"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)
Have we ever thought about eternal life in the context of practical and important steps to know, understand, and walk in fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ? Many believers do not know God as they ought. Although many met Him at that moment when they repented of their sin and received Him as their Lord, or were perhaps supernaturally touched, afterward they never grew to know Him and never built a relationship with Him.
The Bible clearly reveals what kind of abilities we have if we want to come to God and all that is availed to us through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus loved us and gave His life for our redemption through the shedding of His blood, we have been given the ability to know Him and our Heavenly Father. God's purpose for us is that we surrender to that relationship with Him by accepting Him as our personal Savior, not just in meeting Him or being touched by Him.
Today hundreds of thousands of books are written about God from the standpoint of people who have known Him to a degree or have been momentarily touched by Him. It is a good thing to want to read these kinds of books that describe someone's experience with God. Likely through these books we can come to understand some things about God and how He works. Today this is a typical approach by believers who want to know Him more. This is why people read Paul's and Peter's letters or other parts of the Bible because they want to gain more knowledge of God and the way He works. And yet this manner has created some theological problems. The church has concentrated more on teaching about God and not on learning of God.
There is a branch of science we call theology and this is the way knowledge is taught throughout the world in nearly every theological seminary or Bible school. Yet, as you have already concluded, we have missed the most important element, and this personal, individual teaching of God on our part. True theology, or belief is not teaching about God, rather teaching of God because God wants all of us to know Him personally through intimate and continual fellowship with Him.
When we received Jesus as our personal Savior, we did not come under the authority of some foreign salvation. We either stand or fall before God. Our salvation does not depend on our pastor, church, surroundings, or denomination; it depends first and foremost on our personal relationship with the Father and Son.
Our relationship with God only grows when we make an effort to know Him personally. Relationship does not grow because someone seeks God for us. We are the ones who open our hearts, humble ourselves, and receive Jesus personally. Praise God for other's testimonies, but it is completely different when we experience Him personally.
1. CONTINUAL AND INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP VERSUS EXPERIENCE
In these last days there is very little teaching that speaks about how to know God and develop a personal, intimate relationship with Him. We learned how to experience salvation, how to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and how God is revealed in certain situations. But all these experiences mostly occur in our Christian life at one time or another. Among these experiences is a great amount of time in which many believers are aware of God's presence, yet lack a continual and intimate relationship with the Father and Son.
This is not what God intended for us; there is something better. We can have more than just an experience; we can continually enjoy His presence. There is a great difference between knowing someone casually and living with that person everyday. If we really want to know someone we must spend continual time with that person, not just meet with him or her a few times. And this is exactly what God wants of us! To get to know Him fully so that our hearts are completely surrendered to Him in a daily relationship that is much deeper than the first experience we had when we first began our walk with Him.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about various revivals and spiritual awakenings of believers, and I believe that many experience God's presence and His touch. Yet if we take a closer look, we must conclude it consists of a periodic experience and is not a result of a consistent, personal relationship. This is why today some Christians go from church to church, ministry to ministry, and seminar to seminar to experience the Spirit and God's touch. This may be a much easier way to experience God, but it is not necessarily the best; yet many do not want to take the time to build a personal relationship with God, which is why many do not know Him intimately. They are more interested in events and hearing about other's experiences of how they came to know Him personally. Yet they are not very interested in building a personal relationship with the Father and Son, nor do they try very hard.
God created us to have a personal relationship with Him. Before Adam sinned, the Word tells us that he walked in perfect relationship with God. In Genesis we read that the Lord walked in the garden, "And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." (Genesis 3:8a) Adam and Eve had the privilege of having a personal knowledge of God, but they lost their fellowship with Him when they grew disobedient.
Because of that Jesus came and paid the price that was needed to close the gap between the Father and us. He gave His life to remove our sin so that we could have an intimate relationship with God - which was His original intent. And because of the redemption that is made possible to us through Jesus, we can return to fellowship with the Father. We read about this in Titus, when it says, "For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:3-7)
John also said, "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship [is] with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)
2. DISTORTED VALUES VERSUS TRUE VALUES
We are living in a time when people, believers included, are searching for anything but God. Emphasis and worth is placed on those things that have very little or no value at all, and little worth is placed on that which is priceless. The entire system of good and bad is distorted. We have come to the point that we read in God's Word, in Isaiah, where it warns us, "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to [those who are] wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, Woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away justice from the righteous man!" (Isaiah 5:20-23) That which is good is called evil and that which is evil is called good.
Additionally, many today, including believers, have perverted the fear of the Lord. Many do not trust in Him and blame Him for nearly every negative thing that happens in their life. They often think that God hardly waits for a chance to harshly judge them every time they make a mistake. At the same time, they pat themselves on the back for every good thing in their life, failing to give God praise for the good things that they enjoy everyday. Yet, on the other hand, we give the devil too much attention and blame him for anything and everything, including our character flaws that are actually a manifestation of our selfish and rebellious nature. We have needlessly elevated Satan to a place of power that he does not possess!
Accordingly, through our unfaithfulness, we deny the power of God while at the same time elevate ourselves, supposing that we have control over our lives and our future, which is the foundation of humanism. The concept that we alone can direct our destiny and that we can elevate ourselves spiritually so that we can make correct decisions on our own and lead our own life is nothing more than a lie from Satan himself!
Every time we distance ourselves from Christ our success no longer has any value. We may have temporary benefits from this success, but there is eternal value in it at all. There is no true value outside of the Lord Jesus Christ! This is why the Apostle Paul said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells." (Romans 7:18a)
Today success is the theme of nearly every modern church. If she is successful (which is usually thought of as the state of finances or membership), then she is most likely a good church. Yet there are many ungodly people in the world who have had great success. Many of them lie, cheat, and steal to become successful. By this I do not want to claim that it is evil to be successful, but if worldly success is our goal, then we believe a misconception that has come through the back door of many of today's churches. Because if we "succeed", what do we really have? Something temporary that has only temporal value.
The Prophet Jeremiah said, "Thus says the LORD: 'Let not the wise [man] glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty [man] glory in his might, Nor let the rich [man] glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I [am] the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,' says the LORD." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
In other words, God tells us not to boast in wisdom, bravery (might and power), or in riches. Nevertheless, most ambitions in this world (even for Christians) include one or all of these three categories. People are attracted to knowledge, and are proud of their knowledge. This is why they have built great and powerful kingdoms on earth, to show their power and knowledge. Our fleshly nature follows after this kind of power and control. Although the original purpose of man was to rule, Satan perverted that idea and tempts us to rule in a fleshly manner.
Additionally, we have people who try to acquire wealth in order to be completely independent, and have led their lives following after that which their heart longs for. Wealth gives them power to fulfill the desires of their flesh, even though the Lord says that the only thing we can boast in is that we know and understand Him.
3. SERVANT VERSUS FRIEND
God wants us to know and understand Him because He is our Heavenly Father. When God allows us to face trials, He does not want us to feel miserable; He wants to test our hearts to see if we believe Him enough to hear Him regardless of whether or not we understand what He is doing. Often after we obey Him He will give us understanding of the situation and place us in a position of friend rather than servant.
The disciples were with Jesus through His entire ministry. They saw how the crowds came and went because of his "hard sayings". Jesus even asked the disciples if they wanted to leave, but Peter answered that there was nowhere to go, because Jesus had the words of life. "Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:67-68) After walking with Him for a time, rather than calling them servants, Jesus called them friends because they did all He commanded them. "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-15)
A servant does not know or understand what His master does, but a master will explain the motives of his heart to his friend. When we begin to serve God, often we will not understand what God is doing until we begin to spend quality time with Him and serve Him. If we love Jesus, we ill do what He commands; then the Father and Son will come and make His home with us. "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'" (John 14:23) The Father and Son will manifest themselves to us. When God lives in us we will begin to know Him greater and know how He works in and through our lives.
When we have walked in obedience and fellowship with God, He will begin to explain things to us and elevate us to a place of friendship. While He examines the faithfulness of our hearts, He will begin to give us information about His kingdom and we will see why He does certain things.
This is especially helpful when God expects something of us that would offend many Christians, because they do not understand God's purposes or His ways. When we look at God from a distance sometimes many things appear illogical, but when we understand Him we see that all that He does and has done is perfect.
4. ELEMENTARY TRUTHS OF THE WORD
There are certain foundational truths that are given to every believer at the time they choose to repent and enter God's kingdom, but those truths require a certain elementary understanding. This is why we must know who we are, what God expects of us, and what kind of relationship God has with us.
In John 17, Jesus prayed for His disciples before He was arrested and went to the cross. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word." (John 17:20) Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in Him. In other words, He prayed that we would receive the gift of eternal life. "Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:1-3)
When a person repents of their sin and receives the redemption that is found in Jesus, he is given the opportunity to receive eternal life. But what does that mean? According to the Word, eternal life is the opportunity to know God and Jesus Christ whom He sent. This is the foundation of eternal life that God has made possible to every one of his children. Each of us can personally know God! Not just intellectually.
We often think that the only purpose of eternal life is so that we won't die, but we were born with an eternal spirit that cannot die. We know that every spirit is created to spend eternity in God's presence or in the eternal lake of fire. It all depends on the decision each person makes about Christ. According to Jesus' words, eternal life actually means that we can personally know the Father and Son.
The word that Jesus used here in John's gospel for "know" comes from the Greek word that has many applications such as: allow, feel, know, comprehend, understand. The applications and meanings of the word are similar to the word in Genesis 4:1 when we are told that man, "knew his wife Eve". So, to know actually means that we know someone in various ways, experiencing intimacy that is the result of spending quality time with them, which is the case with a husband and wife. The result of this kind of relationship is that both people share their hearts and thoughts with one another.
We can actually compare eternal life with our earthly family. Our home, food, car and other things are a part of a "family package", but the true foundation of family is love and fellowship among the members of the family. In other words, our Heavenly Father gave us eternal life and we are born into His family. He is not a servant who must confirm our birth every three years. As the creator of the whole universe, He possesses everything, yet He gave us the gift of eternal life so that we could know Him personally.
Unfortunately, most Christians have not accepted this call, or are too busy for God. They'd rather watch television or read a book. In Acts 17:28a the Apostle Paul said, "For in Him we live and move and have our being..." Paul knew that Christ was everything! Everything that has value is in Him, nevertheless, few believers accept this truth. Many do not understand this privileged ability to know God.
Enoch was one of the great men of faith in the Bible. In Genesis 5:21 we read that at the age of 65 he had a son Methuselah. And then he walked with God for 300 years. In Genesis 5:24b we read that God took Him to Himself. Today many believers do not know how to be consistent in fellowship with Him for three days or three weeks, much less 300 years. But there is no reason why we shouldn't continually walk with Him.
He wants to have personal fellowship with us, and prepare us to rule with Him through all eternity. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels' --as I also have received from My Father." (Revelation 2:26-27)
There is a great future ahead of us that we cannot understand right now. We have very little time to prepare for eternity, this is why it is of great importance that we come to know and understand our Father, because our eternity is based on a relationship that we develop with Him on earth. The door is open. The Son has made the way for us to boldly come before God's throne to receive grace and mercy. Through His grace, He will speak with us and have fellowship with us. We believe that He is a God who rewards those who diligently seek Him.
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)
"But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)