Why do religious people, church-going, professing Christians, sometimes fail to come to know Jesus in a personal, life-altering way? Why do some people busy themselves with Christian activities only to find themselves disappointed when their lives don’t go the way they expect? Author Tim Keller describes it this way, “Religious people are very busy in their religion doing lots of religious activities, and then they expect their lives to go the way they want them to go. And if they find their career or their love life isn’t going very well, they say, ‘What good is all this religion? I’m doing all these things, where’s God?’”
On Sunday, at our Easter service, we saw how the resurrection is central to the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-11) and how we have good reason to believe in the facts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. All Christian hope rests in the fact of Jesus’ resurrection! Yet it is still possible to believe the right doctrine about Jesus’ resurrection and not know the power of it. Why? Because there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing him.
There is a difference between knowing the facts of the resurrection and knowing Jesus in the power of his resurrection.
The apostle Paul writes that his desire is to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). When he says this, he’s saying that his definition of success has been turned upside down from seeking his significance and happiness in his achievements (well educated, extremely religious) to knowing this great person, Jesus. This flips the system so that now, if he experiences difficulties or setbacks in life, but those very trials lead him to know Christ better, he welcomes those things.
Keller observes, “But what a Christian says is, ‘If trouble in my love life has helped me to know Christ, if a lack of success in my career helps me know him better, then great. I count it all as rubbish because the surpassing thing is to know him.” This means that real Christianity is actually the opposite of religious systems where we get busy doing religious things and then expect our lives to go the way we want them to go. In that system we are still in control of our lives; we are still expecting that if we do good things, we’ll be rewarded here and now; we are still living for the ultimate good of personal success.
The gospel reveals a Jesus so amazing, so awesome, so precious, so powerful, that the Christian says, I would give up everything to have him. Or, if I lose everything and have him, on the other side of the equation I don’t write loss, I write gain. Or, if I follow the rules, live as God directs, but have trouble in my life, and that trouble brings me closer to Christ, I’ll take it.
Have you come to know Christ this way? One way to tell is to ask yourself how you respond when life doesn’t go your way, when trouble comes. Sadly, all too often, and as recently as yesterday, my response in these moments is gloomy grumbling. But the fact is Jesus is alive from the dead, and he has the power to transform each one of us. He is a living Savior to rescue us, Lord to guide and guard us, Friend to comfort and strengthen us. I wish I’d been able to respond instantly to my puny troubles by joyfully embracing the opportunity to actively lean in to and depend on Jesus, but I’m grateful that I did eventually get to that hopeful place.
If you look at your life and see disappointment with God, or places where religious activities are simply dressing up a life still lived for personal success, how can you change? Bring them to the resurrected Christ. We don’t earn the gospel: we receive it. We don’t earn to power to be transformed: we receive it. Come to him today and ask for empowering and fresh filling by the Spirit of Christ.
 Knowing the Power of His Resurrection, by Tim Keller, in Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, p. 135.