To Be Known and to Fully Know God is the Great Purpose of Our Lives

To whom does God say, “Depart from me. I never knew you?”

Have you ever wondered who are the people to whom God may say, “I never knew you; depart from me”?[1] If you are like me, those words ring ominously. We might be tempted to gloss over them, because they are uncomfortable to consider, but there they are.

These words contrast with the verse that inspires this article, which informs the title to this blog piece. But first, I want to focus briefly on people whom God never knew. Jesus described them for us.

They are people who prayed to God, “Lord, Lord.” They are people who prophesied in God’s name. They are people who cast out demons and even did “mighty works” in God’s name. They are highly religious people, but they didn’t “do the will of the Father who is in heaven”. (Matt. 7:23)

What does that mean?

For starters, it means that religiosity is not a ticket to heaven. Public piety is not anything that impresses God; if anything, it may even be repulsive to Him.[2]

Power and influence and doing things that amaze people, even if done in God’s name, are not keys to heaven.  An eloquent speaker who can bring people to tears and repentance is not, thereby, assured of any place in God’s kingdom. The prophet and the teacher who speak the very word of God are not, by virtue of the gift of prophecy or knowledge, assured of eternity with God.

In the “Love Chapter” of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), Paul says,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

These realities are at once sobering and liberating. Nothing we can “practice” or do will propel us into God’s heaven. We are saved by grace, though faith, of course (Eph. 2:8-9), but even faith that can move mountains is of no gain to us by itself.

And here is the kicker – not even sacrifice, not even the sacrifice of our own bodies, by itself gains us anything.

David knew this when he said, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” (Ps. 51:16)

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Laying one’s life down might be considered a sacrifice, yes; but it done out of love it is more than merely a sacrifice. It isn’t the act itself that is important, but the motivation, the inspiration, the desire behind the act that matters.

Jesus is the ultimate example of love. When he sacrificed himself for our sakes, he didn’t do it to earn some heavenly brownie points. He gave himself for us out of love for us. He gave himself to us for our benefit. This is love, which focuses not one the benefit of the sacrifice to himself, but on the benefit for other another.

“For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6) Legalism and fundamentalism and dogmatism and doctrine and theology can never save a person. It doesn’t matter how much we do, or how much we know, or how accurate our understanding is when we have not love.

God, who we are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24), is love.[3] All the Law and the Prophets are summarized in this one statement: Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt. 22:40) Thus, Paul says,

But if anyone loves[4] God, he is known by God.

1 Corinthians 8:3 ESV

This is the verse that got me thinking about these things today. If you love God, you are known by God. The people of whom God will say, “Depart from Me; I never knew you”, are people who don’t really love God. Their motivation was wrong.

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What It Means to Know God

God told us what it means to know Him. Do you know what He said?


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?

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God’s Special Purpose


God reminds us who He is because we are creatures, the product of His creation, and we could not understand God without Him revealing Himself to us. We also could not understand purpose in our lives apart from the God who made us. And it turns out that He made us for a special purpose.

Among the various revelations that can be read in the various books that we consider Scripture is the revelation of a God who created humankind in His own image. We reflect many of the characteristics of the God who fashioned us. Perhaps of greatest significance is the ability He has given us to direct our own wills.

We can choose to see and relate to God for who He is. We can choose to be the captains of our own souls. We can either commit ourselves to our God and Maker, or we can choose to go our own ways. If we choose to go our own ways, however, we go it alone, without the blessing or sustaining grace of the God who made us.

“Return to me, for I have redeemed you,” says God through Isaiah. (Is. 44:22) The God who gave us this capacity to accept or reject Him, calls us to Himself.

In the end, God is all that we could want, all that we are made for and all that we need. In Him is love and peace and eternal life. He is reminding us who He is. Our destiny rests on our willingness to grasp this reality and to submit ourselves to it.

We will not need to be told to “sing for joy….” (Is. 44:23) when we do submit and yield to our Maker because in Him is our joy. It is the natural expression of the child returning home to her Father. God is who He says, and God reminds us who He is in His lovingkindness.

We Know God by Looking at Jesus

God has not given us abstract proof. He has not given us an inner compass pointing true north. God has given us proof in the Person of Jesus.

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I listened to a Tim Keller sermon about John 1 in which he focused on the revelation that “the Word was in the beginning; the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. You can follow the link in the last sentence to read a summary of the beginning of the message.

Keller made the following statement that is the subject of this piece:

“Jesus is the supreme revelation. If we are to know God, neither rationalism nor mysticism will suffice. For God chose to make Himself known finally and ultimately in a real historical human being.”

Keller doesn’t break that statement down, but he provides an illustration of how rationalism is insufficient to know God. I will summarize Keller’s illustration and provide one of my own for why mysticism can’t be relied upon for knowing God. Neither rationalism nor mysticism are sufficient, alone, to enable us to know God, and the reason why is that God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.

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On the Proposition of Looking for God

In the context of searching for God, if I can’t “find Him”, does that mean He doesn’t exist?

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If I can’t find something I am looking for, does that mean it doesn’t exist?

In the context of searching for God, if I can’t “find Him”, does that mean He doesn’t exist?

My inability to find something I’m looking for is not proof that the thing I am looking for doesn’t exist. Ask my wife. She will often describe an object to me and asked me to go retrieve it for her. I am reluctant to say how many times I have come back without what she sent me to retrieve. I might even be embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve wanted to tell her that the object doesn’t exist

How many times have we said to ourselves when looking for something, “It isn’t anywhere!”? Do we mean, literally, that the object isn’t anywhere? Not usually. Intellectually we know that it is somewhere, but we just can’t find it.

Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. If I’m looking for an object I’ve never seen before, maybe I have the wrong picture of the object in my mind and I am not looking for the right thing. Maybe the object isn’t where I thought it was. Maybe the object is hidden and needs to be uncovered.

These examples are allegorical when it comes to the idea of searching for God.

Continue reading “On the Proposition of Looking for God”