According to J. I. Packer, famous author and theologian, to have a meaningful life is to have a goal that “captures our imaginations” and “lays hold of our allegiance”. He says that, of all people, Christians have this goal:
For most of my life, the highest goal for me as a Christian was to not disappoint God. To be good. To never do the wrong things.
This legalistic view of life didn’t bring me joy. I was so fixated on avoiding the wrong things that I stayed bound in worry and despair. And my good behavior betrayed the “not-so-good” state of my heart.
I didn’t really know God.
Oh, I had a head knowledge. I’d been in church all my life. I studied the Bible. I prayed, although most of my prayers were emergency prayers for help with little to no listening involved.
Knowing God for who He is came second hand. I developed ideas about God based on other people’s experiences. My theology was informed by pastors and teachers and authors, but very little felt personal and real.
Gradually, I have found ways to get to know God for myself. Little by little, I’ve been learning. And it has been life-changing! He’s amazing! He’s so very different from all I had imagined Him to be. (Thankfully!)
Of course, I realize I’m just on the preschool level when it comes to knowing God, but I am thankful that the learning never has to stop! Yes, He is ultimately beyond the understanding of our finite minds, but He still calls us to the privilege of getting to know Him.
How about you, dear friend? Do you struggle with your understanding of God? Do you find yourself confused when you hear so many different views and opinions about what He’s really like?
I encourage you to stop for a minute and listen to this preacher talk about knowing Him. It’s an oldie, but it stokes my heart every time!
Don’t you want to know Him for yourself?
Let me share with you some reasons why I think it’s important to know Him in a deep, personal way. Spending time with Him in a real, genuine relationship has the potential to change you in some very amazing ways!
HE INVITES US TO KNOW HIM
When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He began with the phrase “Our Father…”. When Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene after He had resurrected, He told her to go tell the disciples, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.” John 20:17
Jesus was basically giving us permission to interact with God in the context of relationship. There’s no image painted here of us needing to click our heels and salute with a “Sir, yes Sir!”, solely in pure obedience with no meaningful connection.
Jesus goes so far as to say that to know the only true God, to know Jesus Himself is eternal life. (John 17:3)
Yes, we know as believers that eternal life means we’ve been forgiven of our sins and promised eternity in Heaven with God. But Jesus is saying eternal life is more than just a destination.
Eternal life, life that is continuously full and real and genuine, is the journey.
The 3 of them really, really want you to know them!!
KNOWING ABOUT IS NOT LIKE KNOWING
When I was a young teen, I had a crush on the teen star, Shaun Cassidy. I watched all his tv shows, listened to his music, and read everything I could about him. I thought he was great, and I thought I knew him.
But I didn’t really know him. Not like his brother or a close personal friend would know him.
Likewise, with God, we can read about Him in His word. We can listen to sermons and go to conferences and learn about Him.
But when you really know someone, you actually experience their presence. You come to know their voice and their mannerisms. You pick up on what’s important to them and you discover what’s in their heart.
Do you recognize the sound of His voice? Can you distinguish it from other voices?
Do you hear Him speak to you?
Are you aware of His movements in the everyday of your life? Have you ever felt His Presence near?
There have been a few times in my life when I had a very serious crisis of faith. I clung to theology to understand truth, to know what I really believed and why. But theology, as important as it is, didn’t affect my heart. It only gave me answers for my mind.
But getting to know God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit has been transforming. Realizing that the Christian life is all about relationship and not rules is life-giving. Yes, I want to know about Him, but I hunger to know Him!
HE MAY BE DIFFERENT THAN WE BELIEVED
Our view of God and our understanding of His nature are often formed by other people. As children, we can see God like our earthly father, whether that’s good or bad. Or we might have adopted the views our parents possessed.
We might have a picture of God that has been formed by the teaching we’ve sat under through the years. As I was growing up, many churches put much more emphasis on moral behavior than they did on cultivating the heart.
And guilt was a great motivator for encouraging the moral behavior they expected a church member to have. It became easy for me to see God as a stern, aloof, angry old man, with one hand on His hip and the other wagging His finger at me in disappointment and disgust.
We might even see God from a place of woundedness. Whether our bruised heart came from others’ afflictions on us or from our own disappointments, losses, and failures, we may have adopted a view of God as harsh, uncaring, insensitive, and maybe even cruel.
Possibly, we need a lens change.
If I had actually met Shaun Cassidy in person, he might have been very different from the person I had created in my mind, based on my limited knowledge of him as a person. Likewise, when we get to know God, our perceptions of Him might change as well.
Having a lens change helps you see Him as He really is. He IS good. He IS for you, not against you. He doesn’t condemn you but showers you with grace.
It’s worth knowing for yourself what He’s really like!
KNOWING HIM HELPS US TRUST HIM
Oftentimes when I’ve read the Bible or I’ve listened to a sermon, it all just sounds like words, or at best some well-meaning ideas. But in the hardest times of my life, I have experienced what God is really like, what all those words and ideas mean for me.
I have learned in times of financial trouble that He is faithful. I have learned in times of great, debilitating loss that He truly helps us in our time of need. He gives strength when we have none.
I have learned that when there seems to be no hope, He can make a way. When I have been awash in my own failings, His kindness melts my heart.
Because of my experience with Him in the past, I can trust Him to be with me in the future. Facing really hard things with His help gives me confidence and hope to go on.
And most of all, knowing and feeling and believing He loves me enables me to trust Him for whatever He calls me to be and do. I can trust Him because He loves me. Jesus loves me, this I know!
How about you, friend? Do you know Him? Have you experienced God for yourself?
He is inviting you to come close and get to know Him. He longs for your nearness. He doesn’t want you just to know about Him. He wants you to be familiar with His ways, familiar with His thoughts, and familiar with His heart.
He wants to take away any preconceived ideas that keep you from seeing Him as He really is. Lay them down and be open to seeing with a new lens!
I urge you to know Him and His great love for yourself. Knowing His love, His forgiveness, and His goodness will help you trust Him with all that concerns you. Go back and listen to that video at the beginning of this post and praise Him as you do!
Getting to know Him with you,
And in case you’re wondering how do I get to know God? We’re going to be talking a lot about the “how’s” here at Hope Dwellers. We’ll learn to know Him through His voice, His names, His word, through prayers, and being in His presence.
For now, we would love to hear it if you would share with us one thing you’ve come to know about God for yourself – in the comments below? It will help us all to know Him better! Thanks!