March 13, 2016

What does it mean to know God?

Last night I found out that someone I thought I knew did something that that seems totally out of character. It surprised me. I didn’t see it coming and was disappointed. Because of that eye-opener, today’s Bible reading put me on a chain of thought with questions about what it means to know someone. It begins with a most familiar verse . . .

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 . . . which led to the question, what is eternal life? Jesus describes it this way . . .

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

 . . . which leads me to another question, what does it mean to know someone in the way Jesus describes in His prayer about knowing God?

Obviously this is not about information, like knowing a lot of facts about a famous person that I’ve never met or even seen face-to-face. Nor does it mean a shared acquaintance where I say hello and talk about the weather. Knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ does include knowing information about both and it certainly includes talking with both, but Jesus is talking about a personal knowledge, not just a list of facts. He also means more than superficial conversations. Yet knowing Him is like knowing another person in a deeper way. I know information about my family and can have light conversations with them, but I know them in a different way.

I found some definitions of what it means to know someone, and find that they also illustrate the ‘knowing’ that Jesus defined as necessary to eternal life . . .

  • You only know people who actively share intimate, private information about themselves.
  • You never really know someone until you fight with them and see the inner workings of their heart.
  • If you are close enough to a person that you can guess what they will do, or how they will react then you could say that you know them.
  • Knowing someone means you have empathy for them and understand what they are not saying or showing.
  • Unless you share the same pain you truly cannot know one another. 
  • Knowing a person means being intuitive about them, being united with their mind and heart.
  • And from the Bible: “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)

Apply these ideas to knowing God and they describes a bit of what it is to be saved.

Salvation also includes forgiveness and deliverance from sin, yet it is also a deliverance from self into union with the Lord. It is also like being “in love” with someone that I know, like being thrilled with a Person who is infinitely greater than myself and caught up into a total commitment to Him. While I can verbally share and proclaim Jesus, that commitment is also a way of declaring it.

This surrender and the ‘knowing’ is without being concerned about the consequences of such a commitment to Him. In that way, it is like what God did; He gave Himself for me without any calculation of the consequences. That is, God did not say, “I will send My Son to die for her – if she will put her faith in Him.” He gave Himself for me because He loves me, not because I might love Him in return.

My surrender to God isn’t about what I will get back as a consequence. It is an expression of my love for God, a love based on His giving of Himself to me, of His abandonment to my need, a revelation in intimacy that makes knowing Him possible, and in the knowing, receiving His life – which lasts forever.

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