The first time I came to the United States, I was surprised by the cultural difference that existed between my home country of Australia and the USA. Some differences were glaringly obvious, such as driving on the opposite side of the road, the curiously strong accents and the difference in the food. I did not realize, however, how much I assumed that things in America would be like things in Australia. I had a perception about the country I was coming to that had not been formed by experience, but through the media and second hand knowledge. Growing up watching American movies and television programs caused me to think that what I had seen was reality (because you should always believe what you see on television right? What was I thinking?) Thankfully, the day that I stepped onto American soil, I crossed over from head knowledge to experiential knowledge and what I had only known from a distance, now I knew in reality.
Any one can tell you that to have an effective relationship, you must have intimacy on some level. You cannot hope to pursue a relationship with a girl or guy unless you have first expressed your interest and then taken them out on a date to get to know them. To walk in understanding of the uniqueness of an individual, a culture or a country you have to step beyond a distant critical analysis and enter into a relationship of “knowing”. The problem is that most of us have grown up within an analytical education system and the lack of experiential knowledge that accompanies the bare boned facts we are presented with, limit our ability to really “know” a subject. The beauty of experiential education is that it can greatly magnify the knowledge retention of the student. This principle is just as true when it comes to the realm of theology, or the study of God. The description of Jesus in John’s gospel describes him as the “word of God made flesh” meaning that Jesus was the physical expression of the very nature of God. Part of the intent of describing Jesus with such terminology was to reveal to us that God desires to be known and that he desired it so much that made a flesh and blood description of His nature so that we could know Him, not just from a distant analytical viewpoint, but from a touch, see and feel reality. We use words to describe things that we see, touch, taste or experience but those words alone do not equate to actually having touched or tasted or seen. Words do, however, help take that which we see and experience and make it available for others to experience. The fact that John described Jesus as the “word made flesh” helps us to understand that what God had been trying to tell us about who He was throughout history He now revealed in a flesh and blood body so that we might not just know about him from a distance, but know Him intimately. His desire was that we would be restored to the place that Adam had when he walked with God in the garden and enjoyed communication, intimacy and friendship with God. When it comes to our relationship with God, the apostle Paul puts it eloquently like this,
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:14-19
Paul makes it clear that all of the strengthening with might, all of the rooting in faith and all of the grounding in love is so that we could know the love of Christ and in doing so be filled with the fullness of God. Paul understood that it was not just enough to know scriptures about who God is, it had to be translated into a “knowing”, an experiential knowledge about God, because this was the kind of relationship that God had planned for His people. Paul was inviting us to not just know about God, but to know Him on an experiential level. The prophet Hosea described it like this,
“Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.” Hosea 6:3
Hosea recognized that the greatest journey we could ever go on would be the journey of the discovery of God. This scripture also tells us that the pursuit of the knowledge of God actually enables the releasing of His nature toward us. As we pursue the knowledge of God, the result will be that He will come to us like the rain. It is the spiritual principal of faith at work in us. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, it is the seed that is planted in the ground that brings forth the harvest of what we are asking for, but it is not the harvest itself. Faith is the miracle of a seed going from dormancy to bringing forth fruit. Scripture tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, so faith must be at work even before we can begin the process of discovery, just as a seed is awakened in the earth to become a plant without anybody seeing it happen.
Faith works to awaken our souls to the knowledge of God and then works to enable us to continue to pursue the knowledge of God. As we allow faith to operate in us, we then enable the truth of who Jesus is to us to be released to us, first as a Savior, then as a Friend, then as a Bridegroom. This enables us to see the plan of God in history and His nature and character as a Father. This is the goal of all of our faith, to know God.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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