Knowing God

“Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11

We've been going through the book of Philippians in the Men's Bible study and I'm sure you know this chapter has been emphasized, an epistle of joy. That word joy comes up quite a few times, you could call it a singing epistle. If there ever was a church that brought Paul great joy and very little sorrow it was the church in Philippi. What we learn here in Philippians 3 is the apostle's greatest ambition in life, this more than anything else explains him. What is that? Well, to know Christ. He wanted to know him not just simply in terms of the mind or intellectually, but experientially. He mentions the power of his resurrection and then to share in the fellowship of his sufferings. But that's what motivated him, that's what compelled him more than anything else, to know Jesus Christ and knowing that that knowledge would wonderfully transform his life. Most of us I'm sure are familiar with that book by Dr. J.I. Packer, Knowing God, but at the very front end of that book he starts off by saying this, “You can know a lot about God, but not really know God at all. You can know as much about God,” he says, “as John Calvin, but again, know very little in terms of what Paul is saying here, experiential knowledge of God.” Here's a question that Packer asks, and I think he gets some wonderful answers, “If we know God, if we know Christ, how then does it show itself? How does it evidence itself in our lives?” He answers that question in four ways, but I'm going to give three ways in which he says knowing Christ, knowing God should change our lives.

1. Those who know God have great energy for God. As I reflected upon that very statement, I thought, where do you see that? You see that in the book of Hebrews, don't you, that Hebrews 11 passage, that great faith chapter. I think it really tells us that they had great energy for God through faith. They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. And then he goes on to say they showed their energy also in terms of how they suffered, they suffered a lot for Christ. Some were tortured, others suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, they were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with a sword. And then he goes on to say they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wandered about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. But there is no question, they had great energy for God. Most of us will never have to suffer like that, we will never have to do those great exploits of faith. But I think we could say this much, that in terms of having energy for God, one of the ways it shows itself is by giving ourselves to prayer, persevering prayer. One of the hardest things in the Christian life is to pray, not just to pray but to pray perseveringly, pray in the midst of disappointment, difficulty, trials and heartaches or when we are in the midst of suffering. And the devil works overtime, doesn't he, to keep us from praying. He can even weaponize government officials or authorities. Think of Daniel and his prayer life; they tried to shut down his prayer life and they threw him into the lion’s den. And think of Jesus, talk about a man who persevered in prayer, think of him in the garden of Gethsemane sweating drops of blood and he never gave up praying. He prayed that very difficult prayer, “Not my will be done, but your will be done.”

2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God. If you examine the prayers of the Puritans especially, you'll find that they always saw God as a big God or a God who was transcendent, they lifted him up high. They lived with what you could call the fear of God reality. They knew he was an everywhere God and all hearing God, an omnipotent God, all powerful God, they believed he was a sovereign God. He had the king’s heart in his hand. I like that statement, I've given this before, what R.C. Sproul says regarding this God, “There's not one maverick molecule in the universe. We worship a God who is the God of all things, Romans 8:28.” That's a big God.

3. Those who know God show great boldness for God. Think of those disciples, they grew in their knowledge of God, in their knowledge of Christ, even in terms of the resurrection. But think of them in the fresh aftermath of Christ’s death upon that crowd. Where were they? They were hiding, they were afraid of their own shadows. And after the resurrection, where do we find them? We find Peter at least, boldly preaching on the day of Pentecost, he confronts that mass of people, he tells that Pentecost crowd, “You have murdered Jesus. You have killed the Prince of Life.” Think of Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms telling the Roman Catholic hierarchy, “Here I stand, I can do no other,” that's boldness. Think of Daniel and his three friends unwilling to bow to Nebuchadnezzar's image and they were thrown into that furnace of fire. Here's a question we should ask ourselves, “How can we be bold for Christ? Are we ashamed of that gospel?” We should never be paralyzed by fear if we know the God, the living Christ, the resurrected Jesus. These three things should be true of us, brethren, and increasingly so. We have great energy for God, we have great thoughts about God and we have great boldness for God, and I would give one final thought-

4. Our praying should be marked by boldness too. Right? Bold preaching and bold praying. Bold praying for the world, bold praying for our nation, bold praying for lost sinners. We should be praying bold prayers. We believe if God has saved us and we have been accepted in the beloved, we can come confidently to that throne of grace and we can ask him far beyond what we could ever think, he is the great God that we know. As we give ourselves to prayer, let's pray that we would be marked by these three great realities.

Pastor Gordon Cook