I have a lot of head-knowledge about God. I’ve read His Word all my life. Once-upon-a-lifetime before marriage and family I even earned a Bachelor in Biblical Studies; I learned some Greek, picked my way through the ins and outs of Biblical exegesis, worked my way through most of the books in the Bible with inductive study questions and godly teachers to guide the way. And of course, where human teachers fell short, there was the Spirit to apply the living word to my heart. He’s still about that business. Why then am I not the spittin’ image of Jesus by now?!
Truth is, there are blind spots—hard-hearted places where the water of the Word is repelled like water off a duck’s back. I may see your blind spots, may suspect you’re heading for trouble in some area or another because of some chronic behavior based on a belief that needs changing…But by definition I am blind to my own blind spots. Deaf to the Spirit in these areas. Slow of heart to believe and so to live out the truths that would transform these areas in my heart.
Too often I have been content with knowledge about God without seeking to really know God. Knowledge for knowledge’s sake—so I can ‘know it all’, puffs up. The true knowledge of God applied to the heart will have the opposite effect. Consider Job: “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye see you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:3-6
This week I’ve started reading J.I. Packer’s KNOWING GOD, a perennial classic. I’m sure I read it back in Bible School days but it’s time for a refresher! Packer writes out of a conviction that the Church of God is weak and ineffective because they are ignorant of their God—ignorant of His ways and of how to commune with Him. But he writes in a hopeful, helpful and ultimately practical way, which I’ve found very encouraging.
It has been convicting in a life-giving way to reflect on my own knowledge of God. Has my acquaintance with God kept pace with my knowledge about Him? Does my life give evidence of being one who knows her God well?
Packer outlines several of these evidences. He says these things will be true of those who have gotten to know their God:
- Neither their achievements or their hardships will matter in comparison with the value of knowing God. All these are nothing compared to the gain of knowing Him. They won’t bemoan their ‘crosses and losses’ or be pre-occupied with what-might-have-been; these things are insignificant in light of knowing God. ‘Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…’ Phil.3:8,9
I think of the psalmist who said: Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. --Ps.73:25 Can I say that wholeheartedly? Only by faith that God will make it so in my life.
- People who know their God have great energy for Him. “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.” Dan 11:32 This is first seen in the energy with which they pray for His Kingdom to come, His will to be done (see Daniel’s example). "People who know their God are before anything else people who pray." If we have little energy for prayer and little practice of it, can we say we know God?
- The way we pray is the best evidence of our view of God. Those who know Him will have great thoughts of Him! What do our prayers express about the littleness or greatness of our knowledge of God? (See Daniel 2:20ff)
- Great boldness for God will accompany those who know God. Once convinced of a course of action they 'smilingly wash their hands of the consequences.' (Oswald Chambers) It matters little what others think or what consequences await. (Consider Daniel and friends in Babylon)
- Great peace of mind and contentment marks those who have known God. They know they are known by God, and that this relationship guarantees God's favour to them in life, through death and on for ever. In life or death they are the Lord's glad servants. How comprehensive is my contentment?
I read these things and am acutely aware of my fledgling knowledge of God despite years of ‘knowing’ Him. But this is precisely the first step toward reversing this trend! Packer’s words are not condemning but prescriptive. He doesn’t end the chapter till he has given two strong encouragements. They are first steps in knowing God rightly:
1. Recognize what is lacking. Learn to measure your knowledge of God, not by head-knowledge, or even service for God but by how you pray and what goes on in your heart. Ask the Lord to reveal your impoverishment in this area.
2. Seek the Saviour. He invites us into His company. We know God through seeking and finding Jesus. Those who seek Him wholeheartedly will surely find Him.
But the best gem of all was this practical piece of advice and instruction:
How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God?
The rule for doing this is demanding, but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.” 22
“Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. It’s purpose is to clear one’s mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one’s mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.” 22
And so, little by little I am using my Bible reading times not just to increase head knowledge but to consciously interact with God about what I am reading, to admit my reactions to the text, to praise Him for the qualities I see of Him in its pages, and to ask Him to fulfill His Word in my life and those He puts on my heart. It is a small start toward putting all this head-knowledge to use in a living relationship. And I am encouraged to press on to know my God.
If you’re looking for an excellent read and want to share the process with others, consider grabbing a copy of Knowing God by J.I. Packer and joining the group: Knowing God via Challies.com on Facebook. The plan is to read just two short chapters per week and then share your comments with others there on Thursdays. This week we’ll be reading chapters 3 &4.
"So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth." Hosea 6:3
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…”
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. I Jn. 5:20