Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Value of Knowing God

I am participating in a book study on Knowing God, by J.I. Packer. The thoughts that he presents are sometimes overwhelming, and I've heard people say that it's too hard to understand...and I go because these truths are too hard to understand, and as I kind of hope to be, I end up overwhelmed...and maybe I should be more overcome by that overwhelmedness than I am, at my own smallness of understanding. Instead I am overwhelmed by the very greatness of God who my smallness cannot encompass. It is a happy place to be, rather than to be comfortable with a God I think I can understand and that I might mistakenly hope to manage.
God has presented Himself in finite Scriptures even though He is infinite. It is a very wondrous thing, that He who is infinite has given us only a fairly small collection of writings from which to know Him--and none of us is fully wise enough to know Him well even through reading and re-reading the Scriptures over and over again. And every reading brings us to better knowledge; in every reading, God's Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures in a whole new way to our finite minds so that they are never old. So God has pulled a great trick here: He has given us something finite, reflecting an infinite God; and we can never plumb its depths because the Scripture is a living and active Word. It is finite and at the same time infinite in its application and its ability to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
I go home from the study and the ideas of God's greatness stay with me, wafting around in my thoughts...and bringing me to worship as long as the thoughts remain. Why has He given us His finite but extensive display of who He is, in the Scriptures? It is because He wants us to know Him. He wants us to know Him well. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself. He also tells us that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth; that is, with a proper attitude given through the power of the Holy Spirit; and in truth, having an accurate knowledge of who God is--as complete an accurate knowledge as we can assemble in our lifetimes. If we are satisfied with how much we know God, then our knowledge, our faith, and our worship will be puny. Our testimony of who He is and what He does will be limited if we don't stretch ourselves to understand more about Him, and we won't glorify Him as fully as we ought.
He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, in the Scriptures; and yet we lack the wisdom to understand them fully on our own. The writings are of an ancient culture, translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and giving sometimes deep theological truths that take some study and grappling to understand. So though the Scriptures in themselves are sufficient, our ability to comprehend and then properly apply their meaning is hindered by our ignorance of many things. Therefore it is useful to read what others have articulated after far better study than what we could accomplish on our own. Therefore I like the Packer study. I like it because the book is beyond my full comprehension, as the Scriptures are in so many ways beyond my comprehension. And I especially like it because it shows just how much God Himself will always be far beyond my comprehension. (At least someday I will see Him face to face, beholding His glory!) Meanwhile, I intend to continue to seek to plumb the depths that will always be too deep for me.
'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.

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