Knowing God, Knowing myself

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Knowing myself, knowing God. (Based on a sermon)

Eph 3:19 “And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

The title of my message today is “Knowing myself, knowing God.” Unfortunately, it is quite possible for Christians to go through life without ever taking a close examination of themselves in the light of God’s word, or in the light of His love.

Socrates once said “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Well, this is certainly true for the Christian life – an unexamined life for a Christian is certainly an inauthentic one!

And if one is not taking the time to know oneself, what about knowing God?

What about you?…Have you grown in your understanding of God’s character and His love? Or is truly knowing Him even a priority in your life?

We need to ask ourselves – What is the desire of my heart – is it to know more about the character of God and His love, or is it to satisfy my desire with the things that please me most?

But  “How can you love what you do not know?”

“Know thyself!” These two words were inscribed on the walls of the temple of Apollo at Delphi, and they have become the touchstone for all Western philosophers.

Similar ideas  based on that one followed  such as this one from Benjamin Franklin – “Observe all men, thyself most.”  Or this one from some Lao Tse Tung – Chinese philosopher – “It is wisdom to know others, enlightenment to know oneself.” And here’s one from the author Aldous Huxley – “If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self knowledge is too painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion.”

There is some truth perhaps in those words, but the Bible tells us that the human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who CAN know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Even though many wise men said many wise things about knowing ourselves, the Bible tells us that we are not capable of truly knowing ourselves – especially in the light of eternal things. Only the Searcher of hearts truly knows us, and only He can show us who we really are.

 “Search me oh God, and Know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”. Psalm 139:23-24

Sometimes we don’t like to think that Searcher of hearts gets too close. We remain slightly aloof because we’re a bit apprehensive of getting ourselves fixed into His gaze. And why would this be? Why such fear or apprehension about allowing Jesus to search our hearts?

It is because Satan blinds us to the manner in which the Searcher comes. Satan lies to us and tells us that the Searcher of hearts comes to judge and condemn us, so we become apprehensive and hide away, we busy ourselves with all sorts of things… even church activities. Church is the best place to hide away from the gaze of our Saviour. Our deceived hearts can tell us that because we are doing this or that, that all is well with us spiritually.

We can miss something incredibly beautiful about the heart of God. We don’t understand that He comes to us in Love! Not to condemn or judge us, but to show us ourselves so that we can say – “Yes Lord – you are right – it’s true – please take this cherished sin or cherished idol away from me!”

You see this is a relationship at its most honest level! When someone who loves you calls you out and tells you when you are wrong…..if you really hold this person in high regard… if you really cherish this relationship, the only honest response can possibly be  ‘”yes, you are right, it’s true, I’m sorry.” Any other response would be selfish and dishonest, and it would most certainly drive a wedge of separation into that relationship.

Reasons not to submit

Of course another reason we might not want the Searcher of hearts to get too close is that we already know that we have some things lurking underneath that we don’t really want exposed. You know, it’s like the elephant in the room – things that are there but not really mentioned in our prayer time – “Let’s not talk about that one right now” – and why not? Because we are not really serious about giving them over, not really interested in sending them to the sanctuary to be cleansed.

Why on earth would we want to hold on to our old sins when we could be having the most amazing relationship with the One who loves us.

 “And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:19

Are you having an honest, authentic relationship with Jesus? Do you find yourself submitting to every ray of light that He is sending your way? And I mean every ray!!!

Listen to this from the book ‘That I may know Him’:

“The question of deepest interest to each one should be, Am I meeting the requirements of the law of God? That law is holy, just, and good, and God would have us daily compare our actions with this, His great standard of righteousness. Only by a close examination of self in the light of God’s Word can we discover our deviations from His holy rule of right….”

Am I meeting the requirements of the law of God? We are told that this is a question we need to be asking ourselves? Am I comparing my actions with that great standard? Am I discovering any deviations from that law of love?

“Oh that He, Christ Jesus might be glorified – Oh that this might be the purpose of our lives! Then we should have regard even to the expression of our countenance, to our words, and even to the tone of our voice when we speak.” Manuscript 43, 1908.

What a high calling is this? To be so in tune with Christ – that we would be aware what facial expressions we make, what tone of voice we speak to others in, even when we are  being pressed hard ? “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalm 119:165)

It is so important for us daily to examine ourselves – in what way am I not fulfilling God’s law of love? How will we ever know in what way we are straying from the path of righteousness if we are not being honest with ourselves or with our Saviour?

What is the purpose of my life? What drives me along every day? Is it to educate myself more and more in the way I can glorify God? Or is the purpose of my life to position myself or my children well in the world? To get ahead? Is it to gratify myself at every opportunity?

Satan has blinded us – yes even us Seventh Day Adventists. He has blinded us to the true character of God and the Love of Jesus. Because of this, we are a bit apprehensive about allowing Him in completely….we’re a bit apprehensive about bearing our souls to him, so we leave Him standing outside the door, gently knocking, longing to be welcomed in as our beloved friend. “But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” (Isaiah 43:22)

If we understood for ourselves the Love of Jesus, we would never leave Him outside. We would see that He has everything we have ever longed for, we would never bar the door of our hearts, we would surrender completely to everything He asks of us, and I mean everything! The way we work –  the way we take our leisure – the way we dress – the way we eat. All would be put on the altar of consecration. We would hold nothing back!

Brothers and sisters, let’s consecrate ALL to Him! He is the ONLY source of true happiness and joy, and peace! “Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; …  For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” Isaiah 44: 2-3

When the children of Israel were wandering through the desert, they were not trying to learn about God’s character, and they certainly did not understand His love.

All through their wanderings they continually murmured and complained –  and all the while God was continually demonstrating His love and care for them. He carried them on eagles’ wings. But they constantly forgot Him and rebelled over and over again.

And while all of this murmuring and rebelling was going on – what was it that God wanted from them?

Here are but a few verses from the Book of Deuteronomy – 6:5 ,10:12, 11:13, 11:22, 13:3, 19:9, 30:6,16, 20, etc. There are so many through the entire Old Testament.

We can read that all God really wanted from them was LOVE. He wanted them to Love Him back – ‘if ye will love the Lord your God…” etc.

O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! Deuteronomy 5:29

“Oh that there was such a heart in them…”- hear the cry of God longing for His children to love Him! Hear His cry for you!

LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart….with all your soul….with all your mind….

Obedience is not just about keeping the law, it is about loving God with all your heart and soul and mind. Because when this is a reality in your life, obedience is just the outflow of a heart that is in love with its Creator. Law keeping is simply just being in love with the Law Giver! And sin is simply falling short of that love!

God’s glory is His character and when we sin and fall short of that glory we live for ourselves and we lose that love as the ruling power in our lives.

If we would stop thinking about the law as a bunch of rules that must be obeyed, and think more of them in the context of living out God’s love we would see that sin is just a forfeiting of that love.  All obedience or commandment keeping is simply living out God’s love. It springs from hearts that are in love with Jesus.

It was only after sin entered the universe that there had to be a written law –  but that’s not how it was supposed to be! The law was written into the fabric of the hearts of God’s created beings – to love like God loves. To love without any law written anywhere.

But in heaven, service is not rendered in the spirit of legality. When Satan rebelled against the law of Jehovah, the thought that there was a law came to the angels almost as an awakening to something unthought of. In their ministry the angels are not as servants, but as sons. There is perfect unity between them and their Creator. Obedience is to them no drudgery. Love for God makes their service a joy. So in every soul wherein Christ, the hope of glory, dwells, His words are re-echoed, “I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.” Psalm 40:8. {MB 109.2}

So, you see, it’s the same for us. We can live like that, where the obedience is a joy – love for God makes service a joy! Abraham didn’t need any written law, as he understood and He believed God, and He was righteous.

The law given at Sinai was that old covenant experience of law outside of us. What God wanted was the law inside of us the new covenant experience where He would write the law not on cold unresponsive stones, but on the fleshly tables of the heart. Abraham had this experience, because he loved God and believed Him. That is why he is the father of all those who are of faith – of the new covenant experience.

And what is sin? Sin is nothing more than this beautiful love of God betrayed. It is all self focused instead of other focused.

It will be seen that the glory shining in the face of Jesus is the glory of self-sacrificing love. In the light from Calvary it will be seen that the law of self-renouncing love is the law of life for earth and heaven; that the love which “seeketh not her own” has its source in the heart of God; and that in the meek and lowly One is manifested the character of Him who dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto. {DA 19}

Have  you seen it? Have you seen that that law of life is the law of self-renouncing love? Let’s read Psalm 63:1-8:

“Oh God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. ….Because  your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in  your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of  you through the watches of the night. Because  you are my help I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. “

These beautiful words were inspired by God and given to David. Not only did David long for God, but God was longing for him too, and for you and me! He earnestly seeks us, He longs for us, our love to Him is better than life. He remembers us all through the watches of the night. His soul clings to us.

What kind of love is this?

Knowing God

Back in the day there was a silly song that was full of self promotion. One line went – “To know me is to love me”. Well… to know God is to Love Him. “And to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge… that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

When we know God, we will know love. We will know that WE are the focus of all of His attention. WE are HIS heart’s desire!

Jesus spoke about God even knowing about a sparrow falling to the ground. God is so filled with love and goodness, nothing can die but that His heart is broken by that death.

And you are far more valuable than many sparrows.

God allows Jesus to die for one

Do you believe that God would have allowed Jesus to die for you if you were the only one on the planet ever to accept Him? Do you really believe it? Do you know it? Do you feel it?

God loves each one of us as if we were the only person to love in the whole universe.His divine heart is capable of loving millions of us – each one being the special object of His love.He loves you intensely. He knows every breath you take because He is the One keeping you alive moment by moment by His power. He even knows how many hairs you have on your head at this very moment. He sees you as you fall asleep and He sees you when you wake up!

Do you understand personally the value God places on you? Do you know it at an emotional level?

Said the angel, “Think ye that the Father yielded up His dearly beloved Son without a struggle? No, no.” It was even a struggle with the God of heaven, whether to let guilty man perish, or to give His darling Son to die for them. Angels were so interested for man’s salvation that there could be found among them those who would yield their glory and give their life for perishing man. “But,” said my accompanying angel, “that would avail nothing.” The transgression was so great that an angel’s life would not pay the debt. Nothing but the death and intercession of God’s Son would pay the debt and save lost man from hopeless sorrow and misery. {EW 127.1}

Can you picture it – God’s heart struggling to give up His son – the one who was His precious companion since eternity. The fear of losing Him made Him actually contemplate losing us forever… but praise Him for not letting us go. Amen?

One minute Jesus was there beside the Father, and then He was gone….and God was left with an aching gulf of separation. Examine your own heart in the light of this love! Contemplate the struggling heart of God as He lets Jesus go on His mission to redeem us – the objects of His love. God was determined to save you and me at any cost to Himself!

God so loved the world, He gave up His beloved, His cherished Son. Contemplate this and realise the value God places on you, as if you are the only other person in the universe! There is so much joy and peace in really knowing that!

In Psalm 18:6 we hear Christ crying out to the Father from the cross:

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to My God; He heard My voice from His temple, and My cry came before Him, even to His ears” (Psalm 18:6).

And In the following verses we see the reaction of nature as the footsteps of God approach Calvary in response to the cry of His beloved Son:

“Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills quaked and were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up from His nostrils, and devouring fire from His mouth; coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down with darkness under His feet. And He rode upon the cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters and thick clouds of the skies” (Psalm 18:7-11).

Here are a few passages from the book Christ in the Psalms, which describe the horror of what happened to Elohim at the cross – that terrible ripping apart of hearts that had once been totally one:

As sin worked its destructive way through the nervous system of Christ, while the devil was manifesting the malignity of his hatred against Christ, God came from heaven to be by the side of His beloved Son. Although there was a violent severance between the Persons of the Godhead because of sin, yet the Father came as close to Jesus as He could. He could not remain in heaven. He longed to bring Christ some assurance and hope as He was being put to death, but He could not. He could look on in horror, but He could not help the Man who was His fellow Companion from eternal ages. In your mind’s eye, picture the Father standing next to His suffering Son, trembling and weeping, longing to comfort Him. God put His own Omnipotence under restraint as He refrained from breaking through the darkness to deliver His agonizing Son.

The sufferings of the cross give a glimpse into the agony that exists in the heart of God because of sin. That agony did not end, neither did it begin there.

During all of this, God stood by the cross next to His Son. God stood there in the mantle of darkness. That mantle was His “pavilion” by which He drew near to His Son and consequently to the entire human race. As Christ cried out in agony, the Father unseen, trembling, unheard, wept and whispered, Here I am, here I am. I have heard Your cry, but this is the only way; this is the plan You laid out in heaven. Deity suffered. Deity sank at Calvary. God suffered with His Son. He suffered in silence as He felt Their oneness breaking up. Then at the time of the evening sacrifice, the Son yielded up His life while addressing the Father, “It is finished.”“Into Thy hands I commend My spirit”.

Love Wins

Astounding Love! Restrained divinity! Love is the essence of God’s character – self sacrificing love. Jesus death on the cross was the only way to demonstrate this love to us – and this was the only way to win our hearts back. Elohim risked everything for us with the goal of penetrating through the darkness of our minds so that we would be drawn back into His love. All of this so that He could match our hearts with His – the perfect match between the divine heart and the human heart! This is the real task of God – to recalibrate our hearts and minds so that we will love Him back, and as we draw closer and closer to Him, He will put His love in our hearts and we will love each other as He loves us.

John 17:25,26 “Oh righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 12:21 “If a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him.”

1 John – if god so loved us – we ought to love one another etc.

In Math 22:36 The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked : “Master which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus answered him and said: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all  your soul and with all your mind”

With the heart… it’s your emotional make up, with the soul  – your will, with the mind –  your intellect. The whole of the person is to be brought into this experience from the inside out, everything that we are is to be brought into this experience.

Jesus continued –” …the second is like it –  (the same in essence and nature) – love  your neighbour as yourself.” This vertical and horizontal love is to impact us everywhere. “On these two hang all the law and the prophets.“ These two – love to God and to our fellow human beings – are basically the entire old testament Scripture – the law, the prophets (the whole thing is about love – the Love of God).

God made us to think and feel and behave like Him. That’s what it means to be created in His image. In our case – to be re-created in His image! To love as He loves.

“The great principle which is the law of life for the universe – the Fathers life flows out to all and through the Son it returns in praise and service …..and thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence (or self sacrificing love) is complete, representing the character of the great giver – the law of life.” DA21

And so, the law of life for the universe is to be the law of life for you and for me. The circuit of self-sacrificing love should flow through all of us. When we truly behold The Father’s love for us, we will willingly be drawn into obedience!

There can be nothing greater than to know and experience the Love of God – to know His acceptance and feel perfectly at home in His presence, with no guilt, no shame, no fear  –  just perfect love! How can we not want this to be the reality in our lives? How can we prefer to hang on to all the old besetting sins?

“… knowing this, that our old man is crucified…that henceforth we should not serve sin….he who is dead is freed from sin….let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies that ye should obey the lusts thereof…for sin shall not have dominion over you, ye are under grace….being then made free from sin, ye are the servants of righteousness…. ye have your fruit unto holiness and the end everlasting life….for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God everlasting life….” – these all are from Romans Chapter 5. Study this chapter of Romans in the light of God’s love.

Jesus is in the most holy place right now ministering to you His righteousness, if you will have it. “Oh that they would have such a heart in them that they would love me and keep my commandments always, that it might be well them and their children forever!”

The eternal life begins in the here and now. We may know that we HAVE eternal life.

John 17:3 “This is life eternal, that they would know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”

1John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God has towards us, God is love and those who live in love live in God and He in Them.” 

This is the bottom line of the Gospel – the thread that holds the whole universe together is the law of love – the essence of God’s character and identity. Won’t you find your identity in Him?

Eternal life is not something we get at the end of time. It’s a quality of life that begins now! By faith we may know that we have eternal life if we accept God’s love, and live and grow in the knowledge of God’s love. And the more we know Him, the more our capacity to love Him will grow, and so it will continue on into eternity!  But it begins here and now!

The religion of Jesus Christ is not merely to prepare us for the future immortal life; it is to enable us to live the Christ life here on earth. Jesus is not only our pattern, He is also our friend and our guide, and by taking hold of His strong arm and partaking of His Spirit, we may walk “even as he walked.” TMK

“Walk in love, etc…

Eternal life is knowing and loving God passionately and without restraint. It’s resting in that love and allowing it to flow unhindered throughout every facet of our lives.

It’s not our mission to get the world converted and fill the church with converts. Our mission is to know ourselves, to examine ourselves in the light of this amazing beautiful love. This will  create a desire in us to know God intimately and passionately. When this becomes the reality of our lives – everything else will fall into place. We will become settled into truth forever, the latter rain will fall, and the greatest evangelistic crusade the world has ever seen will flood the world. Then Christ will come, and we can go home and be with Him for eternity! AMEN.

 

Sinead Galvin