How Can I Know God?

(c) Tim Keller; June 1991

What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.

"Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." --John 17:3

Why do I need to know God?

Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house-these breakthroughs arouse in us anticipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just a postponement. "Nothing tastes," said Marie Antoinette.

There are several ways to respond to this:

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Random notes on the Good News taken from sermons

Simply put, Christianity is what Jesus Christ has DONE for us.  DO versus DONE.  Religion is what we do.  The Gospel is what Jesus has done.

Grace is when God works IN and THROUGH us... DESPITE us.  God uses ordinary people to do His will.

We all want to be our own Savior.

Stop trying to be your own Savior.  Either you take the judgment of God, or Jesus takes the judgment of God for you.

All Old Testament scriptures spoke of Jesus.  Luke 24:27 "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

We are all a spiritual mess.  Still, God is fighting for us, and through us.

Religion is so sneaky.  Religion robs you of spiritual joy.

Worry about you own sin first.  Luke 18:9 "He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:"

Where is your confidence?  In God's MERCY, or YOUR OWN ABILITIES?

I GO to church (consumer religion - How can you serve me?) versus, I AM the church (Mission - How can I serve you?).

Slaves/Negative people don't hear the voice of affirmation.  We hear, "Daddy, Daddy." Galatians 4:6-7 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. 

The gospel presents us with a Jesus, not meek and mild, but One come to set the world on fire.  -Bob Heppe

With this verse, Jesus started His ministry:  Luke 4:18-19 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Here is an Old Testament verse that describes the American Church, living for its own comfort and pleasure...  Ezekiel 16:48-50 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters (1.) had pride, (2.) excess of food, and (3.) prosperous ease, (4.) but did not aid the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.

The religion God honors is about others.

How do you spell "Christianity?"  D.O.N.E.  Romans 1 explains man's guilt.  Romans 2-5 explains what God has DONE to remove our guilt.  Romans 6 explains the tools God has given us for not sinning.

The Gospel is not good advice to men but good news about Jesus; not an invitation to us to do anything, but a declaration of what God has done; not a demand but an offer.  -John Stott

In Noah, we see Jesus carrying his people through judgment.

Every time God calls you to do something, you will have to leave something precious to you.

In Abraham we see the best and worst of man.  He was a sinner, a mess, and a liar that couldn't trust God, yet God used him to change the entire world.

The key to understanding Abraham is Genesis 15:6 (MSG): And he believed! Believed God! God declared him "Set-Right-with-God."  It is not soley about Abraham's faith, it's more about about God's faithfulness.

The Good News is not our commitment to God, but God's commitment to us.

Our sin is great.  God's power is greater.

Do you have a big God?  Our God is really big!  Don't depend on your work and effort.  Depend on God's work and effort.

Sometimes preach the gospel with your mouth.  Mostly preach it with your life.

God is radically committed to re-uniting with us.

In Jonah, sin is shown as running from the presence of the Lord, and grace is shown as the Lord pursuing and overtaking the running sinner. We can run from God, but we can't outrun God.

Grace, that God works in us and through us despite us, is a major theme in Jonah and the rest of the Scriptures.

Lessons in Jonah   Grace:   God works in us and through us despite us.

Every human being has a deep spiritual longing.

Every human being prays, especially when you are in a storm. A storm is a situation which leaves you with no hope other than God.   Storms reveal our spirituality.

Religion is a fear based relationship with God. God if you do this I'll do that. You bargain with God to get out of trouble. God I'll do anything if you will....

Faith based relationship gives God control. Faith based prayers say I will trust God whether or not he gets me out of the storm.

Jonah 2:9 is the central verse, the summary verse of the whole Bible:   "Salvation belongs to the Lord."

Salvation is not what we do for God. Salvation is what God does for us. You and I don't bring anything to the party. God does it all. In spite of us.

What was the worst day, week, year of your life? Did you grow closer to God or further away? We are so slow to learn God is in control. God's sanctification process is painfully slow.

What do you look to feel right? Nationalism? Religion? These are the things that make up our identity. They are usually our idols and the things we trust more than God.

Jonah was enslaved as the pagans to whom he was to preach. He was more concerned about plants than people. Jonah loved his own world more than he loved God's world.

Jonah was self-righteous. What is righteousness? It's what we look to, to feel right. It's where we gain our identity, our meaning, our importance. It's what we freak out about when someone starts messing with it. It's the thing we trust more than God. When it's shaken or disturbed, we sometimes even want to die.

Because these things are our gods and what we trust in the most.   One way to look at our spirituality is to ask what our heart loves.

What do we daydream about? Jonah's heart did not love what God's heart loves. God loves people.   "If you lose something, and you feel like nothing, it means that something was your everything."  --Tim Keller

The book of Jonah ends with a question that is a rebuke to all of us. God is concerned with people because they don't know their right hand from their left. They have no moral compass. Their world is broken and messed up. They can't help it. They don't know any better.

The world does not have the power source to obey God like Christians do. They don't know how to change. And we don't help them because we are filled with self-righteousness.

'We are Jonah.' We are all filled with the idol of self-righteousness.   We possess a clear lack of compassion for people.

To become a Christian you must repent of your sin. To grow as a Christian you must repent of your self-righteousness.

Awareness of your self-righteousness indicates growth and maturity.

The less self-righteous you think you are, the more self righteous you certainly are.

Bad news is the law and none of us measures up.

Good news is Jesus and the cross, where mercy and grace trumps law.

You must look at the cross all the time or you will forget grace.

As the Ninevites forsook God with their idol worship, immorality, murder, cruelty, Jonah forsook God with his self-righteousness. The more you see it in yourself, the less it controls you. The less you see it in yourself the more it controls you.

Bad news is that you are a worst sinner than you thought. It worst than you thought.

Good news is that he is a greater savior than you thought. Look to the cross. This is very hard but its how God will use you.

God arranges circumstances to help us remember grace. He puts things in our lives to help us remember our own darkness and sin... and His love for us. Like a near death experience. Or something very small and he attacks our comforts.

God sends prophets to broken cities filled with broken people.