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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Know That He Is God

We read newspapers and magazines and blogs, and we watch TV and listen to radio, and all this efficient media surveys our culture and tells us that "America is a Christian nation."  To some, those are comforting words to hear.  To others, not so much.  And to a third group of people, perhaps a statement like that is puzzling.  I might fall into that third group.

It may be true that a majority of Americans will self-identify themselves as Christians.  We meet this people in all walks of American life too.  They're not afraid to say, "I believe in God."  In fact, some of them will proudly proclaim that truth as if it were a defining point in their life.  And perhaps it is.  But somehow I doubt it.  I've blogged before on the difference between believing in God and submitting to or obeying Him.  Let's face it, even the demons believe in God.  They just don't want to submit to or obey Him. 

But the character and nature of God are relevant when it comes to our beliefs.  Jesus said that if we love Him we will obey Him.  (John 14:15-21)  In fact, Jesus said our obedience to Him is the evidence of our true relationship with Him.  Those who don't obey Him are those who don't love Him.  (John 14:24)
So it comes down to this, those who know Him will obey Him.  And those who obey Him are those who love Him. 

For some reason, it seems that mankind gets this wrong.  A lot.  I have been reading in the Old Testament, some of the prophecies of Ezekiel.  (He's the prophet God called to warn the Israelites of their impending destruction because of their unending sin and rebellion against God.)  At any rate, I have to admit that sometimes when I'm reading this it can get a little tedious.  I mean it seems as if God just rants and raves on and on, saying the same thing over and over and over again.  I'm sure the repetition is for emphasis.  It's clear God wants to communicate clearly with the Israelites. 

One of the phrases that I see God using quite often is a simple little phrase.  It usually starts with "Then they will ...." or "Then you will ..."  And the sentence is always finished with words to the effect of, "... know that I am the Lord" or "... know that I am God."  Quite honestly, this phrase caught my interest and I began to notice how often God said it.  I was shocked by what I found.

In the book of Exodus, God says nine (9) different times, " ... know that I am the Lord" or something to that effect.  He does it once in the book of Deuteronomy, twice in the book of 1 Kings, and twice in the book of Isaiah.  (This is just my own counting.  There could be even more instances that I missed.)  But the book where God says this the most is in the book of Ezekiel.  There, God says "... know that I am the Lord" at least fifty (50) times!  My goodness, it seems to be a point that He really wants us to take note of!

So why is it so important for God to teach us to "know that He is God?"  I mean, is there a difference between believing in God and knowing God?  Of course there is!  And that is just the point.  We humans, especially in American culture, seem content to believe in God.  I know, I know ... sometimes we're told that's all that's required for entrance to heaven.  ("All you gotta do is believe!")

But it seems pretty clear to me that "All you gotta do is believe!" is not quite a true statement.  There is substantially more that you "gotta do."  If you and I expect God to honor His covenant and welcome us into the Kingdom of Heaven, we're going to have to do more than believe in God.  Rather that belief in us must compel us to seek Him and know Him.

I liken this to the existence of martians or the Loch Ness monster.  You and I may believe that they exist.  But if we really thought they did, we would be compelled to go find them, observe them, etc.  I visited the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC once, and was able to put my bare fingers on moon rock.  It was truly "not of this world."  The interesting thing was that people were lined up for hours to be able to put their finger on a sliver of actual rock from the moon.  That's what true belief does.  It compels curiosity and a seeking. 

Similarly, many of us like this or that.  We have hobbies ... things that bring us joy.  And what do we do?  We seek those things out?  If they're experiences, like fishing or dining out or camping ... we seek to do them often.  We believe that they are good things.  We believe that they are pleasurable and good for us.  And so we seek them.  Belief compels us to action.

And so it is with God.  It is never enough to say that you "believe in God."  Like I said earlier, even the demons can get that far!  But the differentiator here is what you do with that belief.  Is it an intellectual knowledge, arrived at with logic?  Or is it a heartfelt instinct, arrived at with experience?  Any belief in God must move its holder to seek Him, to experience Him and to love Him.  And when that love is real, it will manifest itself in our obeying Him.  For when we know Him and love Him, that's when we obey Him.  And like He says so many times in Ezekiel, "... then you will know that I am God."

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