Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Knowing Jesus Experientially

In this quote, says Adrian Warnock, taken once again from the Doctor on Ephesians, we see a strong emphasis on experience. The Christian must KNOW God. Oh, how little we emphasize that today! How poor our experience often is. How few people glow when they speak about their relationship with their precious Saviour. How this challenges me personally once again to seek God!

“There are, unfortunately, even many evangelical Christians who deny that God has any direct dealings with men today, and who hold feeling and emotion at a discount. They frequently substitute for true emotion a flabby sentimentalism. They are afraid of the power of the Holy Spirit, and so afraid of certain excesses which are sometimes found in mysticism and in certain people who claim to have unusual experiences of the Holy Spirit, that they ‘quench the Spirit’ and never have any personal knowledge of Christ. Indeed, they often go so far as to deny the possibility of such a knowledge.

This is obviously something with which we must deal, for if we hold this particular view we shall clearly never seek the knowledge of which the Apostle is speaking, and therefore shall never have it. How then do we answer this charge?

There is, of course, a false mysticism. This becomes quite clear in books on the subject and especially in the biographies of certain mystics. Beyond a doubt, there were aberrations in the lives of many of them, and much that was morbid and unhealthy. There is a morbid, introspective, selfish, impractical and useless type of mysticism. But because certain mystics have been guilty of such things we should not allow ourselves to be blinded to that which is a true and healthy mysticism, a mysticism which is taught in the Bible itself . . .

. . . we must remind ourselves that this teaching is found, perhaps supremely, in the words of our blessed Lord Himself. In the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, having told them that He is about to leave them, our Lord says: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me’. They were troubled when told that He was going to leave them. They had been with Him three years, they had looked into His face, they had seen His miracles, heard His sermons, and could always ask Him questions. But now He is going to leave them, and they feared that they could not possibly continue to live and be happy without Him. His answer was, ‘I will come unto you. I will manifest myself to you’ (vv. 18, 21, 22). But still more explicitly in the sixteenth chapter we find Him saying, ‘It is expedient for you that I go away’ (v. 7). It would be good for them that He was going to leave them and to go away from them in the form in which He was then with them, because (as He proceeded to explain) ‘if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go away I will send him unto you’. How can it be expedient for the disciples that He should leave them in the flesh and go away from them in the body? How can that be true if it is not possible for the Christian to know Him immediately and directly? Obviously the supreme blessing is to be with Him, in His presence and in His company. What He is really saying is that after He has gone and has baptized them with the Holy Ghost, He will be more real to them than He was at that moment. And this is what actually happened. They knew Him much better after Pentecost than they knew Him before. He was more real to them, more living to them, more vital to them afterwards than He was in the days of His flesh. His promise was literally fulfilled and verified . . .

George WhitefieldNothing stands out more prominently in the life of George Whitefield than his consciousness of the love of Christ. He knew it to an exceptional degree and you will find that it was always after he had had some exceptional experience of Christ that he was given unusual enlargement and liberty in his preaching, and that men and women were broken down and melted before his holy eloquence and his portrayal of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Charles Wesley knew it equally well, and so writes:

Enlarge, inflame, and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine!
So shall I all my strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like Thine.

This has been true of God’s greatest servants in all ages, in all centuries, in all places.

. . . The secret of the early Christians, the early Protestants, Puritans and Methodists was that they were taught about the love of Christ, and they became filled with a knowledge of it. Once a man has the love of Christ in his heart you need not train him to witness; he will do it. He will know the power, the constraint, the motive; everything is already there. It is a plain lie to suggest that people who regard this knowledge of the love of Christ as the supreme thing are useless, unhealthy mystics. The servants of God who have most adorned the life and the history of the Christian Church have always been men who have realized that this is the most important thing of all, and they have spent hours in prayer seeking His face and enjoying His love. The man who knows the love of Christ in his heart can do more in one hour than the busy type of man can do in a century. God forbid that we should ever make of activity an end in itself. Let us realize that the motive must come first, and that the motive must ever be the love of Christ.

I end with the question which I asked at the beginning: To which of the circles do you belong? Are you pressing your way right into the centre? You may have seen people in a crowd, when the Queen or some other notable person is passing, trying to push themselves forward in order to have a front-line view. The same thing occurs at various games. There are those who always want to be in the front to have the best view. Are we pressing into the innermost circle? Are we seeking the Lord’s face? Are we coveting the knowledge of His love? The Apostle prayed for every single member of the Church at Ephesus that he or she ‘might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the length and breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.’ How tragic it is that any of us should be living as paupers, out on the cold street, while the banqueting chamber is open and the feast prepared. Let us search for the knowledge of the Lord in the Scriptures and read about it in the lives of the saints throughout the centuries. As we do so, we shall never be content until we are in the innermost circle and looking into His blessed face.”

Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. An Exposition of Ephesians 3: The Unsearchable Riches of Christ, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979, pp.247-253.

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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