"To Know God" (October 2007)
What does it mean to “know” God? Is it possible for us to know God? Is it something that is attainable? How can mere humans “know” a Sovereign, Almighty, Creator God? First, let’s answer the question, “Is it possible for us to know God-- the God whose ways are past finding out and whose thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth? (Isaiah 55:9) Can we know the One who calls the stars by name? (Psalm 147:4) Who spoke into nothing and called forth all creation just by the word of His mouth? (Genesis 1:3) Can we really know the One who is eternal-- the Ancient of Days (He has always been) and the One who has no end? (Daniel 7:9: Psalm 90:2)
It’s not only possible, but the Bible records account after account of people who knew God. Adam and Eve, Abraham, King David, Enoch, the patriarchs of old, Moses, the prophets, the disciples, the apostles, etc. They all knew Him. It is possible because it is the desire and will of God that we know Him. Jesus came to give His life as the ransom for our sins, but He also came to show us the Father so that we might know Him and to reconcile our relationship with Him. “If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:7) “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:18a) When the Lord created mankind, He created us for His pleasure. He takes pleasure in lavishing His love on us and having fellowship with us. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
So, it’s not a really a question of whether or not we can know Him- yes, we can; He desires it; it’s part of His plan. “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7) The real question is what does it mean then to “know” God. To know Him is about more than just “facts and figures”. It’s more than just reading Bible stories. It goes deeper than just going to church. Too many equate “knowing” Him with church affiliation. Knowing God has nothing to do with your church attendance, how many scriptures you can quote, how long you have been a Sunday School teacher, what area of ministry you serve in (just ask the Pharisees). These are more of a result that comes from knowing Him than the actual proof of knowing Him. When the Bible talks about “knowing” God, there are two aspects involved. We are going to talk about both of them because they go hand in hand.
Look at Jesus’ teachings. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22,23) One of the meanings of the word “know” in this verse deals with intimacy. Intimacy according to the dictionary is: closeness, familiarity, warmth, affection; or loving personal relationship with another person or group. When God reveals Himself in scriptures, He uses such terms as: Father, friend, brother, husband. These are all terms of endearment. They carry a more personal meaning. God desires to be personal with us. He desires that we know Him in an intimate way. The Book of Song of Solomon takes it a step further and describes Christ’s love for the church as the love of a man and woman- one of intimacy. Do you know Him in an intimate way? Do you love Him? Does your heart leap at the mention of His name? Is He your first love? Does He have your heart? Is it divided between Him and “other” lovers? Is He your song in the morning? Is He fairer than ten thousand to your soul? The church at Ephesus was warned to return to their first love. They had lost their intimacy with Him. “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” (Revelation 1:1,4) Did you notice that the very first church He addressed in the Book of Revelation out of the seven churches was the one that had lost their love for Him? Our love and intimacy with Christ is a serious matter to Him- so serious that He addressed that matter first. He told the group in Matthew to depart because He did not “know” them- did not have an intimate love relationship with them. He also told the group at Ephesus that if they did not return to that intimate love relationship He would tell them to depart. Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all was, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37,38) Loving Him with all your heart is a sign that you “know” Him-- for to “know” Him is to love Him.
Let’s look at the second aspect of knowing God. In the verse above, the word “know” also means- to understand, have knowledge of. In church on Wednesday nights we are doing a study from John Bevere’s book, “Under Cover”. He made a statement that has stuck with me, “You can’t truly know God apart from making Him Lord. God and His authority are inseparable.” Let me break this down for you. When we come to Christ and receive Him as Savior, we don’t just stop there- we have to make Him Lord. Jesus is not just “fire insurance” from hell, He has to become your Lord- your Master, the One you serve, the Ruler of your life-- in plain English, He must be in the driver’s seat of your life. Christ is not divided- He isn’t only Savior, but He is Savior and Lord. “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13a) “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46,47) “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9) If you say He is Savior only, then you don’t really know Him. To say we know Him means that we have made Him Lord also. How do we make Him Lord? Through obedience. So to “know” God means that we obey Him as the Lord of our lives- we submit to His authority.
Jesus further clarifies His statements of verses twenty-two and twenty-three. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:21-27) There is a difference in “calling” Him Lord and “making” Him Lord. Many people say He is Lord in profession only. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8-NLT) But He does not truly become Lord until you “do the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Jesus then goes on to tell them that it’s not about works-- what they perceived as “good works”, Jesus called, “works of iniquity”. If “not knowing” Him is what kept them from entering into the kingdom, then it’s important that we find out how to ensure that we know Him. He tells us how through the parable of the wise man and foolish man who built their houses upon two different foundations. The foolish man was the one who heard the word of God but did not obey it. When the time came, his house did not stand the test-- it fell. The wise man was the one who heard and obeyed God’s word. This man did not suffer loss. What Jesus was saying through this parable was-- you have to know Me as Lord, you do this by keeping My commandments (My word); if you don’t-- then your fall will be great... “Depart from Me”.
I would like to go back for a moment and look at the “works” because that was these people’s defense and reason why Jesus should let them into His kingdom. Many would say, “Aren’t we suppose to do good works? Don’t the scriptures tell us to let our lights shine before men so that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven?” (Matthew 5:16) We are suppose to do good works. But your works don’t save you-- they don’t make Him Savior-- (“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”- Ephesians 2:8,9) and they aren’t necessarily the proof of His Lordship either. Take Saul, for example. “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22,23) We see a picture of him making sacrifices to the Lord and the prophet Samuel comes up and tells him that the Lord has rejected him from being king. Why? What was the matter? He’s doing “good works”, sacrificing to the Lord-- what could be a better work than that? The work was not his problem. His problem was disobedience. The Lord had told him not to do it- he did it anyway. His works were done in disobedience- this means that God wasn’t the Lord. His decision to disobey placed him in “the driver’s seat” (lord of his own life). Therefore, his works were works of iniquity. His disobedience cost him-- the “fall of his house was great”. God places more priority on obedience than He does on works. When we learn this, and act upon it, we will make Him Lord-- which is the proof that we know Him.
Intimacy (the deepest degree of love) and obedience have to go hand in hand if we know God- they can’t be separated. You can’t have one without the other. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:5,6) “Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway.” (Deuteronomy 11:1) “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6) “If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15) “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10) “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3) Obedience is built off of trust. The dictionary defines trust as: to have trust or confidence in; rely or depend on; to believe. Trust comes through communion, fellowship, getting acquainted. The more acquainted you become with the Lord the more you know about Him. The more you know about Him, the more you love Him. The more you love Him, the more you trust Him. The more you trust Him, the more obedient you become because it becomes easier to submit yourself to His will and Lordship over your life.
On the flip side, not knowing Him and disobedience go hand in hand. “And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:1,2)
It is God’s desire that we know Him intimately, personally. It is also His desire that through this intimacy we yield to Him in loving submission and surrender the place of Lordship in our lives to Him. To those who don’t, they will have a “great fall” on the day of judgment when they hear Him say, “Depart, I never knew you”. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
To those of us who make Him Savior and Lord- and through loving obedience keep His commandments- we will hear Him say, “His LORD said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:23,33,34)