I would like to ask you to come on a journey with me. A journey of discovery, a journey that will surpass the milk and give meat to the hungry, spiritual meat for the one who desires to know God more intimately. this journey that I wish to take with you will involve doctrine. A word that many dislike but without doctrine (the things that we are supposed to know and believe) we cannot know God in any real intimate way. This journey will take time, but all good things require time and effort, so if you are willing read on as we go on a journey of becoming more intimate with our God by understanding who He is and what He has done.
this first blog in this journey is as the title say ‘On knowing God’
In the gospel of John 3:1-15 we see that a man named Nicodemus meets up with Jesus, at night, to ask and discuss the thing of God, the text reads
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Nicodemus called Jesus ‘rabbi’ which means teacher, and knew what Jesus taught and of the miracles he had performed, so to Nicodemus this proved that Jesus was sent by God, but Nicodemus had some questions for Jesus. Nicodemus was a man searching for answers. Nicodemus was a Pharisee a man who knew the Torah, study it every day and yet even with his own intellect still had questions that he could not find the answer to.
Jesus reply was not what he wanted to hear. Jesus told Him that his approach to knowledge was wrong and could therefore know nothing until he first experienced an inward spiritual transformation, going from knowing about God to knowing God personally. Jesus tells Nicodemus that true knowledge begins with spiritual knowledge, knowledge of God and this is found in Gods revelation of Himself in the Bible and in Jesus’ own life and work.
So how does this conversation help us today? The same questions that Nicodemus was asking are still being asked by people today. Nicodemus had knowledge but he did not possess the key to that knowledge. Nicodemus knew certain things but his search for truth brought him to a crisis point, and the same is for us today. At no other time in history has so much information and knowledge been so readily accessible, The internet provides us with all knowledge that the world has at our fingertips, how often do we hear people say ‘just goggle it’? Yet the kind of knowledge that brings true transformation, knowledge that gives meaning to our existence is strangely absent.
The problem is seen by the two main exclusive approaches to knowledge today. The first is that reality can be known by reason alone. This approach was first developed by Plato and this philosophy can be seen running through most of the western world. Plato’s system said that true knowledge is knowledge of the eternal and unalterable essence of things, not merely knowledge of changeable phenomena. Our closet to this ideal today is in the world of science. On thew surface it seems that this seems good, its impartial, it productive as our technical devices today attest to. Yet it is not without one glaring problem, it is highly depersonalizing. In this approach reality becomes an equation to solve, a physical law to understand or worse yet data. And people become this equation, law, or data, it sees us as things rather than as people.
In reaction to this is the second exclusive approach to knowledge. In this approach reality is sought through emotional experience, this is in direct opposition to Plato’s system, it could be found in the mystery religions of the day. They promised, through ritual rites, music, lighting, incense, and the use of drugs a union with some ‘god’. We see this today in the resurgence of pagan re4ligions (neo pagans) and the rise of wicca, and especially in the 60’s the arrival of many eastern religions promoting such things as T.M (Transcendental Meditation), and the use of ‘mind expanding’ drugs. This approach also has problems. Experience does not last, its transient. Each time you try to achieve reality in this way the ‘high’ only lasts for a while and them comes the ‘down’ or ‘low’. This then leads the person to seek a increasingly intense stimuli to repeat the experience, this eventual leads to self- destruction or acute disillusionment. Also, this does not satisfy the mind, the mind is forgotten.
So how then can we know God, well there is a third way, Christianity. Christianity makes the claim that there is a God who has created all things and who Himself gives creation meaning, and that we can know Him. God is a supremely personal being.
So why know God? There are several answers to this. Firstly, knowledge of God is important, for only through the knowledge of God can an individual enter into eternal life. Jesus shows us this when he prayed in John 17:3 ‘and this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ The promise of eternal life is also the promise of being able to live life fully as an authentic human being, it also means coming alive in a new and eternal sense.
Secondly, knowledge of God is important because it involves knowledge of ourselves. Isaiah said it best when he declared ‘And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:5). Knowledge of ourselves through the knowledge of God is humbling, we are not God, nor are we like Him. He is holy, we are unholy. He is strong, we are weak. He is good, we are not good. He is wise, we are foolish. He is loving and gracious, we are filled with hate and with selfishness. But still in this we are God’s creation and are loved by Him.
Thirdly, knowledge of God also gives us knowledge of the world, its good, its bad, its past, its future and its purpose and judgement. This world has a special relationship to God, its His creation even though it is in sin and in rebellion to God, it is still His vehicle to fulfill His purpose. This world is a confusing place until we known the God who made it and learn from Him why He made it and what is to happen to it.
Fourthly, the knowledge of God is important is that it is the only way to personal holiness. This is something that the natural person is adverse to but it is essential. Our problems derive not only from the fact we are ignorant of God but also from the fact that we are sinful. We do not want the good even though it is for our benefit. To know God as He is, is to love Him as He is and to be like Him, Jeremiah tells us just this is Jeremiah 9:23-24 Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practises steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Finally, the knowledge of God is important in that it is only through a knowledge of God that the church can become strong. In ourselves we are weak, but as Daniel says, ‘the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.’ (Daniel 11:32b).
We do not have many strong churches or Christians today, why? It is because of a lack of sound scriptural knowledge. Their minds have become conformed to this world and its culture, they did not heed romans 12:1-2 ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’. Those who know God intimately perceive the error that is present today and then act accordingly.
So, let us learn about God in the fullest, biblical sense. Jesus encouraged us to do this when He said in Matthew 11:28-29 ‘Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’. Every Christian should confidently pursue this goal. God has promised that those who seek him will find Him. To those who knock the door shall be opened. It is in this that we can truly know God.