March 14, 2017
A Missing Element in Knowing God
One of the most significant passages in one of the most significant books for the church in the last fifty years is this:
What were we made for? To know God.
What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God
What is the "eternal life" that Jesus gives? Knowledge of God. "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true god, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3).
What is the best thing in life bringing more joy, delight and contentment than anything else? Knowledge of God. "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, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me' " (Jer 9:23-24).*
This statement resonated deeply with me when I first read J. I. Packer's Knowing God decades ago, and it still does. What could be more integral to our life and being than this?
Packer makes clear he is not talking about possessing mere information about God so we can pass some kind of celestial entrance exam. No, this is deep relational knowledge that comes from encountering a person, The Person.
Miraculously, God wants to be in true relationship with us. He wants to have a deep union with us. We--fragile, fallen, finite human beings--are worth his time and attention. Lent is an appropriate time to meditate on this and on all that the Father has done in Christ through the Spirit to make this possible.
Yet over the decades, as I have let this sink into my soul, as I have continued to read his Word and pondered his ways, a further dimension of knowing God has impressed itself on me. It is encapsulated in what Jeremiah said to the king of Judah:
"Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 22:15-16)
People who have love and reverential respect for God, who do his will, who follow his ways, these are people who truly know God and his heart. If we do not act in accord with who God is, can we say we actually know him? So we might also add the following to J. I. Packer's list of what it means to know God:
What does knowing God look like? Obeying God by defending "the cause of the poor and needy," as well as of laborers, widows, the fatherless and foreigners (Mal 3:5).
Knowing God is intimately tied to salvation and forgiveness of sins which makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God. Knowing God is equally tied to matters of obedience and justice which make it possible for us to be reconciled to each other in Christ.
Knowing God is not either-or. It is both-and. It is both of the Greatest Commandments--to love God and our neighbors. We show the one by doing the other.
Lent is also an appropriate time to meditate on whether this a missing element in our lives.**