Many people, including some church-attenders know about Christ and believe things about him but they don’t actually know him.

However, the New Testament makes it clear that salvation and eternal life depends on knowing Christ. For example, Jesus said: “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3). Paul speaks of “of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ” (Php 3:8-10) and urges Christians to “know him better” (Eph 1:17).

Peter wants Christians to grow in knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Christianity is a heart knowledge of Christ, not simply a head knowledge.

However, what does it mean in practice to “know” Christ? It is helpful to think of what it means to know any other person then to apply it as far as relevant to knowing Christ. The following points should help.

To know Christ is:

To know he lived, died for you, rose again and is alive for ever.

To know he’s there, very close by

To know he accepts you (if you have repented of sin and put your trust in him.

To know you belong to him and have a close connection with him

To know he’s all-loving

To know he’s listening

To know he’s watching.

To know he’s caring

To know he’s wonderful, to take delight in him and to adore him, telling him how wonderful he is.

To love him and to express that love to him. To know Christ is to know him in our hearts – to love him.

How to know Christ better

Start to talk to him

Find a quiet place

Ask him to reveal himself to you

Ask him to forgive you

Ask him to form that close relationship with you

Read about him in The New Testament.

I’ve experienced it all in my time. I’ve been censed as the preacher in an anglo-catholic service and enjoyed a variety of high church services. I’ve been Rector of a largely middle of the way church which had a weekly Sung Eucharist. I’ve experienced various types of evangelical Anglican churches – conservative and solemn, open and relaxed. I’ve also experienced “Fresh Expressions” such as a Cafe Church.

I believe all those types of worship have their place, because different people (even in a single parish) have different tastes, different subcultures. I don’t fondly imagine that everyone living in our parish would enjoy all of our services. We need a variety of worship and we already have that to some extent. There is our formal, traditional 1662 Evensong/Communion, our more informal Morning Worship, our All Age Services and our special services.

A parish church is a church for the whole parish, not just the catholics, middle of the way, evangelical or happy clappy residents.

A few years ago I deliberately chose to a parish which was not evangelical, although I remain a convinced evangelical. The worship centred around the beautiful Sung Eucharist which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although we developed a new more informal morning service in our other church, suitable for newcomers, we made no changes to the Sung Eucharist. That way we catered for people with widely differing tastes.

Sometimes Christians speak disparagingly of “happy clappy” churches. However, whereas there are some superficial and unhelpful examples, nevertheless there are many lively churches which are growing rapidly and drawing in young people (and children). Before we criticise, we ought to ask how well we are doing in terms of church growth and find out why they are growing.

People’s tastes in worship should be respected. No-one should be pressed into expressions of worship with which they are not happy. Whatever their taste they should be loved and accepted. There is a place for more traditional worship alongside more radical expressions of worship (on separate occasions or in separate venues).  The Church of England is a Broad Church and now encourages “Fresh Expressions” of worship.

The best form of worship should be that which best helps us to worship God in spirit and in truth.

Would you like to be a better Christian? Then try reading the Bible regularly.

Going to church, taking Communion and praying are all very important but listen to St Paul: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

If that isn’t enough, listen to the Church of England. According to church law, the most important authority under God for what the Church of England believes is the Bible and nothing is to be believed which is clearly contrary to the teaching of Scripture. However the Church takes very seriously the teaching of church leaders in the early centuries, if it is consistent with the Bible. And obviously we have to use our minds to understand Scripture properly.

The actual wording is: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the Holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures.”

The Prayer Book makes it clear that the Bible contains “all things necessary to salvation.”  So if you want to be a Christian and to mature in your Christian faith you will find the way in the Bible.

I thank God that the churches I attended as a child were rooted and grounded in Scripture and that I went to two theological colleges which, amongst many other things, extensively taught the content of Scripture. Despite what the Church of England says about the Bible, I have even sometimes over the years come across clergy who don’t know their Bibles. They might have been taught about the Bible and about the problems that sometimes arise in interpreting it. But they do not seem to know enough about the content of Scripture and consequently some congregations are not well-taught.

I recommend that, if you don’t already, you start to read a short passage of Scripture each day. It is a great help to get hold of some Bible reading notes to help you. They suggest a passage for each day and give a comment and explanation on it.

The old Prayer Book says we are! I once heard a cathedral choir sing the litany emphasising every syllable in “mis-er-a-ble”!

“GOD the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.”

Today’s version?

God the Father, have mercy upon us.

God the Son, have mercy upon us.

God the Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, have mercy upon us.

and the rest is missing.

What a change in 40 years!  God forbid that we should be miserable in church so that people think our services are like funerals. The New Testament says we should be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). So even if our feet aren’t dancing in church, our hearts should be!

But haven’t we lost something?  I think we have, and it’s very important. We have lost, or at least largely lost, a fear of God. As someone said: We have become matey with the Almighty.  Amongst other things, that undermines our joy.

It works like this.  In line with modern culture we don’t have a fear of God. So we don’t have a sense of sin being serious. So we don’t deeply appreciate being forgiven. So we miss out on the joy of being forgiven much.

We need to remember that we are accountable to God for the thoughts we entertain, the words we say, the actions we take. We are accountable for the way we treat and speak about other people, and for any secret wrongdoing. We shall stand before him one day and the Cross shows us how seriously God takes our sins. We need a healthy fear of God. Then we’ll enjoy a deeper joy of knowing we’re forgiven because of the Cross, as we repent and trust the one who died on it.