9. I Wanta Know
How did Jesus walk?
I wanta know. I wanta know who I am. I wanta know what I do. I wanta know!
9. I Wanta Know
I will resort again to story to reach for the next step of our entering into what is already true. There is a very silly movie, the animated Tarzan of the Apes, that has in it a line that seizes my heart in its grip the two or three times I have watched it with my children.
Tarzan has grown up among apes and viewed them as his mother and father, his sisters and brothers. In the back recesses of his mind is the knowledge that he is somehow different, but this is a knowledge he refuses to acknowledge. In fact, he redoubles his efforts to be something he is not; because that’s the life he thinks he must fit into.
Then one day, he comes across a real human, a lovely young female who is his counterpart. Tarzan has a very high IQ and his mind grabs this new reality with ferocity. Yet he is torn, because his heart and all of his memories are with the only life and reality he has known. Tarzan goes with Jane into the human camp and sees human things and pictures of humans. The music on this animated movie is up-beat rock. The words of the song that comes out of Tarzan’s heart surround the repetition of this phrase, “I wanta know!” I don’t remember what the other words are, but this line, sung with such desperation of heart, always grips my own heart, and I sing it inside over and over.
“I wanta know!”
“I wanta know who I am. I wanta know who are my people. I wanta know what it is we do.”
Tarzan is not an ape. But he has never known anything else. Now, for the first time, he is seeing who he really is, and the thirst of his heart to know who and what he is, and to know those who are just like him, is unquenchable.
This is exactly the scenario the New Testament places before us. Let us build our understanding from the center of the new creation.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:14-18
I want to zero in on the words right in the center of this passage, “so as to create in Himself one new man.” The Greek words in this short phrase are parallel to the Hebrew words in Genesis 1:1,“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
John, in his vision on Patmos, called Jesus “The beginning of the creation of God.” Thus we understand that the words, “In the beginning” in Genesis 1:1 are not “time” words, they are “source” words. “In the beginning” can refer to when something started in time, or, just as strongly, they can refer to where something started, as in its source. “In the beginning of the river’s course.” Christians have usually read “in the beginning” as “when” words, they are not.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth — In Christ, God created the heavens and the earth.
This is literal. We understand it, not as some “shade” of spiritualized meaning, but as substantial to all things. The substance of heaven was created in Christ, and the substance of earth was created in Christ. The source of both spiritual substance and physical matter is Christ.
But both heaven and earth were shattered by the fall – inside the purpose of God. Heaven and earth as they were created are not God’s final desire. Yet we know that He births His desire through and out of a shattered heaven and earth. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
Now we come to the exact same thing that happened in Genesis 1:1, happening all over again. So as to create in Himself one new man.
Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:16-18
The story of Tarzan gives us the precise understanding we need. The difference between you and I and all the people who attempt to find life for themselves in this world is GREATER FAR than the difference between Tarzan and the apes among whom he lived.
Now, I want to underline two critical things here. One, I am NOT calling my neighbors “Apes.” They are dearly loved of the Lord and their time will come. Two, I am NOT calling myself one of an “elite.” Being like God and “elitism” is as far apart as Christ is from Satan. A son of God lays down his life in tenderness and kindness, seeing Christ in all things, always regarding others as better than himself, just as Jesus did.
And yet. It is true that you and I are a new creation. This is a great mystery. On the one hand there is a cloak of religious elitism that comes out of unbroken hearts who latch onto this truth as an idea, a falseness that we abhor and that we must at all times repudiate. And on the other hand is the truth.
To enter into the truth is to leave the darkness behind. Darkness has a very dim view of anyone leaving it to step into the light. Yet we must step out of the darkness and into what is true without any reference to the darkness whatsoever.
We must know who we are.
Tarzan’s discovering of who he was came as an incredible threat to the leader of the apes and to all of Tarzan’s companions. Why can’t you be like us? Yet Tarzan had to know who he was, and the only way that could be was for him to leave behind family and friends and the only life and reality he had ever known.
This also is the gospel.
Tarzan’s ape mother was the most powerful tie to keep him from pursuing who he really was. Breaking those bonds was the hardest thing he had to break. She did not understand why he had to leave, yet she had always known he was different; she had always known where he came from. Fascinating, but we find the exact same dynamics taking place between Jesus and his own mother. What a picture!
There is one HUGE difference, however, between Tarzan’s experience and ours. For Tarzan, the reality of humans and human life and culture was a huge reality populated by millions of his own kind. Tarzan, in leaving behind the only life he had ever known, was able to step into a fully defined human life experienced by millions of people just like him.
Not so with us.
Now, some will try to argue that since we are heavenly and that there are multitudes of “heavenly” beings “just like us,” millions of fellow believers who live in heaven only. This idea then asserts that when we die and “go to” heaven, that’s the same as Tarzan leaving behind his ape family and going on the ship to England. The New Testament teaches something entirely different.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . . Hebrews 11:39-12:1
Not one human in heaven only has entered into who they are. All are waiting on us who are upon this earth. Yet God gives this other injunction as well.
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16
This is a truth that people cannot get their heads around. The people in heaven, Christians who have died and thus live in heaven only, ARE DEAD! They are dead. They do not have a physical body; they are only half there. They are not who they will be!
Those who are DEAD in heaven are waiting for their perfection upon us, but God will give them that perfection first, as reality comes upon us here. Yes, they are living, that is, their spirits are alive, their spirits are made perfect before God, yet they are waiting for the new creation. They do NOT know it now.
God has bound us together with those who have died, and He has bound those who have died together with us. We are one body, and we will enter into reality both at the same time.
Our experience is in contrast to the story of Tarzan, where Tarzan stepped out from his old life with just a few into a new life with many millions just like him.
For us there is only one individual person who has entered into what we will be. There is only one person who is LIKE us as we really are. The Lord Jesus Christ.
I wanta know! I wanta know who I am. I wanta know who are my people. I wanta know what we do. I wanta know!
I want to know the Lord Jesus Christ inside of me in all fullness.
In my last letter, “The Conception of Jesus Christ,” I made this statement. “Let us speculate on what actually happened (in the conception of Christ in Mary’s womb).” Do not think that I imagine I know what actually happened. Rather, I was drawing together two things, the present knowledge of science and the clear statements of God in His word. My purpose was simply to gain a picture of reality, not to think I was describing reality as it actually happened.
Yet that picture allows us to understand that we are a new creation in the exact same way that Jesus was formed in Mary’s womb.
The original creation was created by God in Christ by the speaking of a Word. The original creation came into being from that Word, but only as a prototype. The orginal creation was not finished before Adam destroyed it. The new creation, though it also comes in Christ, it also comes through the Word God speaks, yet it is formed differently. The new creation is formed inside a womb; it is birthed into full reality only after it is made complete inside the church.
That brings us back to John’s claim that we do not know who we are.
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Now, before going further, look carefully at what John says here about “the world.” Picture Tarzan’s ape family. They did not know him, just as no one in the world knew Jesus. We are different; we are very different. And the sad fact of reality is that most of our brethren, who are also a new creation, so identify themselves with the world and with the old creation, that they stand in the same place as the apes towards Tarzan. Most of our brethren, in the imagination of their minds, are as much a part of the world that “does not know us” as the unregenerate.
And the moment we step forward into the new creation, into discovering who we are, the accusation of “elitism” is, of necessity, hurled at us. It cannot be any other way. We must accept that and not allow it to turn us back. Yet we always guard against real “elitism.” That’s why God allows us to fall flat on our face in the mud so very often. That’s why He wants us to get excited when we find ourselves momentarily in distress once again. That’s why Christ reveals Himself as us in the messiness of our humanity in this world.
God is a strange one; to be like Him is to be far different from what humans, or even Christians, in this world imagine. They do not know Him.
And so the point we must come to is this. There is no possible way for us to know who we are. There is no possible way for us to know who are our people. There is no possible way for us to know what we do.
Except to look to Jesus, to understand Him, to know Him. He is the only One like us. He is the only One of our kind.
I tell you what, the further I go into a growing knowledge of who I am and of what I am called to, the more my love and admiration for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ grows and grows. The more I know that I am just like Him, the higher the honor I hold for Him as a Person grows in my heart. Now I look back at the time in my life when I imagined I was honoring Him by dishonoring myself. I realize now that the sentiment I held in my heart then was the opposite of honor, though I imagined otherwise.
To dishonor myself is to despise the Lord Jesus. The more we know that we are just like Him, the higher our regard for Him grows. But we cannot know who we are by studying ourselves. Yet to know Him IS to know ourselves, and, conversely, to know ourselves in simplicity and truth is to know Him.
Tarzan could know who he was and what he did only by drinking with great thirst the knowledge of those just like him, who they were and what they did.
Thus our desperate cry to know who we are is a thirst to know who He is.
Out of the cry that seizes our hearts, “I wanta know,” let’s continue to explore who He is.
Paul said something interesting in 2 Corinthians 5, he said, “Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” This is the verse people use to get rid of Jesus so they can waft away by themselves into the nether realms of “Christ.” That is not what Paul meant.
We can divide the life and history of the Lord Jesus into eight distinct parts. To know ourselves is to know the Lord Jesus in each of these parts of His history.
1. His life in glory with the Father – the glory that He remembered in His prayer in John 17.
2. His formation in Mary’s womb for nine months until He was birthed into this world in the stable.
3. His growing up years as a boy and a young man in this world.
4. His 3 ½ years of ministry as a manifest son of God.
5. His redemptive work on the cross, a time that began in Gethsemane and ended as He sprinkled His blood upon the Mercy Seat of heaven.
6. His walk upon this earth in a body of resurrection fully as a new creation Man. Romans 1:4 “. . . and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
7. His present place of sitting at the right hand of the Father waiting until His enemies are made His footstool – on the one hand, and on the other hand, His present place of having been planted in “death,” inside of us, of having become us in this world.
8. The revelation of Jesus Christ in His perfected body, “when He comes to be glorified in His saints and to be admired in all who believe.” When the cover is taken off, and He is apocalypsed, revealed, in us in all glory and fullness.
Our lives follow a similar pattern.
In the last chapter, I looked at #2, knowing Christ as He was formed in Mary’s womb. As we see Him there, we know that we are just like Him, as John said.
For point #1, consider these words of Jesus in John 17, And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. — And the glory which You gave Me I HAVE given them, that they may be one JUST AS We are one.”
What Paul meant when he said, “We do not know Him that way now,” was that we ourselves do not sit in the flesh when we look at Christ. “Flesh,” in this instance, means the false imagination of separation from God. In other words, we do not look at Christ as one and ourselves as another. We do not see ourselves as separate from Him in any way. That distinction, that separation, is from the darkness of human imagination; Paul calls it “the flesh.”
Yet, to know ourselves, we must know all that Christ is. Our lives follow the pattern of His. First, let’s distinguish between two parts of Jesus’ history. The first part is from His conception in Mary’s womb to the death of His physical body upon the cross. The second part is from His resurrection on. In God, there is a mighty distinction with the Lord Jesus Christ at the moment of His resurrection, as I quoted from Paul, “. . . and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
It was by the resurrection out of the grave that God declared the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God with power. At that moment Jesus became the first ONE of who we are.
To know ourselves as we really are before God right now, is to know Jesus as He is in the resurrection. But in our lives as Christians right now, we live in this in-between place. We have been born again, conceived from above, in just the same way that Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. Yet, unlike Jesus now, we have not yet come forth in the full light of day in the fullness of the resurrection.
Therefore, the pattern of our lives right now fits the pattern of Jesus’ life from the time of His conception in Mary’s womb to the time of His death upon the cross. The process by which He passed from one creation to the next is the same process by which we pass from one creation to the next.
No Christian can deny that God says all of these things about us in the New Testament. Yet most Christians refuse to believe, and we also, until God shines His favor upon us.
From the beginning, God determined to conform us into the image of His dear Son.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
In a sense, Jesus was still “in the womb,” in the same sense that we are “in the womb,” until He came forth in the resurrection, declared to be the Son of God with power.
Here is a difference, though. Jesus was birthed into this world and had thrity-years time in which to mature in the knowledge of who He was and what He was called to do. When Jesus was fully ready, God laid upon His shoulders the task of ministry. When He had completed that ministry, God laid upon His shoulders the task of redemption. Jesus’ resurrection was entirely in the Father’s hands. Jesus cast Himself fully upon the Father for that reality to happen.
Jesus spent only nine months in Mary’s womb. On the other hand, we are still more in the womb than anywhere else. Right now, you and I are passing through the birth canal. Let’s bring in what Isaiah saw in Chapter 66.
Before she was in labor, she gave birth; before her pain came, she delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she gave birth to her children.
Here is the incredible reality God is speaking. A human infant is born utterly dependent on its parents for years and years. On the other hand, a wildebeest infant must be on its feet and running within an hour of its birth lest it be eaten by its enemies. Our birth is much more like the birth of the wildebeest.
And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her child as soon as it was born. Revelation 12:4
The time that Jesus had growing up as a boy and a young man, we have passed through still in the womb. As we come out of the womb of our mother, the church, we step forth fully into the same pattern of ministry in which Jesus walked for 3 ½ years. “And her child was caught up to God and to His throne.”
As we come out into the full light of day, into the full knowledge and experience of who we are, we hit the ground running.
We are made ready for that moment by all the years of rejoicing when everything goes wrong, of believing what God says even though we see nothing, of justifying God when people do terrible things to us, of exulting boastfully in the victory of Christ in us even when we do something utterly stupid that causes other people pain and grief. We enter our inheritance through gates made of pearls, our response to pain and suffering, to limitation and lack.
Seeing the unseen – this is where we are. Those who cannot see, those who will not see, cry against us, seeking to pull us back into their comfortable blindness. We will not give them heed. We will look upon that which is not seen. We will call those things that be not as though they are.
This pattern of Jesus’ life compared to our life is what we must have in our mind to understand the next reality set before us.
He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 1 John 2:6
How did Jesus walk? I wanta know. I wanta know who I am. I wanta know what I do. I wanta know!