Sought and Found
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
The question is not whether we are good at theology, or, “balanced” (horrible, self-conscious word!) in our approach to the problems of Christian living, the question is, can we say- simply, honestly, not because we feel that as evangelicals we ought to, but because it is plain matter of fact-that we have known God?
Do we desire such knowledge of God? Then-
First, we must recognize how much we lack knowledge of God. We must learn to measure ourselves not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the Church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.
Second, we must seek the Savior. When He was on earth, He invited men to company with Him; thus they came to know Him, and in knowing Him to know His Father. The Old Testament records preincarnate manifestations of the Lord Jesus doing the same thing- companying with men, in character as the angel of the Lord, in order that men might know Him. The book of Daniel tells us of what appear to be two such instances- for who was the fourth man, “like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25), who walked with Daniels three friends in the furnace? And who was the angel whom God sent to shut pthe lion’s mouths when Daniel was in their den (Daniel 6:22)?
The Lord Jesus Christ is now absent from us in body, but spiritually it makes no difference; still we may find and know God through seeking and finding His company.
It is those who have sought the Lord Jesus till they have found Him who can stand before the world to testify that they have known God.
One of the games we play with small children is the game of “Hide and Seek.” I’m told that with small children that even when you just cover their eyes you actually disappear in their thinking. But God never hides Himself from us. He is always there waiting for us to discover Him. We find in Genesis that it was not God who hid Himself from Adam but it was Adam who hid himself from God. We learn from this that it is often sin or the sin nature that causes us not to see God. The struggle that the Pharisees had with Jesus was they had so long majored in knowing about God and unfortunately their knowledge about God was so flawed that when God in the form of Christ stood before them they could not recognize Him. He didn’t fit into their perception of who God was. All they knew was the stories of others experiences and from those stories formed and image of who they thought God was.
Sometimes this is us. We have formed a concept of who God is from learning about Him rather than coming to know Him personally. I’m sure we all have had this to happen to us. We may hear about someone and before we ever meet them we have formed an opinion about them only to find that when we truly get to know them, they are not at all like the picture that had been painted. I remember working for a local man that I knew about but didn’t know. When I showed up to do the work, my perception was that I really had to be careful for he had the reputation of being difficult to work for and would take the advantage if he got a chance. After working for him and being around him, I discovered that he was not at all like his reputation made him to be. There was no question that he was a business man, that when he hired someone to work he expected a days work for a days pay and that work was to be quality work. He also was pretty clear that since he was paying, the work was to be done his way. Yet, I learned that he was a person who cared about people and often went above and beyond to help those in need who were trying. I discovered that he was appreciative of work well done and had no problem rewarding it. When I began to work for him it was at an agreed amount, but after the first week, he increased the amount and when I finished the work paid me a bonus for finishing earlier than he had anticipated. My point is this, often we judge someone without really ever knowing them. If we do this with fellow humans, might we not also do this to Christ?
It is painful to me to hear people, especially Christians portray God as someone He isn’t. I remember as a child I was taught to fear God. It is true that God has all power and that His judgements are more than humanity can stand. We know that sin invokes the discipline of God and certainly the flood and the many times the Israelites were punished gives proof of the justice of God. I suppose in some way we might think that our parents were only disciplinarians and never question why they would correct us. I’m sure that we might never consider that if they didn’t love us they wouldn’t bother with correction. They would just let us self-destruct. And so it is lopsided to have a conception of God only as One to be feared. This was the Jewish thought when Jesus came. The Pharisees understood that the Dispersion and the suffering was a result of the constant repeated sinning of Israel. They saw God as an exacting judge so they were driven to achieve as close to perfection in their service and rituals to escape punishment. They were so driven to perform, they missed completely the relationship.
When Jesus came and interacted with humans, these did not know how to process that God would sit and eat with sinners. Even John the Baptist questioned why Christ was the Gentle Shepherd with mercy rather than the Vengeful God who would bring judgement. The disciples themselves sometimes viewed God as a strict disciplinarian and James and John even asked to call down fire from heaven to destroy those who were rejecting Christ.
On the other hand there are those who portray God only as love- translated, since God loves me then He allows me to do whatever I wish without any fear of correction. If I am in some way corrected, I place the correction in the category of being judged.
What a sad view of God that He would allow His children to stay on a course of self-destruct and never do anything to change it and leave them in the end to destroy themselves and others. I can’t imagine any parent who would not so love their children that they wouldn’t bother to teach and correct them for their good.
No matter where we find our information, even if it is with the best of intentions, we can never truly know God by just learning about Him. I think there are many in the church today that may have vast knowledge about God but have never come to know Him. Jesus told Nicodemus that “we must be born again” indicating that we must move beyond knowledge about God to a living relationship with God.
When I was a chaplain with hospice, I met individuals who had attended and served in churches for many years but as they faced the end of their lives, they confessed they knew about God but were afraid they didn’t know Him. Once their church activities ceased, they had nothing to carry them on. Since they were no longer attending church, they no longer prayed or read their Bible and their spiritual life became almost nonexistent. I remember as I listened to these, asking myself the question, what will it be for me when I am no longer a pastor or a preacher? Will my relationship with God carry through the rest of my life or has it been based on my work in the church? It is good for us to ask such questions for then we seek to know God. The Apostle Paul at the end of his life writes these words in Philippians:
“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.”
David tells us that this knowing God is especially important when we die. He tells us that we will pass through the “valley of the shadow of death.” Our lack of fear will not be because we know about God or we know about heaven or any of those things. Our lack of fear will be because we know God Himself for David says:
“Even when I pass through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me!”
O that we might know Him, that we might feel His presence, that we might hear His voice as the sheep hear the voice of the Shepherd, and that our days on earth will be spent in sweet fellowship as it was with Enoch who “walked with God and was not for God took Him.”
Christ has come to make God known to us. Let us know Him!
Dr. John Thompson