Can I Know God Personally? (Explore God Week 7)
This week concludes the “Explore God” sermon series that Faith and more than 800 other churches in the Chicagoland area participated in. For more resources on the topics of the last few posts, visit ExploreGod.Com.
Francis Schaeffer was one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent is one of his most well-known books. As the title indicates, he argues that God exists and communicates with us. His ideas run counter to a couple of common claims -- that we can not know if a God exists, or if there is a God who does exist, this God is so far removed from us that we can not know Him in a real, personal way. We have already looked at the question of whether there is a God, but we still need to consider if we can know God, and if so, how.
He Wants Us to Know Him
The Christian faith says that God wants to be known. We see this claim emerge in Acts 17:22-31 (which is the text we used we used when we addressed the question of whether Christianity is Too Narrow). In that passage, Paul sees a statue dedicated to an unknown god and says that he wants to make this god known (17:23). In his speech, Paul says that God “made from one man every nation of mankind … that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” Paul claims that we can know God and that God wants us to know Him. So why do we struggle to know God?
We Get in the Way of Knowing Him
Elsewhere, Paul wrote that while we know that God exists, we suppress this truth and seek to do things our own way (Romans 1:18-23). Therefore, the issue is not that God wants to remain a mystery, but that our choices and actions prevent us from knowing this God who has shown Himself in creation. In fact, this is what we see in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, as Adam and Eve had a special relationship with God, but after their sin, seek to do things their way instead of trusting God’s Word, God sends them out of His presence. God is not the problem, we are -- but it is God’s work, not ours, that is the solution.
God Creates a Way Back For Us
The Bible ends with humans being back in the presence of God in a garden (Revelation 21). However, this does not happen through our efforts, as no one is able to be made righteous in God’s sight by works or obedience (Romans 3:20); all have sinned and the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23; 6:23), so we should have an eternity of separation from God. But God makes a way for us in sending Jesus not after we have made ourselves right (which we cannot do!), but while we are still sinful (Romans 5:8). Jesus is the way back to God (John 14:6), as He comes to make us able to know God.
Two Ways of Knowing God, Both Through Jesus
When I took a German classes, I was fascinated by the fact that there are two words that can both be translated as “know.” There is a word that refers to intellectual knowledge of facts, and another word that refers to knowing people (having a relationship). The person of Jesus makes God known to us in both ways. Do you want to know what God is like from a factual standpoint? Look to Jesus, as he has come to explain who God is in his words and life (John 1:18). Do you want to know God in a personal way? Look to Jesus, as he came to make us children of God (John 1:12). Jesus has revealed what God is like (John 1:18) and he has also made a way for us to be his children, to have a relationship with Him (John 1:14).
Not Second-Hand Knowledge, But Deeply Personal
Jesus does not bring us into a second-hand knowledge of God. In bringing the new covenant, as promised in Jeremiah, we now have the law of God written on our hearts: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34). In addition, Jesus is our priest in this new covenant (Hebrews 7:22-28), so our relationship to God is not mediated through humans priests; we can go directly to God because Jesus is our Great High Priest, so let us go to the throne room of God in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-5:10).
Do You Know Him?
God has made a way to know Him through Jesus. We need to not only know that there is a way, but a way to experience this relationship with the God who has made us, with the God who is there and is not silent.
For more on Knowing God, check out the Knowing God videos and resources from Explore God.
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