And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life. – 1 John 5:20 NLT
1 John 5:13-21
We can know God. That should be an amazing, mind-blowing thought, but to most of us, it carries little or no weight. It has long lost its significance, if it ever had any. We have grown so used to using God’s name and claiming to have a relationship with Him that we no longer understand the unbelievable nature of that reality. Because of Jesus and His death on the cross, we can know God. The term that John uses for a knowledge of God is ginōskō and it is the same Greek word used when talking about the sexual intimacy between a woman and a man. It is an intimate word. It is not merely describing a cerebral or cognitive kind of knowledge – head knowledge. It is a knowledge grounded on personal experience. In other words, it is heart-knowledge. We have the unique privilege of coming to know the God of the universe – intimately, closely, lovingly, and experientially. I can actually know God, not just have knowledge about God. What’s the difference? Why does it matter? It matters because Jesus gave His life so that we might be reconciled, made right with God. He died so that we might have life, but that life is intended to be focused on and lived out for the glory of God, not ourselves. We were once alienated and separated from God. Paul reminds us, we “were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (Colossians 1:21 NLT). He tells us that “while we were still his enemies,” God sent His Son to die for us. Why? Just so we could go to heaven some day? No. So that we might have a restored relationship with Him. We can have what Adam and Eve had before the fall changed everything. We can have communion with our creator God. We can have fellowship with Him. We can know Him closely – like a child and a father.
In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul told them that he never ceased to pray for them, asking that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10 ESV). It is interesting that Paul puts equal emphasis on knowing God’s will and knowing God. It is only as we grow to know Him better that we will come to know what He loves, how He thinks, what He desires, and what His will for us might be. I always find it fascinating that, when Jesus prayed in the garden on the night He was to be betrayed, He described eternal life in these terms: “that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3 ESV). Jesus died so that we might come to know His Father in the same way that He does. It is about relationship, not religion. Christianity is not about performance or earning favor with God. It is about understanding the love of the Father and growing in our appreciation for that unmerited, undeserved love. It is about coming to know just how loving, gracious, kind, generous, forgiving, merciful, and patient our heavenly Father really is. Our quest in life is not to please God, but to grow to know Him. God is not asking us to perform for Him or prove our love for Him. He is asking us to rest in the love He has for us – a love so powerfully illustrated in the sacrifice of His own Son on our behalf. Far too many of us don’t know what it means to be a Christian because we don’t know what it means to know God. Some of us live in fear of Him. Others of us misunderstand Him. Many of us take Him for granted. There are those who see Him as distant and unknowable. He doesn’t hear their prayers. He doesn’t show up in their lives. For them, God is an impersonal, unperceivable God, who remains a mystery to them. But Jesus died so that we might know Him. He gave His life so that we might spend the rest of our lives getting to know God better and better. God desires a relationship with us. He wants to reveal Himself to us. He has placed His Spirit within us, provided His self-revealing Word to us, and proved His love for us. All He asks in return is that we seek to know Him, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20 ESV).