The difference between knowing about God and knowing God is transformation. If simply collecting information about God changed us, then James would not have written:
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
Satan and his demons certainly have amassed information about God, but they remain evil. The chief priests certainly knew the Scriptures backwards and forwards, but when God stood before them in the flesh, they called for his death. That is a sobering thought and it raises an important question: How do we move from knowing about God to knowing God? How do we know God in a way that changes us?
There is a moment in the book of Acts where Peter and John are arrested for preaching publicly in the temple that Jesus had been raised from the dead. This is the same Peter who just a short time ago had denied Jesus three times. But this time Peter is different. The Jewish Court was shocked by his courage and boldness and they made this observation:
Acts 4:13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Peter had spent time with the risen Christ and he transformed him. Why? Because the primary way that we truly get to know God is through Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul tells us in the opening chapter of his letter to the Colossians that Jesus is “THE image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15) Jesus said it himself, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) If you want to know God in a transformative way, you spend time with Jesus.
But this presents a problem because Peter actually followed Jesus and lived with him for three years. Jesus is not physically present to us, the way he was for Peter. How can we get to know Jesus the way Peter did?
I am grateful to a book that was recommended to me, The Gift of Being Yourself, by David Benner. There is a section in this book called “Meeting Jesus in the Gospels” that makes a simple observation. The Gospels are full of Holy Spirit inspired written accounts of encounters with Jesus. One of the reasons they were written was to facilitate an encounter with God through Jesus Christ.
This is different from Bible study. It is more of a meditative approach. Something like this:
- Sit in silence in the presence of God and prepare your heart to encounter Jesus.
- Pray and ask God to speak to you through the Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Select an event from Jesus’ life from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).
- Read the passage out loud (preferably) and slowly several times.
- Now put yourself in the scene. What do you see? What do you hear? What are the smells? What do you notice? Take some time to meditate on the Gospel scene.
- Put yourself in the shoes of one of the characters. How are you experiencing Jesus in that moment? What impact is he having on you? What are you learning about him? Take some more time to meditate on these questions.
- If you enjoy journaling, trying writing down a response to your encounter with Jesus.
I encourage you to give this a try. This probably won’t be easy, because it is such a different approach to reading the Bible than what we are used to. Post a comment and let us know how it is going. We enjoy your feedback.
Next week I hope to post an example of one of my own responses to a gospel meditation. I hope it helps, but more importantly, may we be transformed by getting to know God by encountering Jesus revealed in the Gospels through the Holy Spirit’s guidance.