“The prayer of the psalmist reveals that the most fundamental aspect of epistemology is founded in the human capacity to relate to God. Knowledge resides in the ‘heart’, the center of human decision and place of encounter where we are addressed by God whom we must answer.”*
Over the past several months I’ve had a few posts regarding the idea of knowing God and Jesus. Because I think regularly about this idea – when I hear others talk about their personal walk with God I wonder if that’s a concept unique to our western culture, or is it something that all Christians everywhere desire and talk about?
What does it mean to know God on such a level that we express the idea as walking with him, talking with him as we talk to our friends, or having intimate fellowship with him? As I have indicated before, at times I think it’s all too personal. It’s been my experience that people who use those phrases seldom speak about standing in awe of who God; who he is, his otherness, his transcendence, his holiness. We may sing the chorus, “I stand, I stand in awe of you…” but do we?
As hard as it might be for our particular culture to understand, we exist for God, he does not exist for us. We don’t grow in our knowledge of God by living life on our terms. Our “adequacy/efficiency is from God.” We are not equipped to truly know God outside of our willingness to submit to God. It is God who reconciled us to himself. We did not reconcile him to ourselves. The psalmist understood this well.
Our knowledge of God begins with our submission to God. Just as Jesus did not regard “equality with God a thing to be grasped,” neither should we think our knowledge of God is so intimate as to be custom-made for us. God is at work in us for his good pleasure, not ours. Our feel-good quotient is not what determines our understanding and knowledge of God. It is our commitment to serving him, to living a life pleasing to him, to being faithful and of solid character so that we will “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” and therefore “increase in the knowledge of God.” As the Apostle Paul also pointed out, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That’s a huge responsibility.
Please understand, I’m not being judgmental. I’m simply trying to understand what it means to know God and how we often talk about that concept. Neither am I denying the exuberance of a new believer and their coming under the eternal influence of God’s love through Christ. I still recall those days in my own life. I miss those days. Perhaps that reflects a notion that I’ve outgrown that “new life in Christ” passion. I haven’t. But I’m not at the beginning stage anymore. I’m here – 45 years on the pilgrimage – and I expect, and I think God expects, my knowledge of him to have grown in such a way that my life reflects not just excited awareness of him, but comport that would honor him. Sadly I can think of too many times when that was, and still can be, anything but true.
I try not to bounce my life in Christ off that of others. I try desperately to reflect him who was faithful unto death, even death on the cross, and I want to be that kind of faithful. But it’s challenging. It’s often hard to get my arms around knowing God and serving him in a way that’s glorifying to him. That doesn’t mean I don’t try and often cry out “create in me a clean heart, O God.” It simply means I struggle with the awareness that I know him and yet, in a very real sense, know him not at all. I have the desire, but often not the will. Indeed, like the disciples who slept during the most crucial time of their walk with Christ – “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:17)
*Francis Martin, contributor to “The Bible and Epistemology”, p.XiV