Introduction: We are working through a series called Knowing God. We answered the question why we should know God? We should know God, so that we may know ourselves. God is challenging us to get to know him and Knowing God is eternal life. Today we will look into what it means to know God and how we can know Him. Before we get to that, let’s deal with one of the challenges we face as Bible believing Christians when we try to engage our friends, colleagues, and even some of our unbelieving family with the gospel. You might have heard them say, you have your religion and I have mine, it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. Or they may challenge you saying, “Don’t all religions lead to God?
Having lived as a Christian in a highly, pluralistic and syncretic country as India, I often encountered this question. What I have learned by interacting with people of various religions is that not all religions have the same view of God, life, salvation and life after death. Michael Green, in his book notes, “Many who urge that all religions lead to God offer us the image of a mountain, with a number of routes going up to the top. It does not matter which route you take: any of them will get you to the top. We have seen that this view is indefensible. I want to offer you a different analogy. What if the real situation is like people trying to find their way through a maze? There are lots of routes that bring us to a dead end and fail to get us out of the maze. There is just one Way through.”
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life and no one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6. No other religious leader ever made such an exclusive claim.
This is extraordinary though it may sound as an absolutely ludicrous and arrogant claim of Christ. The apostle Paul noted in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” If we want to know what God is like, we need to get to know what Christ is like.
In Luke 19:9- 10 we read the purpose for which Jesus came into this world. “Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” This scripture sums it all up. In all the other religions man is doing everything to earn his salvation. But in Christianity we find that man is utterly lost in his sinfulness. Christ has done everything to save the lost. He is still going after the lost. If all religions in the world are man’s search for God, then Christianity is God’s search for man. Keeping that as a back drop, let’s look at what it means to know God, and how do we cultivate an intimate relationship with Him.
I GOD’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE
Let me clarify something before we go further. These days the word God could mean anything. Whenever I am talking about God, I am not talking about a higher power or an unknown powerful entity or force, but I am talking about the God of the Bible. I am talking about Jehovah, or YHWH the proper name of the God of Israel in the OT. I am talking about Jesus Christ. We read in Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God.” So, when we say we are to know God we are talking about knowing Jesus Christ.
The prophet Hosea describes God’s relationship with his people, Hosea, 2:14-20, “It will come about in that day declares the Lord that you will call me “Ishi” and will no longer call me “Baali” (NASB). In NIV it reads, “In that day, “declares the LORD you will call me my husband; you will no longer call me my master.”
God is prophesying here that a time will come where Israel and all those who will believe in Him will enter into an intimate relationship just like a husband and wife who are committed to each other. Vs19-20, “I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD.”
This passage talks about how intimately God has loved his people Israel. In spite of God’s tender love Israel became unfaithful to God. But He did not abandon her, he kept reaching out to her. The words, “speak tenderly to her,” in Vs 14, speak of God’s reassurance, encouragement, and comfort. In the midst of judgment God continually shows his love to his rebellious bride, Israel. Vs 16-20 speak of God’s promise to Israel when they repent and turn back to God. This promise holds good not only for all of Israel who repent but also for everyone who acknowledges Jesus Christ as their personal savior by asking forgiveness of their sins. All those who are born again, can now reap the benefit of that age-old promise of God.
The Apostle Paul picks up this OT analogy to reassure what our future relationship is going to be with Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ so that I might present you as pure virgin to him.” These scriptures explain the kind of relationship that God is seeking to have with us. For now, let’s talk about what that relationship would look like?
II. WHAT DOES KNOWING GOD LOOK LIKE?
Is knowing God merely an intellectual and academic pursuit? Or is it relational and experiential? The scriptures we have looked into indicate that God wants his people to have more than an intellectual understanding of the principles of His Kingdom, more than a mere awareness his existence. He wants to enter into a very personal and the most intimate relationship with them. In the OT, the Hebrew verb “Yada” means “to know” is one of the most important roots and it occurs 944 times. It has a wide range of meanings such as, “to perceive, to understand, to acquire knowledge, to know, to discern, to be acquitted with, to become acquainted with a woman (in a sexually intimate way). This is the most intimate form of knowing.
When God wanted to express his love, to his people he chose the most common human expression of love that existed between a husband and a wife for over centuries. God wants to relate with us at a much deeper and intimate level as a husband would relate to his wife. The heart of God for his people is that they would experience the purest form of God’s love, that they would only be committed to Him and not turn to other false gods. But as we know, time and again his people have disappointed Him. The Bible calls it, “they have committed adultery”
What does this all mean for us today? Living in a fallen world, I am fully aware that this may be not the best analogy in our society where there is so much of domestic violence and wife abuse going on. However, God is calling us to enter into an intimate relationship with Him. He is inviting us to experience his abundant love, trust, comfort, provision, protection, grace, peace, faithfulness and forgiveness that he only can give and no one else will. He wants us to stay committed to him and not to be wavering in our loyalty and faithfulness unlike the Israelites did. He wants us to delight in him by developing an intimate relationship with him. However, the challenge remains how to cultivate such an intimate relationship with God.
III HOW TO CULTIVATE INTIMACY WITH GOD?
In our attempt to cultivate intimacy with God we must realize that there is nothing we can do to initiate such a relationship with him, because Christ has already made a way for us. When we were born again, from that moment on we began an intimate relationship with God. The apostle Paul using the sexual intimacy between a man and a woman as an example explains the believer’s oneness with Christ. I Corinthians 6: 17, “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” Here it is not talking about physical union but spiritual union. What does it mean to become one with Christ? It means a number of things: First, we are secured in his love. We are confident that nothing can separate us from His love.
Secondly, as we spend time with him God will expose the inner workings of our heart, so that we will get to know ourselves better. Thirdly, God will reveal His heart for the people of all nations, so we are burdened with the things that he is burdened with. Fourthly, our vision and purpose in this life will be further clarified. Fifthly, our resolve to live lives that are Holy and pleasing to God will be further strengthened. On a practical level, we recognize how difficult it is to maintain an intimate relationship with God. I understand! Let me make a suggestion.
Those of us who have been married for a while would know nurturing intimacy with our spouses doesn’t happen automatically, it calls for intentionality. Early on in our marriage, Wilma and I were very fortunate to have a lot more discretionary time. We used that time, talking, walking, cooking, and ministering together. We would grab every opportunity to be together, simply because we enjoyed each other’s company, and we still do.
Since coming to America, even more so for the last two years we realized that it has been increasingly challenging to have quality couple time together. I attribute that to Wilma’s full time work and some ministry challenges. We recognize that busyness and a 24/7 activity oriented culture can be detrimental for our marriage, for that matter for any marriage. So, we are doing everything we can to keep romance alive, and nurture intimacy in our marriage.
I know several of you might feel that way. The same principles that apply in keeping a marriage relationship together, vibrant and enjoyable for a long time apply in cultivating nurturing our intimacy with God. In closing, my humble request is, please do whatever it takes, “never sacrifice our intimacy with God on the altar of busyness.” Let’s be intentional and passionate about protecting our alone times with God. Let’s press in to get to know him deeply, and I guarantee, in due time we will reap rich benefits. Amen