Only Through Experience
O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you.(John 17:25)
Scripture is filled with descriptions of God’s character. You can read these accounts and believe them to be true about God. Yet God does not merely want you to read about Him, He wants you to know Him.
For the Greeks, to know something meant you understood a concept in your mind. It was an academic process. In contrast, for a Hebrew person-like Jesus- knowing something entailed experiencing it. In fact, you could not truly say that you knew something unless you had dealt with it personally. So it is significant that, when Jesus spoke about knowing God, He was speaking as a Hebrew.
When Jesus said eternal life is knowing God-including God the Son, Jesus Christ-He did not mean that eternal life is knowing about God. He was not referring to someone who has read many books and attended numerous seminars about God. He was talking about a firsthand, experiential knowledge. We come to truly know God as we experience Him in and around our lives.
Many people have grown up attending church and hearing about God all their lives, but they do not have a personal, dynamic, growing relationship with God. They never hear His voice. They have no idea what God’s will is. They do not encounter His love firsthand. They have no sense of divine purpose for their lives. They may know a lot about God, but they don’t really know Him.
Merely knowing about God will leave you unsatisfied. Truly knowing God comes only through experience as He reveals Himself to you through His word and as you relate to Him. Throughout the I learned we can see that God took the initiative to disclose Himself to people through their life events.
Henry and Richard Blackaby
History unfortunately repeats itself and we seem to go in circles and cycles. In the history of the Hebrews, God specifically made Himself known personally to many individuals. To name a few, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Elijah and the prophets.
By the time we come to the New Testament, we find that the religious community knew a lot about God. They spent hours arguing about the rules and rituals. They attempted to understand God intellectually. It was no doubt Greek thought and philosophy that influenced this approach. Greek thought is attractive to humans for it leaves the control to them. Intellectual thought is originated in humans by humans and all too often leaves the spiritual out. When Jesus came and introduced this idea of knowing God as a Person instead of a concept, those of the religious community were offended. It’s safer keeping God as a religious concept rather than a person. You can debate concepts but you have to accept a person as they are. Even the disciples were caught in that trap. “Show us the Father”, says Phillip. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”, replies Jesus. Jesus was the impersonation of God, God in the flesh, God the Person who could be seen, touched, heard. We as Christians must adapt the Hebrew concept of knowing God. This is God’s plan from the beginning captured in the hymn In the Garden. “And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.
The religious community of Jesus’ day were offended that someone would suggest that one could know God personally. Today there are those who are offended with the idea that one can personally know God, talk to God and hear God speak to them.
It’s interesting that in our world, if you say that God talks to you, you are subject to psychiatric help. So we pray, we make our requests to God and yet far too many never expect God to speak. I wonder what you would think about a best friend that you went to for advice and never expected them to respond.
The relationship between God and mankind has never been and will never be any less than personal. When we get to heaven any earthly rituals that we’ve used in an attempt to connect with God will vanish. We will see Him face to face. We will worship the Personhood and not some ideology. We will touch Him and be touched by Him. We will speak to Him and be spoken to by Him. There will be nothing between us any different than any other relationship we’ve experienced.
Let us enter into a living relationship with Christ. Let us desire and experience Him speaking to us. Let us move God from the mystery of myth and see Him as real and near. Let us question anything that interferes with our connection with God. Let us not be content with mere religion but let us pursue intimacy with God.
Thomas, after the resurrection doubting that Jesus was really alive, requested to touch the scars. Rather than being offended, Jesus stretched out his hands and Thomas touched them and His side. We have read the response of Jesus and assumed that we have no options but to believe without experience. Yet we read that Christ spoke to Peter, to Paul, to Ananias and to John on the Isle of Patmos. If God never was to speak to us, then why would Jesus say, “My sheep know my voice”?
I believe God wishes to speak to His people. So let’s listen for His voice!
Dr. John Thompson