Delighting in God: Knowing Him, not just knowing about him.
Read Phil. 3:7-16
“That I may Know Him and the power of his resurrection”
It is one thing to know about someone, it is quite another to have an in-depth personal relationship that is grounded in mutual understanding. In our quest to know God it is easy to reduce God to a series of character qualities that we define and compartmentalize. While it is helpful to examine (as we have done) the different attributes that scripture highlight to help us gain a fuller understand of who God is, the danger is that we view God solely from a theological and academic perspective. But God is a person. Consequently, to truly know God we must move beyond just knowing about God, we must pursue a knowledge of God that is grounded in an ongoing personal relationship. I can read a book that serves to describe a historical figure in order to learn about the individual. But this is vastly different from my personal knowledge of my wife gleaned after spending thirty-four years together observing and interacting with her on a daily level. Because I relate to my wife through my daily experience, my knowledge of her as a person is ever-growing and expanding as each day, I discover new nuances and insights into how she thinks, reacts and feels.
For Paul, God is a person so our knowledge of him must be grounded in a personal, growing relationship, not just a series of statements gathered from the study of a theological book. In the Greek language, there are two words for “know”. The first word is oida is used primarily to refer to cognitive knowledge. The second word, and the one used in our passage, is ginosko, which to know someone or something experientially, that is, it is knowledge gained from personal experience. While the study of the attributes of God can give us a cognitive understanding of who God is, it can be academic and detached. But Paul desires a far deeper knowledge, a knowledge that is grounded in a personal relationship that unites us with Christ so that we share in his being and his experiences. It is this knowledge that is continually growing and requires constant nurturing, development, and cultivation. It is deeply personal and individual.
The tragedy is that too many Christians know about God, but few truly know God. This is what Paul made his aim in life and was so valuable to Paul that everything else paled in comparison. Paul would gladly give up every achievement, every possession, every honor, every dream to grow in his relationship with Christ. For Paul, there was no cost too great in his quest to know Christ and become like Christ by sharing in Christ’s suffering and righteousness.
But just as my understanding of my wife can only come through years of personal interaction with her as I make it my priority to daily gain a greater understanding of her as a person, so my relationship with Christ can only be developed through daily interaction. To know Christ, I must cultivate my relationship with him through prayer, the study of his word, and allowing him to reveal himself to me in the midst of the struggles and difficulties of life. The term “surpassing value” refers to that which is of such exceptional value that there is nothing more important. As one writer states the “expression does not refer to Paul’s acquisition of Christ as Savior, but to Paul’s appropriating into his life as a Christian, the perfection, the graces, the fragrance of the Person of Christ”. Today, ask Christ to make Himself real to you, not just as a theological truth, but as a person who desires to share himself with you so that you might become like him. God wants a personal relationship with you, one grounded in his self-revelation in scripture, but developed through personal interaction in daily life.