What is the difference between knowing about Jesus and actually knowing Him?
In simple terms, knowing about someone means having knowledge of certain facts about him while knowing a person means having a relationship with him. Knowing about someone is a familiarity with a public persona that may make one person feel closer to another, but is not founded in actual relationship. For example, most of us know about particular actors, political figures, or popular speakers. Perhaps we are aware of some of their favorite things or we know humorous stories regarding their lives or their families. We may even feel a certain affinity for them. But the truth of the matter is most of us do not actually know these people. Were we to see them face-to-face, they would have no idea who we are. Apart from stories and facts they've shared in the public arena, we don't actually know their character or personality. We can iterate that their favorite color is blue, but we don't know it is because of their deep love for the ocean, nor have we been with them when they experience the elation of watching crashing waves. We understand the difference between knowing about a celebrity and actually knowing him. What we may not realize is the same distinction can be applied when talking about "knowing" Jesus.
Jesus is a central figure in history across the globe. People have heard about Him and know a lot about Him, but sadly not as many actually know Him. Jesus Himself said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:21–23). Jesus was not a mere teacher for people to imitate nor did He come to bring a slogan to use. He is God incarnate and Savior of the world. He invites people into active relationship with Him. John 15 is all about abiding in Christ. In John 17 Jesus talked about wanting to have His followers with Him. Jesus wants us to actually know Him, and He wants to know us. His perfect life, death, and resurrection has provided a way for us to be reconciled with God, to be rescued from the penalty and power of sin and come into relationship with Him (John 3:16; 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8–10). We are made children of God, a very relational term (John 1:12; Romans 8:14–17).
Of course it is important to know about Jesus, just as we know about our friends and family members. But it is vital to actually know Him. We get to know Him by listening to the things He says (reading His Word and listening through prayer), sharing our hearts with Him (prayer), doing the things He likes to do (obedience), worshipping Him, and spending time with others who also know Him (Christian fellowship). The amazing thing is that God has not left us alone in this. He desires to be known. Thus He has given us His Word. He has also given all who believe in Him the Holy Spirit to indwell us. In John 14:15–17 Jesus says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."
Knowing Jesus is the great privilege of the Christian and the great hope of this life. We know Him now, and one day we will meet Him and live with Him forever.
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