Sunday, May 07, 2017

I Know You

In Christian theology we speak of the transcendence and the immanence of God. Now, most religions get that transcendence thing. He is "out there". He is "above all". He is not like His creation, but is, instead, holy. Nay, holy, holy, holy. Most gods are like that. God is, too.

But then there's the immanence of God. That's the part where He's right here, among us, within us, a part of everything, a part of us. Now, of course, I'm sure you hear the echoes of some zen, spiritism, and pantheism in that. You know, "the god in all of us", the "god in everything" kind of thing. Oddly enough, in spiritism and pantheism, that often ends up being just as "out there" as transcendence. He is so much a part of everything that He is impersonal and impossible to relate to. But the God of the Bible isn't that kind of immanent. This is a personal immanence.

Paul wrote, "If anyone loves God, he is known by Him." (1 Cor 8:3) That's a precursor, you see? If anyone loves God, he must first be known by God. That's personal. He told the Galatians, "You have come to know God, or rather to be known by God." (Gal 4:9) In that is the secret, the difference, and the immanence. It isn't head knowledge. It's not that God is aware that you exist. It is relationship. Christianity, like many other religions, preaches "eternal life", but Jesus defined eternal life this way:
"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
Personal. Immanent. Right here ... now.

The last time I wrote about this, someone objected. "What's the big deal? God knows everything" That's not the "knowing" in view here. It isn't mental awareness of facts. It isn't personal assent to reality. This "being known by God" is relational. It's the difference between "I know that movie star; I've seen all her movies" and "I know that movie star; we get together several times a week to chat and share our lives." It is experiential knowledge.

The most personal passage I know of is Psalm 139. David starts with "O LORD, You have searched me and known me." (Psa 139:1) And it only gets more personal from there. He describes God as being present (Psa 139:2-5) and personally guiding (Psa 139:9-10). He says, "You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb" (Psa 139:13) -- intimately involved from the very beginning. And, "My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them" (Psa 139:15-16) -- intimately involved to the end ... before there is an end. I conclude with David, "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!" (Psa 139:17)

To know God and to be known by Him, something no other religion offers, yet something fundamental to our faith. This God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) ... this is the God worthy of worship like no other.

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