BELIEVERS AND “KNOWERS”
I have a heavy burden for people who do not have a personal relationship with God. I struggle every day to find a way to describe my experience so they will seek Him out. I want them to understand it isn’t about practicing a certain religion and adopting a set of beliefs. It’s about getting to know the one true God.
When we define God based merely on belief, it is a very precarious thing. We generally adopt beliefs to justify behavior. Our beliefs change as we decide to try something new, to live a different way. But God doesn’t change – never has, never will. Knowing who He is enables us to understand how He wants us to live and why. And it doesn’t change every time the world around us changes.
God used to be something I just chose to believe in but I couldn’t defend or explain why I believed what I did. God could be anything I wanted Him to be, which allowed me to live any way I wanted to live. I would pick and choose the things I wanted to be true about Him based on what the world told me was best or what I needed to believe to justify the poor choices I was making.
My daughter knew I believed in God, but, despite my assurances to her, I suspect she knew I wasn’t where I needed to be. She was telling me about a study she had participated in at a church camp on how our hearts need to be right when participating in the Lord’s Supper. I said to her, “Who are they to question whether someone’s heart is right?” I was pretty annoyed with her and “those people.” But the fact that I was so annoyed by our conversation kept coming back to me. If I believed in God, why was it such a bad thing to learn as much as I could about Him? I realized there was a difference between the way I believed in God and what my daughter was experiencing. I wanted everything I learned to support my beliefs; my daughter wanted to know God’s ways because she knew Him and His great love for her.
As I watched my daughter take on the struggles of life, I could see she had a certain peace that I didn’t have. It wasn’t a positive attitude or self-confidence or high self-esteem the world tells us we need. It was so much more than that and as I continued to experience great fear, depression and anxiety from the consequences of poor choices I had made (sin), I knew I needed what she had.
I finally broke down and got to know God. He went from being this invisible force that I could bend and twist to suit my needs to something that truly exists. God has certain attributes and characteristics that I had to accept. As a mere believer in God, at some level I didn’t truly believe He is real so I could make Him be whatever I wanted Him to be. But when something is a reality, we have to accept how that thing is – we don’t get to define it in any way that suits us.
When I bring up something about God that someone doesn’t like, their response is usually “Well, that’s not the God that I believe in,” “I don’t want anything to do with that kind of God,” or “I don’t believe that about God.” I used to say the same things. But getting to know God is different than choosing what I want to believe about Him. Here’s how it plays out:
Compare defining God with defining a visible object, say an oak tree:
Oak tree: Science and observation have determined the oak tree has Attributes A, B, C, D, E, F, G
Jane insists an oak tree has Attributes A, C, F, G
Bob’s convinced an oak tree has Attributes A, B, C, D; he’s seen some with G
Sue “knows” an oak tree is made up of Attributes B, C, H; never seen one with G
We know they can’t just decide what attributes the oak tree has. They might be describing a tree, but they’re not describing an oak tree. Each has either taken away from or added to what an oak tree is. Jane, Bob and Sue will have to come up with a new name for each of their trees!
The same is true of God. He’s not visible but that doesn’t make Him any less real. Anything we have in our mind about Him that isn’t an accurate description is A god, not THE God.
God: The Bible tells us God has Attributes A, B, H, K, S and Z
Jane insists god has Attributes A, B, E, G and H; maybe S, she’s not sure
Bob’s convinced god has Attributes B, G, H and L; definitely NOT S
Sue “knows” god possesses Attributes A, B, H, K, and Z; Attribute S doesn’t make any sense to her so she dismisses it entirely
Each one is adding to or taking away from who God really is. Jane’s god needs a name, Bob’s god needs another name, and Sue’s god needs yet another name because each one is a different thing and certainly not the real God.
The first step is to believe there is a being very different from us, that God is real not just an element of a set of beliefs forming a religion. Next, we must understand the truth of the Bible – there are no major errors in it, it is God communicating to us the things He wants us to know. Then, just as you would study Abraham Lincoln, study God. After watching Spielberg’s movie Lincoln, I learned some characteristics of Lincoln that I hadn’t heard before; some I like some I do not like. Then I read that some parts of the movie aren’t historically accurate, so I know I need to research his portrayal of Lincoln. If I find the things I don’t like to be true, I still have to accept that they are part of who Lincoln was. If I find the things I like are not true, I have to dismiss them. I don’t get to add to or take away from who Lincoln was in order to make him into the kind of person I want to believe he was.
The difference between knowing and believing is nothing short of amazing. God as He truly is helped me make sense out of life and provided the boundaries that I needed. He is changing the way I view others as He changes my heart, my nature. It is the real God that changes my life; the god I had fashioned in my mind was just another exercise in self-indulgence. The God I made up was a mere god. I might as well have taken a rock and carved an image – that’s what I was doing in my mind: carving an image of a god that I wanted.
Seek God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind, and you will find Him – that’s a promise!