y past two articles in Knowing & Doing were titled “Who is God?” This is the central question of our day, and many believers do not have an adequate answer for it. The articles sought to give a very basic answer to that question from the Old and New Testaments. But simply knowing about God is not adequate for life with God; we must know Him personally. Thus we need to ask, how can I know God?
The Call to Know God
When we speak of knowing God, it is important to understand that we are not talking about abstract or speculative thought concerning God or mystical experiences but about coming alive to God through Jesus Christ and surrendering ourselves to Him in grateful love (Rom. 12:1). As John says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).1
We must also understand that knowing God is not an optional part of the Christian life; it is the Christian life. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The English word know in this verse is a translation of the Greek word ginosko, which, in this context, means an experiential knowing, not simply an intellectual understanding of facts about God or Jesus or the Bible. In other words, it refers to an “I-Thou” relationship.
This relationship begins when we come alive to God -- that is, when, by grace, we are awakened from the state of spiritual death into which everyone is born, and receive the eternal life Jesus offers to those who trust in Him for salvation. The first part, recognizing and turning from our sins, is repentance; the second part, trusting in Jesus and His atoning death on the cross to forgive our sins, is faith. Coming alive to God requires both. Jesus described this as being born from above or born of the Holy Spirit. It means birth into God’s family and entrance into His kingdom (John 3:3–8). Without rebirth by the Holy Spirit, a person cannot see, perceive, understand, or know God or His kingdom.
The Call to Go Deeper
As vitally important as the new birth is, that is not the focus of this article. Here I will address what is involved in growing to know God more deeply after the new birth. This is a major and pervasive need in the American church today.
The metaphor of birth provides a helpful way of understanding fuller implications of what it means to know God and to grow in that relationship. Just as a human being is physically born into the world and moves through a developmental cycle from infant to child to adolescent to adult, so a child of God is born spiritually and is called to move through a similar developmental cycle. These stages are mentioned in the New Testament. Paul, for example, makes a distinction between “the mature” and “infants in Christ” (1 Cor. 2:6; 3:1), and the writer to the Hebrews does the same (Heb. 5:11–14). John distinguishes between “little children,” “fathers,” and “young men” (1 John 2:12–14). What does this mean? Spiritually the newest infant in Christ knows God, but not very well. As this baby grows in grace, he or she will progress toward maturity and, in doing so, will come to know God better and better. We have probably seen this if we have been believers for a while. What a joy it is to encounter an infant in Christ, a new convert, eager and zealous for the things of God. But what a blessing to meet a father or mother in Christ, a mature believer who has faithfully walked with God for decades and whose life is characterized by a degree of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that is truly Christlike! This kind of mature relationship with God is what every believer is called to pursue.