How can I know God?
By Timothy Keller
What is Christianity?
Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is an actual experience. Each is something a Christian has, but not one gets to the heart of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a relationship between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.
Why do I need to know God?
Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house, these breakthroughs arouse in us an anticipation of something which (as it turns out) never occurs. We eventually discover that our desire is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Nothing tastes, said Marie Antoinette. Many of us avoid the emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just postponement.
There are several ways to respond to this:
By blaming the things themselves by finding fault in everyone and everything around you. You believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the most successful people in the world are like this bored, discontented, running from new thing to new thing, often changing counselors, mates, partners, settings.
By blaming the universe itself by giving up seeking fulfillment at all. This is the person who says, “Yes, when young you are idealistic, but at my age I have stopped howling at the moon.” This makes you become cynical; you decide to repress that part of you which once wanted fulfillment and joy. But you become hard and you can feel yourself losing your humanity, compassion and joy.
By blaming and recognizing your separation from God by establishing a personal relationship with Him.
How do I form a personal relationship with God?
To form a personal relationship with God, you must know:
1. Who we are:
God’s creation. God created us and built us for a relationship with Him. We belong to Him, and we owe Him gratitude for every breath, every moment, everything. Because humans were built to live for Him (to worship), we will always try to worship something. If not God, we will choose some other object of ultimate devotion (work, relationships, achievement, religion) to give life meaning.
Sinners. We have all chosen (and re-affirm that choice daily) to reject God and make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to worship God and surrender our self-mastery, yet we were built to worship so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things that promise to give us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, and so on.
In spiritual bondage. To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. These things cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be gods. They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self-image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.
2. Who God is:
Love and Justice. His active concern is for our joy and well-being. Most people love those who love them, yet God seeks the good even of people who are His enemies. But because God is good and loving, He cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger but indifference. The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows that he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against His loving authority?
Jesus Christ. Jesus is God Himself come to Earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God with all His heart, soul and mind, fulfilling all human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed a perfect record. Then, instead of receiving his deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death each of us owed. When we believe in Him:
Our sins are paid for by his death, and His perfect record is transferred to our account. So God accepts and regards us as if we have done all Christ has done.
3. What you must do:
Repent. There first must be an admission that you have been living as your own master, worshipping the wrong things, violating Gods loving laws. Repentance means you ask forgiveness and turn from that stance with a willingness to live for and center on Him.
Believe. Faith is transferring trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously rely on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think God owes me something for all my efforts, you are still on the outside.
Pray after this fashion: I see I am more flawed and sinful than I ever dared to believe, but that I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life of living for myself. I have nothing to merit you’re approval, but I now rest in what Jesus did and I ask to be accepted into God’s family for His sake.”
When you do this, two things happen at once: Your accounts are cleared; your sins are wiped out permanently, you are adopted legally into God’s family, and The Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins to change you into the character of Jesus.
Follow through. Tell a Christian friend about your commitment. Find a church where you can regularly worship God, grow in your faith together with other believers, use your gifts to serve others.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will connect you with someone who can help you grow as a Christian!
What if I'm not ready to proceed?
Make a list of the issues that you perceive to be a barrier to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
Content Issues. Do you understand the basics of the Christian message–sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
Coherence Issues. Are there intellectual problems that you have with Christianity? Objections to the Christian faith that you cannot resolve in your own mind?
Cost Issues. Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you dearly? What fears do you have about commitment?
Sunday Worship Service – You will learn so much more about Christianity by attending a worship service than you ever could from just reading books or talking to people. Every Sunday we anticipate the presence of non-believers in our worship service, because we believe there is no better place for a person to figure out what he or she believes. Click here!