Monday, April 12, 2010

Pleasing God (Part Two - Knowing God)

Colossians 1:9-12

"For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects - bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints' inheritance in the light."

We looked at this scripture last week and determined that according to Paul in his letter to the church in Colossae, God is pleased when:
*We bear fruit
*We grow in knowledge
*We rely on His Strength, showing patience and steadfastness
*We joyfully give thanks to God

We discussed bearing fruit and now we can move on to "growing in the knowledge of God".....

Wow. Where do we start with this? Clearly, I am not a biblical scholar. My knowledge of God comes primarily through scripture and my relationship with him (and the Holy Spirit since the Bible states that the Holy Spirit teaches us wisdom). I do not claim to be wise, and I don't have time at this season of my life to research and write a novel on the idea of knowing God, or growing in the knowledge of God. Therefore, I will just expand on that which I was mulling over related to this scripture and the concept of Knowing God.

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8 "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ". Since it appears to suggest that our lives do not have any meaning when we do not know Christ, it must be pretty important. The question is, what does Knowing God mean?

Knowing God Vs. Knowing Of God
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and they ask, "Do you know Sally? You know, her parents are Mark and Peggy. They live over on Maple Drive?" To which you may respond, "Oh, sure I know her." What are you really saying? Are you saying you know Sally in the sense that you know your spouse? Or are you saying you know of her? Clearly, you are saying you know about her, but you really don't know her at all. If someone said they knew you after only having met you 10 minutes ago, would you be slightly bothered by that statement? I would. How could anyone presume to really know me after just ten superficial minutes of conversation? I think I am much more complex than ten minutes of conversation might suggest. These examples bring us to a few main points:

The depth that you can really know someone is limited by the willingness of the other party to disclose information about themselves to you.
Ever tried to get to know someone who wouldn't reciprocate the sharing of information? It is very difficult to establish a connection if the other party will not open up to you. The depth that you get to know them would be very shallow. In essence, you would not be able to say that you knew them, because you really know nothing about them. Even though you may have spent time together, it was not times of sharing, but just one sided. If another party will not allow you to learn about them, you will never understand who they are. It is the same way with God. If God does not disclose himself to you, you cannot begin to know Him. J.I. Packer writes in his book, Knowing God "The width of our knowledge about him [God] is no gauge of the depth of our knowledge of him". In other words, we can know a lot about him - we can study and memorize scripture to no end, but it doesn't mean we know God, it just means we know about him.

It takes time to truly get to know someone
Ever met someone and assumed you knew them only to find out that who you thought they are is completely different from who they now appear to be? We share ourselves gradually, over time. We develop relationships gradually, gaining understanding of one another. In order to get to know each other, we must spend time getting to know each other. That is one of the things that is so important about prayer. We must spend time with the God of this Universe, talking to Him if we want to get to know him. The lack of conversation with Him or reading his word will have us draw false conclusions that are built on our presumed knowledge, not on true knowledge uncovered through spending time with God.

It takes a personal relationship
Getting to know someone requires both parties to be involved. Just as you are uncovering and understanding the other party, the other party is establishing a relationship with you. It is a relationship that must be built on trust and honesty if it is to develop true knowledge of each person involved. How can we trust someone we do not know? If someone read a biography about my life, they might know a lot about me, but they would not truly know me at all. In order for them to know me, we must have a personal relationship. If someone says something false about me, a friend with a personal relationship might be able to defend me by saying, "I know Karen, and that does not sound like something she would do." That friend can justify her point of view because she actually knows me well enough to assume certain behaviors from me.  In the same way, we need a personal relationship with God in order to discern his will in our lives - how he would have us respond to certain situations, what he would have us invest our time in, etc.

It involves more than just intelligence
You can't only intellectually get to know someone within a personal relationship. When someone really knows you, they are emotionally connected and have a general concern for their good will. Packer writes, "They [two parties in a relationship] have identified themselves with, and so are personally and emotionally involved in, each other's concerns. They feel for each other, as well as thinking of each other. This is an essential aspect of the knowledge which friends have of each other; and the same applies to the Christian's knowledge of God." If we don’t have emotion behind a relationship - if it is only intellectual, it is hard to argue that there is any relationship at all. Now before you start to get nervous that I am suggesting that we should know God based on our flighty emotions - that is not what I am saying at all. But it is true that when we are part of a real relationship, we tend to emotionally care about the other's welfare and those things that are important to the other person. We should be the same way if we have a relationship with God. "Believers rejoice when their God is honored and vindicated and feel the acutest distress when they see God flouted."

Knowing God involves Grace
In order for us to develop a deep, true relationship with God, we must come to terms with the truth of who we are.  It is not as important that we know God, but that we know that He knows us. Obviously, we intellectually know that the Bible states that God is omniscient or all-knowing. We know intellectually that God knows us, but we don't really know within our spirit that God knows everything about us and loves us anyway. We have to begin to acknowledge and disclose the truth about who we are to God, so that there is room for his grace to work in our lives. In the same way that we may know about God, and not really know him, God may know about us, but not really know us. Thus the mystery of Matthew 7:22-23 "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!'" For God to know us, it means that there is an intimate relationship. It is not a factual based knowledge, but a sovereign-grace based knowledge, pointing to God's initiative in loving, choosing, redeeming, calling and preserving us. It is the meaning described in passages like the following "And the Lord said to Moses, 'I am pleased with you and I know you by name' (Ex 33:17). "Before I formed you [Jeremiah] in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart" (Jer 1:5) "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me....and I lay down my life for my sheep hear my voice; I know them....shall never perish (Jn 10:14-15, 27-28). Here we see that when God says he knows us, it is implying a saving grace, a redemption, personal affection, etc. God's love for the Christian whom he has chosen, is utterly realistic, based on fact, but supported with an emotional connection of true love and acceptance. What a blessing it is to be known by God!

Lord, as I go about my day today, help me to remember the importance of prayer, that continual communication within a relationship. Help me to be open and honest with myself before you. Thank you for the real, loving, personal relationship you offer to me. Let it be said on that day that you know me, and that I know you. ~Karen

Know Me
It was summers past in Sunday school, that I first heard your name.
You touched my heart and let me hear, the truth being proclaimed.
I knew the joy they talked about, just simply had to be.
I heard your gentle whisper say, “My child come, know me”

Through different towns and different schools, you protected me from pain
You gave me strength to live for you, in choices that I made.
When faced with friends who’d let me down, a comfort you would be,
And still I heard you softly whisper, “My daughter come, know me”

I went to college and there you put, desire down in my heart
To find out what this task of yours, to “know you” would impart
You used this time to train my mind, you made me ache for truth
I read so many books it seemed, that told me about you.
I sang about a rugged cross, and kneeled on bended knee,
And still I heard you softly whisper, “I want you to know me.”

These facts and figures I have learned, have taught me who I should be,
A Christian walk that’s filled with fruit, that other’s can plainly see.
But in this quest for intellectual truth, I seem to have made an error,
The command you give is still so firm, “Know Me” your voice says clearer.

So today you speak with strong resound, the knowledge that I seek
Cannot be found in wisdom of man, but by bowing at your feet.
A relationship built on opening my soul, to what you have to give
The grace that poured out on the cross, so that I may truly live.
To know you is to be your child, to walk with you on earth
To hear your voice instead of mine, and know my eternal worth.
I long to hear you say one day, when I arrive on high,
“I know that child, I’ve held her hand, as she walked by my side.”

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