On the Difference Between Knowledge and Knowing and the Problem of Zeal



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 22:6–11

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.

“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

“‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”


Let’s begin today by rewinding the tape on Paul’s address to the angry mob of Jewish men whom he addressed as “fathers and brothers.”

Then Paul said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (Acts 22:3–5)

I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

It should scare us to see how the goodness of God-given faith can devolve into the evil of Satanic-inspired zeal for God.

How is what Paul did before his conversion and what his attackers are doing in the present scenario any different from radical Islamic zealots killing Christians today? Both are examples of religious terrorism. Islamic terrorists demonstrate great zeal for God, as they understand God. Paul and his former compatriots demonstrated great zeal for God, as they understood God. In both examples, they acted with religious conviction and had no sense they were doing anything wrong. In fact, religious terrorists almost universally do their deeds out of a sense of deep devotion and obedience to God—as they understand God. Unfortunately, history is littered with so-called Christians who are guilty of the same kind of religious terrorism.

Jesus himself warned of such things in the days before his crucifixion:

“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” (John 16:1–3)

Zeal can be very good. Paul instructs the Romans to “never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). Zeal can be very bad. Earlier in the same letter, Paul said this: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge” (Rom. 10:1–2).

The difference comes in knowing God as God truly is. Jesus said it clearly, “They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.” There is knowledge and there is knowing; knowledge of or about God and knowing God.

Paul probably had more knowledge about God than 99 percent of the Jews of his time. And he was a very dangerous man. He is testifying to the angry mob about how his knowledge was overcome by knowing.

This became the focus of Paul’s ministry of prayer.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:17b–19)

There it is—to know this love that surpasses knowledge. That is Paul’s testimony.

This is conversion—the journey from knowledge to knowing. It makes all the difference in the world.

Are you making progress on this journey? The secret to progress comes in the prayer just prior to the one above: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 3:16–17a).


Lord Jesus, I am your witness. I long to be like you. I know this comes as you form your very life within my own sense of personhood by your Spirit. In that way, 

I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.

Come, Holy Spirit, transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.


To what extent has and is your knowledge about God being translated to a real experience of actually knowing God? How about trying to put it into a percentage? As an example, I would say I am about 60 percent knowledge and 40 percent knowing at this point of the journey. How would you describe your present state? 


Today we will sing “Knowing You” (hymn 125) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. Hear what God’s Spirit is saying, even when He asks you things like, “Why do you persecute Me?” Jesus’ sheep listen to His inner voice. “Get up and go to . . . There you will be told all that you are assigned to do.” Surrender your will to Christ’s Lordship (His absolute authority). Throughout each day go and do what He tells you to.

    Jesus want’s you in His will more than you want to be in His will. If you will humbly and continually listen to and obey His heart promptings, the Good Shepherd will speak in your inner being and personally lead you and keep you in His will. Hearing the risen Jesus speak revelation knowledge in your heart surpasses human understanding. Rely on Him, not on your own knowledge.

    Life’s a great gift! Be filled with gratitude for each breath. ““This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.”

  2. As to how far I’ve grown into the mature stature of Christ percentage wise, I can’t tell, since I can’t step back far enough from myself to see the big picture. I do know that I’ve not yet arrived. I also believe that this process of spiritual formation is not a solo adventure whereby “it’s just me and my Jesus.” This is why I am so committed to spiritual formation/discipleship/accountability small groups. The key to “Growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ “ (2 Peter 3:18), is to be in fellowship with other Spirit indwelt individuals on our journey of faith. This insures that our zeal remains properly focused.

  3. I certainly like reading Bob and Steve’s replies as to me they are continuations of JD”s consider this.
    I’ve noticed tho Doc has not posted for a very long time. I love how he always shared scriptures with his replies.
    Are you ok Doc?

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