Do We Really Know God?

If one thing stands out in our anxiety-plagued modern world it’s the breakdown of the marriage bond – the disintegration of the family unit. Satan is out to destroy the family as never before, and Christians are by no means exempt from this cancer ravag­ing our society. In fact some churches unknowingly add to the problem. How can we tell the world we have the answers to life if we can’t even make it work in our own families? FAMILY is the very foundation of society. Indeed the root cause of our greatest problems – suicide, drugs, domestic violence, depression, hatred, murder etc is a lack of love – the breakdown in family and relationships.

The following scripture really jerked he slack out of me recently;“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. …But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love…” (1 JOHN 4;7-8).

Notice He doesn’t say God doesn’t know us, but that we really dont know God! Despite our ministries and churches, our praying in tongues etc, we may have a wrong perception of God!

The Message puts it this way; “My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love.”

I learned a long time ago that I can’t say, “I love you,” and simply still put myself first – yet this is still something I have trouble with every day!

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – (1 John 3:16-18).

To lay down is an action verb, as opposed to lie down, which simply means to “recline in a position common to sleeping.” When we lay something down, we take something that we have been carrying and lets go of it, placing it somewhere at rest and out of our grasp. We could use the term set aside as a synonym, as in the following translation of John 15:13: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man set aside his life for a friend.”

John – the disciple whom Jesus loved – tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help others in need. So when we are called to lay down our lives for others, don’t get all focused on dying for someone else and never put this into practice for lack of opportunity. Realize that laying down yourself for others is about how you value people and how you see yourself.

So, when He gives us this commandment—that we love one another—He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own. In fact, we can’t love as we should without the work of God’s Spirit in our lives – and that my friend is called the GRACE of God!

Many of us are eager to love and to be loved, but we often want to love on our terms. Keep in mind that if God’s love for us depended on us living up to His expectations no one in the world would be loved by God. The type of love that Jesus has for His disciples is unmerited love. If we are to love others as Jesus loves us, we must not make our love for others conditional on their behaviour.

If ever there were a word that cried out for a word study, it is “to know.” Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know (γινώσκω) my own and they know (γινώσκουσίν) me, just as the Father knows (γινώσκει) me and I know (γινώσκω) the Father”. This shows there is a correlation between how we “know” the Father/Son and how the Son/Father know each other.

The important point to note is that it is a knowing that is relational and growing. It is not some fact we accept, but the kind of knowledge that is gained through experience and, if the context allows it, through intimacy. But in all these cases, γινώσκω describes a knowledge gained through experience, and so it is the right Greek verb to describe an intimate, experiential, growing knowledge of God.

When Jesus says he knows his sheep and he knows the Father, he is speaking of an intimate relationship that involves deep feelings of love (Jn. 10:14–15). In fact, Jesus defines eternal life as ‘knowing God and Jesus Christ,’ which involves both faith in him and love for him (Jn. 17:3). By contrast, John makes it plain that the world ‘does not know’ God (Jn. 17:25; 1 Jn. 3:1).”

So what is the goal? Certainly, to love God, love one another, and to grow up into Christ-likeness is the goal. But one way to express that goal is to use γινώσκω. To deeply know Jesus and the Father. To come into an ever-increasing familiarity with the triune God. This is what life is about, life now and life to come.

But the incredible promise of our verse is that the knowledge we are gaining, and will gain throughout all eternity, is in some way similar to the knowledge God the Son and God the Father have for each other, and in some way we are given the unfathomable privilege of sharing in that relational knowledge, a path of knowing, of increasing in intimate knowledge, of sheep knowing their Shepherd’s voice and following him.

Eternal life is to know God, a growing, intimate, experiential knowledge that will stretch into eternity, always learning, but always more to learn.

I call you Highly Favoured, Greatly Blessed and Deeply loved.

Col Stringer

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