Philippians 3: 8-11
In Sunday school we’ve been reading the classic work “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer. This book is probably his most well-known book and in it he argues that our greatest ambition in life is to know God. The church father Augustine also said, “I desire to know God in my soul. Nothing more? No. Nothing at all.” It was his great ambition to know God. Do you know how Calvin’s Institutes begin? He argues that we need to know two great things: we need to know God and we need to know ourselves. The famous question from the Westminster catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?” Answer, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” As Christians it is our great privilege to know the living God.
Dr. Piper says, “He is infinitely greater than the greatest person you could ever know or have ever heard of. He’s the most important person who exists. Nobody comes close. Being infinite, he is inexhaustibly interesting.” We never have to worry that God is boring. Every pleasure we enjoy, everything we consider beautiful is derived from Him. Every delight we have – the food we ate today, the sunset we saw, is a shadow pointing to God. He is greatest delight; there is beauty in His holiness. Dr. Piper says, “It’s astonishing, if you think about it, how little effort in this world is put to knowing God. It’s as though the President of the United States came to live with you for a month and you only said ‘hello’ in passing every day.” We can spend a lot of time on trivial things, can’t we?
How do we get to know God? What are the two great revelations He has given us to get to know Him? His Word and His world. The world is His general revelation (Psalm 19 and Romans 1) and the Word is His special revelation. Some things we can only know through His Word. His justice, for example, and His holiness. What is the great danger when it comes to knowing God? We can know about God but not truly know Him. He says, “You can know as much about God as John Calvin and not know God at all.” Think of the Pharisees, who studied God’s Word but didn’t know Him. It reminds us how dependent we are on God to know Him well. We need His Spirit to reveal God to us.
We see in Philippians 3 that Paul’s great ambition was to know God. It’s obvious that it wasn’t merely an academic knowledge. Verse 10 points to an experimental, personal knowledge of God, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”. In order to share in your friend’s suffering, you have to really get to know them. Of course, we will never know God comprehensively. We don’t even know our spouse comprehensively. One of the delights of Heaven will be growing in our delight and knowledge of God for eternity. We can never know God too well or too much. We will always be growing in our knowledge of Him.