Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Knowing God to Make Him Known

In the previous weeks in “From Father Tom,” we’ve look at John 14:15-21, specifically the tripartite evidence Jesus gives for his exclusive claim in (v. 6): “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.” Jesus says that his teachings, his miracles and his Church are the evidence for this claim (John 14:10-12), and we’ve spent the last few weeks examining how the Church, corrupt as she may be, can be a living witness to the testimony of Jesus.  

First, we looked at how the Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christians to make us a sign of Jesus’s Lordship and reality.  This was covered in a sermon at Church of the Good Shepherd.  

Second, we looked at how the Resurrection of Jesus gives Christians a hope that causes us to live differently.  We covered this in a blog post a few weeks back

Finally in this article, we will look at (John 14:21-23) and see how our ongoing relationship with God makes us people who are an effective, living testimony of the gospel.  

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:21–23)

One basic part of being Jesus’s disciple is loving him.  We love Him because of his love for us. (1 John 4:9) It is impossible to have received the love of Jesus expressed to us on the cross and NOT love Him. In this sense, if we don’t love Jesus it is because we’re not Christians in any meaningful sense.  

Our love for Jesus is expressed through affections and obedience, and it is this loving obedience that is primarily in view in John 14 (and most of Bible).  Those who love Jesus, obey Him.  We cannot say “I love Jesus” or “I’m a Christian,” if we do not listen to what He says, and then do it.  As Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)  Many people will claim to be Christians, but their lives will show that their faith is fake.  (James 2:26)

For those who truly have received Jesus love, who truly love Him in return, and who obey his commands, the greatest possible treasure awaits.  This is expressed in two ways in John 14.  

  • I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  In one sense Jesus loves everyone (see John 3:16), but in another sense, Jesus’s deeper love and friendship is only for those who love him and obey him.  (See John 15:14-15; Ps 25:14) For those who love and obey Jesus, they will actually get to know him in a profound and personal way.  That is what is mean when Jesus says He will reveal/manifest/show himself to them.  We will get to know him now in this life (1 John 1:3), and we have a promise that we will know him more fully in the years to come (1 John 3:1-3). “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8) J.I. Packer records the comments of a friend whose scholarly ambitions had been crushed by opponents who thought his faith was interfering too much with his work.  His career was over, and all the years of his life spent in study would result in nothing.  Thought pained, the man’s attitude was almost cavalier “But it doesn’t matter… for I’ve known God and they haven’t.”  (Knowing God, Ch. 2)  Knowing God (and not merely knowing about God) is the great privilege of every true Christian. 
  • “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Not only does Jesus promise that we will be his friends, but He also tells us that those who obey his commands will also find home with the Triune God.  This is not just the promise of a heavenly home (See John 14:1-4), but is speaking of the God of the Universe coming and living with us.  Note the language Jesus uses: “We will come TO him, and make our home WITH him.”  This is not a reference our spirits going to heaven after we die but to the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit.  Quite literally, God promises us a taste of heaven now, a bit of Home wherever we go.  This too is a kind of knowing God, something akin to bliss of an ideal domesticity: a loving family, the comfort of our own bed, a warm meal on a cold night, a cool drink on our porch on a sunny day. Home is where the heart lives.

In sum, the great treasure offered to us who obey the commands of Jesus is knowing God.  And knowing God is itself eternal life (John 17:3).  Knowing God is an end in and of itself.  To know him is better than anything else (see Phil 3:8ff).  Relationship with God, knowing Him is the only thing that satisfies the human heart fully.  

Indeed, we were made to know him.  That’s part of what it means to be made in God’s image and God’s likeness (Gen 1:26ff).  When a human being receives the love of Christ offered in the gospel and begins a life of turning from self to God, she will find she is fulfilling the very purpose for which she was made.  As the prayer says: “In your infinite love O Lord, you made us for yourself…”  You have heard it said: “It’s all about who you know.”  As it turns out, this is more true than most people think.  If we know God, we have found Life that is truly Life.   

Indeed, in knowing God, we ourselves are elevated to a higher plain of existence.  I know that sounds crazy, but it is true.  Our nearness to God lifts us higher than we were before.   C.S. Lewis says it this way:  “But is it so strange really?  Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does.  We treat our dogs as if they were ‘almost human;’ that is why they really become ‘almost human’ in the end.”  (Mere Christianity, Book 4, Ch. 7) And as St. Peter said: “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, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Pet 1:3–4, emphasis added)

Christians who know God like this are faithful, living testimonies of the truth and reality of Jesus.  People who are fulfilled don’t need to take from others, and therefore can love with the greatest freedom and give with the greatest sacrifice.