This morning's Scripture reading highlighted a pair of texts from 1 John; 2:3 (We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.), 3:6 (No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.), and 4:17 (By this, love is perfected with us so we may have confidence). I've often wondered about what the NT writers had in mind when they spoke about knowing God. The way many modern writers describe it, knowing Christ is primarily a subjective emotional experience, which is something I relate to only with great difficulty. I know what it means to follow Christ (which is what he commanded his disciples), and I know what it is like to learn about him (Matthew 11:29), but when people talk about having a relationship with Christ, I'm not always sure what they mean. For me, it has often felt like a celestial cat and mouse game. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but when I hear people say that God wants to make himself known to us, I again wonder what they mean by that. I believe that God took the initiative to make himself known, but there have also been plenty of times he has chosen to remain hidden. Jesus himself said as much when he spoke of the Kingdom of God being like a treasure hidden in a field, or when he said that his speaking in parables was intended to hide truth from some people.
But John says something very profound here. Knowing God is intimately linked with obeying his Word/keeping his commands. Obedience is so much the deciding factor that John says love is perfected, (or completed) in it. Obedience gives us spiritual confidence, as anyone can attest by the sense of guilt and loss of confidence that comes when we sin. Proverbs 28:1 gives us the converse of that guilt when it teaches that "The righteous are bold as lions." Keeping God's Word is key to knowing him, so much so that John relates in his gospel Jesus' words that "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." We cannot keep God's commandments in our own strength, so seeking him for strength and grace is not only essential, but when we seek the gifts, we also find the Giver.
I am thankful tonight that knowing God has less to do with any emotional sense of well-being, and everything to do with knowing and obeying his Word. For when I study the Scriptures, they always leads me to know Christ, as he said, "they testify of me."