Bible Studies/How do we get to KNOW God?
"Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:23. In the original language the word used for know there is ginōskō which refers to the intimacy a husband and wife share. It seems to me that knowing Jesus isn't just about praying once and a while and to read a Bible chapter or so a day. It is to KNOW Him, in the deepest sense.
Now I am trusting Jesus and His finished work to be my salvation on the great and finally day. I read my Bible everyday, and I pray everyday to. I keep a journal and sometimes it seems that God is speaking to me. But it's NOT ENOUGH. How do we get to KNOW God? Like really know Him?
I absolutely love your question because it is also the cry of my heart to know God better. Thankfully the Bible tells us how and I'll give you a ton of Scriptures to help!
Because God is not physically with us while we are alive, we need to get to know God primarily through reading His Word (the Bible), prayer and fasting. He has written a huge love letter to you, the Bible consists of 66 books that will help you get to know Him. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work and flow through us in ministry, we experience His presence and grow closer to Him while getting to know His heart. This can even happen in persecution and I encourage you to read the testimonies of persecuted Christians.
When we finally die (or are raptured), we will finally be reunited with our Creator. In the meantime, we have to settle (yes, settle) for straining and striving to know Him spiritually. In heaven, it will still be spiritual but we will be united with Him, which is something we cannot describe or comprehend, but will be the ultimate! We will be free from all sin and have perfect spiritual bodies that can be in God's presence.
I am sorry there is no formula or secret to getting to know God better here. However, one thing that has made a difference for me is that I have been drawn many times to "seek His face." This are very special times that the Lord draws us into when we can experience remarkable intimacy with the Lord. Here is something I wrote on the subject and I hope this helps!
Seeking God's Face
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)."
"Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Is. 59:1-2 NIV)."
"Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me (Hosea 5:15 NIV)."
"My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek" (Psalm 27:8).
"Look to the Lord and his strength; Seek his face always" (1 Ch. 16:11, Psalm 105:4).
"Seeking God's face" is a subject like entering "God's rest" in that there are entire books written on it, yet very few people are familiar with what they actually mean. From the previous five examples from the Bible, you can see that it is clearly a Biblical concept, but what does it mean to "seek God's face?"
Does God have a face? God doesn't literally have a face. It is actually a heresy (anthropomorphism) to believe that God has a body since "God is Spirit" as Jesus specified in John 4:24. In 1 Timothy 6:15-16 we are told that God "alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see." John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." Not only is God invisible (Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17, etc), but God exists in pure "light," something that is impossible for a flesh-and-bone body to behold, and no one has truly seen God. There are verses such as Exodus 24:9-18 which seem to suggest that God had a body but these are what they call "anthropomorphisms," which are symbolic renderings of God’s being, attributes, actions or emotions in human terms. God is pictured as having a face, eyes, a mouth, legs, arms, hands, fingers and a back (Psalm 27:8; 10:12; 88:5; Deuteronomy 9:10; Exodus 33:23) but that is not literal. Such anthropomorphisms are poetic symbols or metaphors representing that which would otherwise be indescribable, because God in his being is invisible and a spirit. God is "omnipresent" or "everywhere," but not in everything (Psalm 139:7-18, Colossians 1:17, Proverbs 15:3, Jeremiah 23:23-24, 1 Kings 8:27, Matthew 18:20, Romans 8:9) so it would be impossible for Him to have a physical body. However, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man while on earth, became flesh (John 1:14) and had a physical body of flesh. Christ died physically but on the third day, His Spirit and physical body became a "glorified" imperishable physical body (what is described in some of His appearances and in 1 Corinthians 15:1-58) and Christ went to heaven, although over the next 40 days (Acts 1:3) he returned 11 times to make physical appearances, the last being His ascension from Mt. Olives (Luke 24:44-49, Acts 1:3-8). Christians will have the same resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20) when those who are dead or alive in Christ will meet Christ in the air with resurrected bodies (1 Thess 4:13-17, 1 Cor 15:1-58). As with Christ, our physical bodies are changed instantly (1 Cor 15:51-52) into an imperishable, immortal physical body (1 Cor. 15:35-54). So it can be argued that through Christ's physical resurrection, He currently has a face, like we will also have in our resurrection. However, we are not seeking to see Christ's physical face. We are seeking the One behind the face.
What is in a face? If you pay close attention to someone's face you can see a lot of things. In their eyes you can see if they are at peace. Jesus said, "the eye is the lamp of the body." In a face, you can see if they are happy, sad, mad, scared, or indifferent. You can tell what they think about you. Cicero said, "The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter." It's interesting that the Greek word for face, "prosopon," means literally "towards the eye." When you are seeking God's face, you are not seeking to see a physical face. You are also not merely seeking God's presence... you are seeking to know God's heart and His mind! What is more important than that? David was anointed King because "the Lord sought out a man after His own heart..." (1 Samuel 13:14). God promises you: "You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek me with all your heart" (Jer 29:13). The problem is most people that are "seeking God" are seeking His hands, not His heart and mind. They are seeking what God can do for them. Their prayers to Him consist of please heal, please give, please fix... This is not "seeking God" and this is definitely not "seeking His face." So we must understand that we are not seeking His hands, and we are not looking for results or an experience. We are seeking Him for Himself, to abide with Christ, where we are continually aware of His fullness within us, and where His presence dwells in us in glory. "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him" (Romans 6:8).
The Bible says "The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (Exodus 33:11). This doesn't mean Moses could literally see God's face (John 1:18, 1 Tim 6:16) but is better translated "presence to presence." It is significant how Moses would meet with the Lord. We read in Exodus 33:7, " Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp." Did you notice where "everyone" who sought the Lord went? It tells us three times that it was outside the camp. In fact, it even specifies it was "a good distance from the camp." Where we need to go is the same place they needed to go. Jesus did the same and encouraged His disciples to do it as well (Matt. 19:27, Luke 14:33). Lastly, those who truly "seek His face" find the time and cancel hobbies, forsake TV, put away the newspaper and magazines... It doesn't mean we neglect those things God clearly calls us to, but we forsake everything else. In order to seek God's face, we need to step way out of our daily routine and comfort zone. We have to be ready to set aside any ideas and thoughts we already have about God outside of Scripture. We have to be ready to accept anything that God reveals to us. We need to let go of everything but Him. As long as we are holding on to earthly things (1 John 2:15-17) we will never ascend to the level of stepping into heavenly things. God told Israel in captivity like he is telling us today, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13). When we seek God's face, it's all about Him and not about us. He must become greater, we must become less! (John 3:30).
Francis Frangipane describes it this way:
“There are certain times when the Lord calls us out of the routine of our daily lives. These are special seasons where His only command is, “Seek My Face.” He has something precious and vitally important to give us that the familiar pattern of our daily devotions cannot accommodate. During such times people are often delivered of sins that have plagued them for years; others discover a depth in their walk with God that leads to greater effectiveness in ministry and prayer; still others experience breakthroughs in their families and are used by God to see loved ones brought into the Kingdom.”
IT IS A PROCESS
"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)."
The process God had for Israel is the same process he has for us. We can't have intimacy with our heavenly Father unless we 1.) humble ourselves, 2.) pray and 3.) turn from our wicked ways. We see in Isaiah 59:2 that "your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Not only do we need to be repentant and turn from our sin, but we need to be aware of our wickedness. We need to find out from God Himself what things in our lives are displeasing to Him. We find what is "wicked" to God through prayer (talking to Him about it) and reading His Word, allowing the Holy Spirit and God's written Word (Psalm 119:11, Hebrews 4:12) planted in us to reveal those things to us that we need to get rid of (John 17:17, James 1:21, Colossians 3:16). When we do this, we soon see that we fail every day in word, thought and deed, whether we mean to or not, and that "all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" to Him (Isaiah 64:6, Job 42:1-6). Sin is serious and is not merely "missing the mark." "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23) and Jesus himself says to us "unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:3, 5). The next step in this process is to humbly change what God shows you, for humility precedes holiness and "without holiness, no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). What good is seeking something if you won't be able to see what you are seeking? We can't hang on to things that He hates and expect to find Him. We must let God expose the darkness in our hearts and minds, and then get it out! Confess it, expose it, hate it! As long as it hides in your heart and mind, it will keep you from God (Isaiah 59:2). It must come out into the light (Psalm 90:8, Job 12:22, Daniel 2:22, Matt 10:26-27, Mark 4:22, John 3:19-21, 1 Cor 4:5, Eph 5:8-14), "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6, emphasis mine). So seek "the face of Christ" but remember, humility precedes holiness and holiness precedes seeking His face.
Here's an example of a time when God called me to simply "seek His face." In 2005, before I met my wife, I had a breakup from a relationship that was bringing me down. I was shocked because out of the blue she broke up with me but I didn't get upset. I wrote her a loving letter and dropped it off with her things. She refused to give me a second chance but it was a miracle how the blessing of God was poured out on me from that day! Soon everything that was "brought down" in my life was blessed... my walk, my soul, my love, my strength, my relationships and friendships (especially with the Lord), even my work and finances... EVERYTHING! The very same day of the breakup I made $4,300 profit on one sale (which was a miracle!) Before the breakup, I was drained and stressed, I was working on that big sale, and my ex refused to talk to me the entire week, and finally met with me to tell me it was over... The only way I can describe what happened next is that my loving heavenly Father lifted me up and drew me into His arms... Everyone encouraged me and I got Godly counsel on my own (because she refused). The Lord used my pastor to show me that I needed self-examination and to stop pointing the finger at my ex. God called me to take a break from ministry and He began to show me a lot of things, first of all being the sin in my heart. I realized that I should have never been in that relationship. When I finally saw all my sin for what it truly was and asked God to change my heart, He did. I sensed a need for drastic change and hungered for it. I knew what God was doing, something He has done a number of times before... He was calling me into a special season to "seek His face." This is always a humbling time when the grandest reduction happens: he becomes greater and I become less (John 3:30). It's strange but I always become like a child. I began to get more emotional and got choked up, and cried often as the Holy Spirit moved on my heart. I cried often during worship and would get "lost" in it, often for long periods of time. I would listen to long worship mixes and would worship and pray for hours at a time. I remember even getting choked up listening to "The Cartoon Song," a silly Christian song by Chris Rice! My prayer and devotional life began to take on new meaning and significance... Everything else was put on hold and I focused completely on the Lord, seeking intimacy with Him, and to know His heart (and my heart in light of His). It was also during this time I met my wife Yvethe. It's strange that I met her during this time but my friendship with her only strengthened what the Lord was doing as I sought His face. The Lord began to use her and speak through her, speaking some of the same things to both of us independently. Some warfare began (gossip and slander) but this only brought us closer to the Lord and each other (except physically). Soon after, I sensed a need for a complete one-week fast (no food, only water) for three things: 1) Greater intimacy with the Lord and a fresh indwelling of the Holy Spirit while crucifying the flesh (Ro. 8:5-14), 2) More clarity in hearing God's voice (John 10:4-16,27) and direction in my calling/peace/unity/preparation/growth (2 Pet. 1:10-11, *Eph. 4:1-16), especially in light of some recent developments, and 3) Discernment for what to do about Yvethe! :) Closure came during a long period of prayer on the last day of the fast and the fast seemed to conclude the season of seeking His face as well, leading into His rest which often follows. As previously mentioned, the Hebrew word for presence is also translated as face, so Exodus 33:14 is also translated as, "The Lord replied, 'My face will go with you, and I will give you rest.'"
As you can see, these times of seeking His face are also times of tremendous favor and blessing. Hebrews 11:6 says that "anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." David recognized this and said, "He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob" (Psalm 24:5-6). As we saw in two verses at the top, David always sought God's face and because he was after God's heart (1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7; Acts 13:22), he received it.
I only write this to be an example and encouragement to you as you continue your walk with your Creator and Friend. He loves you and longs to have intimacy with you... He wants you to seek His face! "...Seek his face always" (1 Ch. 16:11, Psalm 105:4).
1. Cicero, Marcus Tullius. Ad Marcum Brutum Orator, p. 69. Accessed online at http://books.google.com/books?id=3ps1kkFWIbIC&pg=PA69&dq=%27Ut+imago+est+animi+v
on June 22, 2010
2. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Barbour, 1952. p. 67 of letter "F" under "Face."
3. Frangipane, Francis. Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God, p. 17
Frangipane, Francis. Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God