Getting to Know God Better
September 28, 2008

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Let’s start with a quote:
” The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better. We think rather little of what He is like, what He expects of us, what He seeks in us. We are not captured by His holiness and His love; His thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.” Carson – A Call to Spiritual Reformation” pp. 15f

So, this morning, we are going to consider knowing God better. Is Carson right? Is the thing we need more urgently a deeper knowledge of God?

Ephes. 1:3-23 (ESV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, [8] which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight [9] making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. [11] In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [12] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [13] In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. [15] For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, [18] having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might [20] that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, [21] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. [22] And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, [23] which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Tonight we are going to consider the prayers of Paul for the churches he wrote. Paul was in much prayer for the churches he wrote and when we see what he told them he prayed for them, then I would say that “yes” Carson is indeed on the right track when he says that the most pressing need for Christian people is to know God better.

See Ephes. 1:15-17 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, [16] I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, [17] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

Ephes. 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Philip. 1:9-11 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, [10] so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, [11] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Col. 1:9-10 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [10] so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Knowing God is used in the New Testament as a way of saying that we are saved. People who trust Christ to save them from sin, people who are forgiven, people who have repented of sin and turned to Christ … There are many ways to say that we are saved – and they all boil down to “people who know their God”. But we cannot just say “everybody who says they are Christians knows God”. Listen to these verses.

Galatians 4:8-9 (ESV)
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. [9] But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?
Did you catch that dear ones? It is the knowledge of God that keeps us from turning back to a life that is worthless and weak.. In the Book of Galatians that would be a life marked by forsaking the Gospel for their religion. Trusting in their ability to keep the law. Adding to the Gospel.
People who know God do not turn back to the things of the world
They do not give up
They live as those who have been set free.

1 Thes. 4:3-5 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; [4] that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, [5] not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

They are not slaves to sinful passions. People who know God are not slaves to sinful passions. They have been set free.
2 Thes. 1:8 (ESV)
in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
They obey the Gospel.
Titus 1:16 (ESV)
They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
They prove they know God by their works. There are many people who say they know God – but the proof of it is in the lives they lead.
1 John 4:8 (ESV)
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
They love one another, they love the lost …
Philip. 3:8-11 (ESV)
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
[9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith- [10] that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
They consider knowing God more valuable than anything. They consider growing in the knowledge of God more than anything. They desire a knowledge of God that shows itself in two things – the power of Christ’s resurrection … and sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Suffering for righteousness sake just a part of knowing God. Those who know God know that the power of Christ’s resurrection only comes with death – their daily death in Christ. And they know that the suffering spoken of in the NT is not just the willingness to suffer – it is suffering – ala II Tim. 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,..
Ah dear ones. It is relatively easy in our culture to say that we know God. But do we have the evidence of it? Ephesians 1 is addressed to people who know their God and the prayer that Paul uttered for them is that they would know God better. As we start into looking at knowing God better – make sure you know Him in the first place. Are you trusting Christ? Are you now living for Him? Is He your great treasure, your highest prize? Do you show the fruit that the Holy Spirit bears in all those who do know Him?

So, let’s have a look at the text that we read this morning.

1.”For this reason” – in verse 15 when Paul is about to tell them what he prays for them, refers back to the whole of verses 3-14. Since all of that is true, I pray this for you.

a.This is the universal testimony of Scripture – sovereign electing grace the benefits of which come through faith in Jesus Christ is always, always, always an incentive/ help/ fuel … for holy living.

b.Paul can pray that the Ephesians grow to know God better because of the eternal purposes of God to save them. Since the Father chose us before the foundation of the world and since the Son purchased us with His blood and forgave our sins and since we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and have Him as a guarantee of our eternal inheritance we can pray with great confidence that we will grow to know God better. We do not need to wonder if God will answer this prayer for His children. This is God’s will and if we do not grow in our knowledge of God we are living in denial of the purposes for which we are chosen, died for and indwelt. Dear ones – do you see who is for you here? Verse 11 says … . And what is His will for you? To know Him better.

c.Our spiritual growth is not fuelled by our resolve (although we should be resolved to grow), it is fuelled by grace; it is not because of us in any sense – it is because of Him. There is no reason in the world why you cannot become more intimate with God. We are so tempted to look around and see all the things that pull at us to make us ordinary, or ineffective, or useless. Dear one – it does not have to be that way. What you need to do is understand what God has done for you. Don’t look around and see all the things that are trying to stop you from knowing God better. Look up and look into this Book and see what God has done; v.4 – He chose you from before the world was made to be holy and blameless in His sight; v.7 He redeemed you through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and forgave all your sins because He is so rich in grace and love to you; v.13 He sealed you with His Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit now lives in you and is the guarantee to you that you are the heir of an eternal inheritance. All that being true – how can anyone for whom all that is true, not want to know better, the God who brought it all to pass?

d.Verses 3-11 cannot be separated. You can grow to know God better because you are indwelt by the Spirit. But you are indwelt by the Spirit because Jesus died for you, purchased you and forgave your sins. And Jesus died for you, purchased you and forgave your sins because the Father chose you from before the foundations of the world. Some Christians will emphasise he work of the Holy Spirit when they explain why it is they can know God better. “I can know God better because I am filled with the Spirit”. And that is true. But why are we filled with the Spirit? Because Jesus died for us. So some will say – “I can know God better because Jesus died for me”. And that is true – and the Bible emphasises the atoning death of Christ on almost every page of the Bible and we do well to never detract from it. But in this text Paul leads us to ask – Why did Jesus die for me? Answer? Because the Father chose you from before the foundations of the world. And if you want to ask why He would do that mind warping thing then look at verses 4 and 5 – “In love …” He chose you because He loved you. Still curious? Why did He love you? Deut. 7:7. I John 4:8… Dear one do you see it here? Why does Paul say verse 17 “….”? Because a triune God planned to save you before He had finished making the world and died for you to bring it to a reality and came and lived in you to guarantee it happening. Do you think that the God who did all that will not hear your prayers to know Him better? Do you think He will not give you all you need to help you know Him better? Do you think He will not correct you and discipline you when you drift away from Him and don’t study to know Him as you should?

e.What Paul says in these verses does not stop us from praying. Paul tells us here that it is this truth, that God the Father predestines us to be adopted as sons into the family of God, that causes him to pray for them. Do not argue with this truth. Find fuel in it to press on to the purpose God has for you – to know Him better.

f.That God…may give you a spirit of revelation …What a stunning thing is our being brought into the family of God. It was a grand loving work of an awesome God. The God who did that can be known and there is nothing better to know. What knowledge can we have that will be better than the knowledge of the sovereign ruler who has chosen us, redeemed us and filled us? “Look at the mind warping work that God has done to save you – O that you would know this God more and more.” This whole prayer hinges on the plan and working out of our salvation.

g.As long as verses 3-14 are true you can pray to know God better. And how long will they be true? You see, if Paul had said “Since you are so obedient I pray …” then there would come a day when he would stop praying for them. Or if the basis for his prayer for them was their giftedness, their love for one another their … … . But his prayer is based on election, the cross and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean that we should not pray for fellow Christians because of their obedience, their faithfulness, their … . But it does mean that we should remember that it is the grace of God that brings them to be faithful, obedient… .

h.Look around you in this room. What do you see? In this room right now there are people who have been chosen from before the creation of the world (I hope), whom Jesus came into the world and died to win, and in whom the Holy Spirit resides, and you should be thankful for every one of them. And there is no reason why you shouldn’t be praying for them to know God better. And you should let them know it too.
Dear one – do you know Christ? Are you trusting Him to save you and are you living a life that pleases Him because of the great work He has done in you? Then see in these verses a great cause for great joy. God started, and God is going to finish it. Your quest to know God better is no fool’s errand. Pursue it with great gusto. Remember
Philip. 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

1 Thes. 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

Don’t find this a burdensome chore that God has obligated to pursue. See it as the greatest of all privileges that God has allowed you to pursue.

Or maybe you are not trusting Christ. As you sit here this morning do you feel that you would like these great verses in Ephesians 1 to be true of you? There is not a reason in the world they cannot. You can come to know God. You can get to the point where you are able to say “He chose me before the world was made. He died for me before I was ever thought of. And He now indwells me because I have given up on all other means of salvation and trusted Christ to save me from my sin. He has brought me to know Him and I now am on a journey to know Him better. He is faithful and He will do it. Glory be to God.
2.The “for this reason” also looks ahead to the next phrase “because I have heard of your faith… and your love for all the saints”
a.But we must not forget that their faithfulness and love is due to the same thing their conversion is due to – the grace of God.
b.Hearing of faithfulness spurs Paul to pray more for these people. How often are just the opposite? We pray for people to know God better when we hear that they are doing nothing. What would Paul pray for someone who was not doing anything? He would pray for their conversion.
c.This amounts to Paul saying “Since I have heard that you are truly faithful I will pray that you develop greater faithfulness by coming to know God better.

3.”I do not cease to give thanks for you” – Paul instructed the people he wrote to pray constantly. (I Thess. 5:17, Eph.6:18, I Tim.2:8) And he is not teaching them to do what he will not do and does not do, himself. Rom. 1:9, Col.1:9, I Thess. 3:10, II Thess. 1:11, II Tim.1:3,
a.If, as leaders of this church we want TBC to be a praying church then we must show them the way. They need to see us in prayer. They need to know that we are praying. We need to invite people to join us in prayer. Do not wait to have a meeting organized. Organize one. Do not just invite your close associates. Invite lesser lights. Use your prayer times as an opportunity to teach people how to pray. Demonstrate prayer to the young, the new, the weak. Let them hear you pour out your heart to God.
b.Thank God for the people of this church. Thank God for them when they are sitting next to you in the prayer meeting. Thank God for them in your personal devotion time and then tell them that you prayed for them. Eg. When I was in Blackville I received a note from the head office of our denomination telling me that every day the office staff prays together and always prays for some of the pastors and churches of the denomination. The letter was sent to inform me that on a certain date they would be praying for me. That does the heart good.
4.And then when we get to 4:1 Paul again refers back to the unbelievable plan and accomplishment of God in saving us. Chapter 4 is the beginning of the practical injunctions to the church and it is all based on the doctrine of salvation outlined in chapters 1-3. Since you have received such a calling this is how you must live. Receivers of great mercy will perform great works and dear ones no one can receive a greater mercy than the mercy believers in Jesus Christ have received.

5.”That God…may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
a.NIV – that you may know [God] better.
b.NASB/NKJV – give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
c.Phillips – “That God… will give you spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of Him”
d.The NIV captures the meaning best for us – know God better. This can always be prayed for God is unfathomable.
i.Of all that we might ask the God of 1:3-14 for what is at the top of Paul’s list? Know God better.
ii.Are you satisfied with how well you know God? Paul wasn’t – Phil. 3:8-13.
iii.Since God has done all this (verses 3-14) Get to know Him better.
e.Hodge – “He prays that God would give them that wisdom and knowledge of Himself…”
f.The spirit of wisdom and revelation – a growing knowledge of Him.
g.The spirit of wisdom – Not the Holy Spirit – BUT – the attitude that Paul is talking about comes from the Holy Spirit. We are not going to grow to know God better if we do not receive it from God Himself. This comes to us form The Holy Spirit Himself to us. And the Holy Spirit gives it to us through the Word. Dear ones – your purpose in reading your Bible is not to make you smart. It is not to enable you to answer the great questions of life, conduct a Bible study … not at first in any case. It is so that you will to know Him better. It must be revealed to you by God through the Word.
i.Whenever I see that word “wisdom” I think of James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And what Paul is praying is “I pray that you will have THIS wisdom so that you can know God better.
ii.Revelation -1 Cor. 2:10-16 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. [11] For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. [12] Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. [13] And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. [14] The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. [15] The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. [16] “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul is praying that they will understand the Scriptures with their hearts and not just their minds, with all their being…
h.The spirit of revelation
i.God reveals Himself through the Word
ii.God reveals Himself through inner illumination

Then see where this knowledge of God takes us. What does knowing God like this accomplish for us. IN US??

6.”having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, [19] and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”
a.They eyes of your heart enlightened
i.This is where the knowledge of God takes us guys. A deep seated enlightenment of the heart that helps us know our hope.
b.That you may know your hope –
i.The eyes of your heart enlightened
ii.HOPE – this is what we need to grasp… We must never take our eyes off our hope. Where there is no hope there will be dryness, deadness, sin. If we have no hope we are of all people the most miserable… . II Tim 4:8, Heb. 6:11, I Peter 3:15,
c.God’s power …
i.Immeasurable …
ii.To us … Eph. 3:20f
iii.Like that which raised Jesus from the dead

Dear ones, this is what we need more than anything else. Let us pray for it – for ourselves before we see the need of it in other people, let us see the need of it in us.

Let us make it our prayer for us, then our church, then our community.