Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Four senses of knowing God

Jeremiah 9:23-24 "Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord."

I will never forget the first time I was introduced to the most wonderful human being this side of eternity - known then as Deb Gray. We had a mutual friend who had been attempting to formally introduce us to one another. At the Bible College we attended, I had heard about Deb and had seen her on the campus, but I did not know her. After our friend had shared with me some additional information, I had to write her name down as my friend was bringing me to meet Deb. Soon after sitting down beside her, she and I began to talk to one another. To make a long story short - Deb and I started dating a few days later. We were engaged in six months and got married over a year after the engagement and after my graduation. I had known about Deb and got to know her more and more as we spent time in our courtship. After we got married and she became Deborah Emily Smith, I made it a point to get to know my wife, and she shared this same goal with me. For 18 years our adventure in knowing one another has only blossomed our love for one another. If such a focal point describes what marriage should be all about, then what or Who is the One that we should know Who explains the whole point of life and salvation? God of course! 

J.I Packer in his classic book: "Knowing God" begins with this statement on page 29: "What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God. What is the Eternal life that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. 'This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent' (John 17:3). What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment, than anything else? Knowledge of God." 

Four senses of what it means to know God
To one extent, it is accurate to say that everyone knows something about God, however, the scripture makes it plain that only believers in Jesus Christ can truly know God. The following four senses of knowing God are spelled out by scripture to explain how people know God to one degree or another.

1. Knowing about God in a general way  Creation
Psalm 19:1 states - "The heavens are telling of the glory of God;And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Everyone born into this world has the knowledge about God hardwired into their consciences, their minds and their hearts. Even the most hardened Atheist may claim to believe there is no God, however they cannot explain why they have compassion for another human being or why they believe it is wrong to murder within their worldview. Romans 1:21 gives this indictment: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." 

Everyone knows about God and everyone knows there is a God. This general knowledge is what we call "general revelation" and is accessible and innate in all people: believer and unbeliever alike. To know about God does not equate to a saving knowledge of God, but rather shows that all people are accountable to God. God Himself imprinted information about Himself in the laws governing the universe and in the very fabric of life itself. 

2. Knowing God in a specific way - The Bible
It's one thing to know about generally in general revelation, however how do we gain specific and accurate knowledge of God? God has chosen to not only reveal knowledge about Himself in creation, but specific details about Himself in One book: The Bible. Being that God has chosen to reveal Himself specifically in a Book, Christian thinkers refer to this form of revelation as "special revelation".  

Psalm 119:134-135 states: "Redeem me from the oppression of man,That I may keep Your precepts. 135 Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
And teach me Your statutes." Jesus Himself, being Immanuel, God with us, God in human flesh, said these words in Luke 24:44 - "
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 

It is by the Bible we come to know the God of the book and in knowing the God of the book we most clearly understand the Bible. God in the Person of the Holy Spirit co-authored the Bible with 40 other human authors. (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21) To know the Holy Spirit personally is tantamount to and equated with studying, memorizing and meditating upon the Bible, being that He through it illumines the Christian's understanding to the things of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)  We come to know God in the Bible, however unless saving faith is united with the testimony of God's special revelation, we only possess head knowledge about God and are even more accountable to Him. 

3. Knowing God in a full way - Jesus Christ
To know God in a general way by the general revelation of creation and the conscience results in knowing about God but not necessarily knowing God. To know God specifically entails going to the one Book He has moved upon men in Divine inspiration to write that reveals specific things about Him. The Bible as God's written revelation about Himself is His "specific", His  "special revelation". 

Now what is it that the Bible is specifically revealing? The what is expressed in terms of the language of "promise" in the Old Testament and in the Person of Jesus Christ in the new Testament. Hebrews 1:1-3 explains: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, andupholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." When Jesus was on this earth He said to His disciples in John 14:6-8 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. 7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 

Jesus as God in human flesh is the full and complete revelation of the invisible Father. Together with the written word of God - the Bible, Jesus and the scriptures present a "stereo view of God" in both high definition sound and video. To separate Jesus Christ from the Bible and vice-versa is like listening to a video without sound or trying to make out what is being seen in a video with only the audio. Many people in Jesus' days on this earth saw His miracles and even on the surface expressed admiration about Him. 

However, like with God's special revelation the Bible, unless faith is tied to Jesus' full revelation, there is only head knowledge about Him but no saving knowledge. 

4. Knowing God personally - by faith
We have seen that to know God can be defined one of three ways: knowing about Him in creation, knowing Him specifically in the Bible and knowing Him fully in Jesus Christ. These first three methods of God's Divine revelation are outside and irrespective of us. However the Bible makes it plain that unless there is saving faith present to personally connect to Jesus Christ in the Word, there can be  no personal knowledge of God. Faith is a gift given by God to fully persuade sinners to embrace Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word. When a sinner trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, salvation is the result. (Romans 10:8-10) 

To experience salvation by grace through faith is described as "knowing God". John 17:3 records Jesus saying: "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Furthermore, to know God personally is at the heart of ongoing growth in santifying faith following salvation. The language of "father-to-child" is used to explain this point in scripture. For example, Galatians 4:9  "But now that you have come to know God, or rather to beknown by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?" Romans 8:14-16 "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God."

Closing Thoughts:
We saw in brief today the four senses of knowing God. We know about God generally in the general revelation of creation and the conscience. We then discover that God was revealed speicifically in the Bible. Thirdly, Jesus Christ fully reveals God in regards to His person and glory. Then the fourth sense of knowing God is the most Personal, Faith. Faith grabs hold of and receives the truth revealed in the other three senses. May you and I make it our goal as believers to know God, as a spouse who makes it their goal to know their spouse. 

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