What do you think God would say it means to know Him?
Perhaps, knowing God means having a deep and broad understanding of theology and biblical doctrine. Perhaps, knowing God means feeling intimate with God, having our prayers answered, entering into worship so beautiful it causes goosebumps and tears to flow. Perhaps, knowing God means being able to hear that still, small voice.
How would you define knowing God?
Does it mean knowing Scripture inside out? Is that what it means to know God?
What about the people who don’t have access to written Bible translations? If the Bible is how they must know God, how do they know God without the Bible?
If He told us what it means to know Him, how would we respond?
Would you get a theology degree? Join a charismatic church? Pray more?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Our supreme need is to know God” (God’s Ultimate Purpose [Baker], p. 342) Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God “give [them] spiritual wisdom and revelation in [their] growing knowledge of him.” (Eph. 1:18) Do we pray to know God better?
Theoretically, our greatest goal should be to know God better and to increase in our knowledge of Him. But that presupposes that we know what it means to know God.
Frankly, I was a little surprised when I stumbled on a description of what it means to know God in my Bible reading recently. Not that I should have been surprised, as it is perfectly evident when we consider all of Scripture, including what Jesus said and did. Yet, I don’t think I would have answered the question correctly if someone had asked me. Would you?
Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21) Peter urges us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 3:18) Knowing Jesus and following him (keeping his commands), therefore, means knowing God the Father.
We know Jesus initially by submitting our lives to him as our Lord and Savior, accepting and embracing his sacrificial death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. After that it, we know Jesus by following him – by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following him.
Jesus announced the purpose for which he came one day when he stood up in the Temple and read from the Isaiah scroll (Luke 4:18-19):
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
To know and follow Jesus, then, seems to include being involved in the things Jesus came to do.
In fact, God has told us even more specifically what it means to know Him. God told us in the instruction he gave to the Prophet, Jeremiah, to speak to the son of Josiah, one of the last kings of Judah who followed after God (Jeremiah 22:3, 15-16):
“‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place….
Do you think you are a king
because you compete in cedar?
Did not your father eat and drink
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
then it was well.
Is not this to know me?
declares the Lord.”
It turns out that knowing God has something to do with doing justice and righteousness, delivering people “from the hand of the oppressor”, doing no wrong or violence to aliens, orphans and widows and judging the cause of the poor and needy.
These are things that anyone can do. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar or even have access to written Scripture. It isn’t a feeling. You don’t even have to hear and know the voice of God. You just have to love people.
We make things more difficult and complicated than they need to be. Jesus said all the Law and the Prophets can be summed up in two statements: “Love God and love your neighbor.” (Matt. 22:40)
Paul said simply, “[S]erve one another in love. The entire Law is fulfilled in a single decree: Love your neighbor as yourself;” (Gal. 5:14); and “[L]ove each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom. 13:8)
Loving people, of course, means loving them in truth. Love would never suggest denying truth – including the truth that God exists, that Jesus died for our sins, etc. Simply “loving” people by serving them, without extending the Gospel to them and being truthful is not loving them as God loves them.
Finally, Jesus said the “righteous” are those who feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger in, clothe those without anything to wear and visit the sick and the imprisoned because “[W]hatever you [do] for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you [do] for me.” (See Matthew 25:31-46)
Salvation is also a different matter than knowing God. Jesus died for our sins, which is offered to us by the grace of God. We accept that grace by faith.
Salvation is not something we earn, but God wants more for us and from us than salvation. He wants to know us and for us to know Him. He wants us to bear the fruit of His Spirit, which is to learn to be like Him – to walk as Jesus walked.
So, it turns out that we know exactly what it means to know God. God told us what it means, and it involves a whole lot more doing, and quite a bit less intellectualizing and spiritualizing, than we might have realized. (See also James 1:19-26 and James 2)