How Can I Know God?

What you already know, what you probably don’t know,                                 
and why it matters more than you may think.


          I have some very important news to share with you.  Some of it I’m sure you already know, and if you search your heart you will also know that it is true.  And some of it, the most important part, you probably do not know or do not know very well.  And, depending on how you respond to it, this other part may be the best news you could ever hear, perhaps the news you have been longing to hear all your life! 



           Here is the part that you’re already familiar with, though you may not think about it in these terms. God made you.[1] Yes, God really is there, and since he has made all things, he has also made you. I think you already know this to be true. After all, nothing comes from nothing. So there had to be something in the beginning. And either it was impersonal matter that came first, which means that you came from nothing and serve no purpose (which is a pretty bleak, perhaps impossible way to live), or God was there first, and that means he made you with a purpose and that you must go to him to find your purpose.[2] Before there was anything else, there was God, and God made all things including you. He also made a pretty incredible world and universe which is only one indication of his greatness. 

          But since God made you, you are his creature, and he has the right to expect you to act in a certain way.[3] Unlike all of his other creatures (rocks, flowers, earthworms, and puppies, for example), God gave you a mind so you can think, affections so you can feel, and a will so that you can make choices.[4] And he expects you to think thoughts and have feelings and make choices that reflect your astonishing human dignity, but also his own goodness and greatness as your Creator. 

          But there is a problem. Something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Everybody knows this is true. We read about it in the newspapers, we hear about it when our neighbors fight, we feel it in our achy bodies, and most of all, we see it out at the cemetery with all of those graves. The fact is that we have all broken faith with the God who made us.[5] We certainly don’t live up to his perfect standards (we don’t even live up to our own standards!). And God is very angry with us as he should be.[6] He wouldn’t be much of a God if he weren’t. That’s not very popular to say these days (was it ever?), but it is true nonetheless.  And I’m quite sure you know this even though you may wish you didn’t, and may even more wish that it were not true.[7] But wishing something away has never worked, so we need to face it and own up to it. Nothing good can happen if we do not face up to this. Are you willing to do that? 


          This is the part that, depending on how you respond to it, may be some very good news to you, in fact, the best! We have a difficult, complicated problem. And a simple answer would never be sufficient. The problem is that we have become estranged from God, his enemies really.[8] But even worse, we have been cut off from his life. As we said at the beginning, God came first. That means he has all life and being in himself.[9] When he made us, he lent his life (and even existence) to us, but now we are in real trouble. We have been cut off from his life, and so all we have left is death.[10] 

          Death takes many forms. There is the cemetery waiting for us, and that’s scary enough. But the aches we already feel are a sign that our bodies have been subjected to death. And the fighting neighbors (and nations!) show that our relationships have died as well. Everything has been messed up because we have turned our backs on our Maker. We thought we could strike off on our own, but we cut the cord, and we are dead apart from God.[11] 

          So what is the answer? I would not have thought of the right answer if I lived a thousand years. I would never have hoped it could be true. The problem is twofold. First, we have broken faith with God, and we must face his justice. But his punishment is so terrible, we cannot endure it. His punishment is everlasting misery and shame. And second (and here’s the part that most people forget), we owed God our obedience: perfect obedience.[12] Our thoughts should have been pure and good. In our affections we should have loved what he loved and hated what he hated, but we have most often done the opposite. And our choices and actions should have always been good and right. But we all know that’s not the case. 

          Even if God could somehow erase all our wrongdoings, there would still be that perfect obedience that we owe him but cannot give him. Even if we could start afresh right now, there is that great part of our lives already lived in which we did not act (or speak, or think) in a way that was pleasing to him (I told you the problem was difficult and complex!). While we owed our Maker all our love and obedience, we can now only offer him our stubborn and selfish rebellion. So what are we to do? As I said, I couldn’t think of an answer to this problem in a thousand years.

          But God did think of a solution, and this all the more shows his greatness! Even though God was deeply offended by our high-handed rebellion so that all people deserve condemnation and the sentence of death, God chose to save some people because he chose to love them, not because they deserved it more than others. The Bible calls these chosen people God’s “elect.”[13] 

          So what was God’s solution? Well, what if God himself came and helped his elect? What if the Son of God became a man who then lived a perfect life?[14] If that happened, then that Man would not only have avoided the punishment for wrongdoing but he also would have earned the right to eternal life through his perfect obedience to God. That Man was Jesus, the Son of God, born of a virgin, so that he was at the same time truly man (Mary’s son) and truly God (God’s Son). And what if that Man then also voluntarily chose to serve that sentence of death that rightly belonged to his elect? He would then have paid their penalty for them, and they could go free. And Jesus did pay the penalty for the sins of his people when he, though innocent, died as a criminal, executed by crucifixion.[15] 

          The result was that Jesus earned the right to eternal life for his people and also served the death sentence for his people. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, he is alive forever and now offers eternal life, reconciliation, and reconnection to God, as a gift to all who will admit their guilt and humbly accept his free gift of eternal life.[16] 


          Today, through those who announce this good news (as I am doing right now), Jesus invites the guilty to be acquitted for his sake and at his expense and to be called out of misery and death to live in a faithful relationship with God and with the rest of his people by trusting and following him.[17] Jesus is calling today for all who will hear his voice and believe this good news. If you believe this to be true with all your heart, if you know that you are a ruined, rebellious criminal before God and deserve his condemnation; if you also believe that Jesus died on the cross for you, to pay the penalty for your sins and that God raised him from the dead for you; if you believe this with all your heart and will turn from your sin and self and turn to follow Jesus, confessing him publicly, then you are one of his people.[18] 

          You must tell God these things. You must admit to him that you are broken and hopeless, and that you are now trusting Jesus as the only one who could rescue you, and that you want to be reconciled to him as your heavenly Father. 

          If this is what you truly believe, then tell God right now. He will receive you and welcome you as his beloved son or daughter.[19] He has promised repeatedly that he would do so. But he will also call you to find a church that believes the Bible and puts Jesus first in everything. Please speak to the pastor or an elder of that church, show him this message, and tell him that you are now trusting Jesus and that you want to join the church and profess Jesus publicly before others.[20]  

          I think you can see that this is very important news. And if you believe it, then it truly is the best news that anyone could ever hear. I’m glad you heard it! And I look forward to meeting you in heaven if not before. 

          Be sure to find a church right away and tell the pastor or an elder of your newfound hope in Jesus! 

[1] Genesis 1:1-31; Ecclesiastes 3:11 
[2] Acts 17:24-28
[3] Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14; Isaiah 1:3
[4] Genesis 1:26-27
[5] Romans 3:23
[6] Romans 1:18
[7] Romans 1:19-23
[8] Romans 8:7-8
[9] John 5:26
[10] Romans 6:23
[11] Ephesians 2:1-3
[12] Hebrews 12:14
[13] Ephesians 1:3-14; Romans 8:29-30
[14] John 8:46; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22
[15] John 10:11; Mark 10:45; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:4-5; 5:15-17
[16] Ephesians 2:4-10
[17] Romans 1:16-17, 10:13-17
[18] Romans 10:9-10
[19] Romans 8:12-17
[20] Luke 12:8-9