I just want to say how awesome it is that you are thinking about these things. I think it is not unimportant to ask these questions. In fact, it strikes the heart of Christianity. It is at the bottom of who we are as Christians and what sets us apart.
We call ourselves Christians because of the God we worship. [In the Book of Acts, where the word “Christians” was first used, it was attributed to a people who were followers of Jesus, who people could not describe as anything else but “little Christs.” And so as Christians, we are exactly that—little Christs.
And so what distinguishes us as Christians is that we are being made in the image of whom we worship, who is Christ. He is set apart from all else.] And so knowing God matters. Knowing whom we worship matters. We do not merely worship “a god,” we worship The God, the Trinity, who revealed Himself to us in the Person of Jesus Christ. (e.g. Scripture teaches us that Paul, too, sought to fill in the gaps of those who were devout and worshipping “an unknown god” – Acts 17).
It is this Christ—who was the Eternal Word incarnate, taking on flesh that He would suffer and die on our behalf, and was raised on the third day, that He would sit in the heavenly places with God the Father, now interceding on our behalf—whom we worship.
It is this very Christ whom we worship: our Lord and Savior.
And these all may seem very lofty, these facts about Jesus may seem “too theological” sometimes. And as a result we wonder—what does that have to do with the way I live my life? Why should I know these things? These are not bad questions. No, in fact, if I may boldly say, we must ask these questions.
I love how Calvin emphasizes that as people it is inevitable that we have a two-fold knowledge: knowledge of God and of self.
Because it is in our knowing of who God is, that we ought to see, all the more, His greatness, His goodness, His perfection. And so, as we now look to ourselves through this holy lens—oh, how we fall short! It is in knowing the deep things of God, that we ought to see the reality of who we are, in the depths of our sins.
It is in knowing the deep things of God, that we ought to see the reality of who we are, in the depths of our sins.
In knowing God’s sovereignty, we must assess the various ways we do not trust in this all-knowing, all-powerful Lord. We must be critical to see the various aspects of our lives that we cling unto so dearly, rather than placing them in the hands of Him who is above all things.
In knowing His Triunity, we get to see that God was never lonely from the start and does not need man. He does not need us, and so we understand that Him creating us, even, was out of sheer grace. Unmerited, and oh, so unneeded.
In knowing Jesus’ claims as God in Scripture, yet to see Him wash His disciples’ feet, we must look to the various aspects of our lives where we, as creatures of this Living God, refuse to take part in things that we think might lower our positions in society.
In knowing that Christ is coming again to Judge, we must assess the way we view our work in this world—in that we do not seek to try and take His place as judge, but stand to toil faithfully wherever He calls us.
These are just some of the examples of how our theology ought to shape our practice, that is, that our understanding of God should shape the way we worship Him.
loving to know God
And so I believe that it is the task of every believer to seek to know God deeper. Because God is infinite, we are ever on a journey of growing in knowledge of Him. This is why we must come before Him with a posture of meekness and humility—knowing that we cannot know Him, apart from Him having revealed Himself to us.
But what about when we desire to know, simply for the sake of knowing? Yes, this is a sin. For the desire to know God is a good thing, but whatever good we elevate above God Himself, oh how we have made an idol.
For even the first man sinned when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3). The first man sought to know as God knew, but in doing so, trudged on a path that God had forbid him to go on. He did not want to be like God because he loved God. He simply wanted to be like God. Full stop.
And so it is sin. To desire knowledge apart from God, apart from what God had revealed to us. And so we must always retreat, when we are faced with this, to echo Job as he cried out, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…I had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6).
knowing God in love
So why do we pursue the knowledge of God, then? Surely, to want to know more about God is not wrong. For truly, He is worth knowing. Because although He is the Unknowable God, He made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ.
For though He is the Unknowable God, He made Himself known in the Person of Jesus Christ.
And so this is what we must do always. We must always do theology, search the Word, seek understanding of Scripture, so that we may see Christ all the more clearly. We must press on to always cling unto Him, who had made Himself known, and who had revealed the Father to us. For in Christ, the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 2:9), and in Christ, we are a new creation, “the old has passed, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Hence it is in knowing our Savior, as we pursue all the theology in the world (for theo-logy is the “study of God”) that we get to now see our lives in the perspective of the Gospel, in the lens of grace. And as we see ourselves as having been lavished in such grace, may we in turn love Him who we had sought.
[A personal example of mine:
I had wrestled with the doctrine of predestination for the longest time. Not because I did not know all the right answers to answer the doctrine—I knew how to defend it, I knew how to speak of it. But my heart refused to believe it for the longest time. Because many whom I knew spoke of it with such coldness that had no love for the lost, and a pride that came with “being elect.”
I remember one night as a friend of mine confronted me with the question: then what are you? I was so torn I ended up sobbing on my bathroom floor because it was not an easy decision to make right then and there.
But for an entire week the Lord had met me where I was. It was in that one week that all my professors ended up bringing up the topic of predestination in class. How even my own reading of Scripture pointed me to this Truth. And how comforting had the doctrine been presented to me as! It was indeed a doctrine of grace, rather than one of condemnation.
Prior to that I had wrestled with the doctrine for almost two years, asking, “did it even matter?” “Isn’t the only thing that matters is that I love Jesus and He loves me?”
Oh, but it did matter. But it never sank until He wished to reveal Himself to me in that way.
And when I saw predestination through the lens of grace—I can now grow to love the doctrine.
In turn, it has shaped the way I come before the Throne in prayer—I wasn’t “changing God’s mind,” but I was simply a child who already had her Father’s attention. He knew me even when He formed me in my mother’s womb. So I need not strive for Him to look my way: I belonged to Him.
It has, likewise, shaped the way I view my evangelistic efforts—that as I see the work of God in the lives of the people that I had rejected—I get to see Grace at work indeed! I get to see that it is not my doing, but His drawing. And so I pray to the Father to draw His children Home. For He is the Sovereign Shepherd who would carry the Lost One Home.
And how freeing has it been. To love and serve others knowing that Jesus is the one bringing them Home.]
So may we press deeper to know Him. May we seek to see His face all the more clearly. For it is in seeing this God, in all His majesty and greatness (even to the “loftiest” of His characteristics), that we get to see the cross as more scandalous than ever before. And as we see this grace to be all the more prevalent—how can we not love Him more?
Yours In Christ,
Jessica Herliani Tanoesoedibjo
an excerpt from Anselm’s Proslogion:
“Be it mine to look up to your light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me, when I seek you, for I cannot seek you, except you teach me, nor find you, except you reveal yourself.
Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you in love, and love you in finding. Lord, I acknowledge and I thank you that you have created me in this your image, in order that I may be mindful of you, may conceive of you, and love you; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that which it was made, except you renew it, and create it anew. I do not endeavor, O Lord, to penetrate your sublimity, for in no wisdom do I compare my understanding with that; but I long to understand in some degree your truth, which my heart believes and loves.
For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, that unless I believed, I should not understand.”