Friday, June 30, 2017

Why Know God?

Sometimes as Christian it is easy to overlook the simple things. For example, why should a person want to know God? 

First, knowledge of God is important, for only through the knowledge of God can an individual enter into what the Bible terms eternal life. Jesus indicated this when he prayed, “And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). At first glance even this does not seem important enough to the “natural man” to make him want to know God at all costs. But this is because, lacking eternal life, he cannot begin to understand what he is missing. He is like a person who says that he does not appreciate good music. His dislike does not make the music worthless; it simply indicates an inadequate grounds of appreciation in him. So also those who do not appreciate God’s offer of life indicate that they do not have the capability of understanding or valuing what they are lacking. The Bible says, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

It might help such a person to be told that the promise of eternal life is also the promise of being able to live life fully as an authentic human being. This is true, but it is also true that eternal life means more than this. It means coming alive, not only in a new but also in an eternal sense. It is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25–26).

Second, knowledge of God is important because it also involves knowledge of ourselves. Our day is the day of the psychiatrist and psychologist. Men and women spend billions of dollars annually in an attempt to know themselves, to sort out their psyches. Certainly there is need for psychiatry, particularly Christian psychiatry. But this alone is inadequate in the ultimate sense if it does not bring individuals into a knowledge of God against which their own worth and failures may be estimated.

On the one hand, 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 good; we are not good. He is wise; we are foolish. He is strong; we are weak. He is loving and gracious; we are filled with hate and with selfish affectations. Therefore, to know God is to see ourselves as Isaiah did: “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!” (Is. 6:5). Or as Peter did: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8). On the other hand, such knowledge of ourselves through the knowledge of God is also reassuring and satisfying. For in spite of what we have become we are still God’s creation and are loved by him. No higher dignity has been given to women and men than the dignity the Bible gives them.

Third, the knowledge of God also gives us knowledge of this world: its good and its evil, its past and its future, its purpose and its impending judgment at the hand of God. In one sense, this is an extension of the point just made. If knowledge of God gives us knowledge of ourselves, it also inevitably gives us knowledge of the world; for the world is mostly the individuals who compose it written large. On the other hand, the world stands in a special relationship to God, in its sin and rebellion as well as in its value as a vehicle for his purposes. It is a confusing place until we know the God who made it and learn from him why he made it and what is to happen to it.

A fourth reason the knowledge of God is important is that it is the only way to personal holiness. This is a goal that the natural man hardly desires. But it is essential nonetheless. Our problems derive not only from the fact that we are ignorant of God but also from the fact that we are sinful. We do not want the good. At times we hate it, even when the good is to our benefit.

The knowledge of God leads to holiness. To know God as he is, is to love him as he is and to want to be like him. This is the message of one of the Bible’s most important verses about the knowledge of God. Jeremiah, the ancient prophet of Israel, wrote, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD” (Jer. 9:23–24). Jeremiah also wrote about a day when those who do not know God will come to know him. “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:34).

Finally, the knowledge of God is important in that it is only through a knowledge of God that the church and those who compose it can become strong. In ourselves we are weak, but as Daniel wrote, “the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Dan. 11:32).

We don't always have strong churches today, nor do we have many strong Christians. We can trace the cause to an acute lack of sound spiritual knowledge. Why is the church weak? Why are individual Christians weak? It is because they have allowed their minds to become conformed to the “spirit of this age,” with its mechanistic, godless thinking. They have forgotten what God is like and what he promises to do for those who trust him. Ask an average Christian to talk about God. After getting past the expected answers you will find that his god is a little god of vacillating sentiments. He is a god who would like to save the world, but who cannot. He would like to restrain evil, but somehow he finds it beyond his power. So he has withdrawn into semiretirement, being willing to give good advice in a grand-fatherly sort of way, but for the most part he has left his children to fend for themselves in a dangerous environment.

Such a god is not the God of the Bible! Those who know their God perceive the error in that kind of thinking and act accordingly. The God of the Bible is not weak; he is strong. He is all-mighty. Nothing happens without his permission or apart from his purposes—even evil. Nothing disturbs or puzzles him. His purposes are always accomplished. Therefore, those who know him rightly act with boldness, assured that God is with them to accomplish his own desirable purposes in their lives.

Do we need an example? We can find no better one than Daniel. Daniel and his friends were godly men in the godless environment of ancient Babylon. They were slaves, good slaves. They served the court. But difficulty arose when they refused to obey anything in opposition to the commands of the true God whom they knew and worshiped. When Nebuchadnezzar’s great statue was set up and all were required to fall down and worship it, Daniel and his friends refused. When prayer to anyone but King Darius was banned for thirty days, Daniel did as he always did: he prayed to God three times a day before an open window.

What was wrong with these men? Had they fooled themselves about the consequences? Did they think that their failure to comply would go unseen? Not at all. They knew the consequences, but they also knew God. They were able to be strong, trusting God to have his way with them whether it meant salvation or destruction in the lions’ den or the furnace. These men said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:17–18).

A weak god produces no strong men, nor does he deserve to be worshiped. A strong God, the God of the Bible, is a source of strength to those who know him.

So let us learn about God and come to know God in the fullest, biblical sense. Jesus encouraged us to do this when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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” (Mt. 11:28–29). This is true wisdom for everyone. It is the special duty and privilege of the Christian.

What is the proper course of study for one who is a child of God? Is it not God himself? There are other worthwhile areas of learning, it is true. But the highest science, the most mind-expanding area of all, is the Godhead. Charles Spurgeon once wrote:
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the … solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday and know nothing.”… But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it.… Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continuing investigation of the great subject of the Deity.
Every Christian should confidently pursue this goal.