Tag Archives: Biblical truth

Clarion Word Classics: The Dangers of a Shallow Faith

 

What are Clarion Word Classics?

The Clarion Word Classics (CWC) is a learning series WordBytes has launched to share faith writings that will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some of our classics come from sage theologians.  Others introduce contemporary writers who offer spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word that means “clear”.  Used as an adjective, it means “loud and clear”.  Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

This quarter CWC, will introduce A.W. Tozer, a self-taught theologian, pastor, and writer whose powerful use of words continues to grip the intellect and stir the soul of today’s believer.  He has authored more than 40 books, the best known are The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy.  The Dangers of a  Shallow Faith is a never-before-published compilation.

How does it connect with our faith walk?

Lethargy is a lingering tiredness that is constant and limiting. Spiritual lethargy may be defined as a state of indifference or inertia with regard to one’s own spiritual growth and vitality.

The Apostle Paul urged the Thessalonians to avoid succumbing to spiritual lethargy: “so then let us not sleep as others do but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thess. 5:6).

Tozer describes this condition well: “there is little communion and little joy in the Lord. To have a cold heart with little pity, little fire, little love and little worship is spiritual lethargy.”[1] 

Some of the most common symptoms include any combination of the following:

  • Chronic indulgence in sinful thoughts and actions
  • Little or no desire to pray
  • Engagement in exclusively Christ-less entertainment
  • Avoidance of personal accountability
  • Decreased appetite for Bible study
  • Selfish and materialistic orientation
  • Reluctant and sporadic church attendance

Spiritual lethargy renders us “unserviceable” in God’s Kingdom.  Deceived by Satan’s lies, tempted by the world, and weakened in our flesh, we are, as the mothers of the church would say, “no earthly good.”  Satan’s most successful strategy is not to kill our faith but to silence our witness.

Tozer’s insights

Tozer urges us to be aware of the times in which we live.  We are to “gird the loin of our mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).   While Tozer’s dangers were centered on the evangelical church, its application is “spot on” for us individually as we move from “glory to glory” in our walk of faith (2 Cor. 3:18).

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here is an introductory reading  from The Dangers of a Shallow Faith:  Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy. 

[1] The Dangers of a Shallow Faith:  Awakening from Spiritual Lethargy. 

Our Faith Walk: Who are You? Part 2

Who are You? Part 2

Identity in crisis

Last week we presented identity as the set of characteristics that constitutes individual personality.  It is influenced by both internal and external factors.  Our identity is dynamic, in that it can be influenced by situations and circumstances that surround us.  Therefore, our identity is to be carefully guarded and protected.  This is especially true when we consider our spiritual identity (Prov. 4:23).

It is difficult to maintain our identity in Christ while living amid the 21st century.  Temptations offered by Satan, the influence of worldview, and the weakness of our human flesh, create conditions for a “perfect storm” that can negatively impact our walk of faith.  Considering these tests, how can we protect our identity in Christ?

A Change in Identity

Why do people change their identity?  Because of change.

Human beings have a complicated relationship with change. While it is both inevitable and essential for growth, change can also be deeply uncomfortable — especially if it feels involuntary, or out of our control.

As researchers focused on social change, we’ve spent the last ten years studying how people react to drastic changes in their lives. We’ve conducted hundreds of interviews with people who lost a desired identity, such as former white-collar professionals forced to move into lower-status careers, as well as with people trying to shed an undesirable or stigmatized identity, such as former prisoners working to reintegrate themselves in their communities.

Interestingly, regardless of whether the changes were ostensibly positive or negative, many of the people we talked to struggled to move on from their past identities and embrace their new selves. This feeling of stuck-ness — a phenomenon we call identity paralysis — often left people feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless about their current situations.[1]

Changes in identity are normal and to be expected.  We live in a world of constant flux.  However, it is important to embrace those identity traits that best accomplish the plan and purpose God has for our lives (Jer. 29:11).   Why?  Because our identity influences how we live our life!

Our Behavior follows our Identity

Behavior and identity are linked.  In the Old Testament, God continually warned His people to remember who they were and their covenant relationship with Jehovah (Deut. 6:4-9).  God knew that their identification with the wrong things and people would affect their faithfulness.  They would be drawn away from the plan and purpose God had for their life (Deut. 8:11).  The same is true for us today.

In the New Testament, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul, the Church in its infancy was continually reminded of their “new identity in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17).  Ministering in countries that didn’t worship God nor honor the teaching of Jesus would be challenging.   Their worldview would be very different, just as it is today in the 21st century (1 John 1:7).

Paul’s exceptional testimony of his previous identity as an Orthodox Jew, speaks to the transforming power of Christ to change our identity.  It is probably the most thorough testimony in Scripture.

Circumcised when I was eight days old, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews [an exemplary Hebrew]; as to the [observance of the] Law, a Pharisee; as to my zeal [for Jewish tradition], a persecutor of the church; and as to righteousness [supposed right living] which [my fellow Jews believe] is in the Law, I proved myself blameless. But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life].  (Phil. 3: 5-7, Amplified) 

Paul’s identity changed his behavior and his life forever.  What can we say about Jesus’ entry into our lives and the change it has made in our identity?

Do we know who we are?

Our identity is founded in Christ Jesus.  It has been revealed in both His living Word and reflected in His love for us.  It is based on a firm foundation that is eternal and abides forever (Ep. 1:4).  Jesus has made it possible for us to become partakers of God’s grace and power.  Knowing our identity, we can hold firm our “confession of faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23).

CAUTION:  If we as believers are unable to accept the identity God has communicated to us, we need to enter a time of prayer and examination as to why we choose not to believe God (choosing rather to believe the lies of Satan, self, and the world).

[1] “When a Major Life Change Upends Your Sense of Self “, Harvard Business Review.

Our Faith Walk: Who Are You? Part 1

Who are you?

Who are you?

In the story, Alice in Wonderland, we are told of a young girl drawn into a world of contradictions and challenges to her way of thinking.  How did it start?  She chased a rabbit with a watch.  In the process, Alice falls into a “proverbial rabbit hole”, entering a new reality that tests everything she claims to believe.  My favorite character is the plump caterpillar who, positioned on a posh pillar, asks of Alice, “Who are you?”

Joseph, being sold into slavery by his brothers, found himself in new and perilous circumstances that challenged his faith and godly beliefs (Genesis 37-39).  Daniel and his comrades, exiled in Babylon where continually tested and dared to “hold fast to their confession of faith”, even at the potential loss of their life (Daniel 1-3).

One of the challenges in living in the 21st century is understanding, “who we are”.   Our identity.  Why is it important?  Who influences the choices we make daily?  There are rabbit holes, temptations, and risks to life we must acknowledge as we continue our walk of faith.  That’s why it’s important that we hold firm to our identity as followers of Jesus Christ.

Who do you identify with?

Identity is the set of characteristics that constitutes individual personality.  It is our essential self and our personal uniqueness.

Our identity is shaped by personal traits, talents, values, and beliefs. External factors such as friends and family, social groups, and cultural heritage also shape who we are.

While identity deals with personal uniqueness, it also describes a person’s sameness with others.  For example, one’s identity may be tied to a particular area (Midwesterner, New Yorker), a certain group (Boomers, Gen-Xers), or a cause (Save the Whales).  It can also be tied to a political affiliation or religious denomination.

Our world is daily challenging us to “choose” who we identify with.  The results are that we, as a society, are experiencing an identity crisis.

Identity crisis, in the psychosocial sense, is a condition of disorientation and role confusion as a result of conflicting pressures and expectations.   Identity crisis seeks a clearer sense of self and acceptable role in society.  Spiritual identity crisis is very similar, in that it occurs because of the conflict exerted from Satan, the world, and self.[1]

Unfortunately, rather than celebrating our God-given uniqueness, the world and Satan is using our identity to polarize us and to weaponize who we are.

Identity and our faith walk.

For believers, our identity is rooted and grounded in Christ Jesus (Col. 2:7).   Through His work of redemption, we have been reconciled to the Father (Rom. 5:10).

Satan challenges our identity in Christ Jesus by first targeting our mind.  He uses as his weapon, lies.  These lies are designed to deceive and discourage.  Satan’s purpose is to make us ignorant of God’s will and plan for our life.

The world also attacks our mind and our body.  It creates an insatiable desire for “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

Lastly, self contributes to identity crisis by demanding freedom to exercise its personal will.  The desire to rule self and operate independent of God leads to self-promotion, self-elevation, and selfishness.  Left unchecked, man’s attention shifts from “what God desires” to “what feels right.”

In Christ we are now sons and daughters of God (John 1:12), endowed with a new identity and power.  Through spiritual regeneration (2 Cor. 5:17), we have become partakers of His divine nature, the Holy Spirit, who is daily conforming us to the image of Christ (2 Pet. 1:4).

We must continually be on the watch for social, political, and yes, religious “rabbit holes” that challenge our identity in Christ. Next week, we will continue our discussion on identity and its importance in our faith walk.

[1]   https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/identity-crisis

 

Our Faith Walk: Keep Your Eye on God

A Message for Fearful Times

Historical trauma

We’ve experienced many horrible events in the tapestry of our nation’s history and in our personal lives.  Natural disasters, war, health pandemics, and social upheaval, just to name a few. These events create trauma and fear that must be navigated daily.

But I come today with a message of encouragement and hope from the God who sees and Who is in complete control of what appears to be “out of control.”  Keep your eye on God!

Keep Your Eye on God

It is important during these troubling times to keep our eyes on the Lord.  As believers, we are aware that in this world we will have tribulation and trials (John 16:33).  But we are also reminded to take heart because Jesus has overcome the world.  One writer reminded me, “it is the tension between ‘overcome’ and ‘taking heart’ that cause us problems.”

Our trust in the Lord is not the result of positive thinking or some new age approach to stress management.   Brian Morykno with Renovaré encourages believers during fearful times to follow King David’s example of magnification.

Imagine David, with the war cry of enemies rising all around, settled of soul and unafraid.  How was that possible?  It’s not that David was out of touch with reality; he was in touch with it.  David understood magnification.  He knew that what we dwell upon becomes large in our spiritual field of vision.  And David dwelled upon God (Ps. 95:3-5).     

Our reality is this.  God is sovereign and is moving forward with His plan of salvation.  God is not the cause of the terrible events we see in our daily social media feed and news broadcasts.  Such events come from “heart issue” of sinful men (James 3:16-18) and the work of Satan (Eph. 6:12; John 10:10).

Where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.   But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace (James 3:16).

A Plan for These Times

To help us move through these times, I offer this three-prong approach to help us navigate through these difficult times.

Prayer.  This should be our first response to the troubles we face.  We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17).  The reason for this mandate is because our prayers connect us directly to God—the Power Source who can resolve our dilemma.  The “only wise God” (Rom. 16:27) is there to guide and direct our steps, comfort our heart, and ease our stress (Phil. 4:6-7).

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  (Romans 12:12)

Practice the Presence of God   We are never alone regardless of the situation we face.  He alone can make good on His promise that He will “never leave nor forsake us” (Gen. 28:15).  He is ever-present.  Regardless of external appearances, God is with us even amid our trouble.

Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. (Ps. 139:7-8)

Praise.  Yes, I said praise.  Why?  Because it is the quickest way to experience the presence of God (Ps. 22:3).    Ruth Meyer, author of the book, 31 Days of Praise, offers this insight on the power of praise.

As you praise and pray, you make your circumstances and your life a test tube that demonstrates the existence of a personal God, a God who is present and involved and who controls the natural Universe. It turns your attention to spiritual and eternal values versus the pleasures and success mentality of our age, which resists all pain and discomfort and delay.

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. (Ps. 22:3)

A Message for Trying Times

As we continue our walk of faith, we will be faced with trials and trouble.   Although these may be difficult, we have the blessed assurance that we are not in these things alone.  Neither are we powerless (Luke 10:19; Eph. 1:19).

I don’t know how these tumultuous times will end but I do know that God has the final word (Ps. 119:89-91).  God is and will continue to be the Creator and Sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16).

Throwback Wednesday: Living in Resurrection Power

Throwback Wednesday: Living in Resurrection Power

Easter, for Christians, is  more than a one day event.  It is a 50-day celebration. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost (see Acts 2).

Eastertide, is also, an excellent  opportunity to expand our  understanding of the power Christ’s resurrection continuous to offer, even in the 21st century (Eph. 1:19-20).

That being said,  we offer for your reading, “Living in Resurrection Power”.   This is an excellent follow-up to our series, “Spiritual Blessing for Victorious Living.”

Spiritual Blessing for Victorious Living: A Foretaste of Glory

In whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13a-14 (NKJV)

God’s Work of Salvation

To this point in our study of Ephesians 1, Paul has focused on the work of Triune God in fulfilling the work of salvation. 

Jesus Christ the Son, offered Himself for the redemption and forgiveness of sin for those who accept Him by faith.  Through His blood, Christ paid the righteous demand for sin for without the shedding of blood there can be no redemption (Heb. 9:21-22).     

As we approach the conclusion of our series, Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living, Paul describes the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit as He fulfills His role in the work of salvation.

The Spirit of Promise

The Holy Spirit would seal those in Christ “until the redemption of the purchased possession” in eternity future. A seal, in biblical times as today, is used to guarantee security or indicate ownership.

Ancient seals were often made of wax, embedded with the personalized imprint of their guarantor.  In both the Old and New Testament the significance of the act of sealing was dependent on the authority of the one doing the sealing.  

It would authenticate the guarantor’s ability to “make good” on that which was promised within the sealed document; in this case the promise of the believer’s salvation and future inheritance. 

The Holy Spirit of Promise not only endows the believer with power to accomplish the purposes of God (Phil. 1:6; 4:13) but He also gives assurances that God will do and can do all that He has pledged—promises and blessings for today and an inheritance in the future. The Holy Spirit seals those who trust in Christ (Eph1:12, 13) and His presence is God’s guarantee that believers are owned by Him and secure in Him.

Blessed Assurance

Since the Holy Spirit’s task is to apply Christ’s work to God’s people, He anoints those in Christ the moment they believe (2 Cor. 1:21-22).  The believer is then secured as a member of God’s family, not in their own power, but because the Spirit is applying the promises made possible by God through our relationship with Christ.  

His sealing comprises the initial down payment or the earnest of the full redemption of God’s possession (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).  In reading Ephesians 13a-14, the words of the hymn, “Blessed Assurance” echoes within my heart and mind.

Blessed assurance Jesus is mine

Oh what a foretaste of glory divine

Heir of salvation, purchase of God

Born of His Spirit, Lost in His love

Foretaste of Glory

This song captures in totality the work of salvation and the interceding role of each member of the Holy Trinity. 

Blessed Assurance describes in its opening lines the work specifically of the Holy Spirit who gives us a foretaste of the glory that belongs to those who are in Christ. 

“Foretaste” is made up of two Latin words:  ante which means “ahead, before or previously” and gustus meaning “flavor, zeal” (this is where we get our word gusto). 

Foretaste is described as a taste before possession; a limited awareness of something to occur.  This is a good illustration of what the sealing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes—it whets the spiritual appetite for those things which God has reserved for believers until the day we all shall see Jesus for ourselves (1 John 3:2).

This is my story, this is my song.

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: To the Praise of God’s Glorious Grace

Spiritual Blessings for Victorious Living: To the Praise of God

For God’s Praise

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.  Ephesians 1:4-6 

Last week we explored the meaning of “in Christ”.   In Christ describes our identity with Christ and our position before God the Father.  Our new identity incorporates the personality of Christ by the Holy Spirit indwelling our heart.  Being in Christ makes available to us everything that Christ has:  His righteousness, privilege, resources, position, and power.    This week we’ll continue our discussion of spiritual blessings by focusing on its primary source:  God.

Go to the Source

The source of spiritual blessings is God, The Faithful Creator and Sustainer of Life.  These blessings are available through God’s plan of salvation for those who by faith are in Christ.  God’s plan was not “Plan B” or an afterthought as a result of man’s fall in The Garden (Genesis 3:15) but was created in eternity before the foundations of the world.  “With the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Pet. 1:19-20).

The Old Testament prophets declared the plan of God to redeem and restore His people for their sake and for His glory (Isaiah 43:21). The Lord proclaimed through Jeremiah: “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned and by which they have transgressed against Me. Then it shall be to Me a name of joy, a praise, and an honor before all nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do to them; they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that I provide for it.” (Jeremiah 33:8)

Believers are receivers

God chose man from Creation to be the recipient of His great love, desiring to be in continual relationship with His most beloved creature.  However, the nature of God, His holiness, specifically, demanded that believers be “holy and without blame” before Him (1 Pet. 1:15-16).  God declared, therefore, the means by which man would be able to meet His requirement for holiness:  His Son, Jesus Christ.

Through God’s predetermined plan, He adopted those in Christ to become His sons (and daughters) (Rom. 8:15-16).  By God’s act of grace (being chosen and adopted) and mercy (Christ’s substitutional death for sins), we are now clothed in Christ’s righteousness (imputed), making the pursuit of holiness (blamelessness) possible.   With the addition of the Holy Spirit’s presence, we are able “to both will and do God’s good will” (Phil. 2:13).

God’s affection for us speaks to the true heart and nature of God.  It expresses God’s goodness.  While God’s goodness includes, His love and His mercy, Paul speaks of the “glory of God’s grace” (charis) expressed in the free gift of His Son.  God’s grace, resulting in our salvation and justification (rendered righteous) before God (Rom. 5:1O), deserves our highest praise.   Hallelujah, we are now acceptable to God through Jesus Christ!

Blessings from a Sovereign God

In Ephesians, we are reminded that God as Sovereign of both heaven and earth does all things “according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:5) and “according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).

God sovereignly rules over all things—present and future.  He rules with wisdom, justice, and mercy, therefore, we can trust our present and our future in His hands (Rom. 8:28) regardless of what is happening in our external circumstances (2 Cor. 4: 18).

Chosen by God.  Holy and blameless in Him.  Adopted as sons.  Accepted by God.  These are the beginnings of the spiritual blessings God has lavishly given to us who are in Christ.  Taken individually, we can begin to understand and appreciate the privilege, power, and promise that flow from each (2 Pet. 1:3-4).  With each action of God, we are invited to respond by participating in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth and in witnessing to others about the Good News of Jesus Christ.   Let everything that has breathe praise the Lord for all He has done and continues to do for us who are in Christ!

Be Still and Know!

Be Still !

Be still!

 Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,

 I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10, NKJV)

This is the closing instruction the Psalmist gives in the 46th division of Israel’s song book.  It was to be remembered and recited as they worshipped Jehovah in the Temple.  Perhaps it was read during times when the nation was threatened by foreign nations.  It could even be cited as kings prepared to bring a somber message or bad news to their subjects.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  Though the waters be therefore roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.  Selah

With the latest mass shooting in Kansas City after the Chief’s Super Bowl parade, we ask ourselves the question, “Lord, when will the madness stop?”  It seems as if evil is on every hand—locally, nationally, and without a doubt internationally.  We may even ask, “is God in control?”

The Answer

Psalm 46 answers those questions in its final verses.  Yes, God is still in control.  And in response to the problems we face, we are to “be still and know” who God is and His ability to address the issue at hand.  To know (yada) means: (1) to know by observing and reflecting, and (2) to know by experiencing.  It is to have an intimate knowledge of Him.

As we reflect on our lives, where have we seen God at work?  When has God come to our rescue or given us the strength to endure trying times?  Have there been situations where we realized that God had gone before us to make a way out of no way (Psa. 50:15)?  God is awesome and available and much, much, more.

A Mighty Refuge

As I process the trauma of the senseless shooting, this time, in “my city”, I recall the words from the powerful hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, which is said to be a paraphrase of Psalm 46.

A mighty Fortress is our God

A Bulwark never failing

Our Helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing

The concept of fortress appears numerous times throughout the Bible, often carrying deep symbolic meaning beyond just a stronghold or place of defense (Psa. 18:2; 62:6-8).  Fortress is most often used metaphorically to represent God as a source of refuge, protection, and salvation for His people.  These verses portray God as an unshakable fortress or tower that provides safety and security for those who trust in Him.

This thought continues with the Psalmist’s use of the word, bulwark.  A bulwark is a wall meant to provide protection.  “Mortal ills” are human sins we must deal with while operating in our “human flesh”.  These often result in negative outcomes in our personal life and in society.

Words to Remember

Jesus in His final moments with His Disciples presented a “sobering expectation” of their future: “In this life you will have tribulations.”  That message is still true for us in the 21st century.  But Jesus adds the “blessed reality and result” of our relationship with Him.  “Be of good cheer (take courage), I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In other words, Jesus’ victory over death and sin by way of the Cross, would be the same victory we would experience as we encountered life’s trials—individually or collectively.  Victory includes our ability to persevere and to succeed regardless of the circumstances we may experience (Eph. 1: 18-19).

As we navigate tragedies and misfortunes, we must remember that we live in a fallen world.  And while we have been delivered from the penalty and power of sin, we must still expect and deal with the consequences of its presence.  Our knowledge of God assures us that His presence will go with us (Deut. 31:8), His power will protect us (2 Thess. 3:3), and His peace will sustain us (John 14:26-27). Therefore, we can be still (relax).

The Knowledge of God: An Enlightened Conclusion

An Enlightened Conclusion

Knowledge of God: Recap

Knowledge of God is critical.  For believers, it establishes the moral authority and inspiration in our life, which results in purposeful living, and understanding what God has given to us. For non-believers, it can influence their decision to either accept or reject Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

Knowledge of God is not only to be intellectually informed, but to be experienced as our personal reality.  With the coming of Christ, this experience is possible as a result of our faith response and acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  (John 14:7; 17:3)

As believers, we are instructed to “grow in the knowledge of God” (2 Pet. 3:18).  The driving force for knowing God is relationship.  Relationship with God requires both commitment to Him and connection with Him.  We abide in Him (Psa. 91:1), we dwell with Him (Psa. 27:4), and we thirst for Him (Psa. 42:1-2).  We grow!

And in doing so, our minds are renewed, and we are transformed:  changed into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 12:2).  Our knowledge is continually expanded as more about God is revealed through the Holy Spirit.  What we currently know is only a foretaste until we see Him “face-to-face” in eternity future (1 Cor. 13:9-10).

Knowledge of God or spiritual ignorance?

We’ve all heard that “knowledge is power,” often to the point where it seems like a cliche. The idea that “knowledge is power” is used often in the business world, especially in negotiations.  Knowledge of God is also powerful.  In 2 Peter 1:2-3, the apostle encourages Christians to persevere in persecution.  Why?  How?

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. 

The Apostle Paul concurs with this thought in his letter to the saints in Ephesus who had power through their knowledge of God, yet they were living as beggars.  They had relegated themselves to live in “spiritual poverty” amid God’s abundant grace including adoption, acceptance, redemption, forgiveness, wisdom, inheritance, the seal of the Holy Spirit, life, grace, and citizenship (Eph. 1:3-14).

As believers in Christ, are we exercising the power that has been given to us through our knowledge of God?  Knowing “who we are” and “whose we are” gives us extraordinary advantage and power.  Our relationship with God (as His children) and our position (in Christ) gives us access to unlimited resources to stand firm, immovable, always abounding in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

Knowledge of God and power

Paul prays for “revelation” for the church; that they may see (and know) how to navigate the challenges they face as a new church in a pagan and hostile city.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,  the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. (Eph. 1:17-19)

Paul sets out to explain how the wisdom and knowledge of God can address the needs of the church.  In this context, that knowledge is obtained as a result of accepting Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation.

“may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him

Some commentaries interpret spirit (pneuma) as a disposition or attitude one might possess.  Of course, we cannot obtain such a disposition apart from the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom gives insight into the true nature of things.  Revelation is the unveiling of God Himself.  The purpose of both wisdom and revelation is to know God better.

“the eyes of your understanding being enlightened

Paul prayed that they might have true spiritual insight into God as a result of the eyes of their heart being enlightened.  It is the heart where transformation begins.  Paul testifies to the church at Corinth that “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had shined in his heart to give the glory of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

That we might know

Having prayed that the Ephesians might know God personally, Paul gives the reason why knowledge of God is important.  THAT WE MIGHT KNOW.  Know in this context is factual knowledge.

The hope of His calling.  This pertains to the believer’s present hope when he was called to faith (2 Tim. 1:9).  This occurred for the believer in the past. Hope in Scripture is the absolute certainty of a believer’s victory in God (Col. 1:5).

The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.  “His” in this text pertains to God Himself.  At the time of the resurrection of believers, God will inherit those whom He has purchased at a great price according to the riches of His grace. This will occur in the future. God’s inheritance will be the saints themselves.

The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.  This power of God is directed toward believers. This pertains to the present time. Using three different words—power, working, and mighty—Paul underscores the magnitude of God’s great power available to Christians.

I close this series with this quote from Dr. Max Anders, pastor and noted author:

To know God and to find one’s full satisfaction in that knowledge is the ultimate goal of the Christian experience. The Lord’s greatest delight comes when His people discover the ultimate value lies in the knowledge of God. Nothing in the material world can complete the delights that are present in His Person.  

The Knowledge of God: We Shall Know!

 

We Shall Know!

What to know about God?

What does God want us to know about Himself?  What does up close and personal look like?  God wants us to know truth.  About Himself, who He is, and truth concerning His plan for our life.  Knowledge of truth is enlightenment.  That is the reason it is important to practice spiritual disciplines: to draw near to hear the revealed truths of God (2 Cor. 4:6).

Paul’s prayer for the Colossians outlines what knowing God looks like:

So, we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. (Col. 1:9-10, NLT)

What does knowing God look like?  Knowledge of Him, wisdom, understanding, and spiritual growth (maturity).  And armed with these things, what will be the results?  A life that honors and pleases God and produces “good fruit.” We must remember that God has created us for “good works” (Eph. 2:10) and has spiritually invested in our lives.

In addition, through knowledge of Him and His truth, we will be strengthened with power that will increase our spiritual endurance, joy, and perseverance (Col.1:11).    Armed with God’s knowledge, is there anything we cannot do?  Are there any challenges we cannot overcome?

How will we know if we know?

Knowledge of God in the Old Testament was expressed through mediators and agreements that acknowledged what was expected by each party.  Such was the case with the various covenants God entered into with Israel (Isa. 1:2; Deut. 11:1-25).  Included in those covenants were expectations on how those entering into agreement with God were to live.

In the New Testament, knowledge of God became more personal.  No longer would God use mediators or special agreements.  It was Christ who would make God known to man (John 1:18).  Knowing God was no longer an intellectual exercise or contractual agreement, but an individual response of faith and acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior.  

Biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions.  To know God is not to “struggle philosophically” with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

We shall know fully.

Besides practice of spiritual disciplines, another way to grow in our knowledge of God is to fellowship with other believers who can share their personal experiences with the Lord.  As we grow, we are to reveal our testimonies with others, so they can come to know God as well.

For now, our knowledge of God is limited. “Perfect” knowledge of God is reserved for us in eternity future (1 Cor. 13:12).  God has, however, revealed what we need to know through Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).

The believer’s knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is only provisional. It is sufficient for recognizing and trusting the object of faith (John 17:3; Rom. 10:9). Without answering all our questions, it provides an adequate light for the journeyer in this darkened world (2 Pet. 1:19). But this knowledge is only a foretaste of knowing God “face to face” in the hereafter, when the day dawns and the morning star arises in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19)[1].

What has been revealed to date is more than enough to garner our trust and our allegiance.

[1] EDBT, Timothy R. Phillips.