Sunday, February 5, 2017

THE KNOWLEDGE AND THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD





Peter had written something so incredible about the role of our knowledge of God that few of us really believe it:

·       May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. (2 Peter 1:2-3; ESV)

How can it be that “all things that pertain to life and godliness” come to us “through the knowledge of him?” Of course, we can only internalize these truths through the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, we still cannot get our minds around the fact that all blessings come through this knowledge.

Why not? We have been conditioned to believe that the Christian life is about experiencing God apart from truths about God. We have come to believe that there is either something very sterile about truth or even that the notion of truth carries negative consequences for our experience of Christ.

Many have written this way. For example, the professed Christian and psychologist, David Benner, has written:

·       Equating faith with beliefs truncates and trivializes spirituality by reducing it to a mental process. Thoughts are, quite simply, a poor substitute for relationship. Some Christians speak much of a personal relationship with God but assume that this is based on holding right beliefs. Is it any wonder that this attempt to reduce Ultimate Mystery to theological propositions so often results in the principle personal relationship being between a person and his or her own thoughts? Cherishing thoughts about God replaces cherishing God; knowing about the Divine replaces knowing the Divine. Whenever the Wholly Other is thought to be contained in one’s beliefs and opinions, divine transcendence is seriously compromised and personal relationship with the Spirit minimized. (Soulful Spirituality, 6)

Benner needlessly denigrates thinking, believing, and the knowledge of God. Even worse, for him it is an impediment.

However, it is because I know that God loves and forgives me that I can love Him and feel intimate with Him. I know that I am beloved, and this helps me to love others. Our beliefs affect our entire lives – how we feel about ourselves, our attitudes towards others, and how we behave towards them.

What does Benner have to offer in place of Scriptural truths?  Awareness!

·       The spiritual life starts with awareness. Limited awareness equates to a shallow spiritual life. (96)

This certainly agrees with Scripture. However, what does Benner mean by “awareness?” Certainly not the awareness of God and His Word! Rather, it is the awareness of an unthinking object:

·       Feel it, smell it, look at it from as many angles as possible.  Notice how heavy or light it is, how hard or soft. Don’t analyze it as a scientist. Just allow it to capture your interest and hold your attention. Gaze at it in wonder and curiosity, and allow yourself to see it as if for the very first time. (99)

This is tragic. It is the Spirit working through the knowledge of God in Scripture that has rescued me from decades of depression and panic attacks. Scripture informed me that:

·       I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

It was Scripture, the knowledge of God, that enabled me to stop obsessing about my own failures and inadequacies and to look at the One who now owned me and would never stop loving me. This truth told me that I could now rest, because it is no longer about me but what He has done for me.

Scripture has also corrected me in so many ways. I used to feel so condemned, and even after I came to Christ, I felt that even God was condemning me. However, the Spirit woke me up to the knowledge of God:

·       There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

In view of my overwhelming feelings of condemnation, it was hard to believe that this verse was true. However, the Spirit eventually made this truth of God very real for me. Before, I had resented a God, who I felt had been unwelcoming of me, but I now became convinced that He not only didn’t condemn me, but He actually loved me with a love that transcended anything I could comprehend (Ephesians 3:19).

Through the knowledge of God, I had received a confidence and a freedom that the idolatrous meditation upon an object could never give. To Him alone be all the glory!

2 comments:

  1. Greater knowledge of God causes one to be more aware of a lifetime of failures which disappoints God, as he has given us free will. I know I am forgiven but I also am discouraged about having diminished the relationship and abundant life that was offered. The good thing that comes out of that is i try harder (within aware limitations ) to do better. It is an ongoing experience which sometimes makes me feel ashamed.

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    1. Our Lord works even our failures for the good. And so what looks like failure is actually the manure which grows the best flowers:

      Romans 5:20 (ESV) Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,

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