What God Wants to Tell Us
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land.(Hosea 4:1)
While man has never had so much knowledge about the world as he possesses today, perhaps he has never had so little knowledge of God. That is why our times are marked by a singular lack of understanding, appreciation, and genuine insight into the need of the hour.
When people truly know God and are growing in genuine relationship with Him, their lives are marked by integrity and reliability. They do not treat dishonesty of the heart or of the lips indifferently. They are, in a word, holy. But our age is frightened of holiness. It is all the more tragic, therefore, that the church has also become frightened of holiness. It likes nothing less than to be different. The same may be true of us individually. Why? Because we do not know God as we should. If we really knew Him, it would show in the character of our lives.
The knowledge of God is essential to Christian growth. In the opening section of Peter’s second letter, he draws attention to this crucial fact. He urges his friends to grow spiritually, wishing them grace and peace “in the knowledge of God”(1:2). He tells them that God’s power has given us everything we need to live the Christian life “through the knowledge of him who has called us to his own glory and excellence” (verses 2,3). Similarly, when Paul expresses his desire for the Christians at Colossae to grow spiritually, the same theme recurs: Growth is particularly accompanied by “increasing in the knowledge of God”(Colossians 1:10)
Our mistake has been to compose our own ground rules for the Christian life- how presumptuous can we be?- instead of listening to what God Himself wants to say to us, namely: If you want to grow as a Christian, you must of all grow in the knowledge of me.”
The growing crisis in the church is not that we cannot meet together or carry on the work but the alarming rate of Bible illiteracy. This restraints of COVID-19 has multiplied this crisis. Prior to the outbreak, Christian Education was rapidly declining and that decline has exponentially increased. The strong arm of the church for around 200 years has been Sunday School. As with everything, it appears to be at the end of its shelf life. The unfortunate thing is that the church as a whole does not appear to have an alternative method or vehicle for Christian Education. Hosea says,
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will]. Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”
So how important is it that we study and learn the Word of God? Let’s hear what the Bible says.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping watch [on himself] according to Your word [conforming his life to Your precepts]. With all my heart I have sought You, [inquiring of You and longing for You]; Do not let me wander from Your commandments [neither through ignorance nor by willful disobedience]. Your word I have treasured and stored in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed and reverently praised are You, O Lord; Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have told of All the ordinances of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches. I will delight in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word. Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word [treasuring it and being guided by it day by day]. You rebuke the presumptuous and arrogant, the cursed ones, Who wander from Your commandments. Take reproach and contempt away from me, For I observe Your testimonies. My earthly life clings to the dust; Revive and refresh me according to Your word. I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So that I will meditate (focus my thoughts) on Your wonderful works.”
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ( Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).”
After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘ He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and ‘ They will lift you up on their hands, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone .’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left Him; and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him].
These are a few of the many scriptures that give emphasis on knowing the Word of God. For the sake of space, let me mention just a couple things. During the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, at every occasion He met the temptation with the written Word of God. Second, the Word of God is so important that John describes Jesus as the Word. In other words, you can’t know Jesus and not know His Word. On the other hand if you don’t know the Word you can’t know Jesus for they both are one and the same.
I apologize to all of you for the arrogance of preachers who believe they have the capability to give you enough of the bread of heaven in a single 30 minute sermon once a week. I apologize that we have made music and fellowship more important than Bible Study. Someone rightly said, “Knowledge is power.” Hosea proclaims that the lack of knowledge and the lack of applying the Word of God to everyday living and decisions leads to destruction. I must confess I’m quite amazed at some of the questions and views that have risen in the church when a simple reading of the Bible, taking it as God’s Word and applying its truth would settle a lot of things in our world. I also confess I’m confused with those who believe the Bible is a buffet and we get to pick and choose which scriptures we will keep as God’s Word and which we will pass off as mere human opinion. The Bible says of itself that it is the “God-breathed Word”
“All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17
I dare say that many people know more about Covid-19, what the political parties and politicians are saying, and what’s happening in the world than they know about the Bible.
There are two ingredients that are imperative for the church to become and remain alive. Those two are worship and Word. Worship comes from a heartfelt appreciation out of knowledge of God. Like a love letter, worship is the expression of awe, amazement of God and His mighty acts both toward us and in all around us. Worship is the result of the knowledge of God through salvation and only those who know a God can truly worship Him. Worship comes from being with God, hearing His heart, feeling His delight with us being His child. And all this hinges on knowing Him. The Bible is the autobiography of God making Himself known in human words and descriptions. Knowledge of the Word is more important than knowledge of anatomy is to the surgeon preparing to perform a delicate surgery and more important than the financial knowledge of your investment broker. As a matter of fact, knowledge of God’s Word exceeds the importance of any knowledge for our eternal destiny is at stake.
I close with this final verse concerning the importance of knowing the Word.
“But what does it say? “ The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart ”—that is, the word [the message, the basis] of faith which we preach— because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation. For the Scripture says, “ Whoever believes in Him [whoever adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Him] will not be disappointed [in his expectations].” But how will people call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher (messenger)? And how will they preach unless they are commissioned and sent [for that purpose]? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “ How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ.”
I urge us as the people of God to not forsake learning the Word. I know we will have to be creative in how we study together and what Christian Education will be in today’s environment but whatever we have to do to know the Word, let us hold nothing back. Like the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink is absolutely necessary for the body to live, so is the bread of heaven( Word) and the living water of the Spirit(worship) absolutely necessary for the soul. May God grant us fresh vision and desire to know Him!
Dr. John Thompson