Knowing God

How many of you know Michael Jordan? Considered perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time. 6 time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls. He holds both the highest career regular season as well as playoff scoring average of all time in the NBA. We all know Michael Jordan. But not really. You see, we may know about Michael Jordan, but we don’t really know him. We don’t know who he is like as a person. We don’t have any personal relationship with him.

Let me ask you a more serious question. Do you know God? Or do you merely know about God. And the difference is that between two pictures I want to paint to you: that of a scientist and that of a lover. A scientist is concerned about facts. A lover is concerned about the person. Now I’m not trying to suggest that being a lover is superior to being a scientist in our relationship with God. But what I am saying is we cannot be satisfied with merely knowing about God and not actually knowing Him. [Pray]

Philippians 3:7-14 

Phil. 3:7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. 

Phil. 3:12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

1. WE NEED TO KNOW GOD

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.”

“What does that tell you?” Holmes asked. Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”

Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. “Watson, you idiot. Somebody has stolen our tent!”

Friends, we often miss the big picture, even with regards to our faith. So, while serving God is great, living a godly life is important, but Christianity is first and foremost about knowing God. The Apostle Paul says this twice in our passage today. v. 8 “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” and v. 10 “that I may know Him”.

How can we know God? There are several ways to answer this. I could answer this by saying, we can only know God because God wants to be known. We call this revelation. God wants to reveal Himself to us. And the fullest revelation of God is in Jesus Christ, His Son. But Jesus, though He did walk on earth in history, no longer does. He is at the right hand of the Father. So how can we know Jesus? Well, God reveals Himself through His Word. Therefore, we read the Scriptures to know God. The Scriptures reveal to us the Person and the Work of Jesus.

So that’s one way in which we answer the question. But I’ll approach it in another way for today. I want to read for you Genesis 4:1. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” (ESV) Now, you probably realise this verse sounds a little strange. Adam knew Eve and she became pregnant. Like seriously?!??! What does this verse mean? Let me read this verse for you in the (NASB). “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain…”

Had relations. Had sexual intercourse. Why would you use the term “knew” to equate to having sexual relations. Because the idea of knowing someone is the idea of being intimate with someone. And knowing God ultimately is about being intimate with God. How do you cultivate intimacy with God? Well, cultivating intimacy with God is similar to cultivating intimacy with another person. Go ask any dating/courting couple and you’ll know how.

Spending time with each other. Doing things for each other. Pursuing each other. And one last thing, give up all others. The Apostle Paul says it like this, v. 7, 8 “ But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…”

Now, I have shared this story at Point Community service before, so those who have heard it, please bear with me. There was a girl I used to crush on in University, Priscilla was her name. I first saw her at a camp organised by Campus Crusade for Christ. It just so happened that we got to pair up in one of the games for a bit. I held her hand as we were doing a catching sort of game, just running around. And my heart was beating fast, not only because we were running around (if you know what I mean!)

But I never pursued her. I was on staff with Campus Crusade, she was a student. And of course, she got attached. Nice guy also from Campus Crusade, his name was Matthew. So I was like, sniff sniff, happy for you guys. So end of story. Right? No. Years later, by that time I was already dating my girlfriend (now my wife), I met Priscilla at a mutual friend’s wedding. So I greeted her, “Hey long time no see! Where’s Matthew?”

She paused for a moment and said, “We’re no longer together.” I was like, *jaw dropped”. Ok, I did not actually do that. But on the inside, it was just as if I did. Thoughts raced through my head. “She’s single? Do I have a chance? But I’m attached. Now what?” And that afternoon, these thoughts remained at the back of my mind.

And my girlfriend sensed it. In fact, when we reached back to my home, she said to me, “All the cards that Priscilla gave to you, I want you to throw away.” And I was like, “What? That’s ridiculous!” After thinking about it for a while, I realised that made sense. There was no room in my heart for two girls. I had to choose. And so, reluctantly I took out the two or three encouragement cards that I had received from her before and put them into the wastepaper basket. It was not easy, but it was the right thing to do. One love for my life.

In the same way, God desires to be our one love. And we need to forsake all other loves in order to truly know God. Two passages I’d like to read for you. James 4:4 “ You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Implication, we cannot be friends with the world and with God at the same time.

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” In this passage, the Apostle John defines for us what does loving the world look like. Summed up in 3 G’s: Gratification, Greed & Glory.

Gratification (lust of the flesh) simply means we want to satisfy our own desires: it is materialistic, egocentric, exploitative, selfish and sensual. We become controlled by these desires: indulgent eating at expensive restaurants, pornography, masturbation etc.

Greed (lust of the eyes) is the accumulation of things for show without regards to their real value. You may be too young for cars, but that’s one example. Gadgets, nice clothes, boyfriend/girlfriend etc. We buy into things and even people at the surface level.

Glory (pride of life) refers to that which we boast in and base our identity upon: position, power, possessions etc. It’s an inflated sense of self.

The Bible tells us we cannot both love the world and buy into its values and love God at the same time. Take some time to think through these categories. Ask yourself do these apply to you. Share this later in your small groups. Friends, God invites us to let go of these things because He desires to give us something infinitely greater, far more valuable… Himself. Paul says, all the things I considered precious to me, these things I let go of in order that I may gain Christ. Lose these, Gain Him. Christ is our Treasure. Christ is our Reward. Those who would let go of the world, would stand to gain Him. So, let them go, let them go, don’t hold them back anymore.

Let’s talk really practically. Let’s boil it down to the details. What are some activities you need to cut off in order to spend time with God? Hobbies? Sports? CCAs? Time with friends? Time serving in church??? What are some pursuits you need to abandon in order to pursue God? The applause, acclaim or admiration of men/women rather than the approval of God? Friends, the God of the universe invites you to spend time in His presence. Would you do so? How long has it been since you’ve paused long enough to allow the love of God to wash over your heart and soul or been in His presence long enough for Him to speak to you?

The truth is this young people, as much as God invites us to pursue Him, it is He who has first pursued us. It was God the Father, who emptied heaven, gave His Son for us. It was Jesus, leaving His abode in heaven to walk the earth, die on the Cross for our sin, rise from the dead. It is the Holy Spirit now given to each one of God’s children that allows us access to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. Shall we not treasure this wonderful gift? Let us know God. Let us surrender to God whatever hinders us from knowing Him and loving Him.

2. WE NEED TO KNOW GOD’S POWER

When Herbert Jackson was a new missionary, he was assigned a car that would not start without a push. After pondering his problem, he devised a plan. He went to the school near his home, got permission to take some children out of class, and had them push his car off. As he made his rounds, he would either park on a hill or leave the engine running. He used this ingenious procedure for two years.

Ill health forced the Jackson family to leave, and a new missionary came to that station. When Jackson proudly began to explain his arrangement for getting the car started, the new man began looking under the hood. Before the explanation was complete, the new missionary interrupted, “Why, Dr. Jackson, I believe the only trouble is this loose cable.” He gave the cable a twist, stepped into the car, pushed the switch, and to Jackson’s astonishment, the engine roared to life. For two years needless trouble had become routine. The power was there all the time. Only a loose connection kept Jackson from putting that power to work.

When we become Christians, the Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit now resides within us. And yet, how often are we consciously taking advantage of His empowering? Are we living in connection with God’s power? Paul says in v. 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 1:18, 19 that God’s power that raised Christ from the dead now works in us.

I want to read to you a most amazing verse in the Bible. 2 Peter 1:3 “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” God’s power working in us enables every one of us to live the life that God wants us to live, to live a godly life. Let that sink in for a moment. Every single one of you has the power to live the life God wants you to live. Every single one of you has the power to be godly.

How many of you have ever thought to yourself, “Well, I’m just not that spiritual like so-and-so. I can’t be godly. I can’t be close to God. I really want to change and I’ve tried, but I always fail, I always fall, I always sin, again and again. There’s no hope for me.” Or “Godliness is a nice idea, but practically impossible. Be realistic.” Those are lies. Because we have had the wrong focus, ourselves. We are to look to God, and His empowering.

The Christian life is meant to be lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we could live it out by doing our best, through our self-effort, then God wouldn’t have had to send His Holy Spirit. But what is this power for? When we think of God’s power, many of us think immediately of the outward manifestation… the signs, the wonders, the miracles. And that’s not wrong.

Our God of power and might still works wonders today. And He does use us as vessels of His miracles. How I pray that God, in His power, will use you to pray for people who are sick to be healed, to pray for people who are trapped in bondage to be delivered, to pray for those who are lost to be saved.

But today I want to focus on God’s power working in us to transform us. To make us more like Jesus. To sanctify us. To help us overcome our weaknesses and deliver us from our bondages. To enable us to walk in victory over sin. To overcome temptation. To help us to love the unlovely, the unlovable. To share the gospel.

How many of you know what I’m talking about? You have experienced the power of God working in your life. If so, praise God. More! Ask for more. Or if you have experienced it, but it was a long time ago, ask for God to work in your life again. For some of you, what I’m talking about is foreign to you. You don’t know what I’m talking about. You may know it cognitively, but not experientially. You know it’s true because you’ve read it, but you’ve never ever experienced it.

What’s the secret of experiencing God’s power? It’s actually very simple. Knowing God. The more you know Him, the more you will experience His power in your life. v. 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection”… they come together, it’s that simple. But there is something sobering I want you to note. v. 10 “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings”. We need God’s power because as Christians, we will suffer. In fact, the Bible tells us that those who desire to live a godly life in Jesus will be persecuted. And God therefore grants to us His power to encourage us, to strengthen us, in the midst of suffering and persecution. To live out our calling to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Today, let us call out to God, “I want to experience Your power in my life!” And He will answer us.

3. WE NEED TO KNOW GOD’S CALLING

I was in my 3rd year in University, Civil Engineering. As we completed our 6-month industrial attachment and approached our final year, many of us had already started forming ideas of what we wanted to do after we graduated and I was no different. As I was seeking the Lord for His direction for my life, there was a day when I was doing my quiet time and I felt the Lord speaking to me through Isaiah 49:6 “I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

I had an inkling that God was leading me not into Engineering, but into full-time Christian ministry. Several weeks later, I was attending a Campus Crusade camp and during the final night session, the speaker gave an invitation to those who were considering full-time Christian ministry and he gave the challenge from Isaiah 49:6. I stood up, I responded to the Lord and here I am, many years later.

Young people, it is not too soon to ask the Lord to start speaking to you, leading you, to His calling in your life. This is something you must pursue. Listen to the way Paul pursues the Lord’s calling in his life. v.12 -14 “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

I press on. I press on. There is a goal. There is a prize. There is a call. Paul had his from God. You have yours from God. What is going to be the legacy of your life? What is it you’re going to leave behind at the end of your life? Now, I am NOT saying you are all called to full-time ministry. Some of you may be. But all of you have a calling, in everything that you do, to make disciples of Jesus Christ. To share the gospel, with words and deeds. To love people. To help people grow in the faith. So whatever vocation/job God leads you to, whatever course of study you will pursue, whichever life stage you’re in (whether you’re single, attached, married, married with children, retired etc), you’re constantly pursuing God’s calling in your life. So that at the end of your life, when you stand before God, you may hear the words from our God, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Master.” And I want to inspire you by sharing this video with you. It’s a video of a missionary family (two generations – father to son) and their work with a violent tribe.

[VIDEO]

In this video, we see all three points of today’s sermon encapsulated in the story of the Sawi tribe. We see, first of all, the value of knowing God. Towards the end of the video, one of the Sawi said this to the missionary, “I want you to know that when you leave on the airplane tomorrow that we’re going to stay faithful to the gospel as long as we live; it’s EVERYTHING to us.” God is everything to the Sawi people.

We see, secondly, the power of God. The transformation that occurred in the Sawi tribe is not something that can be explained or accomplished by man. It was the work of God. In bringing peace. In bringing reconciliation. In bringing love.

Finally, we see the call of God. The most heartening thing about this video, to me, is that the Sawi people were not satisfied in keeping the gospel, the good news they received, to themselves. They were eager to share it with other tribes. They caught the heart of God. They experienced it for themselves, and they could not help but share it.

Young people, today, God invites you to know Him intimately, to experience His power in your life, and to clarify His calling upon your life. Would you bow with me in prayer?

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