I remember thinking when I was listening to sermons at about the age of 7 that the Pastor seemed pretty preoccupied with knowing things.
You must KNOW the WORD OF GAWD. You must KNOW the GAWD of the universe.
I reasoned that if it were a big enough deal to be so dramatic about it, I should figure out why.
So, I paid attention in Bible class, did well at memorizing verses for Sunday school competitions, and built up a hefty knowledge of Biblical trivia.
But I never felt more than intellectual interest in Scripture.
Even after I experienced my first eye-opening recognition of my sin and Christ’s sacrifice for my sake, my emotions faded long before they connected with my reading the Bible.
My religion was purely intellectual. There was no throbbing heart of fire at its center.
And when I saw people caught up in seeming religious rapture at worship services, I thought it was self-induced, and that if I weren’t feeling it, it was because I wasn’t raising my hands right, or scrunching my face up correctly, or singing intensely enough.
It sounds ridiculous when flatly stated, but that was the ambiguous impression often lurking at the back of my confusion over those profoundly moved by God and his Word.
So what was the fix?
How can any of us avoid a purely intellectual interest in God, or in the reverse a purely sentimental affection that lacks any substance?
How can we come to truly understand Jesus?
I think the key comes from Jesus’ own advice.
When the disciples wanted Jesus to teach them, he responded with, “Follow me.”
Not “listen to me.”
No, “Follow me. Watch me. Listen to me. Get to know me. Live with me. And in the process, you will grow to love me, because I am everything you’ve ever longed for, and more.”
I had spent my life interested in knowing ABOUT him. But I hadn’t been interested in KNOWING HIM.
It is when we seek him that we get to know him. If our heart is set on knowing him, and loving him, and surrendering to him, then he will reveal himself to us through our reading of the Bible.
As we obediently meet with him in prayer and in reading his Word, he will progressively fill our hearts with his Spirit, his joy, and his passion.
Knowing him is not a simple intellectual pursuit, although that can be a good starting point.
We must move beyond that. Because understanding Jesus is more than that.
It’s the time spent waiting in silence with him.
It’s the time spent measuring our response to people against his response to people.
It’s the time spent reading his Word and pondering his good gifts and promises and creativity and character.
It’s the time spent worshiping him.
It’s the time spent praying and asking him for guidance and help.
It’s the time spent hearing people who have loved him longer tell us about his faithfulness and goodness to them.
It’s the time spent year after year, questioning, understanding, seeking, pursuing the God who shows himself faithful at every turn.
Until we sing with the psalmist:
“O God, you are my God;
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.” – Psalm 63:1-8
God, guide us into an intimate understanding of you through our dedicated pursuit of you. Show us the beauty of you and your Word, inspire us to pour ourselves into prayer and reading your Word. Forgive us for our impatience and pride. Give us clear understanding of your will and your personhood, and a passionate love for everything about you. Amen!
Make a list of all the details you know of God and what promises he has given to us. Then try to answer what is remarkable and amazing about each of these elements. The goal is for us to connect our knowledge of him with our heart, so that who he is and what he says finds its way into our hearts, and we connect the meaning with the trivia.