Equipping the Believer to Know God

Jer 9:23-24

23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD. NKJV

This message was preached July 20, 2003 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at ToulonBaptist.com

 "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

"The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

"For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.

"Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, "What comes into your mind when you think about God?" we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the Church will stand tomorrow.

"Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightiest word in any language is its word for God. Thought and speech are God's gifts to creatures made in His image; these are intimately associated with Him and impossible apart from Him. It is highly significant that the first word was the Word: "And the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We may speak because God spoke. In Him word and idea are indivisible." A.W. Tozer The Knowledge of the Holy

  1. Why is it important to know God
    1. To know God is to have eternal life.
      1. John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. NKJV
    2. To know God is to have peace.
      1. Rom 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. NKJV
    3. To know God is to find purpose & significance for life.
  2. Where do we get the knowledge of the Lord
    1. It doesn't come from within us.
      1. We do not dream up a correct idea of God.
      2. All the philosophers who ever wrote fell far short of a correct concept of God.
    2. It does not come from a mixture of world views about God.
      1. In America the common idea of God is a mix of eastern religions and liberal Christianity.
      2. Most Americans know what they know about God from the music they listen to.
      3. The American idea of God is that everyone is right and no one is wrong unless they claim to know the absolute truth.
    3. It does not come from our varied experiences.
      1. We all experience things differently and our interpretation of evens is more a matter of our prejudices than of the facts.
    4. The only authoritative source is the Bible.
      1. John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. NKJV
  3. How do we get to know God
    1. By seeking Him Diligently.
      1. Deut 4:29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.30 When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice NKJV
        1. This passage foretells of the captivity of Israel and how they would be forced to worship idols.
      2. While He may be found.
        1. Isa 55:6 6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. NKJV
      3. Even with weeping
        1. Jer 50:4 "In those days and in that time," says the LORD, "The children of Israel shall come, They and the children of Judah together; With continual weeping they shall come, And seek the LORD their God. NKJV
    2. Involves cooperate worship
      1. 1 Chron 16:7-12 On that day David first delivered this psalm into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to thank the LORD: 8 Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! 10 Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! 11 Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! 12 Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, NKJV
      2. Notice that this involves:
        1. Giving thanks
        2. Calling upon His name
        3. Telling and listening about God
        4. Singing songs to Him
    3. Sometimes it involves a separation from the world.
      1. Ezra 6:21 Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel. NKJV
      2. God is holy and to come to know Him we too must accept His holiness.
  4. The Results of knowing God
    1. We change
    2. We become more like Him
    3. There is a union between us and God.
    4. We become united in His purpose
    5. We are more:
      1. Holy
      2. Compassionate
      3. Forgiving
    6. There is a promised blessing to those who seek the Lord
      1. Ps 34:10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing. NKJV
    7. There is a curse on those who do not seek the Lord.
    8. Isa 31:1 Woe to those who . . . Nor seek the LORD! NKJV
  5. To know God is to:
    1. To know Jesus Christ
      1. In a supernatural encounter.
      2. Jesus referred to it as a new birth or being born again
      3. But that initial encounter is not all that there is. Our life is to be filled with continually know Him better and more fully.
    2. Accept His view of me and change my view to match His, i.e. to repent of and confess my sins.
    3. To know that although I continually fail, Jesus still loves me and wants me to have continual fellowship with Him
    4. Understand certain aspects of His nature and character as seen in the Word of God.
    5. To understand the mind of God:
      1. What He loves
      2. What He hates
      3. What concerns Him
      4. His mercy and compassion
  6. How do we know that we know Him. (From J.I. Packer's book Knowing God)
    1. We have said that when people know God, losses and "crosses" cease to matter to them; what they have gained simply banishes these things from their minds. What other effects does knowledge of God have on a person? Various sections of Scripture answer this question from different points of view, but perhaps the most clear and striking answer of all is provided by the book of Daniel. We may summarize its witness in four propositions.
    2. Those who know God have great energy for God.
      1. In one of the prophetic chapters of Daniel we read, "the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (11:32 KJV). RSV renders thus: "the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action." In the context, this statement is introduced by "but" and set in contrast to the activity of the "contemptible person" (v. 21) who sets up "the abomination that causes desolation" and corrupts by smooth and flattering talk those whose loyalty to God's covenant has failed (vv. 31-32). This shows us that the action taken by those who know God is their reaction to the anti-God trends which they see operating around them. While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonor done to God's name goads them into action.
      2. This is exactly what we see happening in the narrative chapters of Daniel, where we are told of the "exploits" of Daniel and his three friends.
      3. These were four men who knew God, and who in consequence felt Compelled from time to time actively to stand out against the conventions and dictates of irreligion and false religion. Daniel in particular appears as one who would not let a situation of that sort slide, but felt bound openly to challenge it. Rather than risk possible ritual defilement through eating palace food, he insisted on a vegetarian diet, to the consternation of the prince, of the eunuchs (1:8-16). When Darius suspended the practice of prayer for a month, on pain of death, Daniel not merely went on praying three times a day, but did so in front of an open window, so that everyone might see what he was doing (6:10). One recalls Bishop Ryle leaning forward in his stall at St. Paul's Cathedral so that everyone might see that he did not turn east for the creed!
      4. Such gestures must not be misunderstood. It is not that Daniel, or for that matter Bishop Ryle, was an awkward, cross-grained fellow who luxuriated in rebellion and could only be happy when he was squarely "agin, " the government. It is simply that those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God's truth and honor are being directly or tacitly jeopardized, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men's attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it even at personal risk.
      5. Nor does this energy for God stop short with public gestures. Indeed, it does not start there. People who know their God are before anything else people who pray, and the first point where t heir zeal and energy for God's glory come to expression is in their prayers. In Daniel 9 we read how, when the prophet "understood from the Scriptures" (v. 2) that the foretold time of Israel's captivity was drawing to an end, and when at the same time he realized that the nation's sin was still such as to provoke God to judgment rather than mercy, he set himself to seek God "in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes" (v. 3), and prayed for the restoring of Jerusalem with a vehemence and passion and agony of spirit to which most of us are complete strangers.
      6. Yet the invariable fruit of true knowledge of God is energy to pray for God's cause-energy, indeed, which can only find an outlet and a relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer-and the more knowledge, the more energy! By this we may test ourselves. Perhaps we are not in a position to make public gestures against ungodliness and apostasy. Perhaps we are old, or ill, or otherwise limited by our physical situation. But we can all pray about the ungodliness and apostasy which we see in everyday life all around us. if, however, there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.
    3. Those who know God have great thoughts of God.
      1. There is not space enough here to gather up all that the book of Daniel tells us about the wisdom, might, and truth of the great God who rules history and shows his sovereignty in acts of judgment and mercy toward individuals and nations according to his own good pleasure. Suffice it to say that there is, perhaps, no more vivid or sustained presentation of the many-sided reality of God's sovereignty in the whole Bible.
      2. In the face of the might and splendor of the Babylonian empire which had swallowed up Palestine and the prospect of further great world empires to follow, dwarfing Israel by every standard of human calculation, the book as a whole forms a dramatic reminder that the God of Israel is King of kings and Lord of lords, "that Heaven rules" (4:26), that God's hand is on history at every point, that history, indeed, is no more than "his story," the unfolding of his eternal plan, and that the kingdom which will triumph in the end is God's.
      3. The central truth which Daniel taught Nebuchadnezzar in chapters 2 and 4, and of which he reminded Belshazzar in chapter 5 (vv. 18-23), and which Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged in chapter 4 (vv. 34-37), and which Darius confessed, in chapter 6 (vv. 25-27), and which was the basis of Daniel's prayers in chapters 2 and 9, and of his confidence in defying authority in chapters 1 and 6, and of his friends' confidence in defying authority in chapter 3, and which formed the staple substance of all the disclosures which God made to Daniel in chapters 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, and 11- is the truth that "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men" (4:25; compare 5:21). He knows, and foreknows, all things, and his foreknowledge is foreordination; he, therefore, will have the last word, both in world history and in the destiny of every man; his kingdom and righteousness will triumph in the end, for neither men nor angels shall be able to thwart him.
      4. These were the thoughts of God which filled Daniel's mind, as witness his prayers (always the best evidence for a man's view of God): "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom. He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him" (2:20-22); "0 Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands .... Lord, you are righteous.... The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving .... The LORD our God is righteous in everything he does" (9:4, 7, 9, 14).
      5. Is this how we think of God? Is this the view of God which our own praying expresses? Does this tremendous sense of his holy majesty, his moral perfection and his gracious faithfulness keep us humble and dependent, awed and obedient, as it did Daniel? By this test, too, we may measure how much, or how little, we know God.
    4. Those who know God show great boldness for God.
      1. Daniel and his friends were men who stuck their necks out. This was not foolhardiness. They knew what they were doing. They had counted the cost. They had meas- the risk. They were well aware what the outcome of their actions would be unless God miraculously intervened, as in fact he did.
      2. But these things did not move them. Once they were convinced that their stand was right, and that loyalty to their God required them to take it, then, in Oswald Chambers's phrase, they "smilingly washed their hands of the consequences." "We must obey God rather than men!" said the apostles (Acts 5:29). "Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy," said Paul (Acts 20:24 KJV).
      3. This was precisely the spirit of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is the spirit of all who know God. They may find the determination of the right course to take agonizingly difficult, but once they are clear on it they embrace it boldly and without hesitation. It does not worry them that others of God's people see the matter differently and do not stand with them. (Were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego the only Jews who declined to worship Nebuchadnezzar's image? Nothing in their recorded words suggests that they either knew or, in the final analysis, cared. They were clear as to what they personally had to do, and that was enough for them.) By this test also we may measure our own knowledge of God.
    5. Those who know God have great contentment in God.
      1. There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God's favor to them in life, through death and on for ever.
      2. This is the peace of which Paul speaks in Romans 5:1-"since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ"-and whose substance he analyzes in full in Romans 8. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus .... The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children ... heirs of God.... We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.... Those he justified, he also glorified.... If God is for us, who can be against us? ... Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ... I am convinced that neither death nor life ... neither the present nor the future ... will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 1, 16-17, 28, 30, 31, 33, 35, 38,39).
      3. This is the peace which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew; hence the contentment with which they stood their ground in face of Nebuchadnezzar's ultimatum (Dan 3:15): "If you do not worship [the image], you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" Their reply (3:16-18) is classic. "0 Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter." (No panic!) "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, 0 king." (Courteous, but unanswerable-they knew their God!) "But even if he does not"-if no deliverance comes-"we want you to know, 0 king, that we will not serve your gods." (It doesn't matter! It makes no difference! Live or die, they are content.)

Unless you know God, you will never be a Christian. And the manner of Christian that you are will depend on just what type of relationship you have with Him.

Knowing God is not incidental to the Christian faith, it is the Christian faith.