Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NKJ)
The Knowledge of God is conceptual
The word “know” in the Bible carries different shades of meaning. It can refer to a concept, an experience or a relationship. As conceptual activity it can be defined as “perceiving directly; grasping in the mind with clarity or certainty”[i] Although some maintain that this type of knowledge is not possible, God affirms the contrary. In Matthew 11:27 Jesus states, “All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Mat 11:27 NKJ) (Matthew 11:27”; Paul says it that way”. Although that aspect of the knowledge of God has been undermined by some, it is a very important component of our knowledge of God. Although there are certain aspects about God that are beyond our intelligence, there are others that are intellectually accessible to us; hence the necessity of having the right ideas about God.
A. Know = Concept
1. Concept = idea formed in the mind
2. We need to have the right concept of God (John 4:24)
Knowing God means having certain ways of viewing God, certain ideas about God, certain notions about God, and certain perspectives of God; yet those perspectives must be right, accurate, and true. Pastor Greg why do you emphasize this? I emphasize this because we are leaving in a world where they talk about “religious pluralism.” It means what? Well, you have your way of viewing God, I have my way of viewing God there’s no need to fight about it, and we are all right about our way of viewing God. Has it ever occurred to you that the conception of God in reality is self contradictory? Whether politically correct or not, the following statement is true: “Truth is intolerant”. Whenever you say two plus two equal four, it means that two plus two do not equal 5 or that two plus two do not equal 10. It also means that every other answer is excluded from being true. Truth in its very nature is intolerant, not intolerant of people but intolerant of error and of fallacy. From that perspective, it would be an absolute nonsense for a Christian to say that every idea about God is equally true.
For instance, if someone says that Gregory Toussaint was born on December 23, 1995, it means he was not born yesterday nor was he born last year. The moment that statement is perceived as true, it excludes everything else. As such, religious pluralism makes no sense whatsoever. Everybody can be wrong, but not everybody can be right. That makes absolutely no sense. If one is right then the other one is wrong. This is why it stands ever so important that the believer stands strong on the few established conceptions of God. If the bible says homosexuality is wrong then any view that says contrary is in error. I will love, accept you and embrace you but I will not compromise this truth. Compromising this truth is essentially saying that one does not really believe that the word of God is true. So truth is not intolerant of people but it’s intolerant of error. That’s why it’s important for us have right notions of God, somebody could be sincere, because nowadays they talk about sincerity and say “as long as you’re sincere, you love God sincerely, and we all love God sincerely then we all are going to heaven!” With that kind of thinking, you could be sincerely wrong my friend!
One time I was flying from NYC going to Texas I was coming from a revival. At the time, I was in seminary. I took my bag and checked through the gate and walked to the airplane got on my seat 24B, and put my headset on and starting to play some classical music and somewhere in the background I heard: “Thank you for flying American Airline to Costa Rica!” Then I realized I went to the wrong gate, it’s not that I wasn’t sincere, I just thought I was going to Texas but guess what, if I didn’t change my plane I would have ended up in Costa Rica even though I was sincere about going to Texas. You can think that you’re serving God sincerely but if you don’t accept Jesus Chris as your Lord and Savior you might end up in the wrong place. You might think that you are going to heaven and when you die, to your great surprise you don’t see yourself in heaven because he says, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one come to the Father…”. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NKJ). And Jesus was talking to a Samaritan Woman in John 4 and they had a discussion about religious pluralism, because remember that Israel was divided into two parts, the first ten tribes formed what was called Israel and the last two tribes formed Judah. So Jerusalem was the capital of Judah and Samaria was the capital of the Israel. There was no temple in Samaria as a result of synchronism, which is a mixture of God’s Word with idolatry. You will remember that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah. Now there were always religious tensions between Jews and Samaritans; they would always argue about God and the way of we should worship Him. So in John chapter four when Jesus said to the woman, give me some water, and the woman said reminded Him that He was a Jew talking to a Samaritan, and Jesus said “…you should ask me for water and I will give you the water of eternal life.” The moment Jesus said that she understood that Jesus was bringing religion in the matter, by talking about the religious notion of eternal life. And she said “…you guys worship in Jerusalem and our fathers worship on that mountain.” In other words, “…Jesus, you are a Jew you worship in your place in Jerusalem but we got our place where we worship and that’s where my dad used to worship, and that’s where my granddaddy used to worship, so don’t come here imposing your religion on me. I have got freedom to choose whatever I want. I suggest you stay your religion and I will stay with mine.” But Jesus said, “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth”. Worshiping God in Spirit is sincerity; it means that your heart has to be into it. You can’t just sing with your mouth, your heart and soul have to be into it, you have to be connected and that would be worshiping God in spirit. But God said it’s not enough to worship God in spirit, to be sincere about it, you need to have the correct conception about it you need to worship God in truth.
The knowledge of God is conceptual, the right concept is very important, the right notion of God is important, the right teaching of God is important, the right characteristics of God is important, because we should not only worship him with our heart and spirit we need to worship him in truth as well. So the question comes, if truth is so important in our relationship with God, where do we find truth?
a) The Word is Truth (Ps 119: 160)
Jesus in his prayer in John chapter 17 gives us the answer, he said: “Father sanctify them with your word for thy word is true.” In other words if you want to know the truth about God you need to go to the word. If you’re looking for truth, your truth is not what you think in your mind or the great ideas you can come up with.
Now why aren’t your own concepts true? They aren’t true because you are a fallen human being, and as a fallen being, even your mind and your emotions are fallen. This is why the Bible says there’s a way that seems great to a man, in his own mind, in his own logic, in his imagination, there’s a way that seems right to man but its end is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12) Something can look right to us in our mind, in the way that we view it and analyze it, but at the end of the day, what settles the matter is the Word of God. It is important to note that our reasoning is not infallible, that quality is reserved for the Word of God. So it says in Ps. 119:160 “The entirety of your word is truth.” Isn’t that powerful? That’s why Jesus will say later: “…Heaven and earth will pass but my words shall never pass.” “Every one of your righteous judgments endures forever.” Every one of those verses, every one of the promises of God, every one of the statements of God will always be truth. So if you want to know God, your first step is going to be accepting Jesus Christ, and that opportunity is here before you now. Yet, after doing that your next step will be to get yourself a Bible, and start reading because your mind by itself can’t conceptualize God, you have to find yourself a source of truth and the best one is the Word of God. And this is why one of the terms often used in scripture to describe the Word of God or to refer to the Word of God is the term ‘testimonies’. Have you guys ever noticed that since you’re reading scripture?
(1) The Word is a Testimony (Psalm 119:2)
Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! (Psalm 119:2 NKJ). What does the Word testimony means here? It means the word of God, blessed are those who keep your word. So the bible says the word of God is a testimony. Testimony of what? Testimony of who? Testimony of God. What’s a testimony? It’s the word of a witness. Because God is spirit, invisible, we can’t see him, we can’t touch him, we can’t feel, therefore it’s difficult for us to apprehend Him. We need a witness to talk about him, and that witness is called the Word of God. So when you’re reading your Bible, you’re actually reading a testimony – the Bible is a witness. Every time you’re reading the bible it’s witnessing to you, telling you what God is like. Every verse is a testimony. For example if you never had a chance to meet Mr. Obama and you’d like to know more about him you’d have to find someone who’s close to Mr. Obama and that person would have been a witness giving you testimonies about who Mr. Obama is because you have not had the chance to get access directly to him. You and I live in the visible but God lives in the invisible; you and I live in the natural while God lives in the supernatural; yet still, you and I live in the physical, but God lives in the spiritual. As such, we can’t get access directly to him, we need a witness to give us testimonies about who God is; and every time you open up your Bible and start reading it means that every one of those witnesses: Abraham, Jacob, Joshua and all the other personalities are giving testimonies. Every time you read a passage of scripture it’s a testimony.
So, when I read Exodus chapter fifteen and I saw how God used Moses to split the sea in two and the children of Israel were about to walk on dry land, it’s a testimony about the power of God. When I read the scripture and I meet a man like Uzziah who wasn’t suppose to touch the arch, and saw the arch was about to fall, he stretched out his hands and touched it when he knew the conditions were very clear that he shouldn’t have touched it, even though he was trying to help God, the Bible says he died immediately, that was a testimony of the holiness of God. God’s holiness is not to be played with. What shall we say about Hosea? Suppose the Lord called you and said I have a project for, and you asked, what project Lord? And the Lord said I want you to go down on Biscayne Ave and find yourself a prostitute and marry her? What would you think? Well, that was Hosea’s scenario; he was mad but he was obedient. After he married the prostitute she went back to her filth and he went to the place and brought her back because he was in love with her. Now why did God do all that? That was a testimony of God’s love for us. So many times we behave like prostitutes, and he comes and delivers us and redeems us, but yet we still go back in our mess and our filth and he still finds himself a way of going after us in that house of prostitution. It’s a testimony of God’s love. When I read the book of Exodus and I see the glory of God, when God was about to visit Israel for the first time, the Bible says that as he was coming down, thunder was tearing up the heavens, the Bible says the mountains were shaking and everything that was near fled from the presence of God. That was a testimony of the majesty of God. It is s testimony that God is unlike no other. The word declares that even the mountains tremble in his presence. He’s majestic and high above everything. When I read about Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, those Roman soldiers pierced his sides and hands, and put a crown of thorns on his head, and while he was about to die he looked at the Roman soldiers, his tormentors and said, “…Father forgive them for they do not know what they do…” It’s a testimony of God’s grace.
Scriptures are testimonies, the words of a witness and you shouldn’t be attached to the witness, you should try to get to the person. So if I invite a friend and I asked him about Obama, by the time he’ll be done talking I should ask him:” Can you arrange a meeting?” because the purpose of a witness is to actually take you to that person. A person can tell me a lot about Obama, it’ll never be the same as if I get a chance myself to meet Mr. Obama, that’s a different type of knowledge. And that’s why Jesus said:
3. Transition: The Concept is supposed to lead to an experience (John 5:39-40)
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life”. (John 5:39-40 NKJ).
In other words by reading those testimonies you should be willing to come to me. What am I saying? The knowledge of God is conceptual, yet if all you have about God is concept and ideas, your knowledge of God is very poor. You could have a PH.D in theology and know about the transcendence of God, the omnipotence of God, the omnipresence of God and use all those big words, if all you have is about the concepts about God either from the Bible or from another book, your knowledge of God is so meager and limited. As Jesus said, “the scriptures testify of me but you should be willing to come to me.” In other words, concepts are supposed to get you ready for an experience. When I read in the bible that the law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus, I learned about a concept called grace. What I needed to do was to develop a relationship with God and experience grace. When I read that “thy right hand is exalted thy right hand does violently.” That’s a concept of power but I needed to come to God and experience that power. When I read “As far as the east is from the west, you remove my transgression from me” that’s a concept of forgiveness; yet when I have sinned I needed to come in the presence of God and experience forgiveness. The word is just a testimony but if God’s word doesn’t take you, when you read about Abraham’s life and you read about faith, if you’re not willing to experience faith then your concept of God is so limited and so poor.
[i] American Heritage Dictionary http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/know
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