What a thought—that a mere human can know God! The agnostic asserts this is impossible. The atheist insists that the very idea is an arrogant and purely metaphysical pursuit. But one of the reasons Jesus came was to reveal God's character and nature clearly and perfectly! Let's consider two roadblocks to knowing God and four resources that help us know Him better.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Pondering the Principles:
Publications Referenced: "Religion and the Brain," by Sharon Begley Newsweek May 7, 2001
Figures Referenced: Francis Bacon; C.H. Spurgeon ; Michael Persinger; Martin Luther; George Gallup Jr.
Cross References: Exodus 33:18; Deuteronomy 4:29; Matthew 7:28-29; Matthew 8:27; Matthew 16:16; Luke 17:4; John 1:18; John 6:1-10; John 7:46; John 14:5-6; John 20:28; 2 Corinthians 10:15; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:4
Topic: The Upper Room Discourse
Keywords: knowing God, knowledge, believe
Let's pray together. Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the opportunity that you've given to us. To get out of our homes this morning to drive here, to gather together, to hear inspirational music, to fellowship with each other and reconnect after a week and on this day, the Lord's Day, to worship you in a new and a fresh manner. And it consider what your word says to us and what principles that we're going to glean for our lives. We humble ourselves before you simply asking that you would reveal who you are to us that we might conform to your image. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Knowledge is power, that's what Francis Bacon, the statesman, scientist said in the 16th century, knowledge is power. If that is true, then this is the most powerful generation in history. Our store of knowledge is growing at such an ever-increasing rate and its successibility is instantaneous. You can get on Google today and find just about anything possible that is worth knowing or even not worth knowing it's there.
Now, let's supposed you went to a birthday party and you were to give a birthday card that when you open it, it plays a song you know the kind, maybe happy birthday or whatever. And the person who receives the card, well, thank you for it, but later on is going to toss it. When they throw that card away, they have thrown away more computer power than was on the Earth before 1950 in that one card. Staggering what we have learned from then until now.
You can put as much informational knowledge on a single silicon chip as was in the entire library at Alexandria Egypt, the largest in the world at that time in the Ancient World, 700,000 parchments in that library alone. You can fit all of that on a single silicon chip. Someone estimated that if you took all of the accumulated knowledge from the beginning of history until the year 1845 and you were to represent that by one inch, then all of the accumulated knowledge from 1845 to 1945, a mere of 100 years later, would be three inches.
And what we've accumulated from 1945 to 1975 would be the height of the Washington Monument in D.C. And what we've accumulated from '75 until today is anybody's guess. Our store of knowledge is increasing. But that's just informational knowledge. What about spiritual knowledge? What about knowing God? What Charles Spurgeon called the loftiest of all sciences, the greatest of all knowledges knowing God. I want to talk to you a little bit about that today, knowing God, how can we know him and if we know him, how can we know him better. And why is it that some don't know him and even disregard him.
I have a copy of the Newsweek magazine from sometime back and on the front is the big letters, God & the Brain. And it says, how we're wired for spirituality. Here's a portion of that article. This is from Michael Persinger of Laurentian University in Canada. He suspects that religious experiences are evoked by many electrical storms in the temporal lobes. And that such storms can be triggered by anxiety, personal crisis, lack of oxygen, low blood sugar and simple fatigue, suggesting that a reason some people find God in such moments. Persinger speculates that our left temporal lobe maintains our sense of self.
When that region is stimulated, but the right stays quiescent, the left interprets this as a sensed presence as the self departing the body or of God. Do you understand what they're saying? They're saying, "It's all in your mind. It's all in your head. God, it's all in your head. It's just your temporal lobe firing off." Now, it's true God employs our minds, our brains.
He expects us to be very active thinkers but it's more than that. Knowing God involves part of that, but more than that, it's greater and it's more objective than that. I've always love the story of the teacher who told her class to draw whatever their favorite thing they wanted to draw was and all the kids bent their heads and started working away. As the teacher went through the classroom and notice one little girl head down very, very intensely drawing. The teacher smiles and said, "Susie, what are you drawing?" And without looking up, she said, "I'm drawing God," and the teacher said, "Susie, nobody knows what God looks like," and without lifting her head, without even flinching, she just said, "They will in a minute."
And that could have been Jesus line, because people didn't know God or understand God in any kind of manifested form. No one has seen God the Bible says at any time, but the Only-Begotten Son who's in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him, declared him, showing him forth.
Now we're in John 14, we're dealing with an upper room, Passover conversation. It's Jesus comforting his disciples before he leaves, he's going to be killed the next day. And this final meal, they have already heard enough to cause them some fear and to be distraught. Jesus said he's going. Jesus said he's going to be killed. Jesus said Peter is going to deny him. That Judas is going to betray him and so they're agitated. And in the conversation we saw last week, Thomas says, "We don't know where you're going and how can we know the way," and Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the light."
Now, we're continuing the conversation. And this time, we see that Jesus and Philip, another disciple, have an interchange. Let's begin in Verse 7.
Jesus speaking, "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also, and from now on, you know Him and have seen Him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does the works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves."
I really want to talk about two things that I see here represented in our text that we just read. Number one, roadblocks to knowing God, there's a couple of them and the disciples experienced both and then resources. How can we know God better? Now, let me draw your attention back to Verse 7 and here's the first roadblock to knowing God as seen here and that is an inaccurate comprehension. In other words, these disciples hadn't fully connected the dots of who Jesus was.
In Verse 7, Jesus uses the word "known". Now watch that four times it will show up in these two verses. "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." Verse 9, "Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known me, Philip?" Mark that four times in two verses, Jesus uses the word know or known.
Why is that important? I'll tell you who it's important too, it's important to John, 141 times in the Gospel of John he uses the word "know", it's one of his favorite words. He wants you to believe in God, believe in Jesus, that's the other big word, 98 times it's mentioned in the book. But he wants you to know him. Okay, now without going through all the language stuff, let me just say that John uses the word "know" four different ways in this gospel, this will help you.
Number one, he sometimes uses it to mean knowing a fact just knowing the fact. Here's the fact, good I know that. Here's another way he uses it, to understand the truth behind that fact, where that fact is leading. Number three, he uses the term "to know" in reference to knowing a person relationally.
And number four, to have a deeper, fuller, comprehension of that person's identity. That's how Christ is using that here. "You should have known me, Philip. If you had known me, if you had really known me," now, he is not saying that we're not acquainted relationally. This isn't Jesus saying Philip, I'm Jesus, nice to meet you. They'd known him probably better than any other human being for the last three and half years, these disciples had been around him and they were learning who he was but they didn't fully comprehend his identity. They are still computing all of that in their brains.
Do you recall on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus calmed the storm that the disciples asked the question, "Who can this be that even the wind and the waves obey him?" That was their question, "Who can this be?" And they were in a three and a half years schooling process of discovering who this can be. Until Peter finally says, "I get it," Matthew 16, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." They knew he could work miracles. They knew he could speak really well. They believe that he was the Messiah, but they didn't quite grasp the deity part of it because of their background, their upbringing, the idea that God would reside in a physical body was foreign to them.
Now, they will come to that understanding as time marks this on, Jesus will die the next day, three days later, he'll be resurrected. When Jesus appears to Thomas, Thomas is the guy that connects the dots. And he says to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." "My Lord and my God, I get it. I get it now."
One of our roadblocks in really knowing who God is, knowing Jesus is all the baggage that we bring into the relationship. The baggage of our upbringing, our culture, our customs, our worldview and all of that forms a lens by which we view God. That's why a person will say things like, "Well, I have always pictured God like," or, "My view of God has always been," that's their baggage, that's their lens. Here's the point, who do you think God is and who God really is may not necessarily be exactly the same. They may be miles apart.
It's true for any of us so that's why it's important to understand who he is by who he reveals himself to be. He's been doing that for three and a half years with these men and obviously, they didn't quite pick it up yet. So that's number one, inaccurate comprehension.
Here's number two, second roadblock, an inappropriate confirmation. In other words, well, I want proof. I want some visible physical manifestation. That's all I need. Look at Verse 8, "Philip said to him, 'Show us the Father and it's sufficient for us.'" Yeah, that will be like sufficient for anyone.
Do you kind of understand where Philip is coming from? Jesus, you keep telling us you're going. You keep telling us you're going back to where you came from. You keep talking about you and the Father being one. You keep bringing the Father up. It looks like we're going to be losing you soon. If you just show us God the Father, we'll be happy. That's all we need. It will be sufficient.
There's something to understand about Philip. We've met Philip before in the Gospel of John. Do you remember when Jesus was feeding the multitude to thousands of people that came to Galilee and Jesus did the miracle to feed them? Before he fed them when all of those people were gathered around, the Bible says that Jesus turned to Philip and asked him a question. He said, "Hey Philip, come here. Where can we buy bread that we can feed all of these people?" And the Bible says, because Jesus needed the answer to that. He did it to test him and Philip failed the test.
"Philip, where do we buy bread that we can feed all of these people?" Immediately, Philip's little accountant left-brain, pragmatic thing kicked in. He starts computing. He says "Jesus, I figured this out. We're going to need 20,000 bucks, 200 dinar(ph), eight months wage for a common person's labor." And that won't even cover the cost of all these, but I figured it out.
That's not the right answer. The answer is staring you in the face, Philip. His name is Jesus. He's going to do it. That's the Philip we're dealing with here. So Philip says, "I want to see God." Now, do you understand that that longing that Philip has and probably all the other disciples had it. This longing is the basis at least in part for our worship. It's the basis for our worship. We worship in faith but we worship with the faith that one day we're going to see God face to face. That's our promise. That's our longing.
Moses, you recall prayed something very similar. He said, "Lord, just show me your glory." Now why would Moses ask for that? Think of all of the manifestations Moses had seen. You've seen the burning bush. He'd seen the Red Sea part. He had seen a heavenly GPS system with a cloud and the fire leading them throughout the wilderness. That'd be enough because now it's not enough. Show me your glory. And that brings up something very important no matter how sophisticated we are or spiritually well-informed we are at our very core, that's what we want these believers to ultimately see God. Which means all of the worship experiences we have now on the Earth, no matter how good they are will never satisfy you. They weren't meant to satisfy you. They were meant to wet your appetite.
"Whoa, I've gone to this cool worship thing. I flew all the way across the country. It was the greatest worship experience, cool." Are you done now? Are you satisfied with that like for the rest of your life? No. What's your appetite for when you see him visibly, physically face to face. Here's an example. When I travel and I take pictures of my family with me, if they're not with me, I take a picture or representation of them. When I get really lonely because I've been gone for like a week or two, a couple of weeks, I'll look at the picture, a little two-dimensional image. And then I'll even talk to them on the phone. I don't hang up the phone, close up the picture and go, "Okay, it's all I needed. I can stay away now for another year or two."
No, talking on the phone and looking at the picture simply accentuates my loss for them. I want to see them more than ever. So longing to see God no matter what experience we've had is at the very core of who we are and that's the anticipation and the reason we now worship now in faith waiting for the day when our faith will become sight.
But something else, this longing to see God is often an excuse for unbelief. You'll see a non-believer will say, "Well, I agree with Philip. All I want is to see God. You can produce God and let me see God then I'll become a believer. I'll worship him." But I've never seen God. I've never heard God.
I think I've told you before about the atheist who is having a conversation with a believer. The believer happened to be a Quaker and the atheist said, "Have you ever seen God?" And the Quaker said, "Nay(ph)," that's how they would say no, "Nay." "Have you ever heard God?" "Nay." "Have you ever felt God?" "Nay." "And have you ever smelled God?" "Nay." "Hah! Then how do you even know there is a God?"
Well, the Quaker was a little befuddled by that but he thought he would turn the argument around and he said to the atheist, "Has thou seen thy brain?" "Well no." "Has thou ever smelled thy brain?" "No, of course not." "Has thou ever felt thy brain?" "No." And the Quaker smiled then said, "Then how does thou know that thou even has the brain?" It's a very rudimentary argument, but I think it packed the punch nonetheless.
Something else about this desire that Philip has in Verse 8, this longing is part of the root of idolatry to make an image, some representation of God that physically represent him. If only God could be visible, if only I could take transcended God and bring him down to my level, a human level so that I can relate to him and I'll carve an image with little eyes on there, then the nose, then the mouth and I'll worship that. It's the basis of idolatry. It's the root of idolatry. It's what people have done for thousands of years and even the Children of Israel had all around them in the Old Testament.
And I think that's one of the reasons people today will say, "I look at the clouds and I saw Jesus. You see Jesus it just looks like Jesus." "Well, I've never seen Jesus, I would know." Or, "Look at this piece of toast, there's Jesus' face in the toast or the tortilla. There's Jesus in the tortilla." Or an overexposed reflection of a fender on a car and I have seen it all. It's their desire like Philip to see God. This then form two roadblocks. I need proof and I can't connect the dots.
Now, let's look at the resources. There's four principles I want you to notice to help us know God and if you know God to know Him better. Number one, by being in His presence, Verse 9, Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long and yet you have not known me, Philip?" Now listen to this statement, he's proclaiming his deed in an unmistakably clear manner again, "He who has seen me has seen the Father. So how can you say, 'Show us the Father.'"
Now, these words of Jesus, besides being a statement of his deity, I think they are tinged(ph) with sadness. There's a pathos in them. I've been around you so long. We've shared so many intimate moments in the last few years and you still don't know me. It brings up an interesting point. It's possible to be around someone and not fully know who they are. I've heard married couples tell me this, "We've been married this many years, but I feel like I really don't know him or haven't known him until now." They've been around Jesus for three and a half years.
Cute little story. Years ago, we had the privilege of going to a World Series, two games back in Atlanta, Georgia when the Braves played the Yankees '96. And we rode the team bus, they Yankee team bus, because one of the pictures used to fellowship here got us the seats and got us the tickets. We're driving back to the hotel after the game, the Yankees won that night. They were all high. My son, Nate, sits down among the whole team and next to him sits one of their coaches, the great Reggie Jackson, Mr. October, Nathan didn't have a clue who it is. Sitting right next to him, right in the bus, talking it up and dad know who it is.
Reggie goes, "Hi, I'm Reggie Jackson from California." Nate goes, "I'm Nate Heitzig from Albuquerque." He didn't know who he's sitting next to. It's possible like here to be around someone and not know who they are. But at the same time, it is possible to know God when you have an open heart and an inquisitive mind, you can know Him. And the disciples are in that process of knowing Jesus. And as I mentioned, Thomas will eventually say, "My Lord and My God," he'll make that discovery.
Now, if you're an unbeliever today, let me just challenge you to spend a little bit of your time investigating the evidences for the faith in Jesus Christ. So it actually becomes something your interested in and you even dare to seek the Lord, because the Bible makes a promise, "If you seek the Lord with all of your heart, you'll find Him." He will be found by you.
Second, if you're a believer this morning, here's my challenge. Start evaluating your time, not in so much what you do for God as time you spend with God.
You see, sometimes we make the mistake of, "I'm so busy working for God," you can work for God all the time. You can be a pastor of a church and not even know Him. The church at Ephesus have this wonderful thing going and a problem going at the same time. Jesus writes him a letter in Revelation. He says to the church at Ephesus, "I know you work hard, you labor, but I have something against you. You've left your first love." Remember that? You're working, you labor but you've left your first love.
You know what their problem was? I'll paraphrase it. "You guys are so busy about the King's business that you have actually forgotten the King Himself." How about just taking a tad bit more of your time to be with Him, to fellowship with Him by being in His presence.
Number two principle, by believing in his person. And what I mean by that because it's -- I already believe in God, learning to trust Him more. Verse 10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" And then look at Verse 11, "Believe me that I am in the Father." Okay, stop and think about that. Who is Jesus speaking to when he says believe me? He's speaking to believers. They are disciples. These aren't atheist. He's not trying to convince them to get saved. They already believe in him, they are disciples, they are followers, "Believe me."
And in Verse 11, the word "believe" is present active indicative, in other words, "Go on believing, keep it up, let your faith grow." You see, you don't just get saved by faith. You move on in the Christian life by faith by learning to trust Him more and more. That was Paul's desire. He writes to the Corinthians, II Corinthians 10:15, "We hope that your faith will continue to grow." Is it? The writer of Hebrews declared, "Without faith, it's impossible to please Him and whoever comes to God must first believe that he is and second that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Are you diligently seeking Him?
There is a skeptical physician treating a patient who is a strong vibrant believer. And the doctor confessed after the surgery that he performed on his patient. He said, "You know I believe in God. I guess I believe in Jesus. I'm not conscious that I have any real doubts. But I don't know if I'm saved. I struggle with this whole faith thing." The patient said, "A week ago doctor, I believed in you as a very skillful physician. I believed that if I got sick, you'd help me. But two days ago, I let you cut into me and give me some medicine that I didn't understand, but I entrusted you with my life completely." You can see the difference.
It's one thing to believe as a patient, if I get sick, that guy is going to help me or could help me. It's another thing to say, "I'm sick now, help me. I surrender. I entrust my life to you." So here's my question, is your faith growing or is it stagnant? Would you describe your faith as very active, very alive or needing life support? One of the greatest prayers you could ever praise with the disciples pray. Now get this, in one occasion, Jesus told the disciples, "You guys need to forgive people." Well, what do you mean by that? Jesus said, "If somebody offends you seven times in a day and comes up to you and says to you, 'I repent.' You have to forgive him."
Okay, that's pretty amazing. Imagine somebody walking up to you slapping you in the face, and then after he's going, "I'm sorry." You go, "Okay, I forgive you. Don't do it again." Twenty minutes later, bam! Slaps you up again and says, "I'm sorry." Now by that time, by number two, you're going to go, "You know what, don't you ever do that again." By the third time, he slaps you and says, "I'm sorry." You're going to say, "I'm not going to forgive you because that's not real repentance." You know what Jesus said, "Even if he says to you I repent, forgive him, even seven times."
You know what the disciple said when Jesus said that, you know what they said, listen, you'll relate, "Lord, increase our faith." It makes sense, doesn't it? You say, "I don't have that kind of faith. Help me on that one. I'm not doing good on that one. Increase our faith." That's a good thing to pray. Lord, increase our faith. So being in His presence, believing in His person, there's a third way that can help you know God, bending to His word.
Notice in Verse 10, in the second sentence, "The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does the works."
Jesus appeals to the words they had heard him say for the last three years, sermon on the mount, the upper room discourse, all the magical wonderful promises that Jesus gave during that time.
You know that whenever Jesus spoke and the Bible records the reaction of the crowd, sometimes they were hostile, sometimes they were very comforted, I mean no one was ever unmoved after he gave the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7. After he finished speaking, the crowds were amazed at his teaching for he spoke as one who had authority and now this describes.
Listen to this on another occasion, the elders sent the police to arrest Jesus. The police come back to the elders empty-handed and go, "Where is he? We sent you to get him." And the police said, "No one ever spoke the way this man does." "Oh, didn't you bring him back?" "Wow! He could speak. His words were so powerful." So Jesus is appealing to the words that he spoke. You've heard what I've said the last few years. You've heard and seen the power of those words. If you want to know God, read his book. If you want to know God, read his book. When you read his book, you'll start knowing God. His personalities revealed in the book, his will is revealed in the book, what he hates is revealed in the book, what he loves is revealed in the book, how he works with people is revealed in the book.
You'll read stories about men and women in the book who encountered God. You'll read poetry in the book of people who worship God. You'll read letters in the book of people who spoke to and spoke from God to people and all of that will form for you and for me a profile, if you will, of who he is. You'll come to know God through the Bible. That's why Martin Luther used to say, "The Bible is alive. It speaks to me. It has feet. It runs after me. It has hands. It lays hold of me." If you want to know God, read his book.
I believe one of the strongest signs of a real Child of God is that person's hunger to learn more about God. "All right, I read the Bible once a year, I'm not really into that kind of stuff, I don't know, but yeah, I've got it to read it all the time." Really, boy I don't know. My heart cry to this day, is that I can know him and I love reading that book. I love reading his work because he speaks to me in it.
George Gallup, Jr., you're familiar with his name. He's a pollster, he polls Americas, ask what they thought about this and that over the many years. He called America a nation of biblical illiterates. Want to know why? He says, "Four out of ten Americans, only four know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Most Americans cannot name the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John." Some of us think it's John, Paul, George and Ringo, that's how bad we are. "Only three out of ten teenagers know why Easter is celebrated." Then of the clue, only three out of ten know why Easter is celebrated. You want to know God, read his book, bend to his word. That's how he speaks.
Here's the fourth and final way and we close by beholding his works. Verse 11, "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me," or, "Believe me for the sake," or, "On the evidence of the works themselves." You guys have heard what I've said. You guys have seen what I have done. So let's apply it because we don't have much time left.
One of the ways to know God isn't just by getting information but by seeing transformation. We see wherever Jesus is, he changes a life. Let me just tell you that I have the privilege of seeing and hearing testimonies of changed lives all the time. A couple of months ago, I get a phone call from overseas and one of our soldiers stationed overseas calls me and goes, "I've been listening to you on the internet, I've got to confess to you. I was raised in a Christian home. I'm a pastor's son. I don't think I believe in God. I don't think I believe in Jesus." He had so many arguments for the faith and it swallowed him up, and besides that, he was losing his marriage he said. He just had a can of worms.
Without going through all of the story, let me just say that today, he's reconciled with his wife and walking with his God. And I've got to watch that transformation over the period of time.
God is in the business of working, doing things, find out what he's doing, look at it and observe it and marvel at it. Do you want to know God? Hang out with Him. You want to know God? Learn to trust Him more, let go more, surrender more. You want to know God? Read his book. You want to know God? Check out what God is doing, but let me say, "Let your highest priority in life to know God."
I'll close with a story. Here's a carpenter, a very good carpenter who was getting older and decided, "I'm going to retire. I'm going to relax." So we went to the boss and he said, "I'm done. I quit." The boss said, "Boy, I hate to lose you. You're such a skilled craftsman. Do me one favor. Before you completely retire, I want you to build me just one more house, just one more house. Will you do that?" He said, "Oh okay, I'll do it."
It was his last house. His heart wasn't in it. He applied poor, shoddy craftsmanship, inferior materials just threw it together. When he's all done, the boss walked up to him with the front door keys and said, "I'm giving you the house," not knowing how he built it. "I'm giving you the house." "You've been so good. You worked so hard. It's my gift to you. I'm letting you have this house free of charge to live in."
Well now, the guy realizes, "If I had known that at the beginning, I would have built very differently." You're building your life one choice, one day at a time. How you're doing with that? How are you building that? What are your priorities? Is it knowing God? Is it to be conformed into his image? Is it to get as ready for heaven as you possibly can, so that when you go there, it's like, "Oh, right, I heard about this place." I kind of want to get to heaven and say, "Oh I know about that, I remember that, I read that." "Oh yeah, I recognize that guy, it's more like home." Build your life one day at a time.Father, we pray that we might know you above all else that that would be our passion, our master passion. As Jesus cried out in his own prayer that they might know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I pray for those of us who know you already and I pray that you take us to a deeper and more intimate level. I pray for those who may not know you. Lord I pray that you bring them to a level of knowing you, of having a relationship with you by faith and then walking with you closer everyday. In Jesus' name, Amen.