Monday, 15 February 2016

Lent 2016: Knowing God

If you had [really] known Me, you would also have known My Father. From now on you know Him, and have seen Him. (John 14:7 Amplified)
A central part of the walk we have as Christians is knowing God.

Not knowing about God. Knowing Him.

Having relationship with Him on an intimate level.

Jesus makes an extraordinary statement to the disciples in this chapter. Something 2000 years later we've become so used to as a concept that it loses its impact for us.

When the Temple was built there was a room, the Holy of Holies, which was where the Spirit of God dwelt. Once a year the High Priest would make the sacrifices necessary to be ritually clean and enter this room with a rope tied around his leg so if he was struck dead by the Spirit of God he could be pulled out of the chamber.

That Spirit is the representative of the Father. Nobody had dared look on God - not even His most faithful prophets in the Old Testament except Moses. Men could not stand in His presence because His Holiness would consume them.

Jesus tells the disciples that they have seen the Father because they have seen Him. He rebukes Philip for doubting this by asking to be shown the Father, telling him that he'd basically missed the point of the previous 3 years together.
"Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves." (John 14:10-11 NKJV)
I know about God. I've been a Christian 30 years and have actually read the entire Bible - and for a guy who has concentration issues around ADD that's going some. Especially with the genealogies.

I wish I knew God as well as I know about Him. It would make my life much easier.

Don't get me wrong, I have a deep relationship with Him through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in my heart, but I have this problem. It weighs about six pounds and sits just above my shoulders and between my ears. My brain is a big problem.

Most people have the same problem - especially those of us unfortunate enough to have been born in Western cultures. We have scientific "answers" to the miraculous that on the surface explain away the need for God and as a result we end up with our faith often becoming little more than a "Get out of Hell Free" card in a transcendental Monopoly game.

My walk in the last ten years has led me to a simple conclusion: I've spent too much time learning about God in the past and not enough time getting to know Him on an intimate level. I have intellectual understanding of the historical context of the scriptures and the politics of ancient history, but my experience of the person of God has been put on the back-burner in many ways. Prayer became little more than an intellectual exercise of passing along information, as though I were giving a daily update to my line manager.

Not good.

Jesus calls us to a real relationship with God on a level humanity had lost through Adam.

If we spent time with our wives or husbands talking the way we do to God our marriages would never last a month.

My wife and I do things together. We find reasons to be together. We look for TV shows and movies that we can watch and enjoy together. We build a relationship by spending quality time together. It's not always easy and it's not always pretty, but it's worth it. I've seen superficial marriages fall apart at the first bump in the road because the couple didn't know each other. There was no unity between them so when hard times hit they couldn't survive the storm.

Our relationship with God needs to be on a level that's more than superficial. Jesus spent time alone with the Father to be close to Him. Somehow we forget that we need to do that - especially in the West. We have a nominal "quiet time" where we sit and give our daily report, but then we go on as if it's nothing more than a habit.

Often that's all it is.

I have several Muslim friends. They are devout and pray five times a day, ritualistically bowing to the East and chanting the same prayers over and over again. They are so desperate to show God they are decent by praying and chanting and eating the right food and drinking the right drinks that they are blind to the fact that they serve the practice of the religion.

We need to be more than that. Jesus died so we could be more than that.

Jesus sacrificed His life so we could have not a religious experience, but a deep and meaningful relationship with Him. He went to the Cross so we could know Him.

It's easy to slip into a religious routine. Routines are important to the Western society. We are governed by punch-card jobs and timed to the second when we start work. Most employers don't care how long after the end of your shift you work as long as you start on time. Stay late - it's expected - and it goes unnoticed. Arrive two minutes late once and you get a formal warning for tardiness. We see this pattern in our work, our schools and our churches. Everything is done to a formula.

Religion replaces relationship and we exchange knowing God with knowing about Him - and we don't even notice. Instead of laying hands on the sick we send them to a doctor. The disciples and the early church shared everything they had with each other so nobody was in need. They sacrificed personal property for the sake of their neighbour. Today we live in a world where high walls make good neighbours. They prevent us being distracted by the sight of the poverty at our doorstep and allow us to finish our lunch in peace.

How different things are now from then.

The difference is the level of relationship with God. Peter didn't get the faith to see the cripple at the Temple healed by watching "Survivor". Stephen's faith to forgive the men who were killing him didn't come from an episode of "The Amazing Race".

These men and women knew God and saw signs and wonders as a result.

We can too.

It was a privilege to watch the late Dave Duell pray for a young teen at a conference and see the boy's leg grow to the same length as his other one. I've met two men who were raised from the dead and one man who has prayed for it - and seen it happen. These men know God.

I'm learning to know Him. I've not seen anyone rise from the dead yet, but I've not had anyone ask me to pray for it either.

Knowing God takes time. It's important to take the time to get to know him.

When we hit a crisis - and that's what these messages during Lent are about - we need to be able to call on the Father we know and not a doctrine we've read about.

So have a quiet time, but make it something fresh. Sit and wait to encounter God in a new way and get to know Him.

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