Monday, June 10, 2013

Do I Really Know God?

Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It’s all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary.— Chuck Palahniuk

That quote was speaking about people and writers.  But there’s an underlying truth about all reality that it highlights.

How many times have we heard people say, indeed how many times have we ourselves said, God is a mystery.  That there is much about Him we can’t possibly know.  And, while that’s true in some respects, think about the quote we began with.

Whether it’s someone we think we might want a relationship with, someone we might have as a friend, someone who might be a boss or coworker, we take a lot of external cues from what we see and experience.  Those all add up to become our conclusion about a person.  We may even rely on someone else’s opinion, instead of finding out for ourselves.  Does that all bring us to a point of really knowing that person?

We’ve all heard about the prince or princess charming who, once they’ve reeled in their person of choice, turns out to be highly abusive.  Or there’s the mate who seems like the ideal person to spend our life with … until we discover that faithfulness is a word that isn't in their vocabulary.  With either one, we realize that there are things we should have, but didn’t, learn about that person.

There's a difference between those examples and God.  Those examples of human failings include some subterfuge on their part.  They intentionally don't tell all the truth about themselves because that would harm their self seeking goal.  There are several totally different possibilities with God.
  1. A person may not believe in God.  In that case, they're unlikely to care about or believe what Scripture says is true about Him.
  2. A person may believe in God, but have limited trust.  They've learned some things about God and filled in the blanks with their own rationalization.  That usually includes some negative thinking about God, based on misunderstanding.
  3. A person may believe God is really God.  That can either lead to the idea that God is God, anything is possible, or it can lead to a trust that some things have been communicated and the rest will be coming, as appropriate.
Personally, I fit in the second part of #3.  There are things God has shared with us because they're things He wants us to understand.  Others have been withheld because we don't yet have the capacity to comprehend them.

Romans 1:20 (KJV)  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

That verse is foundational.  God communicates through His creation to His creation.  Missionaries have come back from very rural parts of the world with testimonies of how easy it was to teach some of the jungle people about God.  That's because they have a fairly refined, though limited, understanding of God from His witness in nature.  Not all the peoples who haven't had Bible teaching are necessarily worshipping demons.  Neither can we assume they're not.

Along with nature, there's a lot of detail about God in the Bible.  We can learn a lot about Him, how He thinks, how He acts, through the Word of God.  And that's where man tends to lose sight of all that God is.  We have a limited capacity to know and understand all there is about God.  That sometimes displays itself in our focusing on some aspect of His nature without balancing it with the rest of what the Bible says about Him.  We need to be fully immersed in the Word and grow  in understanding.

Ephesians 1:18 (KJV)  The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 

That verse describes our goal.  But there is, as with so many verses, important context.  The verse before speaks of "the spirit of wisdom" and the following verse tells us we are to believe "according to the working of His mighty power".  Those three verses create an interesting picture.  Yes, we learn of God from viewing nature and studying the Bible, but there's more.

When we want to be friends with someone, it's true that we may look up all the information we can.  And we may ask others what they know of a person.  But, whether it's a friendship or some greater relationship, we can never truly get to know someone until we personally get to know them.  There's something about how a person acts and speaks in a personal context that overshadows book knowledge.  It's then that we find out that "the working of His mighty power" might not mean some act of strength, but the power is in what was held back.  It's experiencing a personal display of mercy and grace, not reading about it.

Psalm 119:99 (KJV)  I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 

Colossians 4:2 (KJV)  Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;  

We need to make our conversations with God a two way dialogue, growing closer with each reading, with each prayer, with each meditation.  Yes, we want to avoid subjective misinterpretation.  But we don't want to miss how personal that relationship with our Lord is, either.  Think of the quote we began with.

What things are you doing to grow that personal relationship with God, today?  How are you taking it from impersonal knowledge to a personal relationship?

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