On one of my recent business trips I was returning from Washington, DC and waiting in line on the jetway when I started small talk with the person next to me. He was a big guy and looked pretty young. We were talking about the weather in LA when I asked him what he was going out there for. "Oh, I'm going to go work out, work on my game" he replied. Since he looked so young, and it was that time of year, I figured it might have been a workout for a school. "Nah," he laughed, "I'm in the NBA, I play for the Washington Wizards." Now feeling foolish I try and backpeddle, "Oh, I don't watch too much of the pros. I'm more a college hoops fan." And realizing I was digging myself further into a hole, I changed subject to the NBA lockout which was still going on at the time. Then the line started to move, we got on board, wished each other well, and took our seats; his in first class of course. But before we parted ways I noticed his bags were monogramed with JW. So once in my seat I quickly did a Google search of JW Washington Wizards before the flight attendant could stop me and throw me in a cell with Alec Baldwin.
Now there are a couple of things wrong with the story above. First, my description of "young". Ok, so this "kid" was 20 at the time. But my excuse of being a college hoops fan didn't help my cause. Because JW for the Washington Wizards was none other than John Wall, first overall draft pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and arguably the best player in college basketball that year. And it's not like he played for some obscure school either; he played for the Kentucky Wildcats, one of college basketball's elite powerhouses. So of course I did a facepalm there in my seat and vowed if I saw him as we were getting off the plane, I would apologize and try and get my story straight.
You see, the problem was I was standing right next to one of the best basketball players in the world and I didn't know it. But if he had told me his name I could have spouted off stats, key plays, and otherwise acted like I knew what I was talking about. I knew about John Wall, but I didn't know John Wall.
Does that describe your relationship with Jesus? Do you know a lot about Jesus without actually knowing Him? That is the topic of chapter 3 of Kyle Idleman's book Not a Fan, "knowledge about him or intimacy with him?" Kyle uses the example of the Pharisee in Luke 7 who invites Jesus over for dinner, yet doesn't even acknowledge him as a guest. The irony, Kyle points out, is that this man has spent his life studying the scriptures and likely had all the messianic prophecies memorized, but he couldn't recognize the Messiah sitting right in front of him. I am reminded of this verse:
"You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40)
Further, Kyle suggests that our church culture actually encourages knowledge without intimacy. Consider:
We love having Bible studies, many of which include some kind of workbook. We go through a Bible curriculum that often has homework. Sermons are often accompanied by an outline where members can take notes and fill in the blanks. Many preachers refer to their sermons as a lesson or a lecture. If you grew up in the church, then you probably went to Sunday school, where you had a teacher. In the summer you may have gone to Vacation Bible School. Maybe you even competed in Bible Bowl competitions, all of which are won or lost depending on how much biblical knowledge you've accumulated and how fast you can raise your hand or hit a button. (pg 44)
The other night at Midweek we had a trivia competition. I love these, but mostly because I usually do really well. It is so bad (and yes, I said bad) that if we picked teams, I know a lot of people would pick to be on mine (which is completely different than kickball, but I digress). There are a handful of us at church who are usually the last ones standing and that night was no exception. In the end it came down to two of us, and I walked away victorious because I was able to figure out a trick math question. Of course, Jesus doesn't care about any of that. And that scares me.
I confess I know a lot about Jesus and I know a lot about the Bible. But I have to honestly assess myself and ask how intimately I really know Jesus. One of my greatest fears is to reach the end of my life and hear Jesus say, "I never knew you, away from me you evildoer!" (Matthew 7:23) Most of us would rather hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21, 23) Yet doesn't Jesus tell his disciples "I no longer call you servants... instead I have called you friends..." (John 15:15) Isn't that the level of intimacy we want to have with Jesus and He with us? Can you honestly describe your relationship with Jesus that way?
Evildoer. Servant. Or friend. What will Jesus call you? Or will he call you "just a fan"?
This post continues my series blogging through the book, Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman. I encourage you to follow along by clicking on the Not A Fan label to the right. And I urge you to pick up a copy of this book for yourself.