliss, and strength which flow from encountering Him are beyond description—they truly must be experienced. It is as we come to Him with the prayer to behold Him, to grasp His love that is beyond our capacity to understand that we experience the personal relationship we hear talked about. Jesus died to give us this relationship with Him, and we encounter the personifications mentioned in this anthem (and more), in that context. It is then that these Amens flow out of our souls as we affirm these truths—not just from our mind, but from our heart.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries
Have questions about this blog? Email the author here.