Psalm 139:1-18, John 1:43-51
January 15, 2006
Do you know God? That’s often the way we think. When we think of our relationship with God, we think in terms of how well we know God? Today I’d like us to think of the opposite. I’d like us to think in terms of “Being known by God.” Instead of asking “Do you know God?” I’d like to ask “Does God know you?” So what do you think? Does he know you?
Before we go too far with that, I’d like us to consider what we mean when we say we “know” someone. When we use that word, is it the same thing as it would be if I were to ask you, for instance, if you “know” your ABC’s. Or what if I asked you if you “know” the capital of West Virginia. (Anybody?) What if I asked you if “know” all the presidents. “Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams…” But is any of that the same thing we mean when we ask if we “know” God? The problem is we use the same word to mean different things, don’t we? And people have a problem with that!
Let me ask it this way. Have any of you ever “known” a famous person? (Anyone? Who?) Again, when I ask that question, I am compelled to use a qualifier. We must also ask “how well do you know them?” That means more than just knowing their name or having met them a few times.
I’ve talked about Tony Campolo before. I’ve read a lot of his writings. I‘ve been in seminars where he was the leader. A couple of years ago, I was part of a clergy breakfast in which we all got to interact with him more closely. And of course, I’ve often heard him speak. In fact, I’ve been in the chancel at the front of the Church when he’s spoken. He’s even turned and poked fun at me! I’ve been busted on by Tony Campolo! But do I know him? Does he know me? I would guess the best I could hope for is that he might know my face, or that he might even know my name – if I told him again. But you know what? I highly doubt both. Tony Campolo and I really don’t “know” each other.
Knowing someone means knowing more than just their name. It means knowing more than just facts about them, like their address or their social security number. It implies a closer knowledge. The Biblical understanding of this word is all about an intimate knowledge – even to the point where the word is used to describes the intimate relationship between a husband and wife. “Adam knew his wife and she conceived.”
I hope you see in this that I’m trying to draw a comparison here between “knowing about someone” and “really knowing them.” When we use the word we mean different things. And I want to ask how you think of the word. The people you know – how well do you them? Instead of asking if any of you know any one famous, I might well ask does anyone famous know you?
I’m asking all this so that you might think about your relationship with God. Do you know God, in the sense that he is your friend and you share life with him – like you would know a close friend? Or do you know God in that you know about him because you’ve been to Sunday School or taken theology courses? Like the idea of knowing a famous person, do you just know about God because you’ve heard about him or studied him? Or do you share a relationship with God?
That’s what I’m getting at today when I ask this question. Because our relationship with God is about the personal. It is about the intimacy. And it brings us back to the original understanding and the original question. Because the point of the life of faith is not just “Do we know God?” but “do we share a personal relationship with God ever day?” And if we can ask “Do we know God?” we should also ask, “Are we known by God?” This is so important! It is everything!!
In one of my favorite Psalms, the psalmist described to us very well how much God knows us. He knows everything about us. He knows us in these wonderful, intimate ways. Look at the ways God knows us.
“O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and I rise up. Thou discernest my thoughts from afar… Even before a word is on my tongue, thou knowest it completely(!)” God knows everything about us. He knows our thoughts and our words. He knows us in every way!
“Wither shall I go from thy spirit?” Where can I go that you are not there, God? People think two things. They think God doesn’t know something they’re thinking, and they think God doesn’t know something they’re doing. Wrong on both accounts! We can’t think anything God doesn’t know. We can’t go anywhere and hide from God! Jonah tried it. Look what happened to him!
Why does God know us? The answer comes later. Because he made us. “For thou didst form my inner parts. Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.” We cannot hide our thoughts or our presence from God because he is our maker!
Now, we might ask, “Doesn’t God know everybody like that?” Again, this is intimate knowledge we’re talking about. Sure, God knows all the details about us. But does he know our heart? Does he know our mind? And the answer is “yes.” But(!) – and this is a big but – can we ignore him to the point that he doesn’t know us because we haven’t shared ourselves with him? Can we push him away to the point he doesn’t know us because we have refused to get to know him? Can he not “know us” in the sense that we don’t have anything to do with him? I think you know by now that the answer is sadly “Yes.”
Jesus himself said “in that day many will say to me, ‘Lord Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do may mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:22-23) Even those who think they know God, even those who do great things in his name, even they may be missing the point that it is in relationship with God, not in knowledge about God, that we know and are known!
How do we do that? How do we make it so God knows us? Part of the answer is simple. “Get to know God.” Yes, it’s that simple. Get to know God as you would get to know a friend. But it’s not uncomplicated. Because the simple fact is that many people don’t want to know God! And I’m not just talking about the un-Churched! Many in the Church are happy to come to Church to hear about God. They are glad to listen to inspirational things. They will even pray – because that’s what Church people do. But actually getting to know God? Actually interacting with God in their lives? They don’t really want that. They might even see that as an intrusion of some kind. They might even relegate that kind of thing to the realm of the “Holy Rollers,” or some such term that they have for people who are excited about their faith in ways different than their own.
You’ve got to want that! You’ve got to want to be known by God! You’ve got to want to take the learning about the faith that so many people are content to have, and turn it inward! The Christian faith is not about the learning. It’s about the heart! It’s not about learning about what God has done. It’s about knowing God in our hearts! And that is everything!
So I challenge you. Search your heart. Don’t just think about “what you know about God.” But know it’s the heart that counts. It’s knowing God and being known by God that is everything! To do that, you have to choose it. To do that, you need to be open to God’s spirit. You need to be open to God changing your heart. You need to consider the value of your relationship with God, and to be eager to know him better. Jesus told many parables about that. “The pearl of great price,” “the lost coin.” are just a couple of them.
You need to be eager about faith kinds of things. You need to Pray. And I don’t mean just speaking to God, but talking with God. I mean interacting with God like you would a friend. Do all the other things that go along with that, too. Read. Meditate. Listen. Talk with others who do. And I know many of you do. I know many of you know God. And many of you are glad to be known by him. If you’re not, then be open to that change in your life. I guarantee, it will change your life!
Eternal God, we seek to know you and to be known by you. We want to share our lives with you, even though we aren’t always sure how to do that. Touch us with your spirit so that we might feel your leading and your guidance. Help us to know we are yours. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.