Saturday, January 18, 2020
   
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Getting to Know God, Part One

On January 7, 1855, Charles Haddon Spurgeon addressed his congregation at New Park Street Chapel with these words: "Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go plunge yourself in the godhead's deepest sea; be lost in His immensity; and you shall go forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon God..."

I couldn't agree more! I believe Spurgeon masterfully describes the result of knowing who God is. If we view and understand God—even from a limited perspective—we will find that He is our Father and certainly more than the man upstairs, so our biggest need is to diligently get to know God. I believe this is important, because so many of the problems we face find their roots in a misconception of who God is, of His basic nature. For example, ethical problems, doctrinal errors, and counterfeit worship experiences are a result of not understanding who God is. It's obvious then that people everywhere—those inside and outside the church—have an inaccurate view of God, one they have created or inherited.

In Acts 17:22-23, Paul, speaking to the men at Athens said,

"... 'Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23] For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.'"

Many believers have very little understanding of who God really is. That's why Jeremiah, among many others, focused our attention on what should be the chief pursuit of our lives.

Jeremiah 9:23-24—"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24] but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord."

Jeremiah shows us that the priority of the wise and understanding person is to understand and know God. These verses reflect my desire for you, that you would be able to boast in your knowledge of God, "I know and understand God." That would bring delight to His heart.

The primary goal of mankind is the knowledge of God.

It is the key to everything—Jeremiah 9:23-24. John MacArthur writes,

"I believe that the knowledge of God is the key to everything. Man was made for one thing: to know God. God wanted creatures who would acknowledge Him, so He made man for the purpose of knowing Him and giving Him glory. If a person doesn't know God, he doesn't exist as he was designed to exist. And rather than having the knowledge of God and reflecting His glory, he becomes a blemish on His glory. For example, an unruly son diminishes the glory of his father. Why? Because when people see the unruly son, they automatically think something is wrong with his father. Well in the same way, when one looks around the world and sees sinful men—rebellious men who refuse to give God glory—the glory of God is diminished in their eyes because God created men to give Him glory. God desires glory from every creature, and ultimately removes from His presence those who don't give Him glory. Men were made to know God—and knowing Him, to give Him glory. What, then, should be the aim of any man's life? to know God. And this is only possible through Jesus Christ."—John MacArthur, God: How to Know and Glorify Him, Word of Life Communications, 1982, p. 2.

A knowledge of God is the key to everything because:

It is eternal life. Do you know what eternal life is? Eternal life is not just a quantity of life which goes on forever. It is a quality of life. When God saves us and gives us eternal life, do you know what that means? Eternal life is defined in John 17:3a—"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God..." So if we know God, we have eternal life. Pursuing this goal of knowing God will have tremendous benefits, if we pursue it with the right motive.

The profit of knowing God

If you were to ask, "What is the best thing in life?" "What brings the most delight?" "What brings the most encouragement?" My answer would be, "Knowing God." Let's view a few of the great benefits from a pursuit of God.

J. I. Packer in his book, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., 1973, pp. 23-28), gives us the first four benefits of knowing God.

Those who know God have great energy for God. Dan. 11:32—"But those who know their God, will do great exploits..." RSV: "The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action..." Do you want to be used of God? If you do, the way to be used is to

  • Get to know God as your first priority—turn to Phil. 3:7-11

  • Get to know God with complete dedication

  • Getting to know God will give great energy to reach the ultimate prize —vv. 13-14

  • Getting to know God is the mature thing to do—v. 15

Do you have a tough time finding enough energy and desire to serve God? You may not know God. You may have put your attention on getting to know the how's and why's of Christianity, but neglected the "Who!" Those who know God have great energy for Him.

Those who know their God have "great thoughts" of Him—Rom. 11:33-36. Ask yourself:

  • What do I think about God?

  • Do I have a tremendous sense of His wisdom, His knowledge, His judgments, His ways, His transcendence, as well as His great faithfulness?

  • Do I have sufficient knowledge and understanding of God that I could introduce Him properly?

Those who know their God will also show great boldness for God—Acts 4:29; Ps. 138:3; Dan. 6. This boldness is seen in all those who know God. For instance, the apostles were men who knew their God. They would express their knowledge in statements like, "We ought to obey God rather than men..." Acts. 4:29. This is the spirit of all those who know their God—Ps. 138:3. It doesn't matter what anyone says, they will stand with God—Dan. 6. Our sense of boldness in standing with what is right is a good test or measure of our knowledge of God.

Those who know their God have great contentment in God—Phil. 4:11-13; Jer. 9:23. Think of it—there is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are filled with the assurance that they have known God and that God has known them. Frustration and restlessness are gone. Our sense of contentment is a good measure of how much we know God. Ask yoursel, Am I content? Why? In addition to the previously-mentioned benefits of knowing God, I would add two more.

Those who know their God greatly worship and praise their God—Ps. 100, etc. How is your view of God affecting your praise and worship? If our worship is small, it's because our view of God is small. We will enter into worship in direct proportion to our understanding of and relationship with God. Do you have a tremendous sense of His majesty, His character, so that with awe you find it easy to worship and bow down before your God and Maker? This is one of the best tests I know of man's knowledge of God—His worship, His praise of God. If our view of God is small and influenced by our own inconsistencies, or if we project our weakness into God's character, we'll find it hard to worship Him—to verbally, or by our physical expressions, to easily and reverently worship God (and vice versa, too).

Those who know their God greatly please Him—Hos. 6:6; Phil. 3:10a; 1 Thess. 4:1-12. Do you know what pleases God most? Do you know what God desires the most? The answer is found in Hos. 6:6—"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." In other words, God is saying: "Your religion doesn't do a thing for me. I want you to know me." As Phil. 3:10a states: "That I may know Him...." The pursuit of the knowledge of God is what it is all about. Our purpose should be to know God and to please Him—1 Thess. 4:1-12. That leads us to the question: "How do I get to know God? Is it possible to know God?" We call the next area:

The possession of the knowledge of God

We know that God created men to know Him, but something entered into man's world and turned out the light. Do you know what it was? Sin. Man was plugged into the knowledge of God, but sin came, yanked the cord out of the socket and turned out the light. Romans 1 describes what happened with the possession of the knowledge of God. Let's look at it.

Its availability. How available is the knowledge of God? Romans 1:18 says: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." Isn't it amazing that men have the truth? Everybody does! Every man who has ever lived has the truth about God available to him. Where is it?

It is internally planted. The knowledge of God is inside us. Look at v. 19: "Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them." God plants the innate knowledge that He exists, within all men. It's instinctive for men to believe in God. We have to choose not to believe in God, to disallow that knowledge planted deep within our being!

It is externally perceived. The knowledge of God is everywhere. Not only is the knowledge of God planted on the inside of every man, but it's also seen from the outside. In v. 20a it says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made..."

When man looks around the world at creation and sees the amazing macrocosm (the giant world) and the amazing microcosm (the minute world), he knows there's a God who made it all. This should sponsor several questions.

  1. How do we know this knowledge was plain? God's Word says God made it plain. Isn't that enough? We were created with "God sensors" in us. What has been your experience on the top of a mountain, or the ocean? What have you felt in a big storm, as you looked at the stars? What has come to your mind when you have meditated on the intricacies of the body, or creation?

     

  2. When was this knowledge available? v. 20a—"For since the creation of the world. . ." From the first day of creation this knowledge was available—v. 20a. From then until now this message has been available. No man or woman has lived or ever will live who won't see it or sense it. God placed a plain message about Himself for everyone to see, no matter how remote man may be. In the darkest, most pagan area, the knowledge of God has been provided.

     

  3. What was revealed about God?—v. 20b—". . .God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . ."

    • God's invisible qualities have been seen in creation. Creation was never to be an end in itself; through it, man was to see God.

    • God's eternal power is revealed in creation. Whenever man looks at creation, e.g., the stars, the sun, the moon; he is to learn there is a great power that has been around longer than man. It should be obvious to everyone that the physical creation has some eternal power behind it all.

    • God's divine nature is also displayed in creation. Man is to see nature is not only a power, but a person. Note: There is no excuse for pantheism, which holds that God is nature. The tree is not God—it is created by God. The sun and moon are not gods—they were created by God who is outside of them. God expects man to see beyond nature to His nature and power.

  4. What other passages back up this thought? Psalm 19:1-4a; Psalm 8; Gen. 1:1 (See next page) Look at Genesis closely, for it answers a lot of questions about the origin of the universe. When? In the beginning Who? God (subject) How? created What? the heavens and the earth (object) Genesis 1:1 rules out a number of secular philosophies:

    • The eternity of matter—as the Greek Heroditus held that matter "was, is and ever shall be."

    • Atheism—the view that there is no God

    • Polytheism—the view that there are many gods

    • Pantheism—equating God with the world

    • Agnosticism—we cannot know there is a God

    • Fatalism—the world is determined happenstance

      —Jim Townsend, Old Testament Highlights, David C. Cook, p. 9.

    Some might ask:

     

  5. Is it possible that a person could just not pick up on it because they aren't observant, or because they are in too remote a spot in the world?—v. 20b. Again for emphasis: This passage says "man is without an excuse."

    "Man, reasoning upon the basis of the law of cause and effect is forced to the conclusion that such a tremendous effect as the universe, demands a Being of eternal power and divine attributes. That Being must be the God who should be worshipped"—Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest Word Studies, p. 30.

    The day of judgment will be one when God says, "No excuses will be accepted."

 


    "But God, You aren't fair!"


    "Yes I am—my message was plain to you."


    "I didn't know."


    "Yes you did—you suppressed it."




    "My message was plain to you."


    "I was in the third world—surely you can't expect me to know?"



    "I never heard about Christ—no one ever told me."


    "Then you will be judged by the law that was written in your heart and by the plain message you saw in creation"—Rom. 2:12-16.

     

Now understand, creation's picture is not a complete one. A personal God cannot be known by creation; this personal God can only be known by the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ His Son. Unsaved man can only recognize the fact there is a Supreme Being who created the world, who has eternal power and divine nature.

Its rejection

What has happened to this knowledge in so many people?

  • They suppressed the truth by their sin—v. 18c

  • The knowledge of God is available, but sin came in and darkened their hearts and the light—v. 21

  • Man became a foolish idolater—vv. 22-24

(Note: This is why we must go into all the world, and share the gospel.) The reason for God's wrath is plain. Man suppressed the truth, even though God put a plain and clear message about His invisible qualities in creation. Man has no excuse!

How do we get to know God with the lights out?

 

The proclamation/revelation of the knowledge of God

General revelation—God continues to be known through natural means, the creation—Ps. 19: 1-5; Rom. 1:18-21.

Special revelation. Disclosure has come in three ways:

  1. The Spoken Word—2 Pet. 1:21; Heb. 1:1-2

  2. The Living Word—John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-2; Jn. 14:8-13, i.e, Jesus

  3. The Written Word—2 Tim. 3:16-17

    A study of God can be done a couple of ways:

    A theologian's approach—study theology. I'd like to read to you something that describes how so many people know God, or attempt to know God. This may communicate to those of the university community, because it is typical of the theological mush that often comes from a liberal perspective. This was written by Dr. Criswell, of the first Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

Criswell's Ditty: The modern theologians, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultmann and Tillich met the Lord Jesus, and the Lord asked these famed, illustrious theologians, "Who do men say that I am?" They replied, "some say you are John the Baptist, raised from the dead. Some say you are Jeremiah, or one of the prophets, and some even say you are the Christ, the Son of God." Then the Lord said to these illustrious theologians, "But who do you say that I am?" Barth, Bonhoeffer, Brunner, Bultmann and Tillich chorused back their learned answer, "Thou art the ground of being, thou art the leap of faith into the unpenetrable unknown. Thou art the existential, unphrasable, unverbalized, unpropositional confrontation, with the infinitude of inherent subjective experience." The Lord looked at them and said, "HUH...?!" That sadly illustrates how so many approach the God of the universe. He is lost in their verbage, He doesn't come through—only a concept or a definition is known. Theology doesn't have to be dry, boring and liberal. It can be a wonderfully exhilarating study, if you have a living person as your focus, and you are seeking to apply the knowledge of God to your everyday living.

 




 

 

 

  1. Can you point to a time/situation in your life when an inaccurate understanding of God was the root of a problem you were having?
  2. If the priority of the wise and understanding person is to understand and know God, what is your priority? Can you truthfully say that understanding and knowing God is a priority? Your top priority?
  3. Review the "profits of knowing God." Which of these do you most desire?
  4. How would you explain that the concept that God accepts no excuses, when someone argues that not everyone has heard the truth about Him?
  5. What results have you seen in the lives of those who have consciously rejected the knowledge of God?

 

A study of the attributes of God: I have found that a good way to begin or expand our knowledge of God is through His attributes. (We'll begin looking at this in our next study, coming soon.)