The Knowledge of God
How God is Known…
1. God is known through teaching. (From others to us)
2. God is known through commitment. (Between us and God)
3. God is known through living. (From us to others)
GOD IS KNOWN THROUGH TEACHING
…from others to us…
In the Old Testament
1. Some in Israel came to the knowledge of God partially by observation: they SAW God’s marvelous works which were designed that we might know Him
a. Ps. 9:16 – the Lord is KNOWN by the judgments which He executeth. (consider the fall in Eden; the flood; Sodom)
b. Ex. 29:46 – The exodus enabled them to KNOW that I am the Lord
c. Deut. 29:5-6 –The wilderness wanderings… the preservation of their clothes and manna provided—THAT they might know Him… that He is the Lord your God.
d. Josh. 3:10 – in the parting of the Jordan River, God’s power was displayed to teach them that God was among them… His presence with His people…
e. Josh. 4:23-24 – God dried up the Jordan THAT all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty… and that He is to be feared.
f. By observing the judgments of God—the knowledge of God was disseminated throughout Israel and the known world.
g. However, throughout the Old Testament period MOST Jews never saw a miracle. Over all, miracles were quite rare.
» They were TOLD about the marvelous works of God in past generations from their fathers…
» In time, the observation of God’s marvelous works became the content of their teaching.
2. Parents taught their children the knowledge of God.
a. Deut. 11:1-7 – you KNOW all the great things God has done… but your children do not know…
b. Vs. 18-20 – THEREFORE teach them to your children who have NOT known the Lord this way…
c. I Chron. 28:9 – David’s desire for his son was that he would KNOW God. (I hope this is the greatest desire of each parent here!)
3. The Priests and Levites taught the knowledge of God to the people
a. II Chron. 30:22 – the Levites taught the good knowledge of the Lord
» Hezekiah was king. He did not teach, but he spoke comfortably to those who did.
» Hezekiah appreciated those who taught the people about God… he valued their work… he understood how vital it was to the nation for the people to know the Lord.
b. Mal. 2:7 – the priests should teach knowledge…
» The knowledge that was to be on the lips of the priests was the knowledge of God.
» The priests were messengers of the Lord. They were to deliver a message ABOUT God (who He is) and FOR God.
4. In the Old Testament, the Jews came to know God by observation of His mighty works, through parental teaching, and the teachings of the priests and Levites. This was God’s method in Old Testament times.
In the New Testament
1. The Lord is KNOWN by the judgment which He executeth.
a. Some men SAW those judgments and learned of the Lord.
» Most men HEARD about them.
» Today we READ about them… in the Bible.
» Either way, the purpose is that we might KNOW the Lord!
2. From the Parents
a. Eph. 6:4 – parents—especially fathers—are to teach the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
b. Little children can learn about God—right from the time you are able to communicate with them.
c. A parent’s job is to TEACH the young ones about the Lord… and to teach them to fear Him… honor Him…serve Him… trust in Him.
d. Don’t wait until they are saved to begin teaching them the knowledge of God!
3. From the Pastor/Teachers in the Local Church
a. Eph. 4:11-13 – pastor/teachers are to teach the congregation SO THAT each member might be brought into the full knowledge of the Son of God… (vs. 13)
b. The purpose or goal of a church’s teaching ministry is not just to teach doctrine… or the church’s creed. That has its place.
c. The purpose of the church’s teaching ministry ought to be that the members would become MATURE… and that they would come to a full knowledge of Christ…the Son of God.
d. The goal is to KNOW HIM… to know a Person, not just information.
e. That’s why we are to teach the WHOLE counsel of God…
» Many churches highlight one favorite aspect of the Person of Christ… some emphasize His love and grace; but that alone is a twisted concept of who He is and could easily lead them into embracing error…
» Others emphasize His judgment and severity; they preach separation and point out error… to the exclusion of other aspects of His Person. This too is a twisted concept of who He is.
» If we really want to KNOW HIM, then we will want the WHOLE picture of Him in the word…
f. Some emphasize His earthly ministry; (II Cor. 5:16)
» But that’s NOT the way we are to know Him any more.
» We are now new creations and see Christ from that perspective—as those who are alive unto God… seated in the heavenlies.
» We see Him not as the carpenter from Galilee, but as the Risen, Ascended, and Glorified Savior; our heavenly High Priest!
» We want to know Him as He is, not as He was; a babe in a manger… a carpenter… a dying savior on the cross.
» Cf. Rev. 1:13-17 – this is Christ as He is…
GOD IS KNOWN THROUGH LIVING
from us to others…
Our Purpose as a Witness
1. Isa. 43:10 – ye are my witnesses… that ye may know Me.
a. Israel was God’s witness and servant.
b. What was God’s PURPOSE for His servants and witnesses?
» Ask this question in your typical Bible believing church today, and you will get an answer such as:
· To knock on doors and lead men to Christ…
· Witnesses need to be busy witnessing… passing out tracts… dragging men out to church…
· To be busy serving in this ministry and that…
· Perhaps involved in this evangelistic campaign or that…
· They might list all the things that we should be DOING for the Lord…
· In many circles witnessing and serving is what Christianity is all about!
· And they are right. Witnessing and serving IS what God has called us to.
» But according to this verse, what is the primary FUNCTION of a witness and a servant? (It’s always better to look into the Bible than to ASSUME that we know the answer…)
· He is to KNOW God… and BELIEVE and UNDERSTAND.
· None of those are action verbs.
· Doing things FOR the Lord is good… in its time and place.
· However, before we ever DO for the Lord, He wants us to spend time with Him… to get to know Him… to know His will… to be FILLED with the knowledge of His will… to grow and increase in relationship to Christ…
· Then and only then are we going to know WHAT to do… and HOW to do it in such a way as to please Him…
· I don’t doubt that a lot of what goes on in neo evangelical circles today is done with good intentions…
· BUT…let’s not ignore the PRIMARY function of a witness…
· There are far too many believers serving God in ways that are NOT pleasing to Him… because those posing as God’s witnesses and servants don’t really know the Lord very well!
· The better we come to know the Lord, we better witnesses we will be.
· Have you ever been embarrassed by something a new believer has said or done in Christ’s name? I have. They had good intentions… but if they were more mature and knew the Lord and His Word better—they never would have said or done what they did…
· You may work your fingers to the bone trying to please someone while they are in the hospital… (you paint their house blue for them; when they arrive at home you cook them a turkey dinner; you take out the trash from the backyard… only to discover that they hate turkey, blue is their least favorite color; they didn’t want their house painted; and you threw away the antique collection they spent all summer collecting!
· Your intentions were good; you tried hard; you put a lot of effort in… BUT === you didn’t know the person very well… or you never would have “served” him the way you did!
· If we want to be witnesses and servants of Christ—there is no substitute for spending time with Him… in worship… in the Word… in prayer…
· Only when we KNOW Him are we really qualified to be His witness and serve Him.
2. John 15:26-27 – Jesus describes TWO witnesses of Him.
a. Vs. 26 – the Holy Spirit’s ministry was to bear witness of Christ. Who better than the Holy Spirit could testify of the Person of Christ?
b. Vs. 27 – The disciples were also witnesses of Christ BECAUSE they spent time with Him! They knew Him!
c. They were qualified to serve as His witnesses, not because they went to seminary… or because they demonstrated some great skills in teaching or preaching… or because they have demonstrated a knack for bringing people to salvation.
d. They were qualified to serve as His witnesses, because they spent time with Him… they knew Him… they had a deep, personal relationship to Him. That made them WELL qualified.
e. YOUR effectiveness as a witness for Christ has nothing to do with your talents… socials skills… your spiritual gifts… your education… your ability to have every Bible verse on the tip of your tongue…
f. Your ability to function as a witness for Christ has everything to do with whether you spend time with Him… whether you have grown in your knowledge of God…
g. Jesus sent the disciples out with confidence that they would be good witnesses… because they had been with Him from the BEGINNING… throughout His entire earthly ministry… they knew Him better than anyone!
3. II Cor. 2:14 – and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
a. This illustration was also taken from the Roman Triumph. As the parade progressed through the city, garlands of flowers were cast upon the ground… and incense was burned along the parade route.
b. Thus, when the triumphant general marched through the city, there was the accompany “smell of victory”! A beautiful fragrance.
c. The fragrance in the air sent out a message to all present. The message was victory! It was a message that caused everyone to recognize the triumphant general… even if he was relatively unknown in the city before the parade, he would be well known during and after the parade!
d. When the people of Rome smelled that fragrance, they would KNOW that the man at the head of the parade, the general, was a victor!
e. Paul uses the Roman Triumph as an illustration of his ministry as a witness for Christ… a servant of the Lord.
f. As Paul followed Christ (The Triumphant General) in this victory parade, he saw himself as one who “made manifest the savour (odor) of Christ everywhere he went!
g. Paul speaks of himself as one who was like an incense bearer in this victory parade! Everywhere he went, he sent out this aroma… he caused people to know Christ, the Victorious Conqueror!
h. Everywhere Paul went, people got a “whiff” of Christ!
» Through Paul, the knowledge of Christ was being spread abroad like a sweet perfume…sweet incense…
» It was as if the smell of Christ had rubbed off on Paul.
» The same sweetness that characterized the life of Jesus radiated from the life of Paul. It was the same scent… the same odor… holiness; grace; mercy; righteousness; purity; love; truth.
» The aroma of Christ ascended up out of Paul’s life. For Paul, to live was Christ!
» The life of Christ was manifested in Paul. Paul’s goal was to KNOW Christ more and more… and to be like Christ… to radiate Christ-likeness wherever he went… to manifest His indwelling life… (Christ liveth in me!)
» He uses here the illustration of incense or an aroma…
» We might compare this to Mary who poured a fragrant ointment on Christ and wiped it with her hair. For days to come, Mary smelled as sweet as Jesus! It was the same odor!
· Vs. 14c – Paul knew that in “every place” he went, the knowledge of Christ was being made known… like a sweet, fragrant odor that followed him.
» And since Paul’s only purpose in life was to KNOW HIM… and to manifest Christ, he could thank God even when his own personal plans failed. God’s plans do not!
» Christ is being made known. He is a successful servant.
» To the degree that we come to know Christ… and develop a deep, personal relationship to Him… we will be qualified to function as His witnesses and His servants.
» We are fruitful and increasing as this savor becomes more and more pronounced in our lives.
» It is more pronounced the more time we spend with the Lord.
4. Hos. 6:6 – God desires that we KNOW Him more than He desires that we OFFER something to Him… or DO something for Him… by way of service or action or offering.
a. Here God states it plainly—He is more interested in us spending the time to get to KNOW HIM… than anything we could GIVE Him.
b. He is more interested that we spend time WITH Him… than doing things FOR Him…
c. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. She wanted to get to know Him more.
d. Martha was busy doing this and that. She rightly wanted to serve Him, but omitted the most important part: being still and getting to know Him.
e. Of course Mary would serve Christ… but first she wanted to learn HOW… what would please Him?
f. Once we know Him… and His will… and what it is that pleases Him, THEN we are ready to serve!
g. It is possible to serve Him without knowing Him well. But it is not possible to know Him and have a deep relationship and NOT SERVE Him.
5. Ps. 46:10 – a pre-requisite to knowing God: BE STILL!
a. How much energy we waste on trivial pursuits.
b. How often we ignore life’s most important pursuit: the knowledge of God!
c. Get apart… go up on a mountain top of you have to… get up before the kids… or stay up after they go to bed… but spend time alone with the Lord… get to KNOW Him…
d. That is the source of fruitfulness… and growth…
e. What a lesson to learn – that we are but a branch on the Vine… and our big job in life is just to abide… remain… rest… stay plugged in… and HE will produce fruit through us.
GOD IS KNOWN THROUGH COMMITMENT
between us and God…
1. II Tim. 2:7 – consider the words you learn 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, 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 righteousness 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.
» 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.
» Getting saved is free. Becoming a disciple… a student of the Lord… and knowing Him… is costly.
» Anything of value is costly… this is especially so in the Christian life.
» 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.
» It is the most important… and the most rewarding pursuit in the world.
» And it is more than worth the cost.
» Paul said, “When compared to the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, the earthly price is but dung.”
» 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.
Knowing in Degrees
1. In certain disciplines, getting to know the material has different levels of complexity.
a. A beginning kindergarten course in math may include learning to count to 100 and to identify the letters. There is a finite number that can be known completely by the students.
b. While one kindergartner may know that course completely, he does not know mathematics completely. There is much more to know and learn.
c. I know my dog pretty well. He is not a very complex creature.
d. Getting to know a human being is much more complex. There is communication… speech… there are motives… sometimes hidden… human beings put on masks… don’t always say what they are feeling or thinking…
e. Some people we know casually… others we know pretty well… others we know quite well. Our spouse we know intimately.
f. Sometimes people live together for years and don’t really know each other very well. Human relations are complicated…
g. But when we are talking about knowing GOD—He is infinite. We can know God in a saving way… and grow in our knowledge of God… but as deep as we get—we are just scratching the surface.
h. We will be learning of Him for all eternity…