Familiarity, Not Facts; Intimacy, Not Information.

“There is no peace like the peace of those whose minds are possessed with full assurance that they have known God, and God has known them, and that this relationship guarantees God’s favor to them in life, through death and on forever.”                                                                                           – JI Packer

What does it mean to know your God as it is conveyed in the Bible?  The term, “to know,” has several meanings in the English language, complicating the answer to this question. To answer this, we must include what knowing our God is not.  Knowing God as conveyed in the Bible is not knowing facts about Him.  That would be knowing about Him, and that is not the idea in this term, whether it is from the Hebrew or the Greek.  I can know all kinds of facts about a person, say, Prince Charles of England.  I can know he is a bit of a scoundrel, that he has big ears, that he served in the British military, that he is the Prince of Wales, and that He will likely never be the king of England due to the first item in this list.  But I do not know him.  I can learn more about him, including his shoe size, his favorite tea, what he does on Saturday mornings, and what he likes to watch on the telly.  Even if I become expert in everything about the prince, I still do not know him, for I have never met him and I do not have any kind of relationship with him.

Knowing that God has saved me, and that this salvation comes through Jesus does not mean that I know my God.  Even if I claim to “know Jesus as my Savior,” which is still in category of facts about Him.  I have given no evidence of knowing my God personally or intimately.  “Knowing” in the scriptures, when used in the context of knowing our God, is not about knowing facts, or status.  It is about knowing intimately, personally, as a friend knows his or her best friend.  As a husband and wife know each other.  The term implies a depth of relational intimacy.   JP Gledstone put it this way: “It is not religious knowledge that saves, but knowledge of God — knowledge of His mind, which is deeper than anything coming from His mind; knowledge of His heart, as heart only can know heart, by an instinct, a sympathy, an appreciation.”

The Hebrew idea of knowing God is one of intimate knowing, as in a familiar friend as opposed to an acquaintance. Jeremiah 9:24 says, ““…but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows me; that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”  Here, the idea of knowing your God as a familiar friend is linked to understanding Him, meaning to have insight and comprehension about Him.  Together, these two terms imply both a deep knowledge leading to comprehension along with a deep intimacy as with a familiar friend.

The Greek is equally clear on the nature of knowing our God.  In John 17, the final recorded prayer of Jesus on the night He was betrayed, he said these words: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou has sent.”  Here the Greek term for “know implies knowing through personal experience.”  How personal the experience?  This same term is used for sexual intimacy in Luke 1:34. Paul uses similar phraseology in speaking of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

JI Packer wrote, “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”  And Brother Lawrence wrote, “Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”  And Robin Caldwell sums up our calling in this matter: “I couldn’t imagine my life without getting to know God. He knows me, He created me. He should be known.”

More on knowing our God intimately in the next Adventure Blog post.

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