Does God Want Us to Know Him?
What does it mean to know God?
It’s complex. Because God is complex.
All we can really know about God is what he chooses to reveal. It’s not as if we can sneak up on God and say, “Caught you!” He sees us peeking around the corner first.
But we don’t have to sneak.
God reveals himself to us because he created us to know him. He won’t leave us empty-headed about him.
And from what I’ve seen him reveal so far? He’s all good. He wants to be seen.
He wants to be known.
Knowing God Is Having Life
Still, what does it mean to “know God”?
Knowing God is eternal life, per J. I. Packer in Chapter 3 of his classic book, Knowing God.
Jesus said this to God:
“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
But what exactly does that mean?
1. Knowing God is personal.
Just like knowing a person is, well, personal, knowing God is personal. It is you relating to God, and God relating to you.
It’s not just knowing about God. That is theology. That’s like me knowing the President. I can study him and know about him. But I don’t have a relationship with the President.
Knowing God goes beyond the study of theology. It’s knowing the being, and being known by him.
It’s a two-way connection, not just one-way.
“You can have all the right notions in your head without ever tasting in your heart the realities to which they refer; and a simple Bible-reader and sermon-hearer who is full of the Holy Ghost will develop a far deeper acquaintance with his God and Savior than more learned men who are content with being theologically correct.”
– J. I. Packer
2. Knowing God requires involvement.
Knowing God is more than holding facts in our head. Yes, knowing him requires our mind, but it goes beyond that, and also includes our will and our emotions.
Packer says, “To get to know another person, you have to commit yourself to his company and interests, and be ready to identify yourself with his concerns.”
A meal may look good, but until we sit down and eat it, we’ll never really know.
The same with God. Until we actually do life with God, it’s all theory.
Also, contrary to what some teach, knowing God is emotional. To know God is to be emotionally involved with the things he’s emotionally involved with. If we attempt to think his thoughts and to act in his ways, we should also feel what he feels. (Even though we’re terribly limited in each of these.)
“. . . we must not lose sight of the fact that knowing God is an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one, and could not indeed be a deep relation between persons were it not so.”
– J. I. Packer
3. Knowing God is a matter of grace.
It’s only a gift of grace that we can know God at all. Grace starts first with God, not us. He initiates everything, including knowledge.
Because God knows us first, better than we know ourselves and long before we know him, he knows what we need. And he knows what we need to know. And gives it to us.
What we need to know—and see—is that God loves us. We are seen. We are understood. We are treasured.
“We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us, bringing us to know Him by making His love known to us.”
– J. I. Packer
While it’s important for us to know God, of first importance is that God knows us.
Being known by God makes it possible for us to know God.
Knowing God is grace.
Knowing God is life.
[These thoughts are an updated post from Chapter 3 of Knowing God, “Knowing and Being Known.” I benefited from it. But I disagree with Packer in Chapter 4, “The Only True God,” for his refusal of any imagery to remind us of God.]
How do you know when you really know someone? What does it mean to you to know God versus knowing about God? Please share in the comments.
- Previous chapters of Knowing God:
Chapters 1 and 2, “The Study of God” and “The People Who Know Their God”
“Why Do You Want to Know God?”
- Next chapters of Knowing God:
Chapters 5 and 6, “God Incarnate” and“He Shall Testify”
“You Know God and Jesus. But What About the Holy Spirit?”
- One Word 2021 Linkup—March + A Giveaway!
- Book Review: Faith After Doubt