Knowing God – an Introduction
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Knowing God is strongly connected with the idea of spiritual life. To know God (who is Eternal) is to have eternal spiritual life. It is as if, by plugging into God, we are plugged into the source of life, and this life infuses us.
It follows that to not know God at all is spiritual death.
So the issue of knowing God is of supreme importance to all people.
What is knowing God?
The Scriptures reveal that God is not only Almighty Creator, but also a Personal Being, with thoughts, feelings, intentions and the capability to act.
When we talk of knowing God then, we are not simply talking of knowing alleged facts about God. We are not simply talking of what can be learned by studying theology or religious doctrine about God. Instead, we are speaking of knowing God in a personal way. This is really a revolutionary thought. In many religious systems, the idea that a person could relate personally and directly with the Divine is too revolutionary and too radical. It would be viewed with suspicion or denial by the privileged priests in the religious system – and often is, even in Christianity. After all, if people imagine they know God directly, there is always the possibility that they might go off in different directions and not be easily herded together and employed in common purposes requiring co-operation and the pooling of resources. How this knowing of God personally affects and impacts upon this issue is a subject which would need to be considered elsewhere. The main thought for now is that God can be known personally.
In human life we know other people mostly by what we see and hear of them in our interactions with them, and also sometimes by the sense of touch, or smell – though these ways are usually not as important. I believe there is also a spiritual dimension of sensing a person out.
The emotional dimension of knowing someone is very important. By this I mean: what we feel in our heart or soul in relating with a given person. The “feeling” we have in interacting with or thinking about a person is very important to us, and shapes the way we deal with them. It also shapes to some extent the kind of importance or honor we give to them.
There is also a cognitive dimension of knowing God. It is possible to know in our deepest places things about the character of God based on past communications and the accumulation of revelation in our hearts and minds. For example, there are times we need to know God as faithful even when we can’t hear Him explaining the reasons for the things that are going on, or what the timing will be concerning His actions answering our prayers. Sometimes in the midst of meditation on God’s word, in the midst of reflection, the Holy Spirit will make a truth about God come alive to us. And these truths form a big part of our knowing God.
As Christians, we believe that there is a real spiritual dimension to reality, and that this dimension has not been described by our current model of physics. In this spiritual dimension, words are very important, and they are being communicated, for good or evil, all the time. There is also visual reality in the spiritual world, which can be projected in some way onto our consciousness in the form of images. There is the sense of touch – and even the sense of smell and taste in the spiritual world. It is common, for example, to physically and emotionally feel the effects of the Presence of God. Because God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and we are also spirits – albeit spirits with a soul, living in a physical body – because of this, we can know God personally through spiritual senses. This is a real possibility, and many talk about it. If this doesn’t happen for everyone, the Bible gives a reason for this, and a solution as well. The fact remains, it is possible to know God personally.
So knowing God personally means not only that we are talking to God, but also that we are “talking WITH God”. We are not only praising Him, He is also speaking life into our hearts, by words which are in some sense personally tailored to our needs and our situation at a particular point in time. God may also speak through dreams and visions – pictorially, as it were. In fact, this way of God speaking has become very common in parts of the world where the Islamic religion holds sway over the lives of men and women. In these places, where the practice of Christianity is often severely oppressed, muslims are often, to their great surprise, having visions and dreams of Jesus Christ. And Jesus is telling these people things in their dreams that they were not expecting to hear. Many muslims became followers of Jesus after seeing Jesus Christ in a vision or dream. Some of these experiences were as real and vivid as any experience in everyday life.
Knowing God means progressively getting to know His Heart as we hear His voice, hear His Word, feel His presence and see the things He wishes to show us.
This knowing God happens in various ways. It comes not only in times where we seclude ourselves so that we can pray and study. It also comes in times when we are actively serving our fellow man in the right way. After all, it is only as we OBEY the Lord GOD that we maintain a close sense of communion with Him.
Did not your father eat and drink,
And do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
Then it was well.
Was not this knowing Me?” says the Lord.
We see then that God is known even in the acts of eating, drinking, doing righteousness and helping the poor and needy. In the process of LOVING our neighbour as ourselves, and especially our Christian brethren, we are OBEYING God, getting to know His heart in a personal way, and also with the help of the Holy Spirit keeping the lines of communication open with heaven.
God is too holy, too important, to authoritative, too majestic to keep on unconditionally revealing Himself to people of hard heart who DO NOT WISH TO OBEY Him. Yes, we can disobey and keep on reading the Bible or listen to Christian media, but when we disobey, we severely damage our intimacy with God. Disobedience damages the quality of our relationship with God, and if left unchecked, could even destroy it. In such situations, we need to return to God in humility, and receive forgiveness through faith in the blood sacrifice of Jesus, before we can go forward in knowing God.
Knowing God then is a kind of consciousness that we enjoy when our hearts and lives are in a place where God may reveal things about Himself, His values, His love or anything else – including His purposes to us. It is the kind of life we were originally made for.