Knowing God

I'm guessing that each of us probably have a list of people in this world that we would like to get to know. I'm sure that list includes plenty of people that we know about, but there's a big difference between knowing about someone and knowing them personally.

I had the opportunity the other day to look through hundreds of old family pictures. In the midst of the stacks of pictures, I came across a picture of my Great-Grandfather, Joseph Lewis. He was a coal miner in Wilkes-Barre, PA and he died tragically in a mine accident many decades before I was born, but when I was a child, my Nana, his daughter, used to tell me a lot about him. Through her, I learned that he was a kind man. I learned that when he would have to punish her brothers, he would often sit and cry with them afterward. She told me that he was adored by the neighborhood children because he would frequently join them in playing games in the street in the evenings.

 
 Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis

 

She told me so much about him that I can't help but look forward to meeting him in person some day in the Lord's presence. But for now, I don't know him and I've never met him. I only know about him.

Our Lord wants to be known by us. Certainly He wants us to know things about Him, but in addition to that, He has intentionally revealed Himself to us so that we can come to know Him in a personal and relational way. Jesus spoke of this relationship in John 17.

 

I. Those who know God are granted eternal life

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
— John 17:3, ESV

Have you ever experienced a season of time when you felt like you were living in a rut? I remember a stretch of time in my early 30's when I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was leading several ministries, all four of our kids were very young, and I barely had a moment of time that wasn't being demanded of me. I didn't have enough time to spend with my family and I wasn't happy with what my life was starting to become. So, fed up with that kind of life, I made some drastic changes. I carved out dedicated time for my family, started taking better care of my health, scheduled vacations, started managing our personal finances differently, and grew spiritually. The end result was a much better daily life for me and my family.

When we begin looking through the pages of Scripture, it starts to become quiet apparent that God is also highly concerned for our lives. He is the author of life and He desires that we experience an abundant life in Him. Likewise, He tells us that He is offering us eternal life, and if we accept the gift of life He's graciously offering, our eternal life isn't something restricted solely to the future, it's something we can begin enjoying right now.

Jesus made it clear that eternal life is obtained through knowing God. In John 17:3, He speaks of knowing God the Father and Himself, God the Son. In John 14:9b-10a, Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" To know Christ is to know the Father as well.

The way the word "know" is being used in John 17:3 conveys a very specific thought. It stresses a personal and relational knowledge. We'll speak more about that in a moment, but please understand the point Jesus was making. Jesus was stressing that when we come to know Him in a personal way, we are then blessed with eternal life. He delights to grant that life to you.

Eternal life isn't a reward for service. Eternal life isn't a commendation for a life well lived. Eternal life in the presence of God is granted as a gift to all who know Him in a personal way. Christ Himself said that there will be a day when people will stand before Him who knew plenty about Him, and even did various deeds in His name, but because they never trusted in Him or knew Him in the personal sense, they will be cast away from His presence forever.

“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, ESV

Do you know Jesus Christ in a personal way or not?

 

II. Knowing God is both an intellectual and relational exercise

I enjoy reading about history and I own quite a few books that chronicle the history of our nation and the history of this world. One of the most amazing aspects of the era of history we currently live in is the way in which information flows freely and rapidly. With ease, and in mere moments, we can learn about any subject we choose. With a little research, we can learn how to repair a car, prepare a meal, or even diagnose the presence of skin cancer. We can also readily learn more about God Himself. At no point in recorded history have the Scriptures and theological study aids been more readily available to us.

Knowing God is both an intellectual and relational exercise. Speaking of knowing God intellectually, Scripture gives us several examples that illustrate its importance.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 - "And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
1 Peter 1:12 - "It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look."
Acts 17:11 - "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

As we study the Scriptures, we must do so with the proper goal in mind. Our goal should be to know what God has revealed to us about Himself for the purpose of knowing Him more fully. I have met many people during the course of my life who practically have the Bible memorized, but their love for the Lord seems to have grown cold, or maybe it was never there to begin with. It should also be pointed out the Satan himself knows the content of the Scriptures but doesn't couple that knowledge with trust or love. In fact, he makes a point to blind others from understanding what the Scriptures teach for the purpose of hindering them from knowing God.

 

III. God wants to be known

God wants to be known by humanity, and there are multiple ways He has made His existence evident. There are many people who still choose to deny His existence, usually because to acknowledge His existence would demand a change in mindset and lifestyle. But to deny the existence of God also requires the denial of some very clear evidence to the contrary.

Our God who wants to be known, makes Himself known through what He has created. Romans 1:20a tells us, "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." Everything that exists had to come from one thing that didn't need to be created. There has to be one "something" that is eternal in nature who initiated creation because everything else we can observe is subject to the laws of cause and effect. There has to be one "causer" who is self-existent and therefore didn't need to be "caused" in order to initiate what has been created.

God also makes Himself known through the orderliness of what He has made. The logic, structure, and clear organization of creation testifies to the fact that it exists by the intentional act of a Creator. If you walked into my office, you wouldn't assume that the hundreds of books on my shelves organized themselves by category. You'd rightly surmise that someone placed each book where it is intentionally. The same can be said about creation at large. It's intricate orderliness including; trees that shed leaves before it snows so their branches don't break, babies nostrils that remain harder than average until they no longer need to nurse so they don't suffocate when they're pressed up against their mother, and a sun that is 93,000,000 million miles from the earth because if it was closer, everything would burn up and if it was further, everything would freeze.

God makes Himself known through the morality and intelligence of humanity. Our intrinsic sense of moral standards and our creativity both point to a moral and intelligent being who designed us in His image.

God makes Himself known through Scripture. He has ordained over the course of hundreds of years and dozens of writers to progressively reveal more about His nature, His will, His plan of salvation, and the future that He has orchestrated. He has regularly confirmed the divine inspiration behind Scripture through hundreds of fulfilled prophesies that couldn't have been fulfilled by humanly orchestrated means.

God has also made Himself known through miraculous forms of intervention. He has done such things as directly speaking to people, flooding the earth, parting the sea, raining food from the sky, protecting nations, causing the ground to open up, sent angels, and Christ Himself rose from the dead and appeared to hundreds of people over the course of 40 days.

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
— Acts 1:3, ESV

All this to say that God isn't attempting to remain hidden from us. He has made Himself known to humanity in the most obvious ways possible and He continues to do so.

 

IV. We are responsible for what we do with His revelation

So what should we make of all of this? God clearly wants to be known by His creation. Some people choose to squelch the knowledge of God while others embrace knowing Him and seek to know Him even more.

Truthfully, we are all responsible for what we do with His revelation. We can spend our lives living as if He isn't real, or we can take a look at what He has made, ponder our own design, and read His word with the goal that we be changed to better reflect Him.

Jesus came to this earth to rescue and redeem lost humanity while making God known to us in the plainest way possible. In Christ, God could be seen with the naked eye, yet still many chose to go their own way and deny what was right in front of their face.

When Charles Spurgeon was pastor at New Park Street in London, God used his words to bring about amazing changes in the lives of people. A man who was on his way to get some gin saw the crowd at the church door and pushed his way in to see what was going on. At that moment, Spurgeon turned and faced the man and said that there was a man in the gallery who had a gin bottle in his pocket and had come with no good motive. The startled man listened to the rest of the message and came to faith in Christ.

One evening a prostitute, on her way to Blackfriars Bridge to commit suicide, stopped at the church, hoping to hear some word that would prepare her to meet her maker. Spurgeon was preaching from Luke 7:36-50, the story of the prostitute who wiped Jesus feet with her tears. His text was verse 44; “Do you see this woman?” As Spurgeon preached, the woman saw herself but also saw the grace of God and trusted Christ.
— Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers, W. Wiersbe, Moody Press, 1984, p. 231.

We can know God today, not from a distance, but up close. He has ordained that salvation be found in no other name than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He has intentionally revealed all of this to us and He invites us to trust in Him this moment. What will you do with what He has revealed to you?

© John Stange, 2018