If I asked a random group of people how many know God, I’m guessing the majority would say they do. After all, who hasn’t heard of God right? The same could also be said of most celebrities simply because when we say we know someone, what we really mean is we are familiar with their name, their public image, their work or what they stand for. We know who they are based upon what we have heard about them from other people, what we have read about them or maybe even by what we have studied or researched about them. They may be famous people we have never met, “friends” we are connected with on social media, coworkers, neighbors or people we do business with. Whether these are people we like or dislike, with views with which we agree or disagree, we “know” most of them on a superficial level.
In the book of Acts, Saul (who would soon be renamed Paul and write the majority of the New Testament) was a radical Jew who was known for upholding Jewish law to the point of arresting and even killing those he believed to be radicals against God. He truly believed he was working for God and he was feared by followers of Jesus. He obtained letters from the high priest giving him permission to arrest followers of Jesus in a town called Damascus. On his way there, he was blinded by a powerful flashing light from heaven and he fell off of his horse. A voice from heaven called out to him saying “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute and oppress me?” Paul responded “Who are you Lord”? The voice responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”. How shocking that must have been for Paul who had believed he had known God his whole life. He even believed he was working for God and he was now finding out he had been working against God.
If you were to make a list of all of the people you know, how many of them could you honestly say you really know? Not the publicly known side of them, but the personal things about them that you can only come to know by spending time with them. Think of the people you are closest to. Your siblings, your best friend, your parents, kids or your significant other. What is it about these relationships that are so different from the rest? Is it because these people in your life have less flaws and always give you what you want? Is it because you have been able to maintain an almost perfect record with them, or you always see eye to eye? Did you become close because all of your life circumstances lined up so smoothly that you have never had a reason to fight? I’m guessing it’s actually quite the opposite. In fact, some of the most powerful relationships have been born out of survival or hardship situations between the most unlikely of friends. The most intimate relationships in your life are usually the ones that have challenged you the most. These are the relationships through which you have endured your toughest times. These relationships have caused you more pain, yet more satisfaction. They have probably cost you more than you could even imagine, yet you wouldn’t have it any other way because the joy and satisfaction you feel far outweighs the cost. In these relationships you are the most vulnerable, you risk the most and give sacrificially without the thought of it in return, but because you have invested so much of yourself you love deeper. You know things about each other that very few, (if anyone else) knows. They know your strengths and your weaknesses and you know theirs. They have seen you at your best and at your worst, yet they love you for who you are. They have shared experiences with you in life that nobody else has and because of those experiences, you have a connection with them that is personal, intimate and safe. The core of this satisfaction is acceptance, and what we experience of this in our relationships on earth is just an imperfect glimpse of the relationship God has always intended for us to have with him. In fact it is what we were created for.
Jesus, our savior wants us to know him like this. He sacrificed his life and showed us that his heart is fully invested in us. He wants us to give our lives to him in return so that we can experience the kind of intimacy with him that we crave so deeply with people. Unlike any other relationship we have ever been in, he is perfect and our sinful nature doesn’t know how to understand a perfect God. If we only choose to know him on a superficial level we can’t possibly understand the sacrifice he made for us so we tend to see him based upon what we have heard from other people who don’t necessarily know him either. This often gets portrayed as an intolerable God with an impossible list of rules instead of a loving God who has invested himself wholly for us. It’s difficult to comprehend that the God who created the universe and every last detail of it is even interested in our lives, let alone that he knows and wants what is best for us. God is so vast that it’s hard for us to understand the extreme sides of him. In our limited human imperfection we try to understand him on a more human scale and completely miss. So how then do we connect with a God so big and so far beyond our understanding?
- God created us in his image and gave us desires that only he can fulfill so that when we truly seek him with all of our hearts we will find him. This can begin as simple as a desperate cry to say “help me God!” He knows our hearts and our motives so he is not fooled by head games or pretentious attempts to portray a true desire for him. His wants us to come to him in full honesty and full humility and acknowledge that he alone is God. When we do this he begins to show us things in every day life that are so specific and so personal that our heart understands what our mind can’t comprehend.
- Everything God wants us to know about him is in his holy word. By reading his word we get to know the nature of God and he speaks to us through it by allowing it to come alive in our every day lives. This simply means that we will begin to recognize the things we have read while we are doing ordinary things in life and it will begin to make sense.
- He created everything in nature to reflect something about himself so that when we look around us at the wonderful things he created we will see parallels of who he is. It’s almost like finding clues everywhere so that even if we didn’t have the written word we would see him in his creation.