Let’s explore the meaning of truly knowing God, and how we can get to know God well.
We can know about God without truly knowing God – meaning experiencing a relationship with God that reveals the truth of who God is. Knowing God involves more than simply learning about God. It involves relating to God in the ways God has designed us to know him. Let’s explore the meaning of truly knowing God, and how we can get to know God well.
What Does it Mean to Know God?
Knowing God goes beyond just an awareness that he exists, or merely knowledge about him. It means having a personal and intimate relationship with God. As we enjoy relationships with God, we grow in our understanding of his character and notice God’s presence and work in our lives.
God wants us to know him, and he emphasizes the importance of knowing him. In Jeremiah 9:24, God the Father declares: “… let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me…”. Jesus reveals in his prayer to God the Father in John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
When the Apostle Paul was speaking to a crowd in Athens, he pointed out that they had an altar inscribed with the words “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Then he told them about the real God, whom they can know. Paul reveals in Acts 17:25 that God “gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” He adds in Acts 17:27: “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” God himself speaks to people about seeking him in Jeremiah 29:11-13: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”.
Love is at the core of what it means to truly know God. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 that “God is love.” Since God’s nature is love, he wants loving relationships with us. God loves us completely and unconditionally. John 3:16 declares: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” God’s greatest commandment for us is to love him with all of who we are, just as he loves us fully (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). God is a loving Father who wants us, his beloved creations, to seek him so we can know him through loving relationships. We can’t truly know God without loving him, as 1 John 4:8 points out: “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
How Can We Truly Know God?
The key to genuinely knowing God is to connect to him through a relationship with Jesus, and to keep growing closer to God through that relationship. Thanks to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for our sins, we can come to God and get to know him. Jesus tells us in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” By looking to Jesus, we gain a profound understanding of who God is. Jesus reveals the nature of God to us, saying in John 14:9-10: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” The actions Jesus takes are all in obedience to God the Father (John 5:19), and the words Jesus speaks come from the Father (John 12:49). So, to truly know God, we must genuinely know Jesus.
In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus explains that not everyone who claims to know him will be able to enter heaven. He reveals that “only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” will be granted access. Jesus says he will tell people who followed religious rituals but didn’t truly do God’s will by investing in real relationships with God: “I never knew you.” Many people know about God by learning some facts about him, memorizing certain Bible verses, and even attending religious services and participating in Christian activities. However, if they only retain information in their minds without allowing the truth to penetrate their hearts, they don’t really know God. Jesus addresses this issue in Matthew 15:8-9, pointing out: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
When we wholeheartedly pursue relationships with God through Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit, and the facts we have learned about God come to life for us as we get to know him personally. Jesus tells us in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit “… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” We can rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to teach us all we need to know God personally – the way God wants us to know him. 1 Corinthians 2:12 reveals: “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
God wants personal relationships with us. So, truly knowing God means establishing and enjoying a relationship with him.
5 Ways to Get to Know God More
1. Pray and meditate: When we communicate with God through prayer, we can express our thoughts and feelings and seek God’s encouragement and guidance. Prayer is talking with God, while meditation is listening to God. Both prayer and meditation are essential ways of getting to know God more. Colossians 4:2 urges us to “Devote yourselves to prayer,” while Psalm 143:5 encourages us to “meditate on all your [God’s] works.”
2. Read and study the Bible: The Bible is God’s inspired Word and his love letter to us. Regularly reading and studying the Bible helps us understand who God really is and how we can best enjoy relationships with him. Hebrews 4:12 points out: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
3. Obey God’s commands: Obedience to God’s commands is a vital aspect of knowing him. By aligning our lives with God’s wisdom, we get to know his character and demonstrate our love and reverence for him. 1 John 2:3-4 declares: “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”
4. Look for signs of God’s wonder in nature: Nature reveals the wonder of God’s character. Romans 1:20 reveals: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” By spending time in nature and seeking God through his creation there, we can wake up to the wonder of God’s work around us and grow closer to him in the process.
5. Focus on relationship, not ritual: We need to pay more attention to our personal relationships with God than we do to performing religious rituals. While it’s important to participate in worship services and do service projects with other believers, none of that ultimately matters if we’re not genuinely connected with God when we do so. God tells us in Hosea 6:6: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” Knowing God involves truly changing our hearts to embrace God’s grace and mercy, not just performing religious actions.
God isn’t a distant being who is difficult to know. He is a loving Father who wants us to know him personally. But truly knowing God involves more than just gaining knowledge about him. Knowing God means enjoying a relationship with him that is based on love. God’s love is at the core of who he is, so when we truly know God, we live in love.
Photo Credit: © Pexels/Tony James Andersson
Whitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.
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Hearing Jesus is a devotional journey through the gospels, where we explore the teachings of Jesus chapter by chapter. If you're seeking to live a life that reflects God's, this podcast is for you.
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