The Master Science.
Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of mankind is man – Alexander Pope
The true science and study of mankind is man – Pierre Charron
Is that true? That the highest study man can engage is the study of man?
Theologians would beg to differ. Charles Spurgeon calls the study of God “the master science” when he says this….
“The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. The subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe…The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified and the knowledge of the Godhead in the gloriou sTinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intelle t, nothing so mangify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.”
Do you know God? We are beginning a summer series called “KNOWING GOD: A study on the Attributes of God.” Today is introductory. This means we are going to ask and try to answer several questions: What does it mean to “know” God? Why is it important to know God? How can we know God?”
“We must begin to think of God more nearly as He is” (Tozer) You’ll remember that God rebuked the friends of Job because they spoke of Him what was not true. We must know God and to know Him we must think of Him as He is, not as we wish Him to be.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. The mightiest thought a mind can entertain is the thought of God” (Tozer)
What does it mean to know God?
What it doesn’t mean is knowing a bunch of Scripture. Yet, to know God you have to know Scripture. But knowing God means more than a familiarity with chapters and verses. It’s more than having a bunch of bible facts in your head. At best that would mean that you know about God, but, you do not know God. Take for instance the Pharisees in John 5. Turn there with me and follow along in verse 39. You can see they were experts in the Scriptures but they couldn’t even tell God the Son was standing right in front of them.
Similarly we do not know God simply because we participate in the religion of God. Turn to Isaiah 1:2-3. The animals know their masters but Israel does not know their God. Yet, they are so very religious. Follow along in verses 10-16. The Pharisees of Jesus day were guilty of the same fault: experts in the religion of God while ignorant of their God. Matthew 23:25-28 is a portion of Jesus’ flaming rebuke of this: “….”
APPLICATION: Are we confident we know God because we have “read the Bible” or we have been “in Church”? We can know things about God that we hear, and we can join in al the religion God has given us, but, all the while not know God.
Maybe a good illustration is someone who is thinking about visiting our church. While a website can help people get a feel for our church, to really know the church you can’t just read “about” it. You have to go participate with it and get to know it by experiencing it firsthand.
Or take the President of the United States. I may know about Him from the News and from his positions on various issues and his policies. However, I don’t know President Biden the way Hunter does. Or Ashley, or Naomi, or Beau. They know him by having lived with him and grown up around him. They know him as Dad. Do we know God by living with Him? As Father? Or do we just know about Him because we hear others who actually know Him talk about Him and we are going along with all the religion of God even though we don’t really know Him?
So what then does it mean to “know” God? It means that our picture of God is formed by His self-revelation (Scriptures) and therefore by faith we live for Him and with Him everyday. By these two things we come to experience God personally. More and more His thoughts are becoming my thoughts and His ways are becoming my ways. So it is both knowledge of God’s likeness, trust in Him and conforming to Him and seeing Him work in my life that adds up to me saying, “I know God.” Let me unpack that a little bit more from Scripture.
First: Knowing God requires faith. It requires that you not only know about God, but, you believe what you know about Him. Knowing God means that you have faith in Him and you trust in Him as the kind of God you see Him as in the Scriptures.
Second: knowing God also means obedience to God. Turn to 1 John 2:3-6. A person is said to know God when they obey God’s commands.
Third: Knowing God means we want to learn and know truth. Turn over to 1 John 4:6….
Fourth: Knowing God is also seen in love. Reading further in 1 John 4:7-8
What all this adds up to is that knowing God means more than simply having an awareness of the facts of who God is and what He is like. It is more than being able to recite lots of Bible verses. It is more than being able to give a description of what God is like. Knowing God is being able to tell someone what God is like, but, also having God’s likeness making personal changes in you. Knowing God means that what you know about God is changing you to be more like God.
Why is knowing God important?
The first reason is because God’s desire and purpose is to be known. From Genesis to Revelation this is a metanarrative. “ God proclaimed in Jeremiah 9:24, “Let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD…”
Later in Jeremiah, describing the New Covenant in chapter 31 God says, “No longer will a man teach his neighbor or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the LORD’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jer. 31:34).
The second reason knowing God is important is because of Eternal Life. Turn to John 17:3 with me. From Jesus’ own mouth the very definition of eternal life is that a person “knows God”. And notice Jesus adds Himself, “and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” You have to know God and you have to know Jesus Christ too. Why? Because no one can know God without Jesus Christ. To have eternal life you have to know God and to know God you have to know Jesus. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “If you really knew me you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7).
The theological truth underlying all this is that Jesus is God in the flesh. He is a prophet who spoke the words of God, but, He is also at the same time that very God. In fact, He is called the Word of God. And John 1 says “the word became flesh”. Why? To make God known to man. John 1:18 says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made Him known. The Greek word translated “Made Him known” literally means “has explained” or “to explain”. God the One and Only, who is also called the Word of God, who is also the eternal 2nd Person of the Trinity, came in the flesh and the whole purpose of His incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth was to explain God to mankind. His whole life on earth, His death, His resurrection and ascension, His teachings His miracles – everything about this Jesus – was the perfect explanation of God to man. “He is the visible image of God” Colossians 1:15 declares. “The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory the exact representation of His being” Hebrews 1:3 heralds.
Eternal life requires knowing God and knowing God requires knowing Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus Christ?
The third reason to know God enhance the praises in your prayer life. Psalm 103:1-5
Fourth, your faith will become stronger. The legendary missionary Hudson Taylor was determined to make sure he knew how to depend on God before going to China. He was intentionally testing himself in various ways to teach himself to trust God and not man. As you read his diary you see a man who was confident that God was faithful, but, felt his own faith inadequate. So he purposefully put himself through exercises where rather than accepting help from man he waited for the Lord to provide. And God did! When you know God your faith will become stronger.
Fifth, you will become better at asking God in prayer. Abraham knew God was just, and so Abraham was quite bold in petitioning God based on that faith that God is just (Gen 18:25)
Sixth, you will have greater joy. Jonathan Edwards describes the pure delight of his meditations on God…pg 100, “The sweetest joys and delights that I have experienced have not been from a hope for my own good circumstances, but, in a direct view of the glorious things of God.” In another place he says, “The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception…”
Seventh, you will be more humble. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me….” Job (42:5-6) and Isaiah (6:1-4) were both humbled when they saw (knew) God.
The 8th reason knowing God is so important is to avoid idolatry. Tozer says “the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” Also he says idolatry “is a heart “that assumes that God is other than He is.”
How do we know God?
First through His Word. Here again the point is to have faith in what the word says. Believe it.
Second through obedience. Obey the commands of Jesus. Again this too comes from faith. Obedience is the fruit of a life that is being lived by faith.