Today, I came across a book entitled, How To Know God. Since that has been the all-consuming passion and goal of my life, I wanted to see who the author was and what it was about. I was surprised to see that it was simply the cover of a New Living Translation of the Bible. As a result of that experience, I felt to share just how one can know God.
The scriptures of the Holy Bible are not the means by which one knows God. They are the record of men who knew God. The scriptures were never intended by God to satisfy the thirsty soul. They were intended to awaken thirst. They were never intended to fill the hungry soul. They were intended to awaken a hunger for the Person of Jesus Christ who is the Bread from heaven. In that sense, the scriptures are simply a treasure map, and individuals must decide for themselves if they will be content to revel in the intricacies and creativity of the map itself, or if they will cling to it, love it, and study it only as a means to an end, and that end is to find the treasure hidden in a field that if an individual truly finds, they will set about selling all to have Jesus. As one author put it, they will consider all things but refuse for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.
If someone believes that they can know God through the Bible alone, even though they be a child of God, they may well be one who does not yet know God, but only knows the God of their concepts: a God constructed by their own intellect. Jesus said, "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). Jesus said, "If you are thirsty, come to me!" (John 7:37).
There are those who, because of a lack of knowledge of God, assume that because they are born of God, that they have met Him and know Him, and they believe that they come to know him more fully through Bible study and Christian life experience. This, I believe, is a very common misconception. Being born of God doesn't necessitate knowing God. My six-week-old son, though he was sired by me, does not yet know me. He may know the comfort of my touch or voice, yet he doesn't know me. Being born of God doesn't necessitate knowing God. The new birth simply brings the spiritually dead person to spiritual life as a babe so that they can begin to contact the God who is Spirit. It causes the scales to fall from blind eyes so that they can at least see, for the first time, the clues and keys of the treasure map. It is only the beginning, not the goal. Jesus gave us the goal in John 17:3 when he defined for us eternal life: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
To think that one can know God by Bible study is akin to someone who has never met my wife, thinking that they know her because they've read her love-letters to me. It would be absurd for them to think, because they've gazed into her love for me and into our relationship through the window of her love-letters, that they have the same relationship with her that I have.
Let me say that encounters with God, or even time spent in His presence, will not necessitate the knowledge of God, for that is not the means by which we know God. So then, you may be asking, "How then does one know God, if not through the Bible, Christian experience, ministry experience, or even through encounters with God's power or presence?" The knowledge of God comes by only one means, and that singular means is revelation. Jesus said in Luke 10:22, "...no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." To know God, He must uncover or unveil Himself to us. John had the revelation, or the unveiling of Jesus Christ. Revelation is the means by which one knows God. However, note well that it is not the revelation of concepts, but of His Person. It is a person to person contact in the spirit, where the Sprit of God reveals God to the spirit of man. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit that "He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." He said, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." Jesus is The Truth whom the Spirit reveals.
This revelation of God is not a one time event, but it is events. It is an ever unfolding revelation of God, and it can come at times and to a limited extent through the agency of the Body of Christ, which is to be (though it is not yet) the full representation of Christ in the Earth (Eph. 4:13, 1 John 3:2, 4:17), or it can come directly from God, depending upon your relationship with Him. Also, bear in mind that the revelation of a truth concerning God is not the same as the revelation of His Person. Someone who has had a revelation of the Person of God can write or speak of this revelation and God can use that to give you a revelation of truth that adjusts your concepts and brings your thinking more in line with the truth of God's heart and character. However, that is no where near the same in substance or in value as having your own revelation of God. The one changes your concepts, the other changes you into His image from glory to glory as you behold the glory of the Lord with an unveiled face (2 Cor. 3:18).
For those who have never had a revelation of the Person of Jesus Christ, or of the Father, let me give a perfect illustration of what I'm talking about. In Exodus chapter two, we see a record of God revealing Himself to Moses. This is a perfect picture of how God, who hides Himself in thick darkness, reveals Himself to us. Moses had a revelation of the Person of God, for God said, "I am the God of your father-the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob", and it says that "Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God." This revelation of the Person of God was the revelation of His Holiness, for God told Moses to remove his sandals in order to touch His holiness.
This is one of the initial revelations of the Person of God - the revelation of His holiness, for the scripture says that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Prov. 9:10), and "Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God" (Prov. 2:5). It is the revelation of the holiness of God that brings the fear of God, and this is the beginning place for the knowledge of the Person of the God who is holy, and the Person of Jesus Christ, who is our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24, 30).
Moses had an experience where God uncovered Himself to Moses, and it revealed to Moses, experimentally, a certain aspect of the Person of God. Moses touched God's holiness. The revelation of God is not light coming to the mind, in order to adjust our concepts of God, but is, rather, the Spirit of God unveiling God to our spirit man, changing us into His image from glory to glory, or from His image as seen through a particular revelation of His glory, into His image in further revelations of that same glory. We can study scriptures or hear sermons about the holiness of God, but all of that only forms mental concepts of "holiness." However, when God reveals to us His holiness, when we actually touch His holiness, it is an awesome and terrible experience, and it brings true fear, and not just "reverential awe." This experience is meant to change a person's walk. Like Moses removing his sandals, this will cause a person to seek to remove the corruption of the old life, or the dead things of this world that allow us to go through life unconscious of the way we walk. It will make us sensitive to our walk, so that we might not offend Him who is holy, and so that we might be holy.
The revelation of His holiness: that is just one of many of the revelations of the Person of Jesus Christ, or of the Father, and it is one of the lower revelations. I mention it here because it may give you a mental picture of the difference between Biblical revelation, and the revelation of God where you encounter God in a spiritual experience, such as encountering the holiness of God, which causes you, not to form new or even more accurate concepts of God and His holiness, but rather, causes you to hide your face for fear of looking upon Him.
Do you want to know how I know that the scriptures as found in the sixty-six books of the Bible are in fact the word of God, and can be trusted as reliable? I don't know it because I've read apologetics, or even the history of this, the greatest of all books. No, for me, that would be unnecessary. I know it is reliable because I've followed the map, I've encountered the signposts and landmarks portrayed on the map as I've journeyed, and I've found its treasures both small and great, and I've found the ultimate Treasure, Christ Jesus. I've found Him to be in perfect harmony with that which is portrayed in the map - in The Book. I know the Bible to be true, for I've found it to be a perfectly accurate account of Him whom I have found, and it is my experience with the God of the Bible that has uncovered the secrets of the Bible that are forever hidden from those who study it's lessons but do not travel to its locals in search of its Treasure.
How does one come to know God? By studying the treasure map? No, but rather, by finding its Treasure. How does one come to know God? By studying the Bible? No, but rather, by finding the God of the Bible. And incidentally, since the Bible is a spiritual book, the only way one can truly know the Bible is by knowing the God who authored it.
Now, I recognize that this article is unbalanced. However, my intention is not to give a balanced view of the wonder, power, and value of the word of God, but to simply present its limitation. It may seem as though I do not have a proper respect or love for the scriptures, but I do not believe that to be so. No one could possibly value each and every word of my wife's love letters to me more than I, especially were we to be separated. It would be my love relationship with my wife that would bind my heart-strings to her words, and it is a love relationship with the God of the word that more tightly binds our hearts to the word of God.