Prerequisites to the Knowledge of God
1. In this opening prayer, we have already considered the following:
a. To be filled with the knowledge of His will…
b. Wisdom and spiritual understanding…
c. A worthy walk…
d. Divine strength…
e. This morning we are going to consider the importance of the knowledge of God… a key part of Paul’s prayer for the saints.
1. John 17:3 – this is life eternal: that they might KNOW Thee!
a. In the Bible, knowing God is a common expression of salvation…knowing God in a saving way.
2. Jer. 31:33-34 – one day all of Israel shall know the Lord.
a. The New Covenant promised to Israel—and to everyone under its blessings – LIFE.
b. In this, it differed drastically from the old covenant. NOT everyone under the old covenant knew God. In fact, most did not know Him.
c. But everyone related to God through the blood of the New Covenant is saved!
d. The Old Covenant only required a physical birth. The New Covenant requires a new birth… regeneration.
3. Jer. 24:7 – I will give them a heart to KNOW ME…
a. In Jer. 24, God carried the Jews away into captivity in Babylon. There He promised to preserve them… and He promised one day to bring them BACK into their land.
b. His promise here is that also—one day in the future—associated with the Second Coming of Christ—all Israel shall be saved… shall enter into the full blessing of the new covenant… AND they shall receive a new heart.
c. With this new heart (regeneration) they would be able to KNOW God in a personal way.
d. Without a new heart, it is IMPOSSIBLE to know God.
e. Not everyone can know God. Only the heart of a man who has been made alive spiritually is equipped to know God, who is a Spirit…
f. God gives such a heart as part of our salvation package.
4. Hos. 4:1 – That was a constant problem with Israel. They did NOT have a knowledge of God.
a. The tragedy in the land was that the people lacked the knowledge of God!
b. This was tantamount to saying, they were not saved! They didn’t have a heart for God… or for spiritual things. Spiritual things are foolishness to the natural man.
c. They had plenty of religion and ceremonies, but they were not saved. Most of the Israelites had no personal relationship with the Lord. They knew about God, but they didn’t know HIM.
5. Matt. 7:23-24 – I never knew you… and you never knew Me.
a. Here Jesus points out to religious men that they too were not saved.
b. They believed intellectually on God… the right God.
c. They did many wonderful works.
d. But Jesus said, “I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
e. They were rejected because they didn’t KNOW Him in a saving way… He didn’t know them as His sheep… as His children. There was no relationship there.
f. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice… (John 10:4). He also said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow Me.” There was a relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep.
g. If someone is saved, that person knows God and God knows them.
h. They instantly cry, Abba, Father! There is an inborn witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God.
i. A little child knows his father. He knows his father’s voice—and can pick it out in a crowd of voices. He responds to his father’s voice. The same is true of a sheep and his shepherd…
6. When a person is born again, he knows God.
a. Of course, that person is expected to GROW in the knowledge of God… but there is an inborn knowledge of Him right from the moment of the new birth.
b. He knows God and God knows him.
c. The new birth is a new relationship… a father/son relationship. Fathers and sons know each other.
d. Jesus’ High Priestly prayer: This is life eternal … that they might know thee… the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent…
7. If you are not born again, you can NEVER know the Lord.
a. You can know facts about Him… but you can’t know Him.
b. You can memorize the Bible… but you cannot know God in a personal way.
c. You can go to seminary and be tops in your class—but accumulating facts about a person is NOT the same as knowing a person.
d. If you are not born again, you are DEAD spiritually. Until your spirit is regenerated… made alive unto God… you can never know the Lord in a saving way.
e. To have a relationship, both parties have to be ALIVE.
f. You can read all the books written about George Washington and become an historic expert on him… but you can never know HIM. You can never have a relationship with the person. His death made that impossible.
g. Eternal life is to know God. All those who are related to God through the blood of the New Covenant KNOW God in a saving way.
h. That is the ONLY way to know God… through Jesus Christ and His shed blood.
i. I John 5:20 – Christ came so that we might be able to know God.
j. II Cor. 4:6 – the knowledge of God comes in the face of Jesus Christ.
k. John 14:6 – There is no way to know God apart from Jesus Christ.
• This claim of exclusivity is not a popular notion today. In fact, it is hated by the world…
• Some will even call us hate mongers because we believe what the Bible says: that no man comes to the Father expect through Jesus Christ.
• There is only one way to come to the Father… there is only one way to know God…
• In the FACE of Jesus Christ… NOT in the face of Mohammad… or Buddha… or Confucius… or Mother Earth…
• Vs. 7 – the only way to know the Father is to know the Son.
1. Col. 1:9-10 – I do not cease to pray for you…
a. Paul prayed for the believers to grow in their knowledge of God.
b. Getting to know God is not like getting to know your neighbor. We don’t see God. It is a spiritual relationship… our spirit (made alive) communing with His spirit… but it is a very REAL relationship nonetheless.
c. Thus, since it is a supernatural relationship, it requires prayer. We have to ask God to nurture this relationship.
d. The atheist tells us that there is no God to know. The agnostic tells us that if there is a God, He is unknowable.
e. Yet the Bible tells us that there is a God and that He is knowable… and that knowing God is the highest form of knowledge… and the Christian’s greatest pursuit in life.
f. Therefore, we are to pray that we WOULD know God… and increase in that knowledge.
g. God is knowable, but He is a spirit…and is known in the spiritual realm… through a human spirit that has been made alive unto God… who comes to God in faith, praying in the Spirit…
2. Eph. 1:17 – PRAY that God would give us the wisdom and understanding of the knowledge of Him.
a. Note that this wisdom and understanding in the knowledge of God is GIVEN to believers BY God.
b. Hence, the need for prayer. Ask and ye shall receive…
c. The Holy Spirit is our teacher… He is the One who illuminates the truth to our minds… opens our understanding. PRAY!
d. Vs. 18 – without divine enlightenment, we are UNABLE to know God. He reveals Himself to us…
e. The kind of knowledge of God for which Paul prays is knowing God intimately… personally… experientially.
3. Psa. 119:18 – Open thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things from thy law.
a. Here the psalmist makes a prayer request for divine illumination as he reads God’s Word.
b. What is the Bible about? It is a book about GOD. In the beginning, God!
c. We too should pray that as we read His Word, God would enable us to learn about HIM.
d. The hymn writer put it this way: “Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee Lord… my spirit longs for thee, the Living Word.”
e. The knowledge of God Christ… the Living Word is recorded for us in the written Word… BUT it requires supernatural illumination by the Holy Spirit for our eyes to be able to see… to understand… to learn of Him…
f. That’s why we should PRAY as we read. The Bible is a supernatural book…
g. Col. 1:11 implies that it requires divine STRENGTH… God’s power working in us… to be able to understand.
4. Contrary to the atheist’s claim, there IS a God. And contrary to the claim of the agnostics, He CAN be known. He WANTS us to know Him… and He tells us how. Come to Him in prayer.
a. The believer who genuinely WANTS to know God… and who is willing to follow God’s pattern… WILL come to God in prayer.
b. He will spend much time in prayer… talking to God… seeking His face… asking for illumination… guidance… seeking to know God better.
c. AND—as we do this… as we spend time with God in prayer, we WILL come to know Him better.
d. How DO you come to know a person? By spending TIME with that person.
1. Prov. 2:5 – if you seek her as gold THEN shall thou find the knowledge of God.
a. The knowledge of God is only available to those who are alive unto God through the new birth… AND for those who seek to know God in prayer.
b. However, more is required of us. When it comes to our daily bread, we should pray… but don’t stop there! We are to seek it… go after it… and if we don’t have a job—seek one!
c. Solomon tells us here that obtaining the knowledge of God does not come by dabbling.
• Have you ever met a dabbler? There’s nothing wrong with dabbling into things.
• Some people dabble with the piano. They never take learning the piano very seriously… they never take lessons… never devote a portion of their life to it… but on occasion, when it is convenient, they may sit at a piano and pluck out a few tunes. By dabbling you can pick up a few skills… but you’ll never go very far.
• Some people dabble with a foreign language. They may learn a few Italians words here… a few French words there… and a few Spanish words… but they never get serious enough to study the language… to learn all the verb tenses and endings… they are content to dabble with a few words here and there.
• There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in music or art or a language… as long as it is not essential to your life or your life’s work.
• But the knowledge of God IS essential. And dabbling just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll never know God in a very deep way or a meaning relationship to the Lord by dabbling…
• But unfortunately, that’s how many Christians approach their faith – dabbling with Christianity!
• If you come to church once a week, hear a sermon, and then go off for the rest of the week without any serious study of God’s Word… fellowship with God’s people… prayer… or Bible reading… then you are just dabbling with knowing God. And you’ll never go anywhere spiritually.
• By dabbling, you can learn enough words to get by…and to please men… to make you look reasonably in tune with the church family…
• Many believers live their entire lives just dabbling in the faith… and also never experience much spiritual growth… or depth… and never really know the Lord in a deep way… all is surface… their faith is real, but superficial… no depth…
• And their lack of knowledge of God… their lack of a deep relationship to the Lord has nothing to do with intellect. It has to do with the heart… and the heart’s desire.
d. The knowledge of God is obtained only when we SEEK it with our whole heart… like gold diggers seek after gold. They were thirsty for gold… they could almost taste it…
• How much effort did the gold diggers in the days of the California gold rush put into their enterprise?
• They left their comfortable east coast lives behind… they put everything else aside—and traveled out to the wild, wild, west in search of gold… and paid an incredible price. The Alaskan gold rush cost the lives of countless men!
• Solomon’s point is that to really know God – it requires a sold out effort on our part… not just a week end dabbler.
2. Ps. 42:1-2 – my soul thirsteth for the Living God.
a. Not His blessings; His help; His gifts… but HIM.
b. The psalmist compares his thirst for God to the thirst of a deer thirsting after water. The deer can’t LIVE without water… and seems to sense that.
c. So too the believer ought to thirst after God… thirst to know Him more and more… seek to increase in the knowledge of God…
d. No deer would ever be satisfied with yesterday’s drink… she seeks a constant renewal of water… every day… many times during the day… whenever she can, she stops for a drink.
e. No believer should ever be satisfied with yesterday’s drink from Gods’ Word. We need a FRESH supply every day… a FRESH look into the Scripture… fresh insight… fresh application… a fresh glimpse of God in His Word…
f. A spiritually minded believer is also going to sense that he NEEDS the water of God’s Word for his very survival, spiritually! Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word of God! It is our “necessary food”… living water…
g. The believer who seeks the Lord this way will discover the knowledge of God. This isn’t dabbling. This is whole hearted searching… longing… thirsting…
h. God is delighted to reveal Himself to the one who seeks after Him as a deer pants after water… as a gold digger seeks after buried treasure…
i. God waits to see a yearning heart before he opens our eyes to behold wondrous things from His law!
j. He feeds us in direct proportion to our hunger…
k. Another interesting note here is that most believe that this psalm was written by David when banished by Absalom his son out of the land.
• This had to have been one of the lowest points in David’s life… treason and treachery—by his own son!
• Now he is away from the Temple… and MISSES the times of worship and communion with God…
• Perhaps David never LONGED for communion with God and fellowship with God’s people so much as when he was far away… (You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry).
• God can use these DRY times to cause us to appreciate the value of knowing Him… and communing with Him.
• This was illustrated in the wilderness wanderings, when the children of Israel began to loath the manna. It was so plentiful… and so available… that they grew tired of it. (Same old thing!)
• I’m afraid we too might lose our hunger and thirst for the knowledge of God because it is so plentiful here… so available…
• We don’t have to drive two hours in a snow storm in a horse and buggy to sit on a cold hard bench for church. It is all so easy and comfortable for us. We have books, bibles, tapes, CD’s, bible software—everything we need…
• Yet none of that will help us know God without a driving inner burning to know Him… an insatiable thirst…
• When we get good and thirsty, God will be ready to reveal Himself to us.
3. Hos. 6:6 – we shall know if we follow on (chase; pursue) to know…
a. In Hos. 6, we have EITHER the words of the prophet exhorting the people to repentance OR the words of the people exhorting one another to repent…
b. Either way, they are an exhortation to repentance. (Let us return unto the Lord!)
c. God, like an angry lion tore them up in judgment… but they acknowledge that if they repent, He will heal them and revive them.
d. His conclusion to this thought is found in vs. 3 – “we shall KNOW—if we follow on to know the Lord.”
e. If we return to God and pursue a relationship to Him… if we seek to know Him… we WILL know!
f. A LACK of the knowledge of God is what brought them to ruin in the first place.
• Hos. 4:6 – God’s people are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge of God.
• Hos. 4:14 – those who don’t understand this shall fall.
g. The speaker acknowledges that that can all be reversed, IF they follow on to know the Lord… pursue the knowledge of God… and where it leads I will follow!
• Follow on: follow after, harass; pursue, persecute, run after; eagerly aim to secure.
• If that is our attitude, we too shall know the Lord… in a deeper way… a closer way…
• Knowing God is not just intellect. It is primarily HEART attitude.
• Knowing God requires an ongoing attitude of heart… a driving force in one’s life… thirst…
h. Ps. 37:4 – delight thyself in the LORD and He shall give thee the desires of thy heart.
• Again—we are so earthly, we miss the point here too often.
• We all have desires in our hearts… things we want the Lord to do or to change… to heal… “I don’t want much, I just want __________.”
• The promise is not to give us what we want.
• The promise is that IF we delight ourselves in the Lord… if HE Himself becomes the desire of the heart… then He will give us our desire! Our desire WILL be fulfilled!
• When knowing he Lord becomes the overwhelming desire of our heart… THEN our heart’s desire will be fulfilled. That’s a promise! That’s the only means to true satisfaction.
4. Jer. 9:23-24 – Men glory in all kinds of things. We set our hearts on all kinds of things…
a. We glory in wisdom… wealth… power… and a whole host of other earthly things.
b. Philosophers seek after wisdom… they thirst after it… they pursue it… their lives are devoted to it.
c. Men who love riches seek after material gain… they thirst after it… they pursue it… their lives are devoted to it.
d. Some men crave power… they thirst after it… they pursue it… their lives are devoted to it.
e. Here we are told NOT to glory in such things… or crave after them.
f. But there is one thing… one desire of our heart that we CAN and should glory in: that we know the Lord!
g. And, the Lord DELIGHTS in these things!
• Do you want to please God?
• Then dedicate your life to knowing Him… develop a relationship with Him… pursue the knowledge of God with every ounce of strength God gives…
• As we “increase in the knowledge of God,” we are “unto all pleasing.”
1. II Tim. 2:7 – consider the words taught to you in church and PRAY that the Lord would give you understanding on those issues…
a. This is a divine work. It is not just one human being teaching another.
b. It is GOD using a Spirit filled man to teach other Spirit filled men… and the Spirit of God using that truth in the heart of the hearer… and illuminating his mind… and opening his eyes… and ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who is the real teacher.
c. IF the believer considers (takes to heart) the things Paul just said (about the necessity of a sold out life—a soldier, willing to endure hardships, willing to put the world aside, willing to be dedicated to doing the will of his commander in Chief)…
d. THEN the Lord will give the believer a good understanding in all things.
e. Spiritual understanding is GIVEN by the Lord—but not to all believers. Heart dedication is required!
• If we chose to cast aside the things Paul just said, then don’t expect the Lord to give us spiritual understanding.
• This is why in good churches—where the Word of God is faithfully taught—people can sit under the ministry of the word for YEARS… and walk away and live as if they had no discernment or spiritual understanding at all…
• They sat under the ministry of the Word, but they did not CONSIDER what was being said!
• “Consider” = to put your mind to something… (present active imperative…)
• THIS is the man or woman who will (at the end of the day) have a full, rich, deep knowledge of God…
• But just because your body is here on Sunday that does not guarantee that you will actually grow in the knowledge of Christ.
• For that to occur, it requires that you participate… that you receive the Word taught… and that you CONSIDER what is said… take it to heart… put your mind to it… that you THINK… put aside the cares and distractions of life… set your mind and heart on things above…
• I can’t do that for you. My job as a shepherd is to lead you to the water… but I can’t make you drink. That’s your responsibility before the Lord.
• This is one of the main reasons I am so opposed to the new wave worship services being held across the nation… where the sermon is truncated and trivialized… and skits, performance music, jokes, stories, anecdotes, and entertainment. They have created an atmosphere NOT CONDUCIVE to learning about God.
• And that has replaced the traditional church setting—which WAS conducive to learning about God… and that’s why we’re here!
• We’ve had folks that weren’t happy with our old fashioned approach. They have complained that “It’s too deep; the sermon is too long; I don’t get it…”
• I disagree. My sermons can be understood by your average fifth grader…
• BUT—it requires thinking and thirsting… considering… meditating and musing… praying and persistence… comparing Scripture with Scripture…
• And we have far too many TV generation believers who don’t want to think… they want to come to church, relax, be stroked, have their ears tickled, feel good, have a few laughs, and go home… but leave with almost NOTHING that helped them to know the Lord any better!
• “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts, heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears…” (II Tim. 4:3)
• We are living in such an age.
• And while catering to that mentality fills churches today, that is not our goal here.
• Our goal is to teach the whole counsel of God… to feed the sheep… so that men leave knowing God, His will, and His Word better than when they came. Increasing in the knowledge of God…
2. Phil. 3:10 – that I may know Him…
a. Knowing God WAS the driving force in the life of the apostle Paul.
• It was a constant burning desire in his heart.
• That’s why he knew the Lord as well as he did!
b. But coming to this deep knowledge of God does not come easy.
• Vs. 8 – he suffered great earthly loss in coming to Christ.
• But he considered possessing all those earthly things a LOSS because it had kept him from the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord.
• Anything we suffer in this life isn’t worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us. So too, any earthly loss we suffer is not worthy to be compared to the knowledge of God we gain in Christ.
c. Knowing Christ was the holy desire of Paul’s heart—and God granted him the desire of his heart.
d. We are all familiar with this part of Paul’s goal (to know Him. But are we as familiar with the phrases that follow?
e. “The fellowship of His sufferings.”
• This is one of the WAYS in which we come to know Christ… through fellowshipping in His sufferings.
• We could never share in his sufferings on the cross, but we can share in His sufferings for righteounsess sake…
• As we walk with the Lord, we can expect the enemy to attack. We can expect people to laugh, ridicule, call us names, and seek to harm us, etc… just like they did to the Lord Jesus.
• The sufferings of Christ here refer primarily to suffering for righteousness sake… suffering because a hostile world hates light and righteousness… and the stand we take for the truth.
• We will be enabled to know Christ in an experiential way to the degree that we are willing to fellowship (joint participation; to share) in suffering for righteousness sake…
• Don’t get the wrong idea here. We are not to TRY to irritate people with our faith. NO! Jesus suffered quietly for the most part.
• I Pet. 2:23 – “When he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.”
• If we are willing to stand for truth and suffer for it, we too will get to know Christ in a deeper way.
• We will learn experientially:
» What He went through for us…
» What He felt like when people mocked… ridiculed…
» What it’s like to have one’s family turned against you…
» What it feels like to be despised and rejected of men…
» What He experienced as He lived in a sin cursed earth… and saw sin and evil all around Him… the inner grief…
» How He agonized in Gethsemane over sin…
» How He groaned in His spirit as He saw expressions of sin everywhere He looked…
» To the degree that we are willing to suffer like that, we will experience a deeper knowledge of Christ.
f. “Being made conformable to His death.”
• Being conformed: symmorphizomenos, which means “being conformed inwardly in one’s experience to something”
• Paul knew the Lord because he was willing to lead a crucified life.
• Through a daily life of being identified with Christ and suffering for righteousness sake, Paul was gradually MADE more and more conformable to Christ’s death…
• An inward change was taking place… wooing him more and more away from the things of the earth… and he was being wooed by the Spirit into a genuine affection for things above.
• Paul experienced a death…a death to self… a death to sin… and a death to the world… (Gal. 6:14)
• When his eyes were opened to his riches in Christ, he saw all the glories of his past life as nothing but dung.
• By coming to Christ, Paul left all of his earthly trophies behind… and whatever he lost, he found it to be GAIN!
• He had to be willing to reckon himself to be DEAD before he could experience the resurrection power… and before he could enter into a deep and precious knowledge of Christ.
• The worldly believer who is unwilling to suffer outside the camp… who is unwilling to come to the cross, and see himself as crucified to the sights and sounds of the world… will never suffer much… nor will he experience much of what it really means to KNOW Christ…
3. If we really want to know the Lord in such a way that our relationship to Him is deep, rich, and rewarding, it will COST us.
a. This is just what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that if they were going to follow Him, they would have to pick up a cross—an instrument of death.
b. Getting saved is free. Becoming a disciple… a student of the Lord… and knowing Him… is costly.
c. Anything of value is costly… this is especially so in the Christian life.
d. The more we are willing to spend of ourselves in pursuit of the knowledge of God, the more precious will be the knowledge of God.
e. It is the most important… and the most rewarding pursuit in the world.
f. And it is more than worth the cost.
g. Paul said, “When compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, the earthly price is but dung.”
h. Phil. 3:8 – Paul would consider himself a LOSER had he clung to all he had as a Pharisee… if he did not experience this rich knowledge of Christ Jesus.
4. No wonder Paul prayed for the Colossians, that they would continually increase in the knowledge of God.
a. Nothing is more satisfying in this life… and rewarding for all eternity.
b. Easy to say… not so easy to do.
c. He also prayed that they would be strengthened with ALL might according to God’s glorious power… that knowing God might become a reality in their lives.
DO YOU KNOW GOD in a saving way? You can—through faith in Christ Jesus!