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From the Summer 2016 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Knowing God Personally

by Thomas A. Tarrants III,  D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

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How to Know God More Deeply

  Getting to know God more deeply doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. As noted above, Paul had known Christ for many years when he said his passion was to know Christ better. He went on to say, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own” (Phil. 3:12). Nor is getting to know Christ better an automatic process; it takes real effort. Is effort contrary to grace? No. Grace is opposed to earning (law) but not to effort. Effort is a vital part of how grace operates in sanctification. Thus Paul, the apostle of grace, went on to say to the Philippians:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Phil. 3:12–15)

  But (lest we fall into law and self-generated-works righteousness) we must note well, and always remember, that this “straining and pressing on” is not merely unaided human willpower. Rather, it is rooted in the deep work of God in our hearts, arousing hunger and desire and drawing us to engage our wills and strength to seek Him, as Paul had earlier said when he urged the Philippians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13). Doing this, of course, is utterly dependent upon our being filled with the Holy Spirit daily, for He alone can supply the power we need (which Paul emphasizes in Romans 8, Galatians 5, and Ephesians 5). And the rewards of our Spirit-empowered efforts far transcend the greatest earthly pleasures!
  Paul’s words reinforce the observation that there is a sense in which a person is as close to God as he or she really wants to be. But it is not just Paul who urges us onward. God told Israel, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Jesus told His disciples, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). In each case, those who seek are the ones who find. And if we don’t seek, we will not find.
  How do we press on? God offers everything we need in order to grow into deeper fellowship with Him and His Son, but we must embrace it. He gives the milk, but we must drink it. This is what Peter meant when he said, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet. 2:2–3).
 What is the spiritual milk we should long for? Peter is using the image of “newborn infants” to say that just as babies need their mother’s milk to grow up physically, so believers need spiritual milk to grow up spiritually. In light of his statements in 1:23–25, it seems very likely that the milk Peter has in mind is the Scriptures, but the way he describes it, he may well mean all the resources necessary for healthy spiritual growth.

The Holy Spirit

  Before we look at the essentials that God provides, let’s note their source. It is the Holy Spirit, who brings us to new life in Christ in the first place. But that is only the beginning. When Jesus returned to heaven, He handed over to the Holy Spirit His role of teaching, nurturing, strengthening, guiding, and encouraging His followers; the Holy Spirit brings us into union with Christ and is thus called the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9–10). The Spirit now dwells in us and applies in our lives all the benefits that Christ secured for us on the cross: He assures us of forgiveness and salvation, reveals Christ to us in ever-deeper ways, empowers us for holy living, imparts spiritual gifts for ministry and kingdom mission, and guides and directs us to glorify Christ in everything we do — and much more.

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