It's time to work out who God really is
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
IT'S NOT JUST CHRISTIANS who are asking the question. People who have no church connection, perhaps with just some fragments of faith which they have not articulated very much, are seeking the same answer. What is God saying, at this testing time?
And those who might not want to belong to the 'fragments of faith' category are adding their voices — with increasing desperation. "If there IS a God, what is He saying?" The pandemic has come, and we have changed our lives and isolated and hoped... and it receded, and we were very relieved about that. But now the threat is increasing again, we must learn new rules and follow them, and there doesn't seem a way to get the upper hand and win through.
"There doesn't seem a way..." — and in a way, that is a good thing. It is a good place to be, although it is a stretch to find that encouragement. But let's give it a go.
Structural timbers of our lives
Asking the question: "If there IS a God... what is He saying...?" puts us in position to find out. A lot of our problem is that we are too busy with our lives, preoccupied with all sorts of other things which are more important than faith. The 'structural timbers' of our lives have become everything and the foundation, never prominent, has been lost from sight.
What we have have built in our lives to believe and follow, gives us energy. What do we turn on the TV to see?
- The political debate
- Occupation and career
- Holidays and travel
- Family and friends
- Neighbourhood life
- Clubs, hobbies, interests, study
- Homes and gardens
- Shopping and possessions
None of these are bad things in themselves. To a greater or lesser extent they define who we are and colour-in our lives and our freedoms. So somebody having made poor choices which landed them in prison, or through difficult circumstances which have left them in poor health or homeless, are deprived of the freedoms that the rest of us celebrate and express, and live for in these kinds of ways!
However, the growing health and safety emergency is restricting all of these 'structural timbers' again. It is becoming our imprisonment. And, locked down and locked in and trying to find a way out, we may give some thought again to those hidden foundations.
Which brings us back to the verse which is speaking, with our question, "If there is a God..." and the hint of His answer which starts, "And we know..."
The way is relationship
Here's the thing. Knowing God does not come through the ordered following or recited expressions we call religion. It's not all bad, it is just not the way to come into a relationship with God. The way is not religion, it is relationship. It is not the alternative culture of religious form and practice — it is simply the reality of knowing God personally. This verse explains how that happens, and it is quite straightforward:
"...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."
The Passion Translation (TPT) puts is like this: “… The Son of God has made our understanding come alive so that we can know by experience the One who is true.” That’s how it works. We turn to Jesus and make a decision to receive Him. And something happens, whereby we see what we didn’t see before — our understanding comes alive — and where God was remote, now we know Him by experience. It’s a spiritual shift which is hard to convey in mere words.
The essential truth is simple, and we tend to bypass what seems too simple and make it complicated, which on a human, intellectual level is more satisfying. Hence the tension between ordered religion, and the simplicity of the reality. We may be trying to achieve and gain and work up by practice, something which we have been given. If we have been given it, we don't need to work at finding it!
God is unseen, spiritual and completely 'other' and we have words like 'holy' which are used to describe this. So at this point God is remote, uncompromisingly perfect and unseen — and if He speaks, we are not on that wavelength. Enter the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was born in the most ordinary circumstances and grew up, flesh and blood like us, completely human but at the same time the complete representation of what God is like. He is God but God in human form. We can look at Jesus, and know just what God is like, in terms we can relate to and understand.
We can look at Jesus, and accept and submit to who He is — and at that point the might and majesty of wisdom of God is revealed to us.
The verse says: "... We can know the true God". And we can. We come to know Him through the means He has provided for us to know Him which is not complicated, does not require us to do a lot of things or pay any 'club membership'. It is about heart-to-heart accepting Jesus and knowing God as a loving, understanding Father who cares and provides for us.
What is God saying?
What is God saying? Just this -- that we can come to know Him, by turning to His Son, Jesus. There is a cost. It's our pride, our independence, our priorities and giving Him the say in all those 'structural timbers' and how we build them together. It amounts to recognising that Jesus went to the Cross and gave up His life in the most horrible way imaginable, so we could have new life that endures for eternity. So we recognise that He gave up His life, by offering Him our lives, letting go of the independence. And we find He gives us our lives back, reshaped, different in some respects — but more and better.
God is using the evil of this crisis, turning it around for good, to get our attention and corral us into finding Him. We do that by our own free choice, and by the uncomplicated decision to turn to Jesus, trust Him and ask Him into our hearts.
O God, I thank You so much that You sent Your Son, Jesus, so that we could know Him, and through Him know You.
Jesus, I thank You for being the only man who could live a perfect life and then go to a shameful and horrendous death to pay the price for my independence and rebellion. The rebellion is over! I receive You, Jesus, as my Saviour and give You charge of my life as my Lord.
I rejoice that my sin and shame is accounted for by You, and I receive Your Holy Spirit to live as a new person in the freedom You have won for me.
As I accept Your death on my behalf, receive my life and obedience as I set out to live for You and with You. Amen.
- Go for a walk or take some time away from other distractions to talk to God about what He says in this verse. And give Him space and time to speak to you, and He will.
- It takes a bit of persistence to ‘tune in’ to His voice, perhaps more of an impression at first, but He promises “call and I will answer you”, Jeremiah 33:3.
- Whether you have just prayed the prayer now for the first time, or you have known and walked with God for a long time, God will want to talk to you about what He is saying at this time, through this verse and elsewhere. Invest some time in listening to Him!