There is a vast difference between knowing about God, and “knowing” God. Our churches, Bible colleges and seminaries, are full of people who have accumulated a great deal of knowledge “about” God. Some a doctorate in theology and received high marks for their thesis, yet they do not “know” God! We have evangelists who are in great demand to speak at churches, conferences and seminars, yet many do not “know” God! We form religious think-tanks and arrange many types of special meetings where we discuss the things we know “about” God, yet it is rare to hear from those who actually “know” God by experience. We have huge mega-churches, pastored by famous religious personalities who do not “know” God for themselves. We have large international organizations under a variety of religious names that were formed to meet the many social needs–or correct the social injustices of the human race. Yet most of these are just that–social organizations with little connection to that which God is most intimately involved. We have political activist groups that have great sounding agendas, but God is not the head of some of these. Sadly, He is not always allowed to lead in churches today.
This leads us to the question if it is enough to know “about” God, yet not really know Him personally? This is the subject matter today.
One of the major differences between Christianity and other belief systems in our world today is the fact that we can truly have a living one-on-one relationship with our Creator God. This is one of the facts that is so shocking to people who have followed Islam all their lives. When they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, they find themselves with a personal relationship that they never had with Allah (which is not another name for God, nor is Allah God), nor dreamed they could ever have with the God who created them. The change because of this personal relationship cannot be adequately described. Psalm 63:1-11 describes some of the personal, intimate, passionate reality of a living relationship with the God that created us:
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory, because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
King David lived a full but hard life. He knew war. He knew national disaster. He knew plagues. He knew what it was like to run for his life. He knew family catastrophe. But, King David also knew God! His relationship with God was not just a cursory, nonchalant, shallow recognition of a God who may or may not be All Powerful, but certainly not interested in an intimate relationship with any one human being. David in this psalm as well as many others describes a very intimate and daily relationship with God. David depended on that relationship for everything in his life. David made a lot of mistakes–very costly ones, but he always came back to the Lord, humbling himself before Him and renewing his relationship through true repentance.
Another Scripture that speaks to the closeness that God wants to have with His people is found in Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother;’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. (verses 1-18)
David said this at the end of the psalm in verses 23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Getting to know God comes through our relationship with Him. This relationship depends heavily on studying His Word and prayer. I sometimes look around my study and take stock of how many Bibles I have available to me. Then I think of people all over the world that wish they could own a Bible but have no way to do so. I know that in the Middle East, one Bible will often be used by a whole family group of sometimes up to 100 people. This reminds me of something I saw many years ago.
Some of my family members, although of German descent, were held in the Soviet Union and were not able to escape. These people were scattered from the eastern border of Poland to the western shores of the Pacific Ocean in Siberia. Many of these folks were Christian people. I remember seeing one piece of a page from a Bible that had belonged to one of my family members and, after he died, it was sent to my parents here in the United States. This one page had been smuggled back and forth between Christian people for a very long period of time. It had been read and repaired so many times that much of the print could hardly be seen anymore.
My question would be: Could God not have gotten more Scripture to these poor people? After all, God can do anything! Christian history is full of amazing miracles but God did not choose to perform one for these people. They however held on to their faith and they were strong. Much of what they knew about God and the Bible had been passed on verbally. These people held onto what they knew and held onto their God–and, God held onto them! God is doing this very same thing in many nations of the world today. This is the way it is in the Middle East as well because it has not been possible to get enough Bibles for every single Christian. Scriptures however have been written out, as they are in this article, and have been scattered all over the Middle East. People are finding them and God is finding them! We should never limit our God. We can count on the fact that He will see to it that His Word bears fruit; in fact, much fruit! That is His promise….His Word will not return void.
It is through a relationship with Jesus Christ that a person finds life worth living–no matter what the circumstance. It is this relationship that helps a person not to be too caught up with this short earthly life and helps us keep a healthy eternal perspective in mind instead. In Titus 2:11-15 we find this exhortation:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
Here we find a passage that speaks of the great grace which has been provided for us as a lost human race. For those that have become believers, it is necessary to also make Him “LORD”. I am not sure that many Christians really know the difference.This passage however emphasizes how important it is to use self-control in our lives, living godly lives while we are waiting for the “blessed hope” of our Lord’s imminent return for us. This passage then instructs leaders to teach these things with emphasis, power, and authority from the Holy Spirit. That does not fit in with the light-weight sermon material that is offered in most Christian venues across the land today. It does not give people “happy thoughts”; but it does speak to our need to be fully engaged spiritually and live a life that brings God honor and glory. As Jesus Himself said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” An intimate walk with the lover of our souls makes serving Him and bringing honor to His Name easy as we grow in our relationship. Philippians 3:10-16 gives us a bit more to think on:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
The problem with too many of us is that we don’t take Scriptures like this one serious enough–until we are facing trouble of some kind. It is very easy to read right through and past a Scripture and not really catch what it is saying. When we are facing difficulties that are bigger than we can handle, at least some will dig a little deeper in the Word of God. As a result, deeper meanings can be found.
This Scripture is speaking of a deeper level of walk with God than most of us will allow ourselves to enjoy. The Spirit of God shows us here that regardless of what has been dealt to us by life, we must continue to strain toward what is ahead for us. Jesus warned us that we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us that He has overcome this world. He promised to walk with us as we deal with the harsh things thrown at us. We can do this without losing sight of our goal.
Our destiny as servants of Messiah Jesus is so far beyond the things we have to deal with in this life, that it is hard for us to accept the reality of it. Am I saying that we don’t experience the pain and disappointment of living in a fallen world? Absolutely not. God however will take the worst of situations and turn them into experiences that will bring Him honor and glory, as well as great growth in our own lives–and likely those around us as well.
The story of Joseph in the Old Testament is an excellent example of this. The story is several chapters long in Genesis. We are told that Joseph’s brothers had hated him because he was his father Jacob’s favorite. They also didn’t like the dreams Joseph had (which turned out to be prophetic). They were so anxious to get rid of him that they were willing to kill him. When they had a chance to sell him to a caravan with Midianite traders who were headed to Egypt where they were going to sell their wares to the Ishmaelites, Joseph was sold into slavery. He was taken by the Midianites and then bought by Potifer, one of Pharoah’s officials. As the story continues, Joseph was wrongly accused of a crime and was sent to prison. In prison he was forgotten–by man, but not by God. In God’s timing, Joseph was exonerated and became the second most powerful man in Egypt. Eventually, his brothers unknowingly came to him in desperation to buy grain because of a great famine. Chapter 45 tells the outcome of Joseph’s life in Egypt:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. so then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (NIV)
How did Joseph manage to keep his faith when nothing but evil seemed to come his way. It seemed that God had forgotten him! The storyline is years long but the answer is simpler than we might think. He had kept his intimate walk with God year after year. His trust in God was much stronger than any anxiety or depression in his life. He continued walking with God whether his outward circumstances were good or bad. Because he did this, God was able to use his situations to bring about great things, to bring about His divine purpose.
Do you trust God this much? Can God trust you with a bad situation you are in? Maybe He has something great planned that you can’t see yet! Walk with Him in true intimacy and He will guide you. Knowing God experientially through Jesus Christ makes life a wonderful and glorious adventure. It keeps our hearts awakened to God’s Presence and His ever-present power, provision, and personal care. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. Never!
Let’s look at Colossians 1:9-12 in the Amplified version of the Bible:
…we have not ceased to pray and make (special) request for you, (asking) that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom (that is, in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things; That you may walk (live and conduct yourselves) in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him and desiring to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in (and by) the knowledge of God–with fuller, deeper and clearer insight, acquaintance and recognition. (We pray) that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power, according to the might of His glory, (to exercise) every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.
This passage of Scripture speaks of having special insight into God’s ways, knowing His purposes, having special spiritual understanding and discernment, as well as knowing Him in a deeper way today than yesterday. It also speaks of endurance and patience–things that are often hard to do in reality. Once again, these things can only be experienced by “knowing” God, not just “knowing about” God.
This Scripture in Colossians also speaks of walking in a way that is worthy of the Master, in a way that will bear fruit in every good work. Is this evident in your life? If not, God is showing the way for this to happen. The way I see it, in the day and age we find ourselves in, there is no other way for a true Christ-follower to live. Anything less than this will not make it when things go wrong, and in our world that is quickly falling into chaos, much is about to go very wrong! How well are you attached to the Vine? There can be no fruit on branches that are not firmly attached to the Vine!
1 Peter also speaks of the hope we have through the intimate walk we have available with God. Let’s take a look at what he says:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
The sad thing is that so many people miss the opportunity available to “commune” with God. It is because we allow ourselves to be distracted by so many things! No people on earth are as distracted to what life is really all about than here in the West. We spend so many hours with our many venues of entertainment that very little–if any time is left to pursue our relationship with God! We are inundated with materialistic enticements and our attention is easily turned away from God. The price of this kind of idolatry is high.
Many of the religious were greatly offended by John the Baptist because he called sin what it was–SIN. He called them to repentance, and it was not the religious that responded. It was the common people that heard God and responded. It is much the same today. There are those whom God has called to scream out a wake-up call to the Church, but most who hear are offended. We don’t like preachers who speak about sin, hell, and the need for repentance. People would rather hear “pleasant” things, and so they are “pleasantly” slipping away from a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus. Many who have gone to church for years have no more relationship with God than the drug addicts and prostitutes on the street. Does this offend us? It should make us think! The door to the ark of safety is about to close. We need, however, to do more than just make sure we have found the escape from hell. We need to make Jesus, not just our Savior, but also the LORD of our lives. This will ensure a continuous deepening walk with God.
Is He your LORD?