Who Is God, Part 6

We’ve come to the end of another series, and hopefully you’ve learned some things you didn’t know before or been reminded of things you’ve forgotten. It’s essential that we know as much as is possible about our God if we want to have the best relationship possible with Him. But there’s another reason to know God better. Paul wrote to Timothy about it.

For everything God made is good, and we may eat it gladly if we are thankful for it, and if we ask God to bless it, for it is made good by the Word of God and prayer. If you explain this to the others you will be doing your duty as a worthy pastor who is fed by faith and by the true teaching you have followed. Don’t waste time arguing over foolish ideas and silly myths and legends. Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually, and practice being a better Christian because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too. This is the truth and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe it, for our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted his salvation. (1 Timothy 4:4 – 10 | TLB)

Paul was warning Timothy, a young pastor, about false teaching and false teachers. False teachers love to foist their weird ideas on everybody. These false teachers of Paul’s day were running around teaching all manner of foolishness that some Christians were actually buying. Things like marriage is bad, exercising all day is good, and some foods are bad and should be avoided at all costs. Paul would have none it. He said, “Everything God made is good.” Period. No exceptions. And the Christian shouldn’t waste his time doing things that matter very little in the face of eternity. Don’t place your hope for a good life on your retirement accounts. Don’t place your hope for a good life on never eating fatty foods…on exercising eight days a week…or faithfully using your blue trash bin, or abstaining from this or that. Paul couldn’t be clearer: “Our hope is in the living God who died for all, and particularly for those who have accepted his salvation.” That’s right. Hope for today and for the future isn’t in your spouse or your church or your philosophy. It’s got to be in God Himself. And if you want to have genuine, sincere hope in the living God, you need to know Him. It’s too bad that so many Christians know what false teachers are teaching – and even false teachers themselves – better than God and His Word.

Knowledge: The best defense

Peter was a friend of Paul’s and he also understood the importance of knowing God and His Word.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:4 | TNIV)

When you read Peter’s two letters, it becomes clear that as far as he was concerned, the best defense is a good offense. Like Paul’s warning to young Timothy, Peter wrote about the dangers of false teachers and false teaching. His major concern was that his readers – young, immature Christians – would find false teaching alluring and be led astray by it.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Becoming rock steady in your beliefs begins with something Peter mentioned almost in passing in verse 2:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2 | TNIV)

Those first two words, “grace” and “peace” are important and shouldn’t be glossed over too quickly. Since I’ve spent considerable time defining them, I won’t do that again, except to note their order. It’s always “grace” then “peace.” You can never experience the God’s “peace that passes all understanding” until you have received His amazing “grace.” Grace always comes first; it is always the starting point for anything we receive from God. Salvation, blessings, answers to prayer, anything you can think of comes after God’s grace.

But now notice what comes next. Peter wants his readers to have “grace” and “peace” in abundance. That means He wants them to literally overflow with those things. The key to experiencing overflowing “grace” and “peace” is not necessarily praying for them but through acquiring more knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. It was Sir Francis Bacon, the man with one of the best last names ever, who wrote this famous quote in one of his works:

ipsa scientia potestas est

You probably know it like this: “Knowledge itself is power.” And in the case the Christian, that is certainly true, but it’s a very specific knowledge: Knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ will lead to an ever-increasing supply of “grace” and “peace.” In case you think this was all Peter’s idea, here’s Paul’s version of it:

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8 – 11 | TNIV)

Of course, Paul being Paul used many more words than did Peter to say essentially the same thing. But even before Paul and Peter there was a fellow named Daniel who made a very similar observation from the courts of Babylon:

And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32 | KJV)

Daniel is writing about the end times and the Antichrist, but his point is well-taken. People who know their God will be strong and do great exploits. And it follows that a Christian who doesn’t know the Lord all that well will not be strong and will do very little for Him. In all, the words “knowledge” and “know” are used over a dozen times in Peter’s letter and it refers to a personal knowledge; knowing a person for who he or she is, not from what you can glean from a classroom or a text book. Knowing God can never be a theoretical or academic exercise. This kind of knowledge comes from both understanding God’s Word and experiencing the presence of God and of His grace on a continuous basis.

Spiritual provision

So far in this letter, knowing God and knowing His Word form the best defense against falling to false teaching. But the next couple of verses give us two profound truths.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3,4 | TNIV)

The two profound truths are these: Knowledge of God and promises of God and both of these things are involved in living a holy life.

Knowledge of God

God has provided everything necessary for a Christian to lead the good life – a life that is Godly and righteous. This fact, that God gives you the resources to live right, shouldn’t surprise anybody. Christ draws all people into a relationship with Him, and His power enables them to respond.

God’s “divine power” is really the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, and it is this exact same power that works in our lives.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11 | TNIV)

God, through the Holy Spirit, empowers you to live a godly life; making you strong and giving you spiritual victories. This power is accessed through “our knowledge of him.” Please note that, because it’s not what most Christians think. Their answer to righteous living is to “pray about it.” That’s church-speak for, “I don’t want to do any of the work, I want God to do it all.” There are a lot of lazy Christians like that, and this type of believer will talk a blue streak about how much they pray, yet a closer examination of their lives shows they know very little about God and are generally unimpressive in the things they do for God. Knowing God means reading and studying His Word. You can’t know about God by listening to sermons or reading books about Him, although you should be doing both.  But knowing God is a supernatural transaction: You do your part by reading and studying the Bible, and God does His part by illuminating that Word in your heart. It’s that intimate knowledge of Christ that gives us power to live and to grow. Everything – everything – you need to live a successful, victorious, powerful Christian life is found in Christ, and when you find Christ as Lord and Savior, you receive those things. You are made complete in Him.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9, 10 | TNIV)

But all that divine provision is activated by knowledge of Him gained in through the Scriptures.

Promises of God

The second great truth involves the promises of God. At salvation, we receive everything we need to live a godly life, but also priceless spiritual promises. In the Bible, there are really two kinds of promises from God. The first group of promises flow into our lives when we accept Christ as Savior. Some of those promises are things like these:

Forgiveness of sins – past, present, and future;
Adoption by God;
Spiritual growth by the Holy Spirit;
Comfort during the hard times;
Provision of our needs;
The sure hope of Heaven when we die;
Resurrection of our bodies when the Lord returns;
Reigning with Him in His kingdom.

That list is by no means exhaustive, but you get the idea. Nothing we do impacts those promises. Those are gifts from God that we can’t earn. But in addition to promises like those, Christians may receive promises based on their actions. For example, there is the promise that we will become like Christ. That starts with the new birth, but after that it’s up to us to do the things that cause us to grow into Christ-likeness. That’s why the very next group of verses go like this:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5 – 7 | TNIV)

As Lou Barbieri wrote that the Christian life if like the use of power steering on a car. The engine provides the power for the steering, but the driver must actually turn the wheel. Without the engine, it’s almost impossible to steer your car. Without the supernatural power provided by God, living the Christian is almost impossible. The Lord provides the power to run our lives, but we must turn the wheel. In a very real sense, the Christian really does determine the course of his life.

This is a wonderful and often overlooked aspect of God’s character. He will do so much for us, all we have to do our part.

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