If you want to get to know God, you need to know how. Getting to know God is not quite the same as getting to know a human, although there are similarities.
Principles for getting to know both God and humans
Spending time together
If you want to know anyone, you must spend time with them. You will never really know someone without spending any time together. You may learn about someone by hearing what other people tell you, but if you really want to know them, you need one-on-one contact.
Talking to each other
You cannot get to know anyone without some conversation. Communication is vital to develop relationship and is two way. You speak, but you also listen to what they have to say.
Seeing how they act
If you really want to know someone, you can observer how they treat other people (both those close to them and people they do not know), how they act in different circumstances, how they respond under pressure and their general behaviour day-to-day.
This can tell you a lot about their character, priorities and overall view of life.
All of these are possible with God.
You can spend time with and talk to God in prayer. You can also listen to what He has said in His Word (the Bible). It is also possible to see how He behaves. We will talk below about where you can observe God’s actions.
How getting to know God is different
The key difference between how we get to know God and how we get to know humans is that God is invisible. He cannot be seen with the natural eye.
This means that, in order to see Him, you have to know where He has been revealed. To help you understand how you can get to know God, we will discuss where God has been revealed to us further below.
How not to get to know God
Before looking at how to get to know God, it is worth looking at how ‘not’ to get to know Him. In other words, things that people do that will not help them get to know God.
Debate, reasoning opinion and Philosophy
People like to sit around and debate about God. Reason all you want, but it does not make Him into who you think He is. You cannot ‘figure out’ who God is by human opinion, philosophy or religious thinking. Just because someone has an opinion about God, does not make Him become that way. You are more likely to end up with an incorrect idea of who God is, because these methods are not based in fact.
When it comes to getting to know a human being, you can come up with all the theories you want about who they are, but until you actually spend time with them, you will not get to know them properly. All you will have is theories, which have as much chance of being wrong as of being correct. If the theories have no basis in fact and are just speculation, then they are more likely to be wrong.
Making your own image of God
Throughout human history, people have made images of God, shaping Him according to how they want Him to be (not necessarily who He is). These are called idols. Today, we may not make actual images of God to worship, but we do make images in our minds about who He is. This is still making idols, just in a different way. Often these mental images we have of God are shaped by our opinion and preference, rather than fact.
We cannot change God by making Him the way we want Him to be. I call this ‘making God in your image’. In other words, shaping God into who you want Him to be, rather than getting to know who He actually is.
God is not the way you think He is, He is the way He is.
It is not up to us to make God into who we think He is. We cannot get to know Him this way. Rather, we can discover who He actually is, by understanding how to get to know Him.
Listening to people who don’t know God for themselves
Many people who do not actually know God themselves want to tell other people who He is. It seems like everyone has an opinion, but whether they actually know God is a different matter. Having a degree in Theology or making spiritual sounding statements are no guarantee that a person knows God.
How can you get to know God from someone who does not know Him?
Your feelings are not an accurate guide to knowing God. Sometimes people think God changes based upon how they feel that day.
- ‘I don’t feel like God loves me’
- ‘I feel like God is mad at me’
- ‘I feel like God has abandoned me’
These feelings teach us nothing about God, because they come from us, not Him.
God is not a multiple personality case (one thing to one person and something to another)
God does not change from person-to-person. He does not become someone totally different to each of us. If people have differing (and even conflicting) understandings of who God is, then either one or both of them is incorrect. The reason people come up with differing ideas of who God is, is because they have shaped God the way they want Him to be, based upon the wrong things (opinion, religious ideas etc), rather than establishing their understanding of God in fact.
By doing so, they have not gotten to know Him the correct way.
Where is God revealed?
I mentioned above that, because God is invisible, we have to understand where He has been revealed; where He can be seen.
God has revealed Himself to us in a number of places. Some of them are clearer than others, so provide a better way to get to know Him, but there are things we can learn about God through all of them, especially when used together.
The places God has been revealed include:
- Institutions that God has set up. These include: The Church, The parent/child relationship
- The Word of God
- The Names of God
- The life and ministry of Jesus
:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
When an artist paints a painting, things about them come out in their work: their mood, their personality etc. However, if someone comes and vandalises the original work, the image can get distorted. The vandalised aspects do not reveal the original artist.
Like an artist and his painting, creation bears God’s stamp. His personality comes through His work, but we also need to realise that a vandal came and damaged the work, so the image is now a bit distorted. There are things in creation now that were not put there by God. So, although we can learn some things about God through His creation, it is not the final authority. If we could see God’s original creation for how He made before it was vandalised, we would get a more accurate understanding of Him.
Death, destruction, famine, sickness and lack are all examples of things that God did not put in His original creation but came after a vandal damaged it.
Jesus often used things from creation to teach about God and the Kingdom of God. For example, He used seeds and sheep to teach us invisible attributes of God’s Kingdom.
:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes says that God has placed eternity in the heart of man. God has placed His image in us, so inside of every human is some kind of knowledge of God. However, like creation, this has also been affected by sin, so is not an accurate guide.
This ‘homing beacon’ inside us calls us to God, but it is not enough to teach us all about Him. It primarily leads us to God, but is not a guide to get to know what He is like.
Institutions God set up
God has set up a number of institutions that teach us about Him and His ways.
The church is supposed to reveal God and Jesus.
:10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,
Just like Jesus revealed the Father when He walked on this earth, so we are supposed to reveal Him now through our words and actions. However, sadly, many Christians and churches are not acting in accordance with who God is and are, therefore, misrepresenting Him. As we get to know Him more we should act and speak more like Him and reveal Him to others.
The Parent / Child relationship
God is a Father, and He has revealed Himself through the parent child relationship (what it is supposed to be, not what it often becomes). People should get to know God through their parents. A godly father should reveal the character of God to his children through his words and actions.
For example, what parent enjoys seeing their child suffer sickness?
It is not in the nature of a parent to want their kids to suffer. Most parents would do anything to see their kids better off than them. They will work extra hours to put their kids through school to ensure they have a good start in life.
When a child is sick, I have heard parents say things like, ‘I wish it was me suffering and not them’. Many parents would happily swop places with their child. The amazing thing with God is that, not only did He long to swop places, but He actually did. That is what the cross was all about.
Sadly, once again, this relationship is often not what God intended it to be, and people can get a warped image of what a father is from their own parents.
The best way to get to know God
The above methods can show us some things about God, but not everything. There is a much clearer place where God can be seen. If you really want to get to know God, this needs to be the primary place you go.
God’s Written Word
God revealed His Word, the Bible, to lead us to Him. Through the Bible, we can get to know God. Part of getting to know God involves hearing what He says. The Bible is God’s Word and we can hear what He has to say through it. We can also see God at work in the lives of individuals through the Bible, so we can observe His actions.
Two specific areas of the Bible that reveal God the clearest are:
- The life and ministry of Jesus, who is the visible expression of the Father
- The Names of God, which reveal His nature and character
Throughout His Word, God has revealed Himself through a variety of Names. His names are a revelation of who He is and reveal to us an abundance of truth about Him.
God never changes
God is stable and never changes. This means that we can rely on Him being the same to us today as He is in the Bible.
Some say: “ you never know what God will do”. This is an example of people coming up with their own opinions of God, because it is inconsistent with who He is in the Bible and is a false statement.
Get to know God through His Word
:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
God and His Word are one, so we cannot get to know God without His Word. It is the clearest place that God is revealed and, therefore, the primary place that we get to know him.
There is far more we can learn from the Bible than simply the words on the pages. In the Bible, we can learn things like how God acts, His preferences, what is important to Him etc. We can observe God’s behaviour.
Many people neglect the Bible, yet think they can get to know God without it.
This is not possible. If you really want to get to know God, you need to see Him in the Bible.
- It is also important that we understand how to rightly interpret the Scriptures, to ensure that we are coming up with truth when we study it.
The Bible gives us a standard to measure opinions and personal preferences about God, to see if they are accurate. Without it, there is not standard and everyone ‘invents’ their own ‘version’ of God based upon opinion, with no way of checking its accuracy.
As you see God in the Bible, you can begin to relate to Him as if He is that way. Allow your ideas of God to be shaped by the scriptures, because they reveal Him. Getting to know God starts with the Bible; seeing who He is in scripture and then, by faith, relating to Him that way.
Is your idea of God in line with the Bible?
There are many claims made about God that are inconsistent with the Bible. They are based upon people’s opinions, personal preference, traditions and feelings, but not upon the Bible.
It is a good idea to examine your own image of God and check that it is consistent with the Bible. This will help you to ensure you know Him accurately. Don’t just try to fit God into your box of preconceptions, but rather get to know Him for who He really is.
If we would stick with the Scripture, we would avoid a lot of disputes and questions about who God is and what he does.
When someone makes a claim about God, if it is not in line with what the Bible teaches about him, we know it is inaccurate.
As you grow in understanding of the Word, you will grow in your knowledge of God.
Seeing God in Jesus
:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
The word ‘declared’ here can also be translated ‘revealed’. Jesus revealed the Father through His Word and actions.
The Bible is a big book and it can be hard to know where to start. The clearest revelation of God in the Bible is in the life of Jesus. We can get to know God by looking at Jesus.
:7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
Jesus came to reveal the Father. He teaches us about the Father God in His words, but also His actions. We can see how God treats people by looking at how Jesus treated them.
The phrase ‘What would Jesus do’ has been popular in recent years, and I believe this goes deeper than most realise.
What would Jesus do with
- a sinner caught in sin?
- a sick person?
- a Tax collector?
- a condemned man dying beside him?
- a hungry crowd when there was not enough food to go around?
- a prodigal son who had left home and acted in a sinful, unmannerly way
The good news is, we already have the answers to these questions because Jesus dealt with every one of these situations, and revealed a God foreign to most people’s understanding. Jesus revealed a loving and compassionate Father who had mercy on sinners, healed the sick and provided for the needy.
One good example where Jesus revealed the Father
:51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
:52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
:53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
:54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
:55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
:56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Many people think that God simply wants to destroy anyone who rejects Him. They even feel that they are called to be Him emissaries to call down that destruction. Some Christians feel it is their God given right to denounce anyone who rejects Jesus and to speak against them, wishing their destruction.
Here, a village rejects Jesus, and two of His disciples react, feeling it is their God given duty to call judgement down on the village. Instead of siding in with them, Jesus rebukes them, saying that they are not operating by the Spirit of God.
Just because this village rejected Jesus did not mean Jesus suddenly turned on them and advocated their destruction.
Are we representing God in a way that shows Him as wanting to destroy people, or save them
When people do things wrong and we react with statements like, ‘God is going to get you for that’; or ‘I hope you suffer for that’, we need to understand that we are not acting in accordance with how a person who knows God should act.
Jesus knew God in a close, intimate way and revealed Him to us in this way. Get to know God and His character through Jesus
Now that you understand how to get to know God, I encourage you to do so. Get to know Him through the Bible and do not simply make your own image of God. Find out who He really is and develop a relationship with Him.
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This article, along with others by the same author can be found at exceedingfaith.com
Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures used are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible.
© 2016 O. Walton / Exceeding Faith
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