Growing in the Knowledge of God

By: Dr. Steven C. Riser; ©2008
What do you suppose is the most important thing in the world for every Christian? Is it not to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Text – Colossians 1: 9-11

Introduction

Ever since I was a teenager, nothing has fascinated me more than the knowledge of God. For example: Who is God? Can God be known? How can we discover Him? Now, in later years, I realize that these are not merely questions of childhood; they are the most important questions anyone will ever ask.

But more than that, they lie at the heart of the Christian faith. Christians today, don’t always see that as clearly as they should. Perhaps that explains why we are not all we ought to be, either in our worship of God, or in our fellowship with one another or in our witness to the world. My hope is that this article will contribute to a more God-centered way of living for the reader.

Explanation

  1. Only as Christ’s words remain in us and only as we stay in close fellowship with Him can we be delivered from the rootless Christianity so characteristic of our times.
  2. Only as God impacts the way we think, feel and live will we develop minds that are filled with His thoughts, hearts that are filled with His love and wills that are characterized by obedience to His Word.

The Most Important Thing in the World – 2 Peter 3:18

What do you suppose is the most important thing in the world for every Christian? Is it not to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

1. The knowledge of God is at the heart of salvation and all true spiritual experience. Knowing Him is what we were created for – it will occupy us throughout all eternity. In Scripture, it is almost equivalent to salvation. Jesus said that eternal life (or salvation) involves knowing God (John 17:3).
To be a Christian is not a mindless experience, but involves knowledge and understanding. It means establishing a personal relationship and intimate fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The knowledge of God is not only the most important thing in the world for every Christian but:
2. Christ came to bring us the knowledge of God: John 1:1 – the incarnate Word was God; Colossians 2:9, 10 – in Him dwelt all the fullness of God bodily; Hebrews 1:3 – the Son is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His being. Such knowledge of God is really at the heart of all true understanding in the Christian life. As Christians, we may be and remain ignorant of many things but not the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 9:10 says that the “knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” While humankind possesses more information that ever before in history, perhaps he has never had so little true knowledge of God. That’s why our times are marked by a singular lack of understanding, appreciation and genuine insight into the need of the hour. Christ came not only to bring us the true knowledge of what God is like, but…
3. Scripture also teaches us that the knowledge of God can keep us from sin (Isa. 1:3; Psa. 119:11). Either God’s Word will keep us from sin or sin will keep us from God’s Word. When people truly know God and are growing in a genuine relationship with Him, their lives are marked by integrity and a genuine desire to please or glorify God in all that we do. They do not treat dishonesty of the heart or lips indifferently.
They are in a word, holy. But our age is ignorant of or frightened by holiness. It’s all the more tragic that the church has also been frightened by holiness. It likes nothing less than to be different from the world. Why? Because we do not understand God’s holiness or His command that His people be holy. If we really knew Christ, it would show in the character and conduct of our lives.
4. The knowledge of God is also essential to Christian growth. In Colossians 1:10 Paul expresses his desire for Christians to grow spiritually with this phrase: “growing in the knowledge of God.” We are not at liberty to compose our own ground rules for living the Christian life. If we want to grow as a Christian, we must grow in the knowledge of God.
5. Further, the knowledge of God is not only our greatest need but it is also our greatest privilege. Listen to what God said to us in Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”
Jeremiah penetrated through all the superficialities of life to the heart of the matter. Who cares about worldly wisdom, or strength or riches or power or fame apart from the knowledge of God? Anything and everything that man desires is secondary to the knowledge of God. The only thing really worth glorying in is that we know God! He must be in the center of our lives controlling all our aspirations.
What do you and I boast about? What subject of conversation arouses us and fills our hearts? Do we consider knowing God to be the greatest treasure in the world? Do we consider knowing God to be our greatest privilege? If so, why don’t we spend more time cultivating that relationship?
Are we nothing more than spiritual pigmies? Have we sold our spiritual birthright for a mess of pottage? If knowing God is not our primary focus, our Christian experience will be superficial, inadequate and out of focus. Many of our lives are suffering from spiritual astigmatism, which shows in our personal lives, our relationships, in our lack of impact of our world and most obviously in the character of our worship.
How clear are you about the importance of this issue? Perhaps you have heard me say that the understanding of the nature of God is the single most important ingredient in your worldview and your worldview affects how you perceive and interpret reality.
Knowing God is your single highest privilege as a Christian as well as the one that helps you to see clearly every other issue of importance. But, is this the issue that lies at the center of your thinking? In all Christians Christ is present; in some Christians Christ is prominent; but in few Christians is Christ preeminent, and yet that is God’s desire for every Christian.

Growing In the Knowledge of God

What is involved in “growing in the knowledge of God”? In Paul’s prayer for the Colossians in Colossians 1:9-11. There are four principles governing the knowledge of God in a growing believer:

1. God alone is the author of our knowledge of Himself – only God can reveal Himself. God alone is a fit witness to Himself. If God doesn’t reveal Himself, how can we possibly know Him? No one less than God can bring us true, reliable knowledge about God. That is why Paul prays that God will teach the Colossians about Himself. This is a most humbling truth (1 Cor. 2:2-14) .
True knowledge of God is not essentially learned from books (although they may help us), or schools (although they may stimulate our learning). The knowledge of God cannot be learned apart from a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. This knowledge is received by those who seek to know Him in a spirit of dependence upon the Holy Spirit who illuminates our minds to the truth. In Jeremiah 29:13 God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
2. The knowledge of God involves spiritual wisdom and understanding. How can we obtain it? The answer is rather simple: The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform the children of God. As to assimilate the written Word of God, which is living and active, the Spirit illuminates our minds to the knowledge of God and we are equipped to instruct others in the knowledge of God.
We hear God’s voice through the patient study of Scripture and we learn how God views Himself, ourselves and others as well as how He wants us to serve Him so as to accomplish His purposes. There is no substitute for thoroughly assimilating God’s Word through: listening, reading, studying, memorizing and meditation. We can’t bypass the handbook God has given us and expect to know Him in some other way. The only God we can know in our own way is the one we make in our own image and that is idolatry!
The fact that we need to persevere in God’s Word and abide in Christ/Word (John 15:7) underlies the third element in Paul’s prayer to the Colossians:
3. Growth in the knowledge of God requires patience and a teachable spirit. The Christian life is not for: 1) sprinters, but for long distance runners; 2) people who think they know it all, but for those who are open to learning from God’s Word and God’s Spirit.
Christians who would grow in the knowledge of God need God’s strength so that they can endure. Why? To learn to know God, we must learn to wait upon Him (Hab. 2:3). That requires patience and endurance. God reveals Himself to us on His own time and that requires patient endurance on our part (Prov. 1:1-4).
4. The knowledge of God cannot be separated from faithfulness to God. Paul wants to Colossians to grow in the knowledge of God so they will lead lives worthy of God.
What are some of the marks of a life that is worthy of God? To be worthy means that there is a correspondence between ourselves and what we are to be worthy of. Paul prays that our lives will correspond to God’s character and God’s will is simply an extension of His character.
In practical terms this means that the knowledge of God we receive from His Word and learn to appreciate in our walk with Him must be exhibited in the quality of our faithfulness to God and in the integrity of our lifestyle.
We are to make the teaching about God attractive (Titus 2:10). If the Gospel is truly Good News, then it must be presented in a method that is consistent with the message. There is no such thing as genuine knowledge of God that does not show itself in obedience to His Word and His will.
The people who say they want to know God but have no heart to obey God will never enter the sacred courts where God reveals Himself. God doesn’t give knowledge to those who don’t desire to glorify Him.

What have we discovered from God’s Word today?

We discovered that the knowledge of God is the most important thing in the world. Why?

  1. The knowledge of God is our greatest privilege and our greatest need.
  2. It is the essence of salvation and all true spiritual experience.
  3. It is the source of all true understanding in the Christian life.
  4. It is the most important ingredient in a Christian worldview.
  5. It is a great preservative from sin.
  6. It is essential to our spiritual growth.

We also discovered how to grow in the knowledge of God:

  1. God alone is the author of our knowledge of Him.
  2. It involves spiritual wisdom – the Spirit illuminates our minds to the truth of God’s Word.
  3. It requires patient endurance as we assimilate God’s Word.
  4. It can never be separated from a life of faithfulness and obedience.

Therefore, let each of us declare with the prophet of old what is of first importance – Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts, boast about this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth, for in these I delight, declares the Lord.”

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