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A.W. Tozer once famously wrote that what we think about God is the most important thing about who we are. I believe that Tozer was right in saying this because the Bible frequently depicts God as one who wants us to know him. What we think and believe about God will determine how we live, and if we have a misguided perception of God, then our lives will eventually be misdirected away from God.
During our gathering and discussion about getting to know God at a deeper level, there were several insightful moments that I want to talk about and I wanted to begin with the relationship between knowing God and knowing about God.
There is certainly a difference between knowing about God informationally and knowing God relationally. We can know about God without truly knowing him, but knowing God also involves knowing about him. These things go together like two pedals on a bicycle. Trying to know God without knowing about him will lead to a highly experiential and shallow faith, and knowing only about God will lead to a puffed-up knowledge that never matures into the wisdom that comes from a relationship with God.
So here, when we talk about God and knowing God we are talking about both and answering the questions
An example of how this unfolds as we read Scripture, let’s look at Jer. 9:23-44:
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)
Thus, says the Lord: “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, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Informationally- We know that God desires us to know him; that he is faithful and loving; that he is just; and that he is righteous.
Relationally – We move from the textual information to the relational formation by experiencing these things in Christ. In Christ, we relationally experience the justice of God, his righteousness, and his steadfast love.
Now, that is just one example. So, how do we get to know more about God and deepen our relationship with God?
Theologian Ron Highfield has a simple sentence that really helps us wrap our mind around getting to know God. In his book Great is the Lord he states, “To know God is to know the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit.” So knowing God begins with recognizing that God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and if we leave any of this out we are not getting to know God as he is revealed in Scripture.
Even as we naturally talk about knowing God we cannot do so without mentioning the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We notices this as we talked about this topic at Sonrise café. There were four points that surfaced in our conversations that I thought were helpful.
Knowing God means seeing him the Father.
Calling God Father was rather foreign to God’s people before Jesus arrived on the scene. There are passages in the Old Testament where God says that he wished his people would call him “Father.” Jeremiah 3:19 states, “I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land–the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me.” They never understood or captured this vision of God. When Jesus teaches us to pray he reminds us that we approach God as the Father. He said, “Our Father” not “my Father.”
Naturally, when we think of the word father, we begin to think about our earthly fathers or fatherly figures in our life and sometimes we can think of God in light of those perceptions, whether they are positive or negative. Unfortunately, as I have talked with people about this, it usually the negative associations that we cast upon God. But, God is the perfect Father. He never lied to you, never beat you, never missed a game, never left you, and he never will.
There are also portraits of God having the wisdom, gentleness, and care as a mother, so we must not neglect those images. Like a momma bird covering her hatchling with her wing during the storm or in the face of predators, God is our perfect parental refuge and provider.
So that was the first point, knowing God as a Father.
Knowing God means looking to Jesus.
In Jesus, we are given a tangible picture of who God is, what he is like, what is important to him, and we see his love for us most clearly expressed. In Colossians 1:19-20 Paul states, “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ and through him God reconciled everything to himself.” So if we want to know God and what God is like, we should turn our focus to the gospels and get to know the life and ministry of Jesus.
A passage we looked at during our conversation was John 17:25-26
John 17:25-36 (ESV)
“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
So there is this intimate, co-existent, and cooperative relationship with Jesus and the Father. In Jesus, we see the justice of God, the holiness of God, the goodness of God, the love God, and even the righteous anger of God and how He uses that anger.
So we get to know God and about God in and through Jesus, who is God who stepped into humanity to reveal himself and to reconcile us back to himself.
Knowing God means walking by Spirit.
We only know Jesus is God because the Spirit revealed him to us. We cannot come to know God without the Holy Spirit giving us the eyes to see. We discussed all of this in week one, but there is another critical component that we must consider. The Holy Spirit is God within us. He is the very presence of God among and within his people. According John chapters 14-16, we can learn from the Spirit and get to know God through the Spirit because the Spirit is God.
In Romans 8 we are told that we are to walk by the Spirit and later on in Romans 12 we find out that the Spirit will help us renew our minds. A helpful verse is found In Romans 8:5 where Paul states, “For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit” Being shaped by the Spirit will result in a transformed and growing prayer life, and a lifestyle of worship and disciplines such as gathering with other believers, fasting, and meditating on God’s Word.
So we know God by listening and obeying him as he guides us by His Spirit. His Spirit shapes us to become more like him.
Knowing God means being in Community.
The New Testament reveals that the people of God are the new tabernacle, where God dwells. Jesus is the head of the Church. The church is the chosen people of God who are called to proclaim the gospel to the world and be deeply devoted to Jesus with each other. A strong passage for this is 1 John 1:7, which states, “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” God in his very nature is a community, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so it would make sense that he calls us to be in community with another to experience him corporately, not just privately. We learn about God from one-other, by sharing stories of God’s grace and faithfulness, and by walking through hardships together.
Just to recap those points of our conversation. Knowing God means looking to Jesus. Knowing God means walking by Spirit. Knowing God means being in Community. Knowing God means seeing him the Father.
Just a couple of final thoughts as we close this out.
Knowing God and knowing about God is most experienced in his Word, where he has revealed who he is and the whole of redemptive history to us. Psalms 1 says that those who meditate on the instruction of the Lord day and night will be blessed. This does not mean the only thing you do is read the Bible, but it means that we should be immersed in the Word of God and speaking it over our lives as we walk in the power and filling of the Holy Spirit at all times.
I hope that you have found this to be helpful and if there is any way that we can serve you or answer any questions that you might have, please get in touch with us!
Knowledge of the Holy #book by A.W. Tozer
Introduction to the Holy Spirit #podcast by Cody Whittington