For the joy set before Me, I endured the cross. I gazed past sin’s burden and price, and saw you. I saw you free, reconciled to the Father, and smiling back at Me; not only you but countless others who would also accept Me. You were the joy set before Me. And now, dear one, you face a cross of your own. Learn of Me. Look past the cross towards your joy. And that, precious one, is Me, smiling in delight upon you. I am your joy! Look to Me as you endure, knowing that I am on the other side with resurrecting power. Understand the lesson of the seed, and allow yourself to be broken and die that multiplication can occur. Your cross is a fruit-bearing tree. Heb. 12:2-3, “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” HCSB
Faith. Without it, Hebrews tells us it is impossible to please God (11:6). It is more than just accepting Christ as Lord; faith is a lifestyle of trusting Him. How horrible to share a home with someone you couldn’t trust or refused to believe you. As Christians, we are called to live in it. So why don’t we?
Well, faith has become in many circles an abstract idea that refers solely to the acceptance of a God they cannot see. However, Hebrews tells us, “Now, faith is the substance of what we hope for, the evidence of what is not seen” (11:1). Faith is essentially an everyday reality of looking forward with hope, knowing there is an expected end. It has substance that can be relied upon. There is nothing futile about it. Faith refuses to look behind. As the Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians three, verse fourteen, that he forgets what is behind to press forward. Why? Because faith chooses to see the promise that lies ahead of it and greets it, much like a friend. In choosing to acknowledge God’s promises every day, we train our minds towards expectancy, and our actions begin to line up with our mindset. We start to prepare for the promise. That’s one of the reasons Jesus told a man that no one who sets his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom (Luke 9:62). To follow requires a faith that refuses to look back!
Faith is a dogged determination to grab hold of God’s reality regardless of what is happening outwardly. We all want to be the ones with the faith that Hebrews 11:33 says conquered kingdoms, shut the mouths of lions, quenched fires, and put armies to flight. Let’s remember though that to do this, there must be a lion faced, a wall to scale, a fire to address, and an army to fight. It is all facing it, so we must, in faith, do likewise and meet it head-on. However, what about the rest of that Scripture. I find it interesting that it is not in the heroic conquests of faith that we find the phrase, “of whom the world was not worthy” (11:38). No, this observance is made amid speaking of the wanderers who have been afflicted and mistreated; those who find themselves in the desert, on a mountain, in a cave, not to mention the occasional hole in the ground.
James tells us that it’s during these times when our faith is tested, that perseverance is cultivated in our lives – that choice to continue to move forward without a backward glance. And in doing so, we are made complete and whole in Christ, lacking nothing (James 1:4). It’s not always easy this moving forward, especially when we’ve been hurt or have hurt others. However, this is the time to count it all joy (James 1:2)! When you consciously choose to face forward, expecting God to be who He said He would be and to deliver on every promise He gave, He will follow through. Looking back, only causes us to harden in bitterness and like Lot’s wife, become an example of failure instead of triumph (Gen. 19:26). In fact, Jesus told us to remember her. In choosing to try to hold on to her past lifestyle, even taking one last glimpse of it, her life was forfeit (Luke 17:32-33).
So, faith. It is seeing God’s promise, greeting it like a friend who has announced their imminent arrival, preparing for it, and moving forward in anticipation of its arrival while refusing to look at the past should haves, could haves, would haves of our lives, and trusting that He is able. It is putting complete trust in the One who has charted a course of victory and life. What you are moving toward is His promise. You’ll never find it in the past. Don’t fear the lions or even a time of wandering in the desert. Faith is not contingent on location or success defined by the world. It is measured by the degree to which your eyes remain focused upon Christ – the Author and Finisher of Our Faith. Keep looking forward!
Heb. 3:1, “Therefore, brothers whom God has set apart, who share in the call from heaven, think carefully about Yeshua, whom we acknowledge publicly as God’s emissary and high priest” (CJB).
Many translate this as “consider” Christ. It doesn’t say to think about His miracles, His provision, or His doings in our life, but to think about Him. To set our minds on the beauty of His smile, the tender ache of His tears, the authority of His person, the power of His word as THE WORD, within whom we have our very being, is to seek to understand Him. This is all in the context of Jesus being sent to us, as our apostle and the One who makes intercession for us, to whom all is subject.
He is not far off; THE WORD is right now speaking His creative word over you and me, giving definition and meaning to our lives. When we gaze at His Person – the God of the Universe, and Man, who empathizes with our weaknesses – we see the things of this world “grow strangely dim.” It is in looking upon Him that we glimpse into His heart and are transformed by His love. He has done and will continue to do so much for others and us, and yet many will walk away without even acknowledging His gift. BUT for those of us who will take the time to look upon Him, we enter into a new dimension of relationship with Him that transcends what we could ever attain by simply knowing His acts. It is ascending the holy hill of God and embracing Him. In doing so, we come to understand His ways. We enter into a greater reality beyond what we can see with our eyes. We step into the realm of faith, into the arms of God in whose hold we are made whole and complete. I call it the hug of God. In this place where we hear His heartbeat, we begin to relate Heart to heart, Spirit to spirit, and Life to life, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that come what may, nothing can separate us from the love of God. We enter into rest.
My child, it is not a matter of what you are seeing but Who you are seeing. Many grow faint-hearted and weary because they are looking at physical circumstances and situations and cannot see the answer. My dear one, look to Me. Look beyond the physical into the spiritual realm and realize you are poised for victory because you remain in Me. At the forefront of your thoughts should be the subjection of all things under My feet. Maintain focus on Me – the One who loves you and gave Himself for you. Nothing below Me has dominion over you, and nothing is above Me. When questions come, encourage yourself, knowing I am positioned above all! Your triumph is found in Mine, and you are seated in heavenly places with Me. Heb. 2:8b-9, “In subjecting everything to Him, He left nothing unsubjected to Him. However, at present, we don’t see everything subjected to Him – at least, not yet. But we do see Yeshua – who indeed was made a little lower than the angels – now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by God’s grace He might taste death for all humanity.” CJB Eph. 2:6, “That is, God raised us up with the Messiah Yeshua and seated us with Him in heaven, in order to exhibit in the ages to come how infinitely rich is His grace, how great is His kindness toward us who are united with the Messiah Yeshua.” CJB
In Scripture we see one of Paul’s prayers for the churches is that they grow in full knowledge of Christ and love of the truth (Phil. 1:9, Col. 1:9, 2 Thes. 2:10). Now, in English, we have but the one word, “knowledge,” to express this concept, but throughout the New Testament Paul uses two different Greek words, and both are a gift from God. The first is gnosis which signifies a general knowledge that enables us to come to Christ, understand His work, know the difference between right and wrong, and grow in the things of God. This gnosis is the beginning point for every believer, and Paul speaks of this quite a bit. However, when praying for the church, this is not the word Paul uses.
In praying for the church, Paul prays that we may come to and grow in epignosis. So what is the difference? Epignosis refers to a complete, full, precise, and correct knowledge of things divine and ethical. In other words, it is not enough to have a knowledge of Christ. We need to come into accurate knowledge of Him. This is a significant differentiation because it is one thing to know about Him, but to have a precise knowledge is so much more.
Paul addresses this in I Corinthians thirteen, verse twelve. “Now I ginosko in part; then I will epignosko fully, just as God has epiginosko me.” The prayer of Paul for you and me is that we move beyond a mere head knowledge of Christ, but into knowledge based in truth, and there is a danger for the Christian who refuses to grow in the epignosis of God.
I Cor. 8:1 explains that “gnosis puffs up,” and this can lead to all sorts of error. Indeed, the Gnostic gospels take their name from this type of knowledge where we keep God at our level, and we do not recognize that His thoughts and ways are higher than our own. These authors had just enough knowledge to be dangerous and fell into error regarding many things, including the resurrection, which led to blasphemy and heresy.
In Ephesians 3:17, Paul tells us that love transcends gnosis, which suggests that love is a fruit of having an epignosis of Christ. This is backed up by Paul’s letter to the Colossians in which he commends them for having the epignosis of God in truth (1:6), and their love in the Spirit (1:8). Then he continues to pray that they will be filled with the epignosis of His will and then grow in it (1:9-10).
If gnosis can puff up, then epignosis leads us to love, which according to I Corinthians 13 is not puffed up, but gentle. The point being is that gnosis can bring us to Christ; however, it is epignosis that enables us to walk worthy of and fully please Him. This is what I desire for myself, my family, and the Body of Christ – that we would come into a complete and correct knowledge of our Lord. My prayer is that we would know Him in truth so that our lives reflect Him correctly to the world around us, and that we may know Him as intimately and wonderfully as He knows us.