I can distinctly remember the euphoria I felt walking out of my last college class. I did it. I completed all my requirements. I could graduate! There was a profound sense of completion and finality. Yet, if majoring in philosophy taught me anything at all, it is that it would be foolish to ever stop learning. As Socrates famously said in his Apology, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Christians should bring this same attitude to their relationship with God. Knowing God is a lifelong pursuit. We never arrive at a complete and total understanding of God. We never graduate and move on to other avenues of study. The Christian life is one in which we continually seek to know God in richer and deeper ways.
What does it mean to know God?
It is important to make a distinction between knowledge about God and knowledge of God. Knowledge about God is strictly theoretical. We can learn all sorts of theological truth about God–his nature, his attributes, the Trinity, and his works of creation, providence, and redemption–all without truly knowing of God. True knowledge of God goes beyond cataloguing facts to a personal relationship. Knowledge of God comes from walking through life with God, thinking of him, talking to him, and worshipping him. Knowledge of God goes beyond merely understanding the truth about him, it applies that truth personally. Knowledge of God comes from listening to him speak through his word, from learning what he loves and what he hates. As Christians our desire should be to move from merely knowing about God to knowing of God.
Knowing God through knowing about God.
The theologian J.I. Packer writes,
How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. 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.
In order to truly know God we must be thoughtful and reflective. We must intentionally set aside time to think deeply about the truth revealed in the Bible and consider the way it ought to impact our thoughts, feelings, and actions. In a word, meditate. Packer defines meditation as, “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.” Meditation is purposefully dwelling on God and his word. When we meditate we study the Bible and really treat it as God’s word. We expect to hear him speak when we read and think about Scripture. We should also talk with God and to ourselves as we meditate. We respond to God’s word through prayer and talk to ourselves in order to emphasize, understand, and remember God’s truth contained in his holy word. In this way Christian meditation equips the believer to walk with God, not only in that moment, but throughout life (Psalm 1).
Knowing God Through Christ
As we seek to know God by meditating on the truth about him, we must keep in mind the fact that we know God only because he has revealed himself to us. We can pursue God only because he pursued us first. He came to humanity in a variety of ways over the years, but the author of Hebrews tells us that “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrew 1:2). We cannot and do not truly have knowledge of God apart from Christ.
This recognition is critical if we are to know God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6-7). It is in the person of Christ that God has most fully revealed himself and it is through the person of Christ that we can know God the Father. If we are to have a relationship with God, if we are to truly know him, this can only happen through Christ.
Knowing God is the greatest gift.
The pursuit of knowing God should be the first priority in the life of a Christian. O, that we might genuinely be able to say with the apostle Paul, “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7-8). Is knowledge of God through Christ the most valuable thing to us? Do we really live as if there is nothing in all creation that can compare to Christ? Do we meditate on God’s word and study theology as if the greatest treasure ever to exist is the knowledge of Christ? Do we believe that the most precious gift imaginable is a relationship with Jesus? To know Christ as Lord, Prophet, Priest, Redeemer, Shepherd, Husband, Brother, Teacher, Friend, Guide, and Savior truly is a gift far beyond anything we can fathom.
The incredible news of the gospel is that we receive this gift, Christ himself, with no strings attached. Through Christ we are redeemed. Through Christ we are transformed from enemies of God into sons and daughters. Through Christ we are sanctified and preserved by God until the day that we receive our inheritance: eternal life. Until that day when we are welcomed into God’s presence for all eternity and faith becomes sight the life of a Christian is lived in the pursuit of knowing God.