Inference or Reality?
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)
Canon Holmes of India decades ago called attention to the inferential character of the average man’s faith in God. To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate, but He remains personally unknown to the individual. “He must be,” they say, “therefore we believe He is.” Others do not go even so far as this; they know of Him only by hearsay. They have never bothered to think the matter out for themselves, but have heard about Him from others, and have put belief in Him into the back of their minds along with the various odds and ends that make up their total creed. To many others God is but an ideal, another name foe goodness, or beauty, or truth; or He is law, or life, or the creative impulse back of the phenomena of existence.
These notions about God are many and varied, but they who hold them have one thing in common; they do not know God in a personal experience. The possibility of intimate acquaintance with Him has not entered their minds. While admitting His existence they do not think of Him as knowable in the sense that we know things or people.
Christians, to be sure, go farther than this, at least in theory. Their creed requires them to believe in the personality of God, and they have been taught to pray, ‘Our Father, which art in heaven.” Now personality and fatherhood carry with them the idea of the possibility of personal acquaintance. This is admitted, I say, in theory, but for millions of Christians, God is no more real than He is for the non-Christian. They go through life trying to love an ideal and be loyal to a mere principle.
Over against al, this cloudy vagueness stands the clear scriptural doctrine that God can be known in personal experience.
A. W. Tozer
The challenge the Jews had in Jesus’ day was to accept that God had come in person. They had no problem believing in the existence of God nor believing the intervention by God in human affairs. But to believe that God was a person that could be seen, heard and touched was beyond the realm of their faith. We often are very critical of them and their unwillingness to accept Jesus as God in spite of the evidence, yet when we think about the idea that we can know God personally, we often shy away as though this is an impossible thing. For the Jews it was convenient to believe that God existed and that some day in the distant future, the Messiah would come as their liberator for it gave them hope. The Messiah they expected certainly was not God in the flesh but a super human fashioned after David who would rise in power ant overthrow their conquerors and reestablish Israel to world power.
There is no question that some initially were willing to accept Christ as the Messiah, but when He did not follow through with their concept of a messiah, they quickly abandoned Him. For us, sometimes it is not unusual to question who God is when He doesn’t act or respond as we have conceived Him to be. For many He is some distant mystical figure who will eventually end their suffering and take them to a magical place called heaven. The very concept that we can walk with Him and talk with Him and that He will walk with us and talk with us is beyond their imagination. So they settle for ritualistic and theoretical relationship with an object of faith rather than an intimate knowledge of God.
Jesus came to make know to us God in a personal way. Phillip requested that Jesus show him God.
“Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father and then we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time, and you do not know Me yet, Philip, nor recognize clearly who I am? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you I do not say on My own initiative or authority, but the Father, abiding continually in Me, does His works [His attesting miracles and acts of power]. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe [Me] because of the [very] works themselves [which you have witnessed]. 12 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in My name [ as My representative], this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified and celebrated in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name [as My representative], I will do it.”
Thomas, after the resurrection requested that Jesus prove that it was really Him, and again Jesus responded:
“But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.” Eight days later His disciples were again inside the house, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, though the doors had been barred, and stood among them and said, “Peace to you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and put out your hand and place it in My side. Do not be unbelieving, but [stop doubting and] believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, do you now believe? Blessed [happy, spiritually secure, and favored by God] are they who did not see [Me] and yet believed [in Me].”
While the very concept of knowing God personally may be beyond the grasp of our minds it is within reach of our hearts and faith. One of the things that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is the belief of a personal God that is as real as we are and can be known as well as we can know another human.
Let our heart’s desire be to know Christ far beyond than merely knowing about Him. Let us enter into fellowship with Him intimately, hearing His voice and being heard by Him. May we become consumed with the faith to know Him more and more every day.
“But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him [believing and relying on Him], not having any righteousness of my own derived from [my obedience to] the Law and its rituals, but [possessing] that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith. And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.
Dr. John Thompson