Have you ever had anyone give you a gift that showed they didn’t know you very well at all?
Or introduce you to someone else with phrasing that made you wonder who they were talking about?
I think one of the deepest desires of our hearts is to be known for who we truly are. Though we may have several acquaintances and friends, our best friends are probably the ones who “get” us the most.
Getting to know each other requires effort. Usually there is some kind of instant connection or like interests that draw two people together. But really getting to know each other comes with years of talking, listening, and being together.
Even then, those kinds of friendships don’t mean we’ll always understand each other or will never learn anything new about each other.
And if being truly known is one of our deepest desires, one of our deepest frustrations is being misrepresented or misunderstood. In one town we lived in, my husband was involved in local politics and had some brief interactions with the local press. It was amazing how often the media got details wrong or inferred meaning that was not implied.
God is the one who knows us best and still loves us. He knows exactly what we need when we need it. He made us, He planned for us from before the foundation of the world. He knows our frame, he knows our deepest thoughts.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether (Psalm 139:1-4).
Have you ever had an answer to prayer that was so exquisitely detailed and perfectly met your needs that you knew it could only have come from God? Or have you ever been burdened about something, opened your Bible for the day’s reading, and found the answer to the very thing you were thinking about before? Few things make me feel so known and loved by God.
But how well do we know Him?
Wrong views of God abound in the world. As a child, I had a mental picture of Him as a scowling deity peering over a thundercloud with lightning bolts in His hand, just ready to zap me when I did wrong. Others picture a kindly, indulgent grandfather who will always smile, pat them on the head, and let them get away with anything.
J. I. Packer said in his classic book, Knowing God:
How often do we hear this sort of thing: “I like to think of God as the great Architect (or Mathematician or Artist).” “I don’t think of God as a Judge; I like to think of him simply as a Father.” We know from experience how often remarks of this kind serve as the prelude to a denial of something that the Bible tells us about God. It needs to be said with the greatest possible emphasis that those who hold themselves free to think of God as they like are breaking the second commandment. . . .
All speculative theology, which rests on philosophical reasoning rather than biblical revelation, is at fault here. Paul tells us where this sort of theology ends: “The world by wisdom knew not God” (1 Cor 1:21 KJV). To follow the imagination of one’s heart in the realm of theology is the way to remain ignorant of God, and to become an idol-worshipper, the idol in this case being a false mental image of God, made by one’s own speculation and imagination (pp. 47-48).
The Bible says there are those who “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2) and who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (Titus 1:16). Some who think they know Him and even call Him Lord will be surprised one day when He says, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:21-23).
How can we be sure we know Him, and know Him aright? Not only does the welfare of our souls depend on knowing God for who He truly is, but so does the welfare of those we speak and write to and influence.
Our spiritual life begins with coming to know Him. Jesus said to His Father in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” When we understand that we’re sinners, deserving of God’s wrath, but He loved us and died to save us from that wrath, and we turn to Him in repentance and faith, we begin to know Him. (For more information, see How to Know God.)
Paul said in Philippians 3:8-11
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (emphasis mine).
First, Paul said that knowing Christ was worth the loss of everything else. Then, though Paul already knew God, he wanted to know Him more, to know Him better. Bible Study Tools’ commentary on this verse says:
This power and virtue the apostle had had an experience of, yet he wanted to feel more of it, in exciting the graces of the spirit to a lively exercise, in raising his affections, and setting them on things above, and in engaging him to seek after them, and set light by things on earth, and in causing him to walk in newness of life, in likeness or imitation of Christ’s resurrection, to all which that strongly animates and encourages.
Just as it takes time to know other people, it takes time to know God. Though He already knows all about us, He wants us to talk to Him in prayer. He has revealed Himself through nature, but He has revealed Himself most clearly in Christ and in His Word.
1 Samuel 3:21 says, “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” God reveals Himself to us the same way. Interestingly, verse 1 of that chapter says “the word of the Lord was rare in those days.” Then comes the incident where Samuel thinks Eli is calling to him, until Eli finally realizes it’s the Lord who is calling Samuel. Eli instructs Samuel to respond, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.”
Paul says in the Philippians 3 passage referred to above “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection”—we love that part— “and may share his sufferings.” We don’t like that last part so much. Yet when we endure sufferings by seeking Him in His Word and prayer, we come to know Him in ways that we couldn’t otherwise.
There will always be more we can know about God. 1 Corinthians 13 says we “know in part” (verse 9), “we see in a mirror dimly” (verse 12). But someday we’ll see Him “face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (verse 12).
But God has enabled us to know Him here and to continue to know Him better and more fully until we see Him.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18a).
Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:13-14).
So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10).
May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire (2 Peter 1:2-4).
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).
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