“How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each Truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”
- J. I. Packer, author of Knowing God
Knowing about God is good, but it lacks the depth of a loving relationship with the Creator of all things. Too often, we (Christians) find ourselves getting caught up in the "knowing about" part of God that we miss the true calling for our relationship with him. When we focus too much on simply knowing about God, we miss meditation, prayer, worship, and other actions that help us know God.
One of the simplest examples of a group of people that stuck with knowing about God instead of diving into an active, loving relationship with God comes from Romans 1. In this passage, the apostle Paul is writing to all people in Rome. He introduces these people by writing, "To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:7). At the time, Rome was called to holiness, yet they were experiencing a washed-down version of the Christian faith. He continues on by stating his longing to visit Rome and his reasons for being there, but then after, he opens his preaching with a message about the wrath of God against sinful humanity. It always amazes me that Paul would open up his preaching career in the city of Rome, filled with murderers and God-haters, by calling 'sin', sin. Needless to say, Paul had boldness. He knew God's message for the Romans, and he shared it.
The beginning of the passage (Rom. 1:18-20) introduces the wrath of God that will be revealed against the godless and the wicked, as well as those who suppress the truth of God. Paul writes that, "God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20). By this, Paul is stating that anyone can know about God just by looking around because God is the creator of all things. Recently, a man named Joe White came and spoke in our chapel service. He began to share stories that he had experienced over the span of his life about God, faith, and redemption. One story that caught me thinking the most was about a young atheist. The young man asked Mr. White how we can truly know about God, and he responded with, "Look around you." Joe asked him to empty his pockets, and then asked him who made his cell phone. The young man responded by saying, "factory workers." He then asked who made the factory workers. The young man answered by saying, "their parents." He asked the young man who made their parents, to which the young man replied, "their parents." He finally asked, "then who made all the parents ahead of theirs?" The young atheist then realized that God is the creator of all things. Moral of the story: whatever you see, hear, feel, or taste, God is behind it.
Nonetheless, knowing about God is good, yet it falls short. We find this to be true through the next section of the passage. Romans 1:21 affirms, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him." We can call ourselves Christians and know about God, and still miss the mark. There are Christians in our schools, churches, and communities that know about God, yet choose to ignore Him. It is a choice to glorify God, as well as to not glorify Him. It is a choice to thank God, as well as to not thank Him. The problem with resting in just knowing about God is that we will begin to exchange what we perceive as true once we lose sight of what we once knew. Knowledge is innovative and expansive, and will continue to be. Because of this, people will begin to doubt old truths for new theories. Romans 1:22-23 affirms this by stating, "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." Similarly, Romans 1:25 states the same, "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator." These fools that Paul writes about exchanged the immortal for the mortal, the unshakeable for the shakeable, the heavenly for the worldly. Thus, the difference between knowing about God and knowing God lies in the slogan of a famous Christian organization (Not Of This World) that stems from John 17:13-16, "Christians are to be in this world, but not of it."
Those who truly know God will walk by faith. Those who do not truly know God will walk by what the world throws their way. Wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance, boastfulness, disobedience, lack of understanding, lack of fidelity, lack of love, and lack of mercy are all descriptions of the "God-haters" described in Romans 1:29-31. Sadly, the wicked know the difference between right and wrong, yet choose the later. Romans 1:32 states, "Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." This is the essence of how sick and twisted our world is today.
So what does it mean to walk by faith?
In a nutshell, to walk by faith means that no matter the circumstance, good or bad, I choose to trust, thank, and glorify God with my thoughts, words, actions, attitude, and body. Even when we don't understand, struggle to believe, and feel like we have lost our way, we are called to choose a lifestyle that centers around God, focusing on having faith. Walking by faith gives reality to the things we cannot see or touch. Even though they exist, we may not be able to experience them like everything else, yet we still believe and live by that belief. As Corrie Ten Boom was once famously quoted, "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." Place your life in God's hands...trust that He has a better plan. Follow out in action your belief that God reigns always...walk by faith.
How can we truly know God?
We can truly know God by experiencing Him on several different levels. Through a little research, I found 12 different ways to experience God (otherwise known as "growing closer to God"):
1) Jesus Christ - The story of His life, death, and resurrection.
2) The Church - The body of Christ (full of believers).
3) The Word of God - Read, meditate, & study!
4) Nature/Art - (Nature - Romans 1); Art is an inspiring talent that stems from God-given talents.
5) Worship - Worship is a way to praise God with our voices and to intimately experience Him.
6) Conscience - The voice of God (speaks absolutely, no ifs and buts)
7) Reason - Everything we reflect on can be thought out philosophically.
8) Personal Experience - Your testimony is powerful.
9) History - A collective experience of all events over the time of the world.
10) God's Children - His saints are mirrors of Christ...lights in a dark world.
11) The Will of God - By doing the will of God, God becomes clearer to see because the eye of the heart is purified: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
12) Prayer - You learn more of God from a few minutes of prayerful repentance than through a lifetime in a library.
Will you choose to know God, rather than just knowing about Him? Will you choose to experience Him personally, and to walk by faith?
John 17:3, "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."