In this episode, Kurt talks about what it means to know God personally. This is the final episode in the Explore God series.
Listen to “Episode 137: Can I Know God Personally?” on Spreaker.
(Intro): Jesus, Jesus is my friend, Jesus. Jesus is a friend. My friend, Jesus taught me how to live my life as he taught me how to turn my cheek when I’ve had friends before. And I can tell you that he is one who will never leave you flat. Jesus is my friend, Jesus.
Kurt: Jesus is our friend. So they say, welcome to another episode here veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Very nice to be with you here. This is our final episode of the Explore Gods series. And we’re answering the question or attempting to answer the question, can I know God personally? And what does that mean? And for many people, they communicate this relationship as friends that we are friends. And in a certain sense, that’s true, but also, in what respect? As we will explore this question, we will be looking at how the devil is in the details about what people mean when they communicate about the relationship with God. Now, our scheduled guest for today’s program was Lon Allison, who is a preacher and teacher at Wheaton Bible Church. Unfortunately, this morning, I received an email from him that he’s in the hospital with a sickness. For those of you who might know of Lon’s situation, he’s been dealing with cancer actually, for quite a while now, he was given a terminal diagnosis A while ago, but he’s been he’s been holding on. And so we want to keep lawn in our prayers, and pray for his family and his situation there. And hope things turn out okay for a little bit longer here for lawn with his diagnosis. So I am going to be trying my best to answer this question. But not I am not alone.
Kurt: Those of you who tuned in last week, might remember who our guest was. He was none other than Ted right of epic archaeology. And he was on via Skype. And wait, what’s that, Chris? Chris? Is he here in the studio now? Yes, Yes, he is. And we’ve we’ve got him here on video. He’s sitting next to me to move to this week. And so we’re excited to have him here. And hopefully, you know, Ted, you will be on, you know, a number of episodes in the future here. Great. Thanks, Kurt. I’m glad to be here. Yeah. So all right. We’re a little cold. I got coming from Alabama. It’s a little cold, slightly cold today. It’s all rainy. So that’s not very, very nice. Okay, so what I would like to do with the program today is, first I would like to talk about how there’s a tendency in American Christianity to communicate our relationship with God in a more emotional sense that it’s about the experience of the experiences, and how this can be a little off putting, for some people, myself included. So I’m going to share a little bit about my experience of, of how I’ve communicated my relationship with God. And then, within the second half of the program, I certainly do want to talk about the what that looks like practically, what does it look like to be a disciple of Jesus? What does it mean to know him personally, because I certainly don’t want to reject the idea that God is personal. He’s not impersonal. There are certain religions out there that believe God is impersonal. I think for example, of Islam, which has a very high view of transcendence, divine transcendence means right above. But the story of Christianity is that a manual, it’s God with us, and what does that mean? What are the implications thereof? So I guess first and maybe I’ll share a little bit of my testimony. You know, given all that we’ve learned from the Explore Gods series, all these issues, now is time to share a little bit about What it means to relate to God. Of course, lots of great questions here the problem of religious language, which maybe we’ll bring up, divine providence comes into play. I know if my friend Charles is listening in, he might appreciate our conversations on divine providence that we’ve had over the last few weeks. So I want to start by talking about my testimony. And, not that it has to be a super emotional sharing, or anything like that. But even that maybe we can analyze how people communicate their experiences, something to think about. So I was born and raised in a Christian home. And we went to church every Sunday, and I was the kid paying attention in Sunday school. So you might imagine how, how and why it is I eventually ended up studying theology at the graduate level. I just I knew the answers, but I was interested in learning more about the Bible and the Christian worldview, even at a young age.
Kurt: But it wasn’t until third grade, the summer, the summer between second and third grade, that I went to Lake Geneva youth camp, and I had an opportunity to hear the gospel, outside of the context of, of home life. And those types of experiences are very powerful, because it takes us out of our comfort zone. It takes us out of the ordinary routine of daily life. And so they’re at Lake Geneva youth camp, I heard the gospel message of fresh. I’m not sure I could say her for the first time, but I heard it afresh. And it was there that I gave my life to Christ. And I knew I was a sinner, in the eyes of a holy righteous God, and that, that there was no way there was there was nothing I could do to reconcile, fix that relationship. But rather than I needed to accept the gift of salvation that Christ offers us, so I did that. But you know, even when you do that, sometimes, you don’t see the fruit coming forward for, in my case, years and years. And so, when I was in high school, I began to doubt the things that I had believed, I began to ask the deep questions of life. You know, how do I What is truth? And you know, why it is I should believe the Bible is reliable? What does it mean for Jesus to be God? So some people, they ask these questions, right, if stages in their lives, but for me, it was in high school. Now, I didn’t give up my faith. Some people, they go into this stage of doubting, and it really just the pillars of their faith, just fall apart Samson style Philistine style. But so I did ask these deep questions. And then, you know, I began to read more and to listen to certain podcasts by Ravi Zacharias, his his teachings, and, and it was great going to public school because I could have an awareness of these worldviews out there. And I would talk to my peers, and about what they believed. And there was one fellow in high school, he wasn’t a Christian, but he eventually I started asking questions of people who call themselves Christians. And and he began to observe what Kurt does is that Kurt reconvert, Sir, he helps people understand what Christians believe. So I was going through that stage in my life. But after high school that summer, after my senior year, I began to reflect on relationships, and how I hadn’t really impacted many people for Christ’s kingdom. And so I reflected more on that. And my college years, were wonderful, as I thought more deeply about theology, and philosophical reflection about God. And I asked some of these deep questions of life and had an opportunity, wonderful professors that mentored me. And so, throughout this, I began to recognize more what it meant to relate to God what it meant to know God, personally. Some people, they they communicate the relationship as if Jesus is my homeboy, or sometimes, some women will say that they’re dating Jesus. And for me, I have no idea what they mean. I mean, at the end of the day, I don’t have an idea. I’ve got a general idea maybe what they mean to communicate there. But they’re using certain language that doesn’t fit my lexicon, right. And so this is an area that I’ve been interested in learning more about. And so in philosophy, this is part of the problem of religious language. And one book that I’ve had the chance to read some excerpts from is divine discourse, philosophical reflections on the claim that God speaks. Now, I won’t get too too deep here into our show today, but I did want to read this fascinating passage from wolterstorff because When we say that God is speaking to us, what do we mean? So here’s here’s an interesting passage from wolterstorff. Since God has no vocal cords, with which to other words, and no hands with which to write them down, God cannot literally speak, cannot literally be a participant in a linguistic community. Accordingly, attributions of speech to God, if not judged, bizarrely false, must be taken as metaphorical. But if so taken, what is the fact of the matter to which the metaphor points? So here wolterstorff talks about how we can use metaphors to properly convey meaning, and truth about God. Now, Ted, I know you are a product of Southern evangelical seminary where Thomas Aquinas is the sort of foundational view, and Aquinas himself sort of recognized this aspect of divine language when he talked about, you know, what, what does it mean, when we say that God is good, right? Yes, I’m not sure if you wanted to mention a little bit about that.
Ted: So according to a more of a to mystic understanding of this, you kind of mentioned it in the early part of the show about God, the God talk issues, you know, whenever we talk about God, and we were saying that God is good, or that God is love, or whatever attributes we’re using of God. So there’s three options. When we’re talking about God, there’s the language that we use, you know, well, if you say, Well, God loves me, and I love french fries, you know? Well, obviously, we don’t mean the same thing when we’re talking about love. So so there’s three options we have we have univocal language, and we have equivocal language, and we have an illogical language. Those are three big words. And what they essentially break down is this is that we’re, are we saying exactly the same thing of God, as we’re saying to us? Are we saying something completely different that God is so different, you know, that we, you know, the way that God loves or the way that God is good is totally different than the way they’re all good? Or is it similar? So there’s a that’s an illogical and so according to Aquinas, that would be the more to mystic answers that God talk and God languages and illogical, and that is that there’s an analogy. And so obviously, I just, in my mind, if we understand scripture, it just sort of makes sense that, you know, God, if he is, as john says, and John’s prologue, you know, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, God, if God is the word, the logoff, obviously, he can communicate. And he does communicate very clearly. So the God does reveal himself. But obviously, because he the kind of the nature of God’s being is so different. Obviously, the language is similar. It’s not, it’s not exactly one to one correspondence. So yeah, that’s, that’s sort of like nerd language.
Kurt: Yeah, it is nerd language. But it’s also important because it can help us understand the language that other people might be using to describe their relationship with God. Sometimes you might have assumptions people assume, you know, and in the assumption, sometimes there is clear communication. Yeah, if the unstated assumptions are held by both parties exactly, you know, a Christian and other Christian. But what happens if you don’t have those same assumptions shared by Christian? Or worse? What if there’s a non believer? Who doesn’t show those assumptions? Yeah. And so they don’t know what you mean, when you say that you relate to God or when you’re describing how it is that you relate? Exactly. So when someone says, you know, my relationship with God is intimate. The non believer might be like, well, what are you talking about? He’s the creator of the universe. How are you? Yeah, you know, you’re just a puny, little human. And there’s a great song about being a puny, little human. Quickly looking it up here because I want to read a number of verses from it. It is Psalm eight here, I’ve got the ESV. That’s my preferred edition. It’s technically not a translation. English is a translation. And there are multiple English is so not I’m not sure if many of you knew this, but the different variations of the English Bible are called editions.
Kurt: Alright, so Psalm eight. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, What is man, that you are mindful of him, the Son of Man that you care for him, yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, some some edition state, angels, and crown Him, that his humanity, grant him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands, you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas, oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name and all the earth. So while we are puny, and we do have an intimate relationship with God, and we’re going to explore maybe what that means, here it is puny man. God has created a little lower than the heavenly angels, and has given us this authority over his created order. Very, very fascinating here, illustrating the tension between divine transcendence and Divine Eminence as well. So talking about religious language is important, especially if we’re going to reach non believers with what it is Christians believe. Alright, so I want to now move along and talk a little bit about kingship language. Because this is one of the ways that I understand. Best, I should say, for some people, they view this relationship with God, or Jesus says, Jesus is my homeboy, it’s, it’s certainly viewed as more intimate and emotional. That’s not the way I’ve understood or communicated my relationship with God. When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus as a rabbi, as a teacher, someone whose feet we should sit at and learn from. He’s the one who’s going to teach us and show us the way, the way that humans are meant to, to act, and live. And the kingdom language is is rife throughout the New Testament. Now, and it was certainly a part of Jesus’s teaching, so much so that some people thought he was coming to usher in a golden era, again, literal kingship of Israel. But that’s not exactly what he had in mind. Jesus said, his kingdom is not of this world. But he is a king. And what does it mean, for a subject to relate to a king? In some ways, this is not about, you know, hanging out with the king all the time. Not necessarily, buddy, buddy. But, you know, the way a blacksmith relates to a king, the blacksmith works hard, works a good life, you know, provides for his family honors the king is allegiance to the king. So that’s if some of you are thinking here, this concept of allegiance, you might be thinking of Matthew Bates and his book salvation by allegiance alone, we did an episode on that probably well over a year ago now. Great book, I’m sympathetic to that view here, this sense of Allegiance. What it means to be allegiance to the king is not that we just have a belief that Jesus is your Savior. It’s not merely a belief, but you act upon that belief as well. And that’s critically important when we’re distinguishing between cultural Christians and genuine Christians, people who just say that they are a believer, someone who might even go to church on a regular basis, but really hasn’t. The, gospel message hasn’t marinated in their soul. It hasn’t gotten there yet. It hasn’t clicked for them what it means. And once it does, then there is a shift not just in thinking but in lifestyle as well. And this is why Jesus tells us all to repent, right, Paul says, In Acts 17, that now God calls all men everywhere, to repent, and and to turn to Jesus. So for me, I, I’ve frequently understood my relationship as that of a servant to a king, and not that there aren’t intimate times. But that it’s the experience, or experiential aspect, is not the primary, it’s not the forerunner of of my relationship. And to that, so when I’m going through good or bad times, those truths remain steadfast regardless of my situation, regardless of my experiences. And that’s also what Paul talks about in Philippians. Ted.
Ted: Yeah, Kurt, I just want to just add this one little thing, a thought here. So one of the things I think is important in this discussion, we’re talking about, you know, having a relationship with God is, is also to to draw the distinction between justification and sanctification. So, so God does speak and the question, you know, yet you have a broader question is, you know, is he speaking to unsaved people and that’s, that’s another debate for another time. Yeah. Both Calvinists and non Calvinist things like that, you know, so, so, yes, God does speak and Paul talks about that a lot in his letters, you know, to the churches, and how he communicates you know, even the book of Hebrews, it says, God’s is now today’s heat in the past, he spoke to the prophets and now he’s speaking to his Son, Jesus Christ. So, so so there’s one thing to talk about coming into relationship with Christ and having that relationship Then once you are saved, and once you are a believer, then I think and this is what the shows about today really is that once you are a believer, then what does it mean to have this personal ongoing thing relationship with Jesus? And and what does the scripture say about it? What does that look like? How is that fleshed out in everyday living? And so I think that’s an important distinction to make.
Kurt: Yep. So I went ahead, and prior to the show, I solicited answers. I asked the question to my friends on Facebook, how do you explain your relationship with God. And now previously, to the point I made about it might be depending upon who you talk to, and the assumptions you have, actually, Tony here, he comment commented saying, it would all depend on who I’m talking to. And I think that’s a very wise approach, that we need to make sure we don’t have these assumptions shared by the other person. But now if you know, you’ve got that showed assumption, then it might be, you know, safe to use certain words and and I don’t mean safe, like, like, you’re going to feel uncomfortable something but safe for successful communication, so safe in the sense that, you know, you’re gonna communicate properly about what that means. So here’s what some other people said. We have, Gordon says, allegiance, Danny says, intimate and constant. John quotes here from Galatians. Two, I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me, we will certainly be exploring more of that in the second half of our program today. Some other great thoughts from folks, we would love to hear from you what your thoughts are on your relationship with God. And it’s, you know, it’s fascinating to see the the diversity of experiences that there are, and exploring and thinking about what that means exploring explore God get it, we’re exploring the answers here of of what it means to know God at personally. Again, there is this sense of, of a personal relationship. That is, I am a person, there are three persons in the Trinity. And so there is a personal relationship. But it might not mean what many people think it means that say, God is talking to you, in some mystical way every day. Or that. Ted, you were talking about some fellow that said, Well, if you see the black bird fly, that’s a sign, you know, people look for signs frequently. Maybe you can talk about that.
Ted: Yes, absolutely. So back when I was in seminary, one of the one of the big debates that we had is amongst seminary students and and I think it’s, for the most part still goes on today by some some folks and and I’m not here to put the guy down. Um, he’s written some great stuff. But Henry Blackaby wrote a book called experiencing God, and several years ago was a very popular series by a lot of Christians. In fact, many churches would, you know, teach this as a class. And it had to do with I mean, really, the core of the book is really kind of what we’re talking about today is, is having this personal, intimate relationship with God and experiencing God. And then the other view, the opposing view was a book by a scholar, by the name of was named sname slips of mind right now. Gary Friesen, it’s, uh, you know, know how to know the will of God. And so, so, as seminary students, we talked about the difference between the two. So it seems like on one side of the other is like one extreme or the other. And my own personal view is that it’s sort of in the middle, it’s like not that it’s not that every experience sort of points to God, but God can certainly use that. But I want to kind of get back to a point in the scripture makes here in john first john chapter four. He says, beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see them, they’re going to come from God. I think the danger Christians today is that, you know, any, any kind of little thing they get, oh, must be a message from God. But, you know, if you’re getting a voice in your head, that’s telling you something that clearly contradicts the Word of God, that’s probably not a message from God. So test the spirits. And I think one of the one of the dangers Kurt is the, that I see, and I’m a former pastor, too. And I’ve seen this in church, people, people in our church and just talking to Christians, it’s just the lack of discernment. just doesn’t seem to be to discern any kind of profit or anybody or any experience that comes up must be from God. So I think it’s an important conversation you’re having today about, you know, having this relationship with God and God’s speaking to us today. But Christians should be you know, be cautious because really at the end of the day, scripture anchors are our talk about relationship with God.
Kurt: Yeah, and while scripture and scripture itself anchors our relationship, there’s a, there are questions and assumptions even there in The text that we have to reflect on, what did Paul mean? What did the what was the ancient Israelites perception of God?
Ted: There’s hermeneutical questions you have to deal with as well. And how does God speak through script? He certainly does speak to Scripture. But yes, but how not. Maybe I can share later another thought about that.
Kurt: Yeah. So we did last September for the defenders conference we had we brought four different Christian perspectives to talk about the suppose a genocide commands, you might be wondering, Why the heck am I bringing this up right now? Well, here’s why. Because there was a difference of opinion on how the Israelites interpreted their relationship with God. One of the perspectives proposed and defended at that event was that the Israelites merely believed God wanted them to do this, that is to have the conquest and, you know, enter the promised land. And that God didn’t really tell them to do that, because it in this fellow’s perspective, you know, I brought about great, unjust action, killing of women and children, and the loving and holy God would never command that. This is the view of Kenton sparks. And also a great plug here. For those who are interested in going and watching all of these videos. They’re all available on Vimeo, search Vimeo, for genocide in Scripture, and Chris is on and he’s putting out he’s gonna get a link up into the Facebook group here, the live stream so people can check out those videos. But so this just sparks his view. And so I know I’m not sure exactly how or what john Waltons view might be. But I know that Paul co pen and clay Jones want to say no, God really was speaking to the Israelites. So even for an issue like this, the the concern over religious language finds itself how we are to understand humans relationship with with God. All right, well, what we’re gonna do is we’re going to take a break. Now, when we come back, Ted and I are going to keep talking about this idea of, of a personal knowing of God. And we’ve got some great passages from gi Packer. I’ve got some other Bible verses to share with you. And I’m also going to talk about a hymn that was sung at my wedding because I think it’s so powerful of the Christian life, about what it means to relate to God and to follow in accordance with those things. So stick with us through a short break from our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor or a patron. That’s just a someone who chips in 510 or $20 a month, we’d love to have your recurring financial support to keep this program going and growing. You can learn more by visiting our website veracity Hill comm and click on that patron tab. You can also go directly to veracity comm slash donate. And if you are a longtime listener of this program, we’d love to help you promote our show through reviews, we have a Facebook page on iTunes, or if you’ve got a Google Play podcast app, we’d love to get your review, it helps with search results for people searching around for you know, Christian worldview, that those types of things. So please do help us out, give us a review. And let us know that you did as well. So we can share about it on the show here. Okay, On today’s program we are talking about can we know God personally? The answer is yes, yes, we can. But at the same time, there are some difficulties in traversing the field of qualifications or responses on that, yes, Christians have. And not just lay level, but even theologians have defended different views on how it is that we are to relate to God. And of course, there’s a challenge in communicating the high level theology and philosophical theology, philosophical reflection, to average life, folks. And part of our purpose for the show here is to help bridge that gap between the academy and the church. Now, Ted, you were a pastor for a number of years. And I want to ask you, so what was what was a way that you would help explain this to folks about what it means to have a relationship with God?
Ted: Yes, that’s a great question, Kurt. So you know, you’re right. And you were saying just a minute ago about, you know, it’s a deep subject, it’s, it’s that when you get into the theology behind it in the, the philosophical theology can get really complex. But you know, you think about it, the Bible is written to just everyday people, you know, and most people go to church, you know, they’re just average working people. So, you know, sometimes using the philosophical language might confuse people. But I found a good analogy. We’re not analogy. It’s really scripture. And it’s, it’s connected to, you know, if I, if I were a pat, you know, and I was a pastor for a while, and I was going to explain to a new believer, you know, you know, as I’m beginning they’re, you know, they’re beginning their discipleship with Christ, the relation of Christ. What would I say, as a pastor, and this is what I would say that God does speak. Yes, he and He will speak to you, but he speaks primarily through His Word, scripture. And so as you said a minute ago, obviously, there’s there’s a lot of complexities to that, but you got to start people somewhere.
Ted: And it is an interesting fact that the Scripture is written for our edification fact, in Second Timothy, Paul’s writing to Timothy their young pasture, and he says in Second Timothy 316, of course, many people know this verse. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. And what’s interesting about this word, and in verse 16, the word given by inspiration of God is the Greek word theopolis. stows. It’s literally translated, God breathed. And so it is interesting. In the in the Garden of Eden force, when God created the man and the woman, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it uses the same root word theist news to us. It doesn’t use the exact word, but it’s a very similar word. So it is interesting that the same breath of God that breathe the life into Adam also breathed life into scripture. So really, as believers, we find our relationship with God. It is not just scriptures, because again, you know, you can just get very wooden and things like that. But it is a sort of a mysterious dynamic that God communicates primarily through His Word. And that’s, in fact, Jesus said in a high priestly prayer, he prayed, Sanctify them, and he’s talking about the church, and we’re sanctified. We’re set apart made holy, by His Word. So so you know, God speaks definitely. But he speaks through His Word. And so we got to be careful, you know, if we’re, if we’re getting messages, or we think God speaking to us, if it clearly contradicts the word, but the danger today, I found is that many people sadly, don’t know the word of God. And so, so I would say to just if I was if I were a pastor today, and I was talking to folks, and I would say, you know, listen, you’ve got to get in the Word of God, because that is how he communicates to us. It’s really a two way conversation. It’s really, I’m speaking to God through prayer. And then he speaks to me through His Word, and it’s sort of a cycle. It’s sort of back and forth. But, but obviously, God is speaking and I found that’s the case is that when I memorize scripture, and I’ve really get God’s word into my life, it is interesting how the Holy Spirit will recall that at a certain moment of my life, but that’s because I have previously read it and in Yeah, and and fed on it.
Kurt: Yes. So I think this is a great point that the scripture is God speaking? And someone might be like, Well, wait a second, no, this was just written by man. Let me propose this as an option, which I think is a very is a great analogy. In the political world. And I’m not talking about partisanship, I’m talking about just politics. In general, you have speech writers, you have ambassadors. These are people that write and represent on behalf of someone else, a speech writer writes a speech, which will be delivered by someone else who did not write those words, you will have an ambassador go to a different nation, who represents the President of the United States, you know, if we’re talking about American politics, and in fact, anything that that Ambassador says, is something that will be believed to be true of the President. Okay. So here you have these, these situations where someone, we we credit someone else, you know, oh, President Trump said this, but he was reading a speech, right? They weren’t his words, but it was him speaking, right, in the same way with an ambassador or the president speaks through this person. In the same way God speaks through the Scripture. God speaks through the Scripture, alright, so there shouldn’t be a problem. If we think God can’t literally speak remember, wolterstorff, he can’t he doesn’t have vocal cords. God is immaterial. So it doesn’t happen that way. But there’s a metaphor to it. And there is a way we can understand and believe truthfully, and justly that God speaks.
Ted: And to add to wolterstorff point about God not having vocal cords. He actually in the second person of the Trinity, yeah, he became incarnate. Yes, but that but that goes back to the Scripture, because those vocal cords were recorded by these men who recorded it in the Word of God. So if you want to know what God’s saying, go to the Scripture. Yeah. And the scriptures are they testify to who he is? Yeah, it kind of comes back.
Kurt: Right. So the Incarnation is the Operation Rescue Mission, where God wants to rescue his people. And so God enters, assumes a body and enters into the course of human history, and adds a whole new dimension of what it means to relate to God. Here, I want to read from First Timothy. First of all, then I urge that supplications prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for all kings, and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God, our Savior, who desires all people to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. And there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time for this, I was appointed a preacher and an apostle, I’m telling the truth, I’m not lying, a teacher of the Gentiles and faith and truth. 10 did you like how I read that article? I’m telling you the truth. I’m not lying, Paul says, like how you read that dramatic reading? Yes, it’s a great passage. It is yes, the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, for that reason he came. And so when we speak, when we talk about knowing God, personally, we can it’s a it’s a two way conversation. And there’s a mediator, there’s someone who represents and speaks on behalf of us. And that’s Jesus. And this is why we we pray things in Jesus’s name, right? He’s our representative. And now not only Jesus, but also the Spirit intercedes on our behalf as well. So there is this line of communication, if you will, and so we can know God in a personal way, which the scripture attests to here. I want to read a passage from J. I Packer, he wrote a book a very popular book called knowing God, how appropriate, right? He says, what matters supremely therefore is not in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the fact the larger fact which underlies it, the fact that he knows me. Like I said, this is a two way Avenue. It’s a two way line of communication. Packer continues, I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me and continues to know me. He knows me as friend, one who loves me and there’s no moment when his eyes off me or his attention distracted from me and no moment therefore, when his care falters, a pause here, recall what Jesus says that God knows the number of hairs on our head. God takes care of the birds, how much more so will he take care of us? Packer continue continues, this is momentous knowledge, there is unspeakable comfort, the sort of comfort that energizes Be it said, not innervates. And knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love, and watching over me for my good last paragraph here, there is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me in the way I am, so often disillusion about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. So how great is that, that God knows me. And he knows all of me, and he knows every bad thing that we’ve done, and he still cares for me. So there is this two way Avenue, when we can know God personally, and he knows us, right? So first Corinthians eight says, but if, if anyone loves God, He is known by God. So we can know God personally. And he knows us as well.
Ted: Amen. That’s right, yet, and sort of In a similar vein, we kind of go back to what we’re talking about earlier about, you know, having a knowledge of God and how our knowledge of theology sort of anchors, you know, our relationship with God. And the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 10. He’s talking about something different, but I think it’s a similar principle that I think applies here to the church. And he says, He says, in the first couple of verses, he says, Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer for to God for Israel is that they may be saved, for I bear witness, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. And so there are a lot of Christians and they get excited, and they’re, they’re all pumped up, and Jesus is my friend. They sing that song, that horrible song. No…
Kurt: Wait, I get it just for you, Ted.
Ted: Oh, thank you. Yeah, Jesus, my friend.
Kurt: Alright, sorry.
Ted: Everybody, just like a collective sigh. No, but it is true. There’s a lot of zeal, but zeal without knowledge is not great. And so, you know, you find that really, the knowledge of God, it really helps us to understand a relationship with Him and to know more about Jesus is really helps us to in a relationship with him knowing who he is, in fact, the apostle Paul, I think there’s different, you know, thoughts on this. Yeah. Paul wrote in Hebrews, I think, different opinions. But he says that he’s talking about Jesus and Melchizedek, the priests, he says, We have much to say about this, but you can’t accept it. You know, because you’re in mature so. So there’s a direct connection between our relationship with God and our knowledge of God, our knowledge of who he is so so I would encourage Christians to get to know God through His Spirit through Scripture, and our relationship will even go deeper. Yeah, as we know him.
Kurt: Yeah, it’s the the issue of personally knowing God has many aspects to it, you’ve got the communicator of the use of religious language, what does it mean? What do you mean? What does it mean God speaks. So that’s part of it. There’s also divine providence as well, which has been brought up a bit, you know, people looking for signs all the time not testing the spirits. And especially if you think there is a spiritual world out there, you really have to be discerning, because some spiritual sign doesn’t mean it’s a good one. And there are people who take for example, Jeremiah 29, you know, 2911, out of context, you know, for I know, the plans I have for you, declares the Lord plans to give you hope, or for prosper, not free will to give you future and hope. Right? And this is sorry to tell you hashtag not sorry. It’s not about you. Alright, this verses in a different written in a different context to different people. It’s about the the exiles going into Babylon, and the plan that God has for his people there. Now, of course, we can apply that principle. But how we apply it is different and we shouldn’t take this verse out of context. God does have a plan for Christians. Yes, but that doesn’t mean God has a specific, you know, tapestry plan, that he’s working out our blueprint plan. That’s the terminology Greg Boyd uses a blueprint view. So you can still personally relate to God and have a different view or different understanding of divine providence. Alright. Don’t think that when we’re critiquing this idea, that means you can’t personally relate to God, no, that relationship still exists. It’s just not what you think it was.
Ted: Exactly. As my one of my seminary professors would say, what does the text say? There’s no Meaning in many applications in the man the text. It’s not it’s not enough and it’s not in our personal, you know, lives as they go up and down. Because sometimes I mean, what about Christian martyrs? You know, God? Was that God’s plan for them? You know?
Ted: So yeah, it’s a good point.
Kurt: It runs into theological difficulties does this God you orchestrate and cause and bring about a painful us evil and suffering that even we Christians experienced.
Ted: God is still good even even though sometimes horrible things happen to Christians in the end, they do and they have…
Ted: they get sick and they get hurt, and they get martyred and, and things like that. So yeah, it comes back to the knowledge of God knowing what God says in Scripture.
Kurt: Yep, yep. So here’s an interesting verse, Revelation 320, Behold, I stand at the door, knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him. And he with me? Here Jesus speaks of this intimate relationship, that I will come in to him and eat with him. And he with me, that language eat with him. I think so much of fellowship. And there is a spiritual experience there. I don’t think Jesus was meaning literally here that he was going to go and grab some grub. But But again, as wolterstorff says, there’s a metaphor with what Jesus meant. And what is that metaphor point to? What does that mean? It’s a strong, spiritually flourishing life with God. And if you don’t have that, I want to invite you to, to invite Jesus into your life, to recognize your fallenness your shortcomings, and to bend your knee to the Messiah, Savior and Lord, accept Him into your life. And you will find that the flourishing life you will live is wholly consistent with how God designed humanity to function. This is this is sort of what I call the argument from utility. So there’s some people that are utilitarians out there, and I said, Well, look, if you want to be the best, utilitarian, become a Christian, because you’re going to see that this is the best way that humans live and operate. Alright, what I want to do here is I want to share this hymn. with you here. This is a hymn that I’ve enjoyed for many, many years, and I’m sure if my wife is watching, she knows what I’m going to talk about. This is a song that we sing at our wedding. I didn’t personally but everyone sing along, you know, and it’s trust and obey, written in 1887 by john Sammis.
Kurt: And I want to read the whole, the whole hymn here, because it is so encompassing of the Christian walk, and what it means to know God personally. When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His word, what a glory he sheds on our way, while we do his goodwill, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey, trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus. But to trust and obey. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies, but his smile quickly drives it away. Not a doubt or a fear not a sigh, or a tear can abide while we trust and obey. Not a burden, we bear not a sorrow we share but our toil he does ritually repay, not a grief, or a loss, not a frown or cross, but is blessed if we trust and obey. But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar, we lay for the favor he shows for the joy He bestows are for them, who will trust and obey. Then in fellowship, sweet, we will sit at his feet, or will walk by his side in the way what he says we will do where He sends, we will go, never fear, only trust and obey.
Kurt: I think that’s a great hymm, which encompasses the Christian walk. And it It talks about the like you said, we need to stick to the word and what the Word says the word is God speaking right when we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word. Right living in active. That’s right. And so what a glory he sheds on our way. The the last verse talks about what he says we will do where He sends we will go so what he says Yes, okay, we can read the scripture where He sends that’s an interesting linguistic term, right? What is Sammis mean? Here, where He sends we will go, certainly God can lead people to go to a certain place, but you want to make sure it is a right leading, you know, people who say they have a heart for African kids. And you know, you say okay, so tell me about it. Oh, well, I just feel sorry for them and wait a second. No, I don’t really Think, you know, God has really given you a heart, you know, there has to be fruit there to be seen in that person’s life if they really feel that, that leading or Goddess is sending them. So there is this aspect that God does speak, God knows us personally. He does provide for us. And so that’s, you know, when we when we look at scripture, and we see how God relates to us, and we were to learn from the scripture on this, we certainly do see that this is Providence in our life. And it helps us to reflect and sort of Providence is like, the terminology is Monday morning quarterbacking, it’s a sports analogy. When people critique the quarterback on what he should have done. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment, but you see it looking in the rearview mirror. And that’s what Providence is like by using an analogy with another analogy. So when you look in the rearview mirror, you can see God’s providence in your life, how he blesses you, and the way that he has spiritually led us to mature and become like Christ. It’s very fascinating and important for people as they think about and reflect on their experience. Again, not everyone has the same experience and not everyone experiences in what might be called like an emotionalism. One of my concerns is when churches try to manufacture an experience, instead of letting the silence or the holiness, the repetition of things, speak to us itself. So, Ted, you sort of have some, if I may, you have some Anglican leanings, and there’s, you know, sort of rituals to that. There’s nothing wrong with the wrote.
Ted: Right, exactly. Well, you know, it comes one of the most powerful passages in the Old Testament is Isaiah chapter one where we’re, we’re God through the prophet Isaiah excoriates Israel, because they’re going through the motions of worship, they’re there, you know, in fact, he says, the prophet in Isaiah one, he says, Why are you bringing me they sacrifices don’t bring you meaning or sacrifice. You’re like, wait a minute, Aren’t you the one that told them to bring sacrifices? Well, yeah, they were doing it, but they were doing it in tea. So but that can be true of any type of thing or any regularity. But in liturgy, which is, which is part of what the Anglican tradition holds to, I have discovered personally, that that it’s very, God really uses that an amazing way, because it’s really anchored in Scripture. And it sort of washes over you through the week, you know, you get your week sort of comes by and then you get this, you’re reading the apostles creed, and you’re reading scripture and things like that. So absolutely.
Kurt: Yeah. The concern against the ritual is if it’s empty in meaning, exactly, right, God desires mercy, not sacrifice. And this is sometimes a criticism against, you know, traditional way of doing church. But But guess what, folks? The rituals on the other side to absolutely, you try to manufacture the same experience the same, you know, contemporary songs, you’re just doing the same thing, lights and music. And in smoke machine, smokey, it’s the same thing, folks. It’s just done with different content, but it’s the same structures, the same method. So that’s, you know, when that argument is levied against traditional forms of worship, you know, wait a second, it’s, it’s no different in the method. So there’s nothing wrong intrinsically with the method. But it’s rather a matter of whether there’s meaning and heartfulness to the rituals and the methods. So, Chris, you were, were you looking through your scripture there, something was striking you I’m not sure if we’ve got a mic for you.
Chris: Yes. Hello. Hello, everyone. Well, I had a comment here about the this idea because we’re wrapping up the Explorer guide series, as is all Chicago land. We got six other weeks prior to this one. This is kind of meant to be the ultimate weekly conclusion. Can you know God personally, and we’ve talked about several passages there. I wanted to make a comment and ask you both a question here, as we’ve kind of come out in the coming toward the end of our show, again, that being we talk about all these attributes of God and Jesus being involved in some salvific plan that God has, that’s the core of the Christian faith, and we talked about eternal life. And we mentioned the high priestly parent prayer in john 17. And john 13, through 17 is this lovely discourse, where Jesus is sitting down and laying out exactly what the terms of the New Covenant are, as said, by Jesus, here’s, here’s what you get, if you enter into this covenant, here is exactly here’s how it works. relationally between me and you and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and it takes four chapters to go through. And then you have the crucifixion and resurrection that happens. So it’s a lovely place to go explore. How do we relate to God personally, how do we relate to Jesus personally, as you both have mentioned, it’s not necessarily in the the way. We were to each other as human beings, it’s much much different. And it’s intimate on a much, much different scale and different way, but it is a personal relationship with God. So I would ask you guys this question in the scope of humanity at large no longer call you servants. But I have called you friend, right? Because Matt Thurman does not know what his masters doing. Yep. In humanity in large, the entire history of humanity, God has always been there. And we have humanity that’s there. And they’ve had something of a relationship that has morphed and changed over time, as God has interacted and said, this is how things are going to change, right? So obviously, there’s some there’s a couple key points in history were the covenant or relationship with God and human switches, or changes in a dynamic fashion? This is one of them. So I would ask you guys, what do you think? Because I think this is maybe a pivotal point in our discussion. Can concerning exploring God today as humans today? What do you think are some of the big some of the huge the key changes in the way we were related to God prior to Jesus’s death and resurrection? And now relate to God? Post Jesus in the resurrection?
Ted: Great question. Great question. Kurt. Want to start?
Kurt: Yeah, so So first, I would say to, when I quoted, Jesus are saying no longer given to us servers, but friends, that we can’t assume what we know what friend means there. So sometimes what friend means in an American 21st century context might mean something quite quite, quite different in a first century context to so we shouldn’t place our own linguistic baggage. Okay, so the great question there. So when we talk about how humans related, previously, there was still a lot of unknowns, right, the Israelites as a people related to your way through through sacrifice. There there is debate over even is how Israel understood God, as either monotheistic or some old testament scholars have posited sort of, there’s this divine Counsel of of beings that consult with yawei. There was a lot of unknowns. And so the the good news of the incarnation of what it’s about, like I said, it’s the operation and rescue mission, that God has come to save his people, and to bring about peace on earth, to Reen remake, to renew all things to reconcile all things, even the all created order back to him. And so that I think, is part of the crucial difference between the old testament and the new. It’s that it’s like running a secret operation, God has to get the certain figures in the right place at the right time, in order for certain events to come about. And that’s exactly what he did. And so the secret Operation Rescue Mission was a great success. It was the best success in the course of human history. Yes. And so what does that mean? Now? Now, we know what that secret operation mission was. And we know what it means for the future. And so Ephesians one talks about how the created order being remade new, and we’re a part of that. So I think that’s how I would, on face value, answer the question without spending another 20 to 30 minutes, or hours reading and reading before preparing an answer. Good question that said, I’ll let you take your shot at it.
Ted: Thanks. Yeah, that’s a great question. So you know, what is what is life look like? After you know, before Jesus and after Jesus? Well, I’ll put it very simply. Everything after Jesus is better. Everything after Jesus is better, not that it was bad before but it’s more, it’s better. It’s just more wonderful. It’s, we have direct access with God. When you read the book of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews goes in great pains to describe that Jesus, you know, before you know, an access to God, you had to go through the priests and things like that, of course, these were shadows. But now Christ has entered into the very presence of God Himself, God the Father, and now pleads our case, he is our intercessor. So we have an intercessor in front of the Father, not in an earthly tabernacle, but he is in the presence of, of God the Father Himself, and is pleading our case with his shed blood. And he is, um, you know, he’s, he’s not like a like an earthly priest, in the sense that he, he represents us to the Father. So everything is more intimate, it’s better, it’s more permanent. And in the fact that the fact that Christ took on flesh and blood is just a great Marvel mystery. We mentioned the Incarnation and it’s, I honestly think, including myself, I think the same is true for for myself as well. I think that most Christian Just don’t fully understand the full ramifications of what we have in Christ, the blessings that we have. Paul makes this point in some of his letters, he says we ever I think maybe it’s Peter actually says that we have everything we need in Christ Jesus, all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms. Everything we need we have. So before it was sort of on a, you know, case by case scenario when God’s Holy Spirit would move, but now, now after Jesus, we have got everything and we it’s like all the riches that God the Father has have now been given to us. So if you’ve got Christ, you’ve got everything.
Kurt: Yeah. It’s a. It’s like, the warnings of Christmas, Christmas is coming. Or if you’re reading Chronicles of Narnia, Father, Christmas is coming, you know, as land is on the move. Right? Exactly. And so the Old Testament is all about how as land is on the move, it has lands on the move, great things are coming. And then Aslan arrives.
Ted: Permanent in dwelling, we’ve got the Holy Spirit. That’s right. The Holy Spirit dwells inside at Pentecost, when Christ came, the Holy Spirit came in, he literally lives inside of us. And that’s really what a Christian is, is Christ living in the Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of me. That’s a remarkable thing. And it’s, you know, I think you’ll spend your entire Christian life figuring out the full ramifications of what that means.
Kurt: Yes, yes. And all these technical aspects to what it means to know God personally, the problem of religious language problem, Providence, you know, these issues can come up if you’re interested in learning more, I’d be happy to send some resources your way. I’m interested in learning more. Of course, I don’t have all the right answers, and I’m surely wrong somewhere. Not you’ve heard. So, you know, it’s certainly an issue I want to think more and reflect on because I haven’t had this assumption that other Christians have had when they use certain terms. So I’ve kind of felt a bit alienated when people talk about the relationship with God. But that’s forced me to think more deeply about what people mean and explore. And it’s helped me to understand what it means, as I understand it, to relate and to know God, personally. And as j. i Packer said, Who cares about that the fact is, that God knows me personally. And he invites us to live into the life that he has for us the life he has planned. And I don’t necessarily mean to you this unique, special, you know, divine plan, but the plan that He has for us to be humans. And so mckaela says here, listening along, NT Wright calls it learning to become truly human. Yes, and T right, prolific thinker, learning to become truly human. That’s the plan that God has for us. And if you are, if you’re feeling lost, intellectually, belief wise, lost and alone, struggling, I want to invite you to, along with us, become truly human. Begin opening up reading the Gospels and learn what Jesus can teach us about being truly human. Well, that does it for the program today. I’m grateful for the continued support that we have with our patrons and the partnerships that that we have with our sponsors. They are defenders media, consult Kevin the sky floor, rethinking Hill, Illinois family Institute and Fox restoration. Thank you to our technical producer Chris and all the fine work he does for this program. And to our in studio guest today. Ted right. Thank you for coming on. offering your thoughts Great to be here. Last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
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