Knowing God through the Word

Is it possible to truly know God? Can we see Him in nature? Can we see Him working in our lives in good times and in times of trouble? When we look back upon our lives do we see how God has orchestrated events in our lives that have led up to the point in which we find ourselves now? There are so many questions about knowing God and whether someone can truly know who God is, but are there real answers as to who He really is? Over the last couple of weeks we have been exploring what it looks like to draw closer to God and to know Him. Last week we specifically talked about knowing God through prayer and discussed how prayer is a conversation with God, not just a one way conversation in which we ask for what we want.

In John 5:19 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” Jesus had the kind of intimate relationship with God that He saw what the Father was doing and joined in with what He was doing. He knew because He spent time in conversation with the Father and was able to listen to what the Father was telling Him and was able to see the Father working before Him.

Jesus in His prayer to the Father immediately before being betrayed by Judas said, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one-as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus’ prayer for us was that we would be so perfectly united with one another in Him that the world would believe that He was sent from the Father. Jesus was familiar with all that the Father was doing because He was with Him from the very beginning.

John 1:1-18
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

Jesus Christ is the Word that was with God and the Word was God. Jesus Christ is our physical representation of God and His character. We can know who God is by studying what Jesus did. We can know who God is by studying His mighty works and acts of grace and redemption that He bestowed upon the Israelites over and over again in the Old Testament. We can know God by accepting Jesus Christ who is the true light (v.7, 9) who John the Baptist testified about. And just as John the Baptist testified about Christ we too can testify about what Christ has done within us if we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. And if we have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior then His Word says that we have been given “the right to become children of God. They are reborn-not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” (v. 12-13).

Since we know Jesus we know God also because He is one with the Father and if we accept Jesus we can be one with Him and know God because Jesus who is God “has revealed God to us” (v. 18). But not all who saw believed and not all who heard the message of God believed. They could not conceive that the Promised One would come in the likes of a man like Jesus, but it was through Jesus that all of God’s promises have been fulfilled.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22
20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. 21 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises and prophecies and through Him we are able to see who God is and what He desires for us. The interesting part is that according to Hebrews 4:12-13, “The Word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”

God knows what we are going through and is able to teach us and guide us through reading His Word. The Word will penetrate our hearts and reveal our sins to us so that we may be convicted of them, turn from them, and be forgiven in Christ. There is nothing that we can hide from God, just as Adam and Eve were unable to hide from God when they sinned, realized that they were naked and covered themselves to cover up their shamefulness, neither can we escape the power of His Word.

How many times have you read the Bible and seen something that you never realized was there, or maybe you have read a familiar passage that all of a sudden has a deeper meaning in your heart? God’s Word is alive and the Holy Spirit living within us is drawing us closer to Him through His Word if we place ourselves in a place where we are receptive to hearing His Word and even when we’re not. Just because we fail to act on what we hear or what is revealed to us does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not trying to act within us. We have been given free will and can disobey God’s Word, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden and we can try to hide from God, we can try to cover up our sin from God, but ultimately we will answer to God for our sins and our disobedience.

Our only hope lies within the Word of God through which He has revealed himself to us and through which all who will call upon will be saved for Jesus Christ is the Word. We have the opportunity to know God through Jesus Christ who is the Word as well as through the written Word and the Holy Spirit living within us will show us the truth of who God is and what He desires from us. All who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have eternal life, but they also have the opportunity to follow Jesus as He guides all who are willing to become holy, just as the Father is Holy.

Through the Word we are able to see that there is a plan for our lives. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11). God’s plans for us are good, but they require us to follow Him. They require us to submit to His will for our lives and not to follow the ways of the world because His will is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

God is revealing Himself to us all around us, we just need to open our eyes and look. He reveals Himself to us in prayer if we will only stop to listen, He reveals Himself to us through the marvels of nature, He reveals Himself through Jesus, and He reveals Himself to us through His written Word. We have the Holy Spirit living within us if we have accepted Jesus Christ and are following Him. With all the ways that God is revealing Himself to us we can truly know who God is and we can truly know what He desires from us and for us. The question is, will we listen, will we seek Him out, and will we trust Him?

If the answer is yes then we have a responsibility to put off the ways of the World and to follow Him. We have a responsibility to share our story with others around us, to believers and unbelievers alike. We have been given life and we can share that life with others so that they too can have eternal life, but it takes action on the part of each and every single one of us. It is not only up to certain people to share God’s truth, it is all of ours. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

If you have not yet received Jesus Christ into your heart you have the opportunity to do that right now. You have the opportunity to listen to the Holy Spirit who is testifying to you right now about the truth of who Jesus Christ is. You have the opportunity to say yes to the Author of Life and to turn away from the ways of the world. If you are ready to do that then you can do it by simply praying to Jesus right now. It can be as easy as saying,

Father forgive me, for I am a sinner. I know that you are who you say you are and I am ready to follow you. I do not know exactly what that is going to look like, but I trust that you will show me. Please come into my heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit, In Jesus’ name. Amen.

If you just prayed that simple prayer you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and you will be saved. The Word of God says that “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (Romans 10:9-10). Your next step is to find a Bible believing and following church if you are not already a part of one and get baptized.

Romans 6:1-11
6 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death?4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Drawing Nearer to God

I remember growing up in church and even enjoying church. I got to be with friends, and as I got older I got involved in the choir and bell choir. Church was a part of my life, but in all of my looking back I do not ever recall understanding that Jesus was a part of my life. Sermons were stories that certainly had moral content, but I do not recall much about the truth of the Word. The need for Jesus was not necessarily something I felt I needed. I had learned about God throughout Sunday school classes, but I do not recall ever being pressed on my beliefs and my faith and I went through confirmation classes. The focus was on the process and not on the person. Today this experience in church is something that guides my thinking when it comes to church and expectations of church.

Like it or not we all come to church and to the foot of the cross with biases and expectations based upon what we were told and how we were raised. Unfortunately often times those biases cause us to put up walls around ourselves that keep ourselves in the realm of being saved while excluding many others, but this is not what God intended for us or for those around us. Try to think back, if you can, to when you first decided to try out church. Why did you go? Were you looking for something?

The reality is that when people make an active decision, in other words when their parents do not make them go to church, they are often times looking for something. They are likely looking for hope, guidance, encouragement, maybe they are just looking for something real that is greater than themselves, but they are looking for something none-the-less and God is working through their searching to draw them in to Him. But, if we are not careful, those who are already within the church can sometimes create barriers to people meeting with God by placing restrictions or rules in the way. This those is contrary to what we, the church, are supposed to do and it is exactly what the Jewish leaders did back in Jesus’ day.

Romans 10:1-4

Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.

Paul said that Christ already accomplished the purpose of the law and that all who believe in Jesus are made right with God. So what people need to know is what Jesus did for them and why they need to accept Him as their Lord and Savior, they do not need to be restricted by rules and laws that keep them from knowing God. Now of course that does not mean that once saved they can keep on doing whatever it is that they please, but the Holy Spirit living within them will begin to guide them toward holiness, just as He is doing with you. The process of change is not immediate nor is it ever ending while we are here on earth. We each carry so much unholiness within us that we will never reach the level of holiness that we need in order to make it to heaven which is why we need Jesus. His blood has covered our sins and when we chose to follow He we are guaranteed a place in heaven.

The Israelites knew all about God and about following His commands but they failed to understand who God really was and what He desired of them. His primary desire was for a relationship with them. He desired their faith in Him and their love for Him. All other things were to flow from this place of understanding God and His desires.

Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Without faith there is no hope and there is no purpose. When we truly understand what it is that we believe we realize that our actions do have meaning. Without Christ what hope of a future do we have? If there is not both heaven and hell than no one is responsible for their actions because their actions mean nothing. And without Christ a person can do whatever they please, but try as they might they will never find true happiness.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20

16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

People come to church to find out about God and how to get to heaven, but what if these people discovered that God wants to fulfill them while on earth as well, not just save them for heaven? Coming to church and to Christ under the sole premise of being saved from impending death and judgement falls short of God’s desire for us.

Romans 10:5-13

5 For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven?’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead?’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is a gift given by the grace of God. Not all who hear the call respond, not all who hear the message will understand, but by God’s grace His love enters into our hearts and our minds, not by our own power, but by His tenderness. It is because of this tender grace that we MUST learn to know Him more. Think back if you will to the time when you met the love of your life, assuming that you have, or look back to when your child was born. During these moments our love is so great and our actions reflect that love, but when we start to take that relationship for granted we start to put less effort into the relationship. We even start to talk less about the relationship. Eventually if we let this go far enough our relationship will begin to suffer and maybe even break. Does this mean that the relationship was not real? NO! But relationships take constant nurturing and effort. Love is not a feeling, but a choice. When we choose to love God we do so even if we do not feel the love like we used to. We must continue to show our love by our actions and by the way we treat Him.

How have you been treating your relationship with God? Do you meet with Him regularly in prayer and in His Word? Do you sing out to Him from the depths of your being or do you simply recite the words of the songs without any intention? Do you talk about God in public? One of the greatest indicators of our love for something or someone is if we talk about them. When we are no longer talking about God then something has gone awry in our relationship and we MUST fix it or we will never be effective in sharing the Gospel and people will miss out on the opportunity to know God and to have life.

The Christian life is not about going to church or acting in a certain way, it is about following Christ out of love. When we come to the point where we are able to do these things we become who God intended for us to be and we become a light to the dark world around us. We need Christ to shine in us and through us so that not only can we be saved, but we can help bring others to Christ as well.
My prayer is that you will reflect upon who God has created you to be and to seek Him out in prayer and if necessary in fasting. God has a plan and a purpose for your life and He desires your love and your praise. When we begin to understand how much God loves and cares for us we begin to take on His heart and to see others in the same way.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).