Too often I hear phrases and adjectives, (both inside and outside the Church) about God that are woefully inaccurate. So, what’s at stake in making sure we have accurate understandings of God? To name a few: loving him properly, worshiping him properly, and living for him properly. Jesus stated the greatest stake in John 17:3.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Here Jesus links accurately knowing “the only true God” as the irrevocable condition for gaining eternal life. However, the word he uses for “know” implies something far deeper than mere cognitive awareness or agreement. The Greek term ginosko means to recognize, experience, and relate to. Before we do a deep dive into what all this means J.I. Packer, in his classic “Knowing God,” asks of us some seriously profound questions
What were we made for? To know God. What aims should we set ourselves in life? To know God.
What is eternal life? To know God. What is the best thing in life? The knowledge of God.
Teaching about God must be the highest priority of the Christian pulpit. Knowing God must be the highest priority of the Christ follower. Charles Spurgeon, drove home these points in a message he delivered on January 7, 1855,
The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, in which we could ever engage is the nature, the person, and the work of our great God. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect and so magnify the soul as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of God.
Knowing About & Knowing
How many do you know there is a mammoth difference in knowing about God and knowing God? Before I married Lisa, I went on a massive fact-finding mission to learn everything I possibly could about her and women in general. I bought the classic, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and studied it from front-to-back. I subscribed to publications like “Vanity Fair” and “Cosmopolitan” and then enrolled in gender studies at the local university. Afterward, I conducted interviews with married men and asked them to explain how women think and operate. To get insider information I sat down with Lisa’s family and friends and had them tell me about her tastes and temperament, likes and dislikes, and strengths and weaknesses. I then got duplicates of her senior picture and studied each line and curve of her beautiful face. No doubt, all of this information helped me know as much as I could about my future wife. Obviously, I didn’t do any of this but you get the point. There’s a Grand Canyon worth of space between knowing about Lisa and knowing Lisa, from having general knowledge about her to genuinely experiencing her. If I wanted to know her, I’d have to engage in relational activities like spending time with her, talking with her, and dating her.
The Knowable God
God desires that we know all about him. This is why he gave us both his Written Word/Bible and the Living Word/His Son. AND he wants us to know him through authentic experience, which is why he created us. My job, as one called, trained, and ordained, is to explain to you all I can about God from a theological and biblical perspective. Your job as Christ follower is to use that knowledge to develop and deepen your relationship with Him. As we kick-off our “God” series this morning there are two fundamental things we need to know about him.
God: The Person
The first thing we need to know about God is that he is a person. God is not a cosmic force. God is not an energy. He is not a vague, austere, abstract, opaque entity and he is not some kind of detached, distant deity, or an aloof “Big Man Upstairs.” He is also not the master manipulator of luck nor an impersonal “IT.” God is a person. What does it mean to be a person? Since we all happen to be persons “made in God’s image” (Genesis 1:26) the answer is almost self-explanatory. To be a person means at least four things: to be rational (think), volitional (will), emotional (feel), and relational (engage others). A person cannot have relationships with inanimate objects. Before I met Lisa, I once tried to have a relationship with my pet rock. It didn’t work out because it was unresponsive to my feelings (lol)! Although we share these basic personhood properties with God, as a person he is also a zillion ways unlike us. TheWestminster Shorter Catechism captures some of these differences
A Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
God: The Eternal Person
One of the most significant ways God is different from us is that he is eternal while we are finite. To be eternal means that God always was, always is, and always will be. God has no beginning and no end. Nothing is before him and nothing is after him. God never had an incept date, start time, or birthday. God has never been created, made, or built. He is the Creator or as some say, “The Uncaused Causer.” Thus, he is the only being that is truly self-existent (independent) and as such, he depends on nothing for his life. Conversely, everything depends upon him for everything all of the time. Paul made this point clear to the Athenian philosophers at Mars Hill (Acts 17:28),
For in him we live and move and have our being.
This is yet another contrast between the fabricated gods of history, i.e., Greco-Roman gods like Zeus, Hermes, Apollo, Athena. These mythological gods were personal but not eternal. On the other hand, Far Eastern gods are eternal but not personal. The true God, that Jesus revealed, is unique in that he is both personal and eternal.
So what are some big takeaways we need take away this morning knowing that God is an eternal person?
Of all knowable things we could possibly know, the knowable God is the most important, interesting, and fascinating and there is not a close second. When I look at the beautiful sunset in the evening or shining stars at night, I ask, what kind of person could actually do this?
Because God is a person, our life’s pursuit should be to continually grow in our understanding of him: his works, ways, wonders, will, and word. After 36 years of being married to Lisa I know, and she reminds me, that I got a ways to go in fully knowing and understanding her. When it comes to God, we will never be “know-it-alls” but life-long learners.
Because God is eternal, he alone is the source of eternal life. When we experience God in the ways Jesus describes, he supernaturally imparts his life into our souls. However, that eternal life doesn’t begin when we die and head into the great bye-and bye, but the very moment we repent of our sins and take God’s Son as our Lord/Savior-Leader/Forgiver.
Lastly, as Christians that both know about God and know God, our mission is to help others accurately know who he is so they too can enjoy the free gift of eternal life in him and with him, both now and forever.