Sunday, 3 January 2016

The knowledge of God

This afternoon I read a straightforward but striking sermon by Edward Griffin on the knowledge of God. He begins by observing that there were few signs around that indicated many people, including Christians, had it. He noticed that Christians in ‘their religious knowledge and conversation are too confined to subordinate subjects; and in their very prayers their eyes are apt to be more intensely fixed on the blessings they ask or the sins they deplore, than on the face of God himself.’ The knowledge that he recommended came from having a true understanding of God and a holy intimacy with him.

There are some obvious general reasons why we should want to increase in our knowledge of God. The fact that we are creatures should cause us to want to know more about our Creator. Moreover, the experience of receiving his ongoing provision for our needs and his maintaining us in existence in time and eternity should make us want to know more about him. And the realisation that our knowledge of him is always imperfect in this life should be another reason for wanting to know more about him.

For Griffin, there were also some specific reasons for increasing in our knowledge of God. First, a clear knowledge of God in Jesus is purifying in the sense that it transforms a person. Such a knowledge of God prevents wilful sin and enables one to become active and loving. Seeing God in Christ guards the soul against temptation and helps purify the heart from sin. It is a mistake to think that looking only at our sins is helpful in sanctification. Knowing God in Christ is purifying.

Second, this knowledge of God is also humbling. It leads a believer to penitence and to wonder at the patience and mercy of God with sinners. Such a Christian does not compare himself with those who will make him look good. Instead he contrasts himself with God and wonders how such a God could love him. Yet he can lie in the dust and gaze on God. Seeing God makes the Christian indifferent to human distinctions and the fear of man. Still, he knows that he has only seen a little of God, feels guilty that he knows so little, is afraid that he will lose the little he has, and wants to know more.

Third, the knowledge of God is also exalting because it lifts the soul to higher matters. Interaction with great persons can ennoble an individual, but what are they in comparison with interacting with God? And fourth, the knowledge of God brings the greatest happiness to a believer. Knowing him brings peace and joy.

When a Christian increases in knowledge of God in Christ, he discovers ‘the full assurance of faith’. He finds that God is a solid rock, and faithful; he is aware that God is his Father and that Jesus is his Saviour and his brother.

A desire for an increased knowledge of God in Christ should be the main reason why we read the Bible, or a religious book, or attend church, or participate in fellowship, or engage in personal prayer. When this happens over a period of time the increase in grace and comfort will be obvious.

What can I say? Do I know God as I should? Do I know God as I could? Do I know God as I would if I knew that today was my last day on earth?

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