Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines (Philippians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 3:18)

Spiritual growth takes time and discipline, but we can only know Jesus through spiritual growth just like we can only know a person through investing in the relationship.

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, January 12, 2020

I wonder who you have a relationship with, do you know anyone?

Remember last week I talked about whether you know famous people. Recently, I heard a message in which someone shared that they were at a restaurant and Johnny Depp walked in. Johnny Depp walked in and went to a table at the back of the store and a bodyguard walked in with him. The bodyguard sat facing everyone else basically to say that there is no access to Johnny Depp.[1] There is no relationship with Johnny Depp. But you know what, we can have a relationship with Jesus. I would recommend choosing Jesus over Johnny Depp. Think about it, would you prefer a relationship with the creator and sustainer of the world or with an actor. Most reject the Creator and go after the actor. I exhort you to seek Jesus.

Okay, so do you have a relationship with anyone? I am sure that you do, so do you know them? How do you really know someone? Does it take effort? Does it take time spent together?

I wish to talk to you about knowing Jesus. I wish to begin a new sermon series related to knowing Jesus.

I read the following:

“Much of the history of Christianity has been devoted to domesticating Jesus—to reducing that elusive, enigmatic, paradoxical person to dimensions we can comprehend, understand, and convert to our own purposes. So far it hasn’t worked.”[2] I love that.

When the Bible scholar N.T. (Tom) Wright was asked what he would tell his children on his deathbed he said, “Look at Jesus.” Tom Wright explained why:

The [Person] who walks out of [the pages of the Gospels] to meet us is just central and irreplaceable. He is always a surprise. We never have Jesus in our pockets. He is always coming at us from different angles … If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but part of the drama that has him as the central character.[3]

We have the opportunity to know Jesus, but most do not. Even many of you, I dare say, do not know Jesus. Sure you made a commitment to Him, but do you know Him? Do you really have a relationship with Him? How is your prayer life? How are your devotions? How are your corporate and individual spiritual disciplines? If they are weak, I am here to help you and more than that, God wants to help you.

My theme and application is:

Knowing Jesus through Spiritual Disciplines (Philippians 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:7; 2 Peter 3:18)

Spiritual growth takes time and discipline, but we can only know Jesus through spiritual growth just like we can only know a person through investing in the relationship.

Read with me Philippians 2:12-13:

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

  1. Work out your salvation, what does that mean?
    1. Relationships take time. Do you know your children if you do not spend time with them? Do you know your spouse if you do not spend time with them?
    2. Anyone seen Fiddler on the Roof? There is a clip where they sing “Do you love me”? Watch this.
    3. Play clip
    4. Now, they had arranged marriages, they may not have known each other when they got married, but they did by this point. They grew together and served together. They had a relationship. But it was work, or at least at times it was work.
    5. Love is a choice. Sometimes we may not feel the love for someone else, but we choose to love them because they are our spouse or child or parent or another human being, then we work on the relationship.
    6. Do you work on your relationship with your Savior?
    7. So, you just read that passage, now let’s think about it.
    8. If we read the whole chapter of Philippians 2 it is a marvelous chapter. Paul talks about looking unto others needs before our own. Paul talks about considering others more important than ourselves. Paul talks about having the mindset of Christ. Paul talks about how Jesus came to earth and died for our sins and every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Now, Paul says to work out our salvation.
    9. “Work out” that is a mining term, imagine miners digging out precious metals.
    10. But does this mean we are saved by works?
    11. It says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, does this mean we have to earn our salvation? What do you think?
    12. Well, when it comes to that we must examine Scripture with Scripture and we will do that in a minute.
    13. In this case, just look at the context. Look at the next verse. It says, “God is working in you…” So, God is working in you so you must let it flow out of you. There is more we can say about that passage, mainly notice the reverence. “Work out your salvation with ‘fear and trembling…’” That is powerful!
    14. We are freely saved, we know this by Ephesians 2:8-9 which says that we are saved by grace.
    15. We have salvation freely given to us by Jesus, but we must grow spiritually, not to earn our salvation, but to foster a relationship with God.
  2. Look at 1 Timothy 4:7-8:

But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

  1. This is another passage about building a relationship with Jesus.
  2. Instead of being caught up in worldly things discipline yourself.
  3. What are we disciplining ourselves for?
  4. The purpose of godliness.
  5. Look at verse 8: godliness has much profit for this life and the life to come.
  6. But do you see what it takes? Discipline.
  7. There is no instant Discipline is the key to spiritual maturity.
  8. The word “discipline” actually means “train or exercise.” Paul uses a Greek word from the athletic arena; we also derive from it the word ‘
  9. We have the Revealed Truth (Bible) + Disciplined Obedience+ The Power of God’s Spirit Within = Change & Growth& Maturity& Godliness.
  • Let’s apply
    1. Most of us want a relationship with God that we do not have to invest in; therefore, it is one-sided. It sucks the life out of me as a pastor. Let me be personal, it is draining trying to shepherd people that do not care.
    2. I want to challenge you to have godly habits. This week begin devotional habits.
    3. Aim to read one chapter of the Bible a day and make an application. Aim to spend 5-15 minutes in devotions. Read the Bible, apply the Bible and then pray about what you read. Pray the Scriptures. If you need help contact me. Also, you can read along as I share on my podcasts and Facebook devotions, actually you can just listen to the Bible if you want. There are many ways to have access to the Scriptures if you want to.
    4. It takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so dedicate the time and make it a point to have a relationship with Jesus.
    5. Remember you do not have a relationship with someone who you do not spend time with. If you do not spend time with God are you saved? Good question.
  1. Let’s go deeper in applications.
    1. We must view our relationship with God as a relationship and therefore, we must put time and effort into our relationship with God.
    2. We must discipline ourselves unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7).
    3. We must understand spiritual growth takes discipline.
      1. We must discipline ourselves to spend time with the Lord.
      2. We must discipline ourselves to pray (1 Thess. 5:17).
      3. We must discipline ourselves to deep prayer (Ezra 9:5ff; 1 Kings 8:22ff).
      4. We must discipline ourselves to corporate prayer (Acts 4:24-30).
      5. We must discipline ourselves to pray instead of worry (Phil. 4:6-7).
      6. We must discipline ourselves to spend time reading the Scriptures (Psalm 119:9-11 and 105).
      7. We must discipline ourselves to spend time with the corporate church (1 Cor. 12).
      8. We must discipline ourselves to make Jesus our Lord (Luke 9:23; Romans 10:9-10; Gal. 2:20).
      9. We must discipline ourselves to pursue godliness so that out of that relationship with God flows fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
    4. We must spend time working out our relationship with God for the joy of knowing Him (Phil. 2:12-13).
    5. We must work out what God is working in us, we must let our relationship with Jesus flow out of us (Phil. 2:12-13).
    6. We must obey Peter’s command to grow (2 Peter 3:18).
    7. We must grow in the grace of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
    8. We must grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18).
    9. In our spiritual growth and our relationship with Jesus we must aim to glorify Him now and forever (2 Peter 3:18).


I began the sermon talking about Johnny Depp. Let’s think of another famous person, what about Elvis Presley. I have heard that in the 1950’s the women would scream out these deafening screams to get to him. So, obviously Elvis had body guards, there was no access to Elvis, but you can have access to Jesus.

Oswald Chambers writes on the February 13th date of My Utmost for His Highest:

 The destiny of my spiritual life is such identification with Jesus Christ that I always hear God, and I know that God always hears me (John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God by the devotion of hearing all the time. A lily, or a tree, or a servant of God, may convey God’s message to me. What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things. It is not that I will not hear God, but that I am not devoted in the right place. I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes but I do not hear Him. The child attitude is always “Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” If I have not cultivated this devotion of hearing, I can only hear God’s voice at certain times; at other times I am taken up with things—things which I say I must do, and I become deaf to Him, I am not living the life of a child. Have I heard God’s voice to-day?[4]

Do you know Him?

Luke 9:23

Confess, believe, trust, commit

Firmly make the decision to be with Him in order to become like Him and to learn and do all that He says and then arrange your affairs around Him.




[1] Randy Hechert shared this at Alliance Friends on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019

[2] Andrew Greeley, “There’s No Solving the Mystery of Christ,” Chicago Sun-Times, (1-16-04)

[3] Marlin Whatling, The Marriage of Heaven and Earth (CreateSpace, 2016), page 129

[4] Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

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