GOS-23 - The Gift of Knowing God

“The greatest thing in all my life is knowing You.” Those are the words of a simple chorus from the 1980’s. But they reflect the third and greatest of all the gifts that God has offered to mankind. 

The birth of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh, as the incarnation of the invisible God, has become the doorway to knowing God. We have been looking at and un-wrapping the gifts God gave at Christmas, and have already seen:

The First Two Gifts

First, in Matthew 1:21, we un-wrapped the truth attached to “the One who will save His people from their sins”. At the moment of our salvation, all our sins were forgiven, instantly, by the gracious work of Christ on the cross.

Second, in Matthew 1:23, we un-wrapped another truth as we learned that the One Who saves us is Emmanuel, or “God with us”! So salvation means that—we get all of God! We have all the fullness of God in the Person of Christ, who dwells in us!  

Thirdly, this week we are going to unwrap the truth that salvation opens to us the wonder of  Knowing God. To do so we need to turn to Matthew 5-7. As we examine this account of Christ applying the wonder of God with us birth, we learn that knowing God is a gift that so many hear about, talk about, even get involved with, but sometimes never personally experience.

Jesus Describes Knowing God

In Matthew 1, Christ is born. In Matthew 2, He is visited, moves to Egypt, then moves to Nazareth. Thirty years pass, and in Matthew 3 He is baptized. 
In Matthew 4,  Jesus is tempted, and afterwards starts His public ministry.

The words of Matthew 4:17 are Christ's first recorded words for public consumption, a message given in public for all to hear and respond to. Amazingly His first posting of words on the “wall” of His public life is: “Repent”. Then He calls His first disciples in v. 18-22; and starts preaching and healing until vast multitudes follow Him. 

The “great multitudes” following Him is the scene for Matthew 5. Now, we hear the message of the baby of Bethlehem, born to save people from their sins; and to be God with us. So in Matthew 5, we see the beginning of the single longest message of Christ's ministry.  We know this message as the: Sermon on the Mount. 

It may be that Christ delivered this message, written down as over three chapters in our New Testaments, all at once. That would have been the most amazing 16 ½ minute message ever. But however Jesus Christ delivered these words, they were a very public, very powerful explanation of who He was and what His Birth had brought to mankind.

Jesus Warned about Not Knowing God

Everything for eternity is tied to whether or not a person knows God. Listen to Jesus applying the gift of everlasting life through knowing Him to the people of His day.

Look with me at the ending of chapter 7. This is the reaction to Christ's words in Matthew 7:28-29. The people were astonished. Why? Because no one had ever taught them: so authoritatively, so clearly, and so directly before. Now, join me in listening to Christ's concluding words. Stand with me as we read Matthew 7:21-29 (NKJV):

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Pray

Everything in Life is Built on: Rock or Sand

Now pause with me at v. 21-23, because in v. 23 Jesus applies what Emmanuel, God with us means. Jesus, who came to be God with us, shares what happens to those who neglect the gift of Knowing God. Those who never actually get to Know Him personally.

The worst condition to ever be in is to hear these four words from Jesus Christ: I never knew you.

Those words will be immediately followed up by these words: depart from Me. 

The Greatest Gift is Knowing God

The greatest gift anyone could ever have is: knowing God. All the other gifts are attached to this greatest gift: forgiveness, regeneration, redemption, and the rest all come with the package, when you know God. 

But the key is: knowing God. Jesus Christ said in John 17:3 that eternal life was solely based upon knowing God.

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

This Christmas I have been challenging you to join me in un-wrapping the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation. This greatest of all gifts was given to us by God, through Christ.

How Close Can You Get to God—and Still Never Truly Know God?

The saddest story of the season is how those closest to Christ's birth completely missed the true meaning of that first Christmas—a tragedy which has continued to this day. In fact, perhaps you, too, may be as close as they were and yet still so far away from Jesus.
    
Maybe you’re even wondering: How close can someone get to Christ and His gift of Christmas and not be saved?
    
Sadly, the answer is that you can get very close. Missing Jesus and His salvation is seen most vividly in the Christmas story where those who were closest to the coming of Christ were the most untouched by it. Both Luke and Matthew reported that those who grew up in the shadow of God’s temple, heard God's Word every day of their lives, met the wise men, explained the Old Testament to them—still missed out on everything!
    
So then, how close can you get to Jesus and still be too far away? That is what the religious leaders of Christ's day demonstrate to us this Christmas. Look back with me at Matthew 2:1-6. Note from these six verses:
    
The Eternal Dangers of Merely Being Acquainted With God

Herod wanted to know about Christ's coming, so he called the experts of his day, who lived right in the epicenter of all that God had revealed to His people.

Who were these students of God's Word that were as close as anyone could be to God and yet missed Christ's coming and ultimately His gift of salvation? 

They were the chief priests and scribes who were possibly more acquainted with God than any other people who have ever lived. Think of the group that was alive and present when God sent His Son into the world. The religious leaders of Jerusalem, the ones who worked every day in the Temple dedicated to God, are the ones we need to think about.

When God is All Around You

They saw the symbols and pictures of salvation in the substitutionary deaths of countless animals offered in atoning sacrifices to God all day long.

They wore the clothing that reminded them in every way of God, because He had written many chapters on how His servants were to dress as they ministered in His temple.

They lived in the presence of God, performing the offerings and sacrifices all day long at His temple.

They held the holy revelation of God's Word in their hands as they read; and in their minds as they quoted the sacred commands of God each day.

They sang each day from the Psalms in public and private worship.

They recited, memorized, and discussed the Scriptures of the Lord from their earliest days—and often knew many chapters by heart.

Yet, all that exposure to God ended up only in their heads, not in their hearts. 

Head Knowledge is not Heart Knowledge

They never actually opened the gift of knowing God. They never received by faith the greatest offer in the world of knowing God. They only knew about God, they never knew Him. Acquainted with God, but not knowing God is a horrible place to stay.

So stop and ask yourself this:  Has all that I know about God ever really traveled from my head (intellectual knowledge) to my heart (a choice of  your will to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior)?

These religious leaders did not choose to let God’s truths invade their minds and take over their hearts. The spiritual skin of their lives, overexposed to the Light of God’s truth, had developed the deadliest cancer of all—spiritual indifference.

They never really cared for God—they just knew all about Him.
They never really loved the Lord—they just spoke often and deeply about Him.
They never really longed to know and worship Him—they just helped others get to Him.

Do you remember what Jesus said about them? Look at these sobering words:

“ ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’ ” (Matthew 15:8).

Now think of the dangerous place in which these religious leaders found themselves. As Paul would say later (2 Tim. 3:7), they were “ever learning” but never coming to the knowledge of the Truth: 

Every day they dressed in their priestly vestments with the sacred anointing oils made with the secret and unique formula mandated by God—causing them to smell like no one else on earth ever could as they approached the Lord.

Every day their hands and clothes were deeply filled with the indelible scent of incense as the fragrant smoke rose before God as a picture of their prayers of worship.

Every day they came home with blood-stained clothes from the substitutionary sacrificial animals they offered according to God's Word. 

These men were very religious and yet indifferent to any heartfelt partaking of God’s truth—they did not know God!

Never Knowing God

The chief priests and scribes, the first-century’s religious leaders, knew all about God’s Word but were not personally seeking to know Him intimately.

“And when he [Herod] had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet . . .’ ” (Matthew 2:4–5).

They were overly familiar with God intellectually, but were indifferent to His Word and thus were only close, but not connected. Consequently they had these signs of never knowing God.

The Symptoms of Not Knowing God

These Bible scholars had the Word but never KNEW the God of the Word. They dealt with God's Word, but His Word was never allowed to deal with them. 

“Therefore the Lord said: ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men’ ” (Isaiah 29:13). 

These students of God's Word were religious but did not KNOW true worship. 

“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

These servants of God were only acquainted with God, but they had never experienced Him. They were good at the outward motions but not the inward worship.

“So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). 

They were religious professors not possessors; they were hearers and not doers; they were talkers and not walkers. 

“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).

They had a lifetime of religion but were only self-righteous, not righteous through God’s work. They felt they were GOOD enough for God. Consequently His Word wasn't for them, it was only to be applied to others. 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). 

They Never Knew God—because God only comes to those who see their lost condition. They knew all about God, but didn't care enough to go to Bethlehem and experience Him. They pointed others to seek out the Savior, but never went to worship themselves. And God can only be found when we seek Him! 

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV).

What did these religious people who appeared to be so close to Christ ultimately miss? They missed the greatest gift—the only gift that everyone really needs! 

So Close But Yet So Far
    
Consequently, without a doubt, it’s possible to be as close as they were—and still miss all that Christ and Christmas have to offer. So beware of getting close to Christ in every way but in your heart. Beware of being merely acquainted with Christ but never knowing Him intimately. Webster’s Dictionary says that knowledge has three levels: recognition, acquaintance, and experience. Knowing Christ means actually having a personal experience of His grace that leads to a glorious partaking of His salvation! Have you opened this greatest gift of all time?
    
Christmas should be a glorious celebration of worshiping Christ in a spirit of deep thanksgiving and joy for His coming to save us from our sins and live within us forever! So whether you have been a child of God by faith for a long time—or have just found Jesus this Christmas—may the words of this beautiful song become the truest echo of your heart!

There Is Room in My Heart for Thee (Thou Didst Leave #127)

1.    Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.
Refrain:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

2.    Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.
Refrain:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

3.    The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.
Refrain:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

4.    Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.
Refrain:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

5.    When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”
Refrain :
My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.
               —Emily E. Elliott (1836–1897)