Casting Off Religious Freight

Jeff FAITH, Prayer

Jesus said something in one of His prayers that deeply impacted me almost twenty-five years ago. The first time I read John 17:3, I paused and went back to read it again and again.  Jesus makes a stunning theological statement to the Father when, in His prayer, He says, “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  In one capsulized statement, Jesus tells all people throughout the ages what is the whole of the life faith: to know the Father through the Son.

Notice what Jesus does not mention as the key to eternal life:

He doesn’t mention morality.  He does not mention baptism. He does not mention good deeds.  He does not mention vows of celibacy or poverty.  He does not say a word about orthodox eschatology, dispensational theology, reformed soteriology or continuationist pneumatology.  Jesus does not magnify sacrificial giving as the core of what it means to live by faith.  Evangelism, church attendance, the Lord’s Supper, bible study, speaking in tongues, penance, confession, devoted quiet-times, conservative Christian-school education…none of these things find their ways into His prayer here.  Jesus, when magnifying what it means to be a possessor of eternal life leaves off nearly everything that might find its way onto the religious lists of presumably pious people.

Jesus simply prays to the Father and mentions with zero fanfare that the core of spiritual life is to know the Father through the Son.

Is it not the work of the enemy to bury the simple, most essential truths of the Kingdom underneath the complexities of human logic and reason? I love the King James rendering of Second Corinthians 11:3 which warns us of this activity of Satan when the apostle Paul writes, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (italics mine). That is a rather profound statement: Satan seeks to undermine our simplicity in Christ through a process of active deception. The enemy loves to add and subtract, detour and distract.  Yet, Jesus wants us to remain resolved and committed to pursue personal, deepening knowledge of God through personal, deepening surrender to the Son.  Satan hates that prospect for us, so he incessantly places lesser things before us in hope that they will distract us from the simple and sincere relationship with Jesus. Whether it is the pursuit of orthodox theology or over-the-top supernatural experiences, the enemy just wants to derail us off of the pathway of humbly knowing God on a deeper, more surrendered level.

Jesus’ prayer in John 17 motivates me to offer a prayer of my own this morning:

Father, we really want to know You.  Help us to be free from cumbersome complications that we have imported into our faith-journey with you.  Holy Spirit, empower us to unapologetically jettison all the religious cargo which weighs down our hearts.  Jesus, infuse us with bravery to remain resolved to make knowing You the consuming desire of our lives.  Deliver us from religious restraints that have nothing to do with a deepening understanding of who You are.  Show us the distinction between accurate theology and a heart of fiery love for you. We want both but, if we can only have one, I want the love for You to own me. Like You did with Elisha’s servant, Father, open our eyes that we may see what You see.  Raise up within us an irrepressible desire for intimacy with You, and enable us to recognize anything which opposes this in our lives.  We long for You.  We pant after You. We place the remainder of our days before You, and welcome You to send a purifying, consuming fire upon them so that our lives produce a fragrance which is pleasing to You. Jesus, You are worthy of it all. Abba, You are a good, good Father. Holy Spirit, You are welcome here. We belong to You, God. Help us to never stop growing in our knowledge of You – and make that knowledge living and intimate, not forensic and academized. Help us to count the cost and to also to embrace the prize.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6