Know God, Advance Missions – Part 3

Playing with my friends on a summer evening in the suburbs of New Jersey, my dad would often lean out the door and yell, “Rick, Come here”.  Now, my friends heard, “Rick, Come here”.  But I heard, “Rick, Dinner’s ready” or “Rick, I need your help” or “Rick, get your butt in here, you’re in trouble mister”.  To my friends, it was all the same but I could interpret the inflection, the nuance, the tone and hear the real meaning.  Why?  Because I knew my dad.  I knew him all my life.  We spent a lot of time together, shared a lot of experiences.  My friends just knew him as ‘Mr Jacobsen’ who they would see every once in a great while.  I knew him as ‘Dad’ whom I saw every day.    The same is true with our heavenly ‘Dad’.  Last time we looked at how we move on to maturity by adding to our faith as per II Peter 1:5-8. The goal of all that is to be effective and fruitful in our knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  After all, true biblical Christianity isn’t about saying a magic formula in a prayer and you’re in.  It’s not going to church on Sundays and saying the right things when you are with ‘church people’.  True Christianity is knowing God.

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.  John 17:3

It’s taking everything you’ve known before (the world, sin, selfishness and pride) and becoming new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  II Corinthians 5:17

It’s taking our old mind and thoughts and transforming it, renewing it, by getting to know God more and more and that way, we can know His will.    

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

The more we know our Savior and God, the better we understand how He wants us to live this Christian life.

On a TIME Mission trip for Women’s Ministries, we don’t play active games to get out their energy and then speak to them as children.  And at VBS or Sports Ministry, we don’t have them sit still in chairs and speak to children about prenatal care.  No we tailor the ministry and message to the group we are ministering to.  The same with knowing God.  Sometimes we try to heap the knowledge on new Christians and share the same old thing time and again with the older Christians.  How do we lay that foundation and then move on to build upon it.  I John 2:12-14 gives us a clue.

1John 2:12   I am writing to you, little children,

because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

13 I am writing to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I am writing to you, young men,

because you have overcome the evil one.

I write to you, children,

because you know the Father.

14 I write to you, fathers,

because you know him who is from the beginning.

I write to you, young men,

because you are strong,

and the word of God abides in you,

and you have overcome the evil one.

John poetically and symbolically shares the stages of spiritual development by representing them with those in the different stages of physical development.  ‘Children’ for new Christians, ‘’young men’ for developing Christians and ‘fathers’ as those who are mature in the faith, ‘having the depth and stability of ripe Christian experience’ (as John Stott puts it in commentary on the letters of John).  Let’s just look at ‘children’ and ‘fathers’ for contrast.

As we look, new Christians need to know God as the forgiver of sins (which is also one of the foundational doctrines we are to build upon in Hebrews 6:1-2) and also to know God as Father.  What does an ideal Father do?  He loves us, he protects us, he provides for us, he directs and trains us, he is a role model …you get the idea.  Some well-meaning Christians try to argue people into the kingdom.  They jump on apologetics, or contemporary issues, or denominational differences, etc.  This may be good stuff for ‘young men’ to chew on and for ‘fathers’ to have a good handle on, but not appropriate for ‘children’.  They just need to know that God loves them, cares for them and will save them.

In contrast, ‘fathers’ know Him who is from the beginning.  That might not seem like much until you dig into it.  First of all, the beginning of what?  Not of God because He has no beginning and no end, so it must mean the beginning of the world He created.  And if it’s the beginning, what was before that.  You mean God created linear time?  He created the material world, the universe, physics, etc.  Our knowledge of God goes a little deeper for the spiritually mature and it just keeps getting deeper the more time you spend getting to know Him.  Let’s just look at creation for a minute.  Six days God creates the world.  What does that tell you about God?  He’s brilliant, creative, artistic, orderly, sees the big picture, powerful, and more.  You can go on for a while just considering that and now you know God that much more and with greater depth.  

Look at the order of creation

Day 1- Day and Night Day 4- Sun, Moon and Stars

Day 2- Separated Water and Sky Day 5- Fish and Birds

Day 3- Land, Sea and Plants Day 6- Animals and Man

What does that tell you about God?  For a God who can do anything, including creating everything at once, He seems to have taken His time to do it.  Frankly, I’m not sure what that says about God’s nature, but it is something I’m going to be mulling over to get to know Him better.  I did notice that the order is set up in an interesting way.  He creates Day and Night on the first day, but doesn’t fill it with the Sun, Moon and Stars until Day 4.  He Separates Water and Sky but doesn’t fill it with Fish and Birds until Day 5.  And He establishes the Land, Sea and Plants but doesn’t fill them with Animals and People until Day 6.  God builds a platform, makes sure it’s ready and then fills it.  How does that play out in everyday life?  Consider the Israelites when they escaped Egypt and were on the edge of the promise land (Numbers 13-14).  They sent in their 12 spies and 10 reported that, while a very nice land, the inhabitants were too strong, and they would lose badly.  Two reported that if God said they could take the land, they should do it.  The people sided with the 10 and it led to 40 years wandering in the desert.  Fast forward 40 years later.  They are once again ready to go into the promised land and Joshua now sends in 2 spies.  They encounter Rahab, escape with her help, and Israel moves to claim what God had promised.  The part I want to point out is the discussion that Rahab had with the spies in Joshua 2:8-14.  Remember that these are the same lands that the original spies scoped out and the same mighty people who inhabited it, but Rahab points out that those same mighty people lived in fear of Israel because of the Red Sea miracle and the victories the Israelites had won in the Wilderness.  She says their hearts melted and they had no fighting spirit in the face of God’s people.  Do you see the connection?  God set the stage with the Red Sea parting and destruction of Pharaoh’s army to intimidate the inhabitants of the promise land.  If they just obeyed God, as the 2 spies suggested, they could have swept in and taken the land no matter how big and scary the inhabitants seemed because God had been working on them beforehand.  Even after they chose not to obey and started the wilderness wanderings, God was using their victories during those intervening 40 years to reinforce the stage that was already set.  God builds the platform and when it’s ready moves to fill it.  If the Israelites knew God well enough, they would have done just that the first time.  Has God told you to do something for Him?  Maybe it’s a mission trip to another country or maybe it’s as simple as inviting your neighbor to church.  Don’t be afraid, go for it.  God has already set the stage.  How do I know?  Because I know Him who is from the beginning.

There are many other things we can learn about God from the beginning, and we get to spend the rest of our lives doing just that.  One of most obvious things though, is that God wants to have a relationship with the creation He made in His image.  The word ‘Genesis’ means ‘origin or creation’ and is the Greek rendition of the Hebrew of ‘bereshith’, which translates as ‘in the beginning’.  Genesis is the beginnings of everything.  Beginning of creation, beginning of our relationship with God, beginning of sin and separation and the beginning of God’s plan of reconciliation (among many other beginnings in the book).  And that reconciliation culminates in the work of Christ.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.   II Corinthians 5:18-20

As we get to know God better, we understand that He wants the world to be reconciled to Himself.  And we, who already have a relationship with Him through His Son, are the news bearers and ambassadors of this Good News.  The conclusion of all this is that Knowing God must lead to Advancing Missions.  And we’ll look at advancing missions in the next installment.