One of the fundamental truths in our calling is that God has called us to know Him (John 17:3). This is an astounding blessing to develop a relationship with our Creator. Yet, if we are not careful, we can settle for knowing OF God and fail to truly come to know God. What is the difference between these options and does it matter which one is evident in our lives?
[Devin Schulz] I’d like to start today, the sermon, by asking a question: How do you know if you really know someone? How do you know if you really know someone? What’s the set of criteria for that?
I mentioned in Oshkosh – when I gave it this morning – I thought about this, so I already have my answer. You don’t have the luxury of thinking beforehand, but I wanted to give an example of different levels of knowing, perhaps, and the key to the theme. The past couple of Sabbath Thoughts I have done have been running related.
There was a man named Steve Prefontaine – and I began running when I was in fifth grade – and Steve Prefontaine was really the reason why I began running. He was a runner in the late sixties, early seventies, and when I was in fifth grade, I saw a movie about him and it motivated me to run. I know lots about Steve Prefontaine. I’ve seen all the documentaries. There was a couple of feature films made, books that were put out, and so I could tell you that he was born in Coos Bay. His father’s name was Ray, who was a carpenter. His 5K PR time was 13:21.87. He went to the University of Oregon as a Duck. He was in the 1972 Olympics. I can go on and on. His middle name was Roland. I know lots about him, but he died May 30, 1975. It was a tragic accident – car accident. He was 24 years old and so I’ve never met him. And so really I don’t know him, but I know of him. And there is a small distinction with that one preposition of.
I know of Steve Prefontaine. I know lots of facts about him, but I don’t really know him. I tend to be pedantic in that way, in some cases, and perhaps you’ve had a similar circumstance. Maybe someone comes to you, and asks you, “Do you know so and so?” And the response is, “Well, I don’t know them, but I know of them.” We haven’t had enough dealings with them to say that we know them, but perhaps we’ve heard of them through other people, or heard the name, or whatever the case may be – or, maybe the opposite. If someone comes to you, and says, “Hey, so-and-so says they know you.” And you say, “Well, they know of me, but they don’t know me.” There is a different level there and there are interesting implications in that slight difference – again, one preposition, of – knowing of someone versus simply knowing them. And I think social media adds an interesting aspect to this, because we can go online into various social media accounts, and we can find out lots of information about people. You can find out where they went on vacation, where they live, their family members and never actually know them – never meet them. We can gather lots of data on them. And the distinction has to be made that we may know of them, but we don’t truly know them.
Let’s turn to John 17. The sermon today is not going to focus on our human relationships. That’s an important thing in a lot of the studies that are being done now, especially with social media. We are beginning to see the impact that social media is having in interpersonal relations, as we have now whole generations who have never known a time without social media. That’s their whole way of communicating. I am kind of on the tail-end of that, but some of our teenagers grew up that. We had teen club this week, and they are finding that there are a lot of negative things that come from that. And people have a hard time with actually knowing people on a deep, intimate level. We’re not going to talk about that. We’re actually going to talk about something far more important – far more important. And we’ve turned to this verse several times here in Milwaukee – and I know we’re connected with the Dells. We’ve turned here, and this verse has been on my mind really since Passover, as we read through this at Passover, and the statement that is made here. We’ll start reading in verse 2 – this is Christ’s prayer to His Father before He was betrayed and it says:
John 17:2 John 17:2As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.
American King James Version×– “as You have given Him – He’s talking of the Son – speaking of Himself – authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.
There is this recognition of authority. He is praying to God and saying, “You have given Your people to Me. You have given Me authority over them to give them eternal life.” Then He goes on to explain eternal life – expound on it. He says in verse 3:
V-3 – “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I’d like to ask a question, not in the context of our human relationships, but in a relationship with God: Do we know God or do we know of God? It is a fine line to draw, I think, but it has very important implications. In the same way that we can know of someone – I know of Steve Prefontaine – and not truly know them, we can know of God and not really know God.
There is a difference. There’s a difference. The idea of knowing of someone – in this case, God – there is a factual understanding, an intellectual understanding about character traits. And I am sure, if I went around the room, and we ask people to stand up, we could give very sound descriptions, based on scripture, of God, in the intellectual sense. That would be knowing of God. We can describe some of the characteristics as it is given in scripture, but that is different than saying, “We know God.” Knowing God implies a close, intimate, personal relationship. And it’s important enough that it really forms the basis of our calling. As it says in verse 3:
V-3 – “And this is eternal life, that they – speaking of us – may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Again, it is a small difference in wording, but profound, and perhaps, even dangerous to some degree – implications or distinctions need to be made. The reason I say that is that, in our minds, we can very easily accept that our ability to repeat facts about God means that we know Him when that is not the case. We can turn to the passages in scripture. We can think of those things on an intellectual level, and that certainly does indicate we know of God, but as we’ll see, there is a distinction to be made.
Truly knowing God – the reason why it is difficult – is contrary to what our carnal minds want to do. We’ll talk about this a little later but the process of getting to know God on an intimate, personal level requires a humility and a submission. And that’s not what we tend to naturally gravitate to, as humans. We don’t like to be humble and submissive, but that is what is required if we want to have a relationship with God – to know God.
It is much easier to commit to knowing of God than to commit to knowing God. I speak of these things because I’ve struggled with them. These are not things that I am not familiar with. I’ve gone through them – and I think, especially, as not being a first generation. I’m trying to add up in my mind – I always forget – fourth. My great-grandmother was the first one in my family to come in. And I think there’s a struggle, whether you’re first generation, second, third, fourth, whatever the case may be. But from my personal perspective, as a fourth generation, there’s a difference in how we are called in some aspects.
It took me a while to recognize this, because when we grow up among the Church of God – within the ecclesia, as we have lots of people here who have had that background – we are generally taught about God. We are being taught about God today, on the Sabbath. Every Sabbath we come and we are taught about God, but there is something that is required of us to engage further – to not simply know of God, but to know God. And that is part of the calling that we have. And it’s difficult as we grow up to say, “Okay, I know all these things about God. Why don’t I have the XYZ-relationship that I see in those around me? What is the disconnect? Why do I not have that?”
So one of the fundamental truths of our calling is the tremendous understanding that God is calling us to know Him. He is calling us to a deep personal relationship. He wants that with each and every one of us. It is astounding to think about it. The Creator of the universe wants to know us and wants us to know Him. Yet, if we are not careful, we can settle for knowing of God and fail to truly come to know God on a personal level.
Today we are going to look at the difference. What is the difference between these two, the distinctions? Does it matter which one is in our lives? How do we tell which one we have in our lives? So the title is: Knowing of God or Knowing God.
First, let’s look at some examples that show that we can know of God without knowing God. Let’s go to John, chapter 8, and I hope this is something that we can all relate to. I didn’t mean to focus on those who are second, third, fourth generation, but it applies as well to those who are first generation. I don’t mean to make generational distinctions, but the same effect can happen if we’ve been called for a number of years – that we fail to have that deeper connection by knowing of God rather than knowing God. And it is a process that really deepens over time. It is not just a one-moment thing. I hope everybody is still listening. So, John, chapter 8, and verse 53. Here the Pharisees – as they do throughout the Gospels – they are confronting Christ about various things, and Christ is responding back to them. And they were upset with Him, because they were claiming Abraham as their father, and that was really their anchor. They claimed lineage to Abraham, and then Christ said, “Well, if you are Abraham’s seed, you would do the works of Abraham – which aren’t the case” – which is interesting and will come to play later on in the message, But here in verse 53, they are coming to Christ, and saying:
John 8:53-56 John 8:53-56  Are you greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom make you yourself?
 Jesus answered, If I honor myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honors me; of whom you say, that he is your God:
 Yet you have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like to you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
American King James Version×– “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” Who do you think you are? You think you are better than Abraham? Again, they were claiming that as, that’s the reason for being in power – the reason for being righteous – because they can go all the way back to Abraham. Verse 54: Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. He calls them out. You know, the Pharisees would have been raised in their communities to know of God. They would have been taught scripture. They would have known the Old Testament front and back. In some cases, they would memorize the whole Old Testament. And they claimed to know God. They claimed to know the Father of Jesus Christ. And Christ calls them out and says, “You claim that you know God – that He is your God and verse 55: “Yet you have not known Him…. Where is the disconnect? I don’t doubt, and as they do, they quoted scripture. They could quote verses to Christ in response. And yet Christ said, “You don’t know God” – not truly, not deeply, not intimately, as God wants. In contrast to that, He says: “…you do not know Him, but I know Him. Jesus Christ had the perfect relationship with His Father – the most intimate, the most personal relationship. He could truly say that He knew God in the way that we’re all striving, hopefully, to know. “And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you.” “I shall be a liar like you.”They were lying, when they said that they knew God, because they didn’t. They simply knew of God. “But I do know Him and keep His word. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
Here we have an example of a group of people who knew of God. In numerated detail, they could go in and describe God, and they had arguments all the time about God, and yet they didn’t ever really know God.
Now it’s easy for us to look at this, I think, with any understanding we have, we look at the Pharisees as the bottom of the pile, as far as our standards. So we can easily discount, and say, “Well, that’s the Pharisees? They were way off.” Let’s go to Job, chapter 42, for another example of this. Sure, the Pharisees had a lot that they didn’t do right. The example still stands. Their example – perhaps a bad way – may be an extreme, but the application still applies. And here we have Job. We went through the Job Bible studies a few months back, and so we are obviously not going to go through all the chapters. We’re going to pick it up in Job 42, but what we have played out, from the first part of Job all the way to when Elihu and God get involved, Job is really recounting what he knows of God. He’s shown, “I know this of God. Why is God not giving me justice?” And so he’s complaining, in a sense, that he’s suffering when he was right. And the Bible talks about him as, perhaps, one of the three most righteous men that has ever lived – Noah, Job, Daniel, I think is the way it says it. So he’s going through all these things, and he has a knowledge of God, and yet God is working something out. And so God finally gets involved, and He steps in. In verse 4, Job responds back, after God had finished what He was going to say, and in the midst of his response he says:
Job 42:4-6 Job 42:4-6  Hear, I beseech you, and I will speak: I will demand of you, and declare you to me.
 I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you.
 Why I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
American King James Version×– “Listen, please, and let me speak. You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’” It’s kind of like God had twisted the tables, if we remember of what Job said. Job had wanted to question God, and God said, “No, I am going to question you. You give Me an answer.” And I find the brevity of this profound as well. He went on through chapter after chapter describing how God needed to take notice of him, but then when God actually gets involved, it is just a couple of verses here – short and to the point – and the realization that Job was brought to in verse 5. He says, “This is my answer. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear – Job had a knowledge of God. He had heard of God. He had known of God, but God was working something through his sufferings, and through revealing Himself to Job in a way that is quite profound, and so there was a change. He says, “Before all this took place, I heard of You. I knew of You.” And then he says, “But now my eye sees You.
My eye sees You.” This idea of my eye sees you, in the Hebrew, literally means a knowledge of somebody. You would say, “I see you and I know you.” He is saying, “Now I know You.” By seeing God, he got to know God on a deeper level, and what was the response from that? That realization brought him to this point: “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job knew of God and was brought to the realization – through all the sufferings and through God intervening – that he needed something more. Knowing of God was not what God desired. God desired that Job would know Him more intimately – to see Him, in this case. And through all he went through, God brought him to the place where he could know God more deeply.
If Job needed this, perhaps we do as well. Perhaps we need to look at ourselves, and say, “Do I know God or do I simply know of God?” That is a little higher up the rung from the Pharisees, as far as the examples we looked to.
Let’s look at one more – that’s the example of Paul. Philippians 3. We get a lot of personal details about Paul – to the point where we say, “I feel like I know him,” when you read through. Well, we know of him. Someday we will know him. Philippians 3 – Paul is making the case here that is pretty interesting. Philippians 3 – let’s start reading in verse 3:
Philippians 3:3 Philippians 3:3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
American King James Version×– For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. He’s urging them not to boast in the things that we can accomplish on our own, but instead, to boast in what God, through Christ, can do in us. And then he goes on to give almost a pedigree, which is pretty interesting. Let’s go ahead and read it. Verse 4:
V-4-6 – ...though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so…. Paul was a Pharisee. He’s going to go on and describe these things, but he was a very driven man in what he did, and he is saying, “If anybody could have had confidence in the flesh, it would have been me.” …circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel – “child of Abraham? Check; covenant token, the circumcision? Check – got it – physically, I’m doing good.” …of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee – he was a separated one – that is what Pharisee means – separated out. Even among his peers he was above what was required or expected. …concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
You know, much like Job was blameless. Paul would have lived a life that would have been incredibly tedious to the very minute aspects of the law including the law of the Jews that they would have enforced. Ritual washings, and ritual sacrifices, and all these things he would have kept to the letter – to the very point. And he was incredibly zealous for all that he had done. He would have known of God. He would have been one that studied the Old Testament and so he gives this pedigree. “These are all the things I had in my favor.” But then he was called on the way to Damascus, blinded. In verse 7:
V-7-8 – But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. “All those things,” he said, “made me nothing in comparison to what I have.” Yet indeed I also count all things loss – not only the things that I had, or the things that I may not have had, or have now – all things – I am willing to give up – for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ. His recognition was that he was losing those things, he was forgetting those things, to do something greater – to get to know God. And so he was willing to do these things because of who he was doing them for – the knowledge that he had of getting to know God through Christ. Continuing on in verse 9:
V-9-11 – and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. This idea…faith is an understanding – a recognition of who God is – and a trust in His character. He was brought to the point where he was beginning to know God more deeply. And the comparison of that, versus what he had in a physical sense of knowing of God, he said, was nothing. Then in verse 10…. All these things that he is giving up, he is sacrificing so he could be close to God. He says: …that I may know Him – all these things he did that he may know Him – and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
All those things he would be willing to give up to know God – to know Him – and His resurrection, and all those things that are entailed – that calling.
It is an interesting example. And we have more of Paul’s life than we do perhaps Job, as far as minute details, but with this example we can draw some interesting principles from Paul’s calling – about what it means to know God – about what was worked in Paul’s life through His calling, conversion and the deepening of his knowledge of God, and that process.
We can look to that as an example in our own lives and ask how well we are doing in that – following that same path to getting to know God – looking at those as benchmarks, perhaps. And the first thing we see played out is that we cannot know God on our own. If anybody could have figured out, with their drive, with their intelligence, it would have been Paul. Look at his pedigree. He would have been the one that could have known God on his own strength, his own intelligence. But we can’t. All those things were rubbish. He had to give all that up in order to know God.
Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 2. We have to recognize that God must reveal Himself to us. God is not like another person, where we can initiate a relationship with pretty much anybody we see – sit down and talk and get to know them, and grow that relationship. God is different. And 1 Corinthians 2 describes this, and this is Paul again, speaking under inspiration of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 1 Corinthians 2:1-5  And I, brothers, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God.
 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
American King James Version×– And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He came preaching the Gospel. Even the way he did that was directing people to God through Christ, that they may know Him – have a relationship with Him – but as he continues on, he says: I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. Paul wasn’t successful in his campaigns because he came up with the best arguments, he was the best orator. That didn’t have anything to do with it. He came to the Corinthian Church and said, “I didn’t come to you with these swelling words and create this amazing presentation and you had to listen.” There is no human wisdom.” He said. “It wasn’t my own human reasoning, my own wisdom, my own intelligence.” He said everything that was brought was a demonstration of the power of God working through him and the people. …that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. You know, there are men who can go and are charismatic and can draw people to themselves. Paul didn’t want that. He wanted to draw people to God through Christ. And so he preached that – that they may know God. That is what he was preaching at a very core level. But it wasn’t his own reasoning, his own superior intellect that brought that to pass. It was God’s Spirit working. In verse 6:
V-6-9 – However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. With all the things that we know, as humans on a physical level, we are like little ants that are going to come to nothing. And Paul didn’t speak according to that. If he did, that work would have failed. It wouldn’t have worked. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, but as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” We throw up our hands then. We can’t know it. “I am physical. I can’t hear it, I can’t see it - there is no way. What is the point?” God doesn’t leave us without help, but it is the recognition of where that comes from. Verse 10:
V-10 – But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. God gives us His Spirit when we are baptized. As we are called, God’s Spirit begins working with us. And that’s a real promise that we should not discount. Whether we are baptized or not, God is working with us. So we have the opportunity to know these things, but it is not our own wisdom, our own intelligence. If we put in 10 hours of study every day, it doesn’t mean we can come to these conclusions and understanding. Verse 11:
V-11-15 – For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? We use this comparison between the man and animals. Have you ever tried to teach a dog arithmetic? It doesn’t work. They can’t reason. They can’t think the way we can. They don’t have the spirit of man within them. In the same way, it says: Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. We can’t come to these things on our own. God has to reveal them to us, including Himself – not just the knowledge but the knowledge of who He is – revealing Himself to us in a relationship. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. We are going to talk about this later but some of the things that we understand and believe don’t make sense. You can’t logically find a reason for this to be true. And that is hard to accept sometimes, but God reveals these things to us. And we will talk about that a little later in specific examples. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. And verse 16:
V-16 – For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” I think that’s a quote from Job. “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” God is so far above us. We can’t even begin to try to attain His mind and yet He doesn’t leave us helpless. Look at the rest of the verse. But we have the mind of Christ. God has given us the opportunity to know these things, including knowing Him on a deep, intimate level.
So we have to recognize that we can’t know God on our own – in two ways. One, we can’t initiate that relationship. We won’t turn there – John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×, John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
American King James Version×– common verses that we read. No one comes to the Father unless he is drawn through Christ. We don’t initiate that on our own. He reaches out to us. No matter how much study, how much human reasoning we do, we can’t make that leap. We can’t reach across the void, however you want to look at it. The other aspect is, no matter how much studying and reasoning we do, we can’t understand the wisdom of God. Job is a good example of that – and Paul, as we were reading. Job reasoned for how many chapters? He was apparently very educated with the knowledge he had of the stars, the solar system, and the way things worked. And then God came and said, “Well, what about this and this and this?” And he said, “Time out. I don’t know. I don’t know.” It was beyond his comprehension. He couldn’t answer these things. He had to come to the realization that God is that much greater than us. It wasn’t until God revealed Himself to Job that Job could begin to comprehend. And look what it took for him to be in that state of mind – all the suffering he had to go through in order to be ripe, if you want to say that, for God to work with him.
So this is a tough thing to accept, because we say, “What do you mean, we can’t figure it out? If I just piece these together, we can prove it.” I always liked proofs in math – if and only this, and if and only then. Well, it makes sense. It is logical. You balance the equation on each side. Sometimes it doesn’t work. We have to recognize that God reveals these things to us. It is beyond our comprehension without Him.
So what is God requiring then? Let’s go to Isaiah 66. After all this we think, “Well, what role do I have?” As God worked with Job, and God work with Paul – as we looked at those examples – they were able to come to a deeper knowledge of God – to know God more deeply – go from that knowing of God to knowing God – when they were humble, when they had, as we are going to read here, a poor and contrite spirit. Isaiah 66, and verse 1:
Isaiah 66:1-2 Isaiah 66:1-2  Thus said the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that you build to me? and where is the place of my rest?
 For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×– Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? It is a valid question. God is so great. We can’t build, think or imagine anything that can contain Him, house Him. For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. Think about the universe that God created. It is pretty magnificent to be greater than that. For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. There is this greatness of God, high above us. His ways and thoughts are so much greater than ours, we have no chance of getting up there and yet God says: But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.
It’s that frame of mind then that God can work with to develop a close relationship. You can’t come proud and stiff-necked before God the Creator of the universe. There is a humility that has to be there. And part of that humility is this recognition that we went through in 1 Corinthians 2.
We can’t do this on our own. We can’t! What is the phrase that God used in His calling of Paul? “Paul, is it hard for you to kick against the goads?” Think of that dichotomy. I mentioned it in Oshkosh – it came to mind – I didn’t today – I just read through it, but in Philippians 3, he is talking about how zealous he was for God’s way of life – that he was willing to persecute people. I have never…not to that degree – as far as putting to death…I probably have persecuted in a bullying way and I shouldn’t have – but I have never persecuted somebody in that way. He was so zealous that he didn’t flinch. But then there was the opposite that we read later on. He says, “I am willing to suffer”. On one hand, before his calling, he says,” I was willing to inflict suffering” and now, he is saying, “I am willing to suffer.” He was humbled before God, and God was able to work with him – to have that complete transformation.
So what that brings out then next is, that the idea that the more we know God, the deeper our relationship with God, the more our life changes. Who we are, changes. The more we know God, the more we change. And then that’s manifested in the way we live our lives.
Let’s go to 1 John, chapter 2. Just like Paul, his life turned dramatically. Even Job, when he said, “I repent in dust and ashes.” Repent means turn. He changed the way he was at a core level before God, but then also the way he lived the rest of his life, hopefully. 1 John, chapter 2, and we’ll start reading in verse 3.
1 John 2:3-6 1 John 2:3-6  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
 He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
 But whoever keeps his word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
 He that said he stays in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
American King James Version×– Now by this we know that we know Him – if we want to know that we know God, we’ll ask that question of ourselves – how do we know if I know God or if I simply know of God? – if we keep His commandments. If we keep His commandments – there’s a lot to that, because we’ve looked at the examples of the Pharisees, who kept the commandments in the letter, strictly, and yet we are told they did not know God. So there is a deeper principle there. As Christ said, “Those who worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth”. There is this changing of the core.
But continuing on: He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. That’s pretty strong. I am trying to think in my mind…I think the only people I’ve ever called liars was probably my brother and sister, and that may or may not have been true. But that is a pretty strong wording, but it doesn’t mince words. If we say that we know Him, and we don’t keep the commandments, we are a liar. So we can apply that to our own lives, because I think, hopefully, if we go around the room, and say, “Yes, I know God, I know God.” And that’s good and well, but it has to be backed up by the change in our lives. Our lives then should reflect us knowing God by who we are and how we live our lives.
Continuing on: But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. This idea of love is at the root – the weighty part of the commandment – love for God, love for man – on these hang all the law and the prophets – judgement, mercy and faith and so on. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked – walking as Christ walked. Certainly He kept the law. He was sinless. But walking as Christ walked is much deeper than simply obeying the commandments. If we claim to know God, and we are striving to walk as Christ walked, that is a high calling. The Pharisees kept the commandments and they did not know God.
I would like to go to 1 Peter 2. If we had been baptized – hopefully, we had some counselling beforehand – if we haven’t been baptized, part of the counselling that we go through is, what is called counting the cost. We have to make sure that we understand what we are agreeing with. It’s that important. We are saying, “We are agreeing that we are going to walk as Christ walked.” Do we know what that means? What does that entail for us? 1 Peter, chapter 2. Walking as Christ walked means, yes, keeping the commandments. I was raised within the Church and I kept the commandments. And I have to say I knew of God while I kept those commandments, but I didn’t know God. I grew to know God. We can know of God, and we can even keep the commandments, and not know God. Let’s go to 1 Peter, chapter 2, and verse 19.
1 Peter 2:19 1 Peter 2:19For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
American King James Version×– For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. Time out again. “What do you mean wrongfully? Don’t I have rights?” The common thing that’s talked about kids – when they play – “It is not fair!” Don’t we have a right to be treated fairly? For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully…. That means giving up of some of our rights that we may have. Continuing on: For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? I think of this in the terms of a job. If I do a poor job, at wherever my career is, and I get fired, or I get disciplined over and over and eventually fired, what credit is it if I take that patiently? I deserved it. I did wrong and I got punished for it. What credit is that to me? I didn’t do anything special. Let’s continue on: But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. That same scenario. What if I have a job, or I am in school – whatever the case may be – and I refuse to do something on the Sabbath – I stay committed to God and His holy time – Sabbath, holy days – and I get fired? Is it not within my rights? Am I not suffering wrongfully? I am doing what is right before God. Take it patiently. We have the opportunity then to say, “How will I respond to this? I am in the right before God.” How do we respond to this? How should we respond to this, if we are walking as Christ walked? Well, it continues on: For to this you were called – to this you were called – because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. Part of following in the steps of Christ means that we are going to endure suffering, even if we are doing the right thing. It goes on in verse 22:
V-22-23 – “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth….” We rehearsed this in Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread. He did nothing wrong and what happened to Christ? What happened to Christ? At what point did He appeal to the laws, the systems. He took it patiently. In verse 23: …who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return. When He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.
That’s a profound statement. He knew God so intimately that He committed His eternal life to God the Father. He said, “God will work this out. I don’t need to worry about it.” Think about that in the context of our daily lives on the world scene – anything that goes on in our lives, it doesn’t matter. Do we have that frame of mind? I don’t mean that it doesn’t matter because it does. But it doesn’t matter in terms of what we need to be doing. If we are following Christ’s example, that means we will be suffering for doing right. Are we taking it patiently? To the degree that we know God, is the degree that we will take it patiently, just like Christ did. He knew God so intimately that He was able to endure that suffering – perhaps more suffering than any man ever – and yet take it patiently – not returning in kind.
Let’s go to chapter 3. Peter must have seen this need coming when he wrote this letter, because he addresses this suffering many times. 1 Peter 3, and verse 8:
1 Peter 3:8-12 1 Peter 3:8-12  Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:
 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that you are thereunto called, that you should inherit a blessing.
 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
 Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
American King James Version×– Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another. Love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous – not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. Think about that – not returning evil for evil. Brothers and sisters give a lot of evil to each other, and it is hard not to return that evil back. We used to do that to my sister growing up – to give her a hard time – and she would try to practice this. We would tease her, or whatever the case may be, and eventually, she would say, “I know the truth.” And that was her way of saying, “I am done. I am not even going to engage. I am not going to return evil for evil.” Well, as a good brother, we couldn’t let that slide. She couldn’t be the winner of the argument. And so my brother and I developed the saying, “Well, we know the true truth,” and she would stomp off. “Mom!”
Continuing on: He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” God recognizes, responds to those who are walking in His ways. That comes first. We step out in faith to follow the example Christ set, and He responds to us. The contrast to that is “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” If we are practicing evil – the more we practice evil, in whatever form and whatever level, the less we will know God. That’s just evident – that the more we know God the less we will practice evil – the eb and flow of things – it’s not a cold, cut, dry line. Continuing on:
V-13-15 – And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? What can people do to us, ultimately? Christ said, “Don’t fear those who can kill your body. That’s the end of it. You’re done.” But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. You know, especially growing up in the Church, we read about blessings of God. We looked at Abraham. God blessed him with a tremendous amount of riches. And I thought, growing up, those are the blessings I want. And when we think of blessings, perhaps we think of it in that physical way. We have a good house, a good job, comfort, whatever the case may be, and those are blessings from God, but do we think of our suffering as blessings? Because the sufferings we go through are really blessings, because the sufferings we go through help us to know God better and that’s what’s truly valuable – that relationship we’re developing. And that’s what we should be looking for. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
I think that is interesting in this context. He is saying, “You’re going to be suffering for righteousness sake.” And the response is that the people are going to say, “What’s wrong with this guy? We keep kicking him and he won’t respond. His going through all these hard things and yet he has hope, he has joy. I need to find out what is in his life that is different. Why can’t I have that?” And so they come and ask questions. How well are we doing in that – enduring suffering, taking it patiently, enduring living in this world, not complaining. There is a thing to be said for sighing and crying for the abominations. I don’t want to say that. There are horrible things that happen, but to get embroiled in the politics, and the things that are going back and forth, we get distracted from what we are truly here to do – to get to know God. And every opportunity, as things may get difficult, is just another opportunity to deepen our relationship with Him, if we choose to suffer in patience. In verse 16:
V-16-17 – ...having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. They have nothing to hold against you – even those who get angry at you, because you are not responding to their taunts or whatever the case may be. They have nothing to say. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
We won’t read the other account here, but in 1 Peter 4, verses 12 through16, Peter says this again about suffering patiently.
Let’s go to 2 Timothy, chapter 1. At the root of our ability – as Christ set the example – at the root of our ability is a trust and a knowledge of God. That intimacy needs to be there and Paul said that. He commented on that. So, 2 Timothy, chapter 1, and verse 12. This is thought to be his last letter, at least that we have recorded. But he knew his death was likely imminent, and so he is writing these things to Timothy. And even under the stress that he was under then, it didn’t phase him. He still did what he had to do. In verse 12:
2 Timothy 1:12 2 Timothy 1:12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day.
American King James Version×– For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed. “I know whom I have believed.” Notice, he doesn’t say the things that he said in Philippians 3: “I know that I am a child of Abraham. I know I was circumcised on the eighth day. I know I did these things.” He says, “I placed my trust in the relationship I have with God. I know Him. I know Him and that allows me to endure these sufferings, because I have faith and believe what God says will happen – the promises that He sets forth will occur.” …and I believe and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
Paul was brought to the point where he could endure these things. Christ was the pinnacle example, but Paul here is saying, “I can suffer – put in chains, forty lashes, stoned to death, shipwrecked, snake bitten, all these things – because I know Him. I know God – His character. I have an intimate relationship with Him.” Can we say the same? And really, another thing that works out through is Paul’s view then – as the example we are looking at – how he sees God. We won’t turn there, for sake of time…yeah, let’s go there – Luke 19.
Luke 19 is the parable of the talents – of the minas. Because the question is asked – whether we’ve been in the Church for a long time, whether we are second, third, fourth generation, haven’t made that commitment yet – what do we need to do? And there is an interesting thing, because we need to change how we see God, and then there is another step after that. In Luke 19 – the parable of the minas – we’re not going to read through this, but it is talking about a parable of the Kingdom of God, and a certain man went to a far country, and he gave out minas to people to invest and to grow, and he gave one man one mina. We will pick up the story in verse 20. The others did a pretty good job with how they invest it, but in verse 20:
Luke 19:20-21 Luke 19:20-21  And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
 For I feared you, because you are an austere man: you take up that you layed not down, and reap that you did not sow.
American King James Version×– “Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief – the same mina that he had gotten from this nobleman, he brought back, folded up – “There you go.” Why didn’t he do anything? He was given a gift, a talent. He was given something to grow. He was given, if we might say, knowledge of God. He didn’t do anything with it, and the reason why? He says, For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow. And he was chided. His view of God was fearful. Do we limit our relationship with God because of fear? Perhaps it’s fear of starting that relationship – recognizing or understanding that commitment that we are making. It’s big. Perhaps it is fear of failure. I’ve had conversations with people in the past – other young adults that I’ve grown up with – and they’ll say, “Well, why would I take the risk of failing now when I can just wait and be in the second resurrection?” That’s like coming before God, and saying, “Here, I feared you. Here’s the mina.” We have been given a blessing, if we’ve grown up in the Church, and we have a knowledge of God. Perhaps we fear the effort.
We talked about, in the Sabbath Thoughts the past couple of weeks, this idea of racing. And this last one was about someone who starts the race fast, but when the race gets difficult, they slow down and falter and loose the race. You know in my racing career, one of the things you had to come to terms with before any race, no matter how long it was, is that this is going to hurt. We read these things about suffering. We’re called to walk as Christ walked and there is going to be trials and sufferings – through much tribulation we enter the Kingdom of God. Do we limit our relationship with God because we fear in this way?
Okay, this is what we won’t turn to – Genesis 3 – the account of Eve. And the only thing I would draw out of that is, look at her response to Satan, or the serpent, when he presented her with the option of…he said, “Did God say you can eat of all these trees?” Her response is very intellectual. “God said we may eat of all the trees in Garden” – almost word for word as God instructed – “but the tree in the midst of fruit of the Garden, we may not eat.” Okay, she responded in a knowledge of what God had said, but then Satan actually attacks God’s character and says, “God just doesn’t want you to be like Him.” She didn’t pick up on that. Someone who knows God would have said, “God wouldn’t lie to me. God can’t lie” – rather than an intellectual response of knowledge of God, but not knowing who God really is. It is an interesting thing to think about – how she responded. She didn’t defend God and His character – who God is.
Going back to the example of Paul – again, we won’t turn there but, Romans 8 – he talks about a relationship with God, and he says, “We have not been given the spirit of fear, or bondage, but we’ve been given the spirit of the children of God, by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Paul was brought, and he revealed and shows us that the relationship with God should be so intimate that we call him “Abba”. It’s a deep term of endearment – a closeness. That’s how we should view God – not out of this fear – a negative fear – but a proper fear of God – certainly reverence and awe – but view God as a loving Father.
How then do we get to know God better? James, chapter 4. If we look at the bottom of the rung – the Pharisees – hopefully, none of us fall in that position – all the way up to Job or Paul and their example, they still had opportunity to know God better. How do we do that? Well, God reveals Himself certainly through His Spirit, through His word, but there is a fundamental first step that we have to take – and we’ve touched on it briefly – but James, chapter 4, and verse 6, says:
James 4:6 James 4:6But he gives more grace. Why he said, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
American King James Version×– but He - speaking of God – gives more grace. Therefore He says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” – remember we read in Isaiah 66 – “those who are poor and of a contrite spirit.” God can work with them because God resists the proud. God resists them, but the to humble He gives grace – He works with. Because of this, because of the frame of mind we need to have – that submissive frame of mind, that humility – it says in verse 7:
V-7-10 – Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God – if we want to know God, these are the things we have to do. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. This reciprocal relationship. We take the first step in drawing to God – He has called us – respond in the way that we live our lives. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Think about Job – “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” – his lamenting and mourning. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
God’s desire is, as He says in Acts 17, that we grope for Him – that with our whole being we seek Him. When we recognize, as we read in 1 Corinthians 2, that we cannot come to God on our own accord, that the insights we have into knowing God are not from our own intellect or our own intelligence, not because we are so bright, but it does not mean we don’t have a role in getting to know God. God doesn’t simply do all the work. If we want to know God – we’ll go to an example here in Psalms – but if we want to know God, we have to do the things here. We have to become humble, just like Job. We have to humble ourselves before Him – submit to Him – be willing to get rid of our self-will in order to do God’s will – remove our own selfish interests.
Have you ever had somebody come to you for help, but still want to do things their way? I admit that I need to help, but I don’t really admit that I need help. There has to be a complete getting rid of our own self-interest. It is not a negative thing, in the sense of we don’t eat, we don’t drink, but be willing to submit to God. This is what is brought out in James 4 – change our ways to God’s ways. Take that step. Take what God has revealed to us – this knowledge of God, the way that we should live – and start acting on it in a very calculated way – calculated manner, a deliberate manner. What do I need to improve? God will honor that. Remove those things that we are doing that are wrong. And it says, if we do these things, if we humble ourselves, God will lift us up. The more that we know God, the less we are going to engage in certain activities – evil things that we talked about.
Just for notes – we won’t turn there – Proverbs 8, verse 17 – this is God speaking: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me.” One of the blessings we have with our calling – whether we’ve chosen to respond and be baptized at this point or not – is that we just have to respond to God. He had already offered up the calling. We choose to respond, to seek Him, and we will find Him, if we do these things – humble ourselves, submit ourselves before Him.
Let’s go to Psalm 73 as the final scriptures for today. Psalm 73 has been on my mind quite a bit for months. I’m a slow learner. I need things to just percolate for a while. I’d love to read the whole Psalm, but we don’t have time. I would encourage you to go ahead and read it, because to me, it’s amazing. And what’s presented here is really an example of somebody who, if we’re ever asked the question why someone leaves the Church, I think part of the answer is here in this dilemma. This is a psalm of Asaph, and it manifests in different ways – we can’t paint with such a broad brush – but Asaph here starts off by talking about what he knows of God.
Psalms 73:1-3 Psalms 73:1-3  Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well near slipped.
 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
American King James Version×– God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But something has occurred in Asaph’s life, and he says: But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. He almost turned away from God. What caused this? He goes on to describe in verse 3: For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Sound familiar? He saw the prosperity of the wicked. He was getting all riled up. He sees all these things going on around him with no consequences in his eyes. People were engaging in horrible things. They were almost gloating in their violence. It says, “They wore violence like a chain around their neck – almost taunting God. And he says, “Why aren’t You doing something? Why aren’t You reacting? Don’t you see what these people are doing?” He goes on in verse 11:
V-11 – And they say, “How does God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?”
They are taunting God. And he’s getting so riled up over this that it says he nearly stumbled - slipped. And, in verse 13, what was his response? He was being presented with struggle, with suffering, you might even say – a tribulation, a trial, whatever you may want to call it. He says:
V-13 – Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain…. I have been living God’s way of life. I have been trying to keep walking in the way I should walk, and it is all for nothing, because I could be out there doing all the things that I want to do and nothing happens. Why am I living this restrictive life when I can have it all? Look at how good they have it. …and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.
Living God’s way is not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I am plagued, I am chastened and they don’t see to be bothered by anything. Why am I doing this? In verse 15:
V-15 – If I had said, “I will speak thus,” Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. He said, “If you would have asked me, if I would have had a discussion with people, I would have been untrue. I would have lied, because I was in such a bad state of mind that I couldn’t see clearly.” And at this point, Asaph had a choice. What was he going to do? It’s the same choice we have on a daily basis. It had gotten to the point where he had to decide, “Am I going then to leave God, stumble, and do the things that I want to do – go out to the world, experience those things?” He had that choice. Or, he could do something else. And that is the route that he took. Let’s go on: When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me. He couldn’t comprehend it – just like we read in 1 Corinthians. It didn’t make sense, and what he chose to do is an example for what we all should strive to choose to do. Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. He didn’t decide, “Throw off restraint. I am going off to the world. Let’s do this!” He said, “I am going to God. I am taking this before God. He will answer. I am going to seek Him. I will seek what He would have me do. He could very easily, as he said, he could have slipped. There was a crucial moment in his life and God answered him. He had the right approach. He sought God in His sanctuary. And he goes on and he says: …then I understood their end.
Basically, he is saying, “I realize that it is not about this life. You can live it up year after year, decade after decade in this life, and enjoy all that you can.” Solomon did that and it means nothing in the end. The end, as it goes through and describes: … You cast them down to destruction. The end is calamitous, whether we see it now or not. The end that we look for is eternal life in the family of God. That is a much better end and is worthy of anything that we go through. So he sought to know God deeper.
Brethren, the Creator of the universe wants a relationship with you and me. That is not something that we can take lightly. Not only that, He doesn’t want us to sever this relationship. He doesn’t want to be Facebook friends. He wants a deep, close, intimate, personal relationship.
Brethren, do we know God this way? It is not enough to know of God. If we want to know God better, we must turn to Him with our whole heart. This is the most important relationship we will ever have – with God the Father and Jesus Christ. It is so important that we have to be vigilant to make sure we are not settling for simply knowing of God – that we have a good knowledge of God from His word. That is a good starting point, but it has to go deeper. We can know of God and not know God. Instead, we must strive to get to know God in an intimate way.
Brethren, this relationship will change our lives in a very literal way. We have dramatic examples in scripture – Paul, as we looked at. It will change our lives now and forever into all eternity. It forms the basis of our inheritance to the Kingdom – that relationship of developing with God, getting to know Him more deeply. Let’s never lose sight of this and always be diligent to know God.