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East Lincoln Alliance Church

Knowing God Through Revelation

Knowing God Through Revelation
1 Cor. 2:6-16

Last week I began to address the common problem among Christians today of a low view of God – a view that has lost a sense of majesty. Many of us struggle with complacency, doubt, fear, prayerlessness, self-reliance, and pride, and when I look at these things in my own life I see them emerging from a low view of God and I think the same thing will be true for many of us. So for the next several weeks we are going to go to Scripture to seek to understand more clearly who God is and what he is actually like in all his majesty with the hope that God will use it to have a profound impact on our lives.

At this point we could picture ourselves standing in line at an airport, ready to embark on our journey to understand God more. We’re excited about the trip and we want to board the plane, but before we do, we need to talk about how we’re going to proceed, or there’s a very good chance we’re going to arrive at the wrong destination. How are we going to seek to grow in our understanding of who God is and what he is like? There are two very different approaches – one that leads to what we’re looking for and another that does not.

The first approach is the natural approach. From the very beginning mankind has known of the existence of God and has been seeking to understand him, but our ability to do so has been completely ruined by sin. Because of that man has come up with all kinds of strange concoctions of what God is like. Romans 1:21-22 says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Different people groups across the world throughout history have come up with all kinds of bizarre ideas of who God is and what he’s like. Instead of landing on who God actually is, natural man in his sin has ended up with countless idols of our own creation that we worship – something put together in our corrupt imaginations derived from things we’ve seen in the world.

The problem is, most Christians end up doing basically the same thing – we just have better information to go from. We take what we’ve learned about God and construct an image in our minds to fit what we think or want God to be like and we end up with a concept of God that is far lower than who he actually is. We probably picture him as a glorious king seated on a heavenly throne because of something we’ve read in Revelation. Or we picture him like a middle age man who’s kind and compassionate because of what we’ve read about Jesus of Nazareth. And these ideas aren’t wrong – they’re inspired by things we’ve read in Scripture. The problem is that’s often the extent of who we perceive God to be. We’ve reduced the supernatural to the natural and that’s not him – he’s far, far beyond that.

Without knowing it we construct an idol of God out of our imagination and it’s a lowly view. Listen to what A.W. Tozer says about this in his book The Knowledge of the Holy: “When the Scripture states that man was made in the image of God, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean ‘in the exact image.’ To do so is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the unicity of God and end with no God at all. It is to break down the wall, infinitely high, that separates That-which-is-God from that-which-is-not-God. To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of creature… When we try to imagine what God is like we must of necessity use that-which-is-not-God as the raw material for our minds to work on; hence whatever we visualize God to be, He is not, for we have constructed our image out of that which He has made and what He has made is not God. If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”

So as we embark on our journey to come to a greater understanding of who God is, we need to go beyond our natural approach of imagination. There is another way we need to proceed in order to know him more. It’s an idea that’s found throughout Scripture. I’m going to have us first look at it in what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2, and then we’ll look at what he wrote in Ephesians 1. In 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 Paul writes about how we come to know and understand the wisdom of God in the eternal plan of redemption. And the way we come to know and understand other things about God is the same as well.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-9
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”

The wisdom of God in the plan of redemption is a wisdom that none of the rulers of this age can understand. It is a supernatural wisdom that Isaiah prophesied about when he wrote: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Human eyes cannot see it, ears cannot hear it, and the human heart (or mind as we would likely say today) cannot imagine or understand it. Paul writes about this in 2 Cor. 4:3-4: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Natural man does not have what is necessary to see, hear, or understand the things of God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “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.” Our eyes, ears and brains are enough to see, hear, and imagine created things, but not God. God is in a class all by himself, beyond natural human comprehension, so if we are going to grow in our knowledge of him, we have to seek another way. And that’s what Paul teaches next.

Read 1 Corinthians 2:10-13
10 these things [the wisdom of God] 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.

The way Paul came to understand God’s wisdom in redemption was through revelation, not imagination. God revealed his secret and hidden wisdom that natural man could not comprehend through his Spirit that was in Paul. It wasn’t Paul’s imagination by which he came to understand; it was God’s revelation through his Spirit.

Paul explains how that happens. The Spirit of God searches the depths of God and comprehends the thoughts of God just as the spirit of a person comprehends the thoughts of that person. So the Spirit of God knows the deep things about God that are hidden to natural man, but because the Spirit comes to dwell in us when we are born again, we who are in Christ have the ability to understand the things freely given us by God. We understand them through revelation. Paul gives us an image to understand this in 2 Cor. 4:6: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” So God turns the lights on in our hearts so that we can see the glory of God. This isn’t seeing with our eyes, or hearing with our ears, or imagining with our brains. It’s something that happens in our spirit when God’s Spirit reveals himself to us. It’s revelation.

I read this prayer of Paul’s last week and it helps us to see what we need to happen as we move forward in this sermon series. This is Ephesians 1:17-19 – Paul prays: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the 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.”

How are we going to come to know incomprehensible things about a supernatural God that natural man cannot understand? God must give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him so that the eyes of our hearts are enlightened. That’s the path we need to take. A path that will take us far beyond our imagination.

So we are depending on God to work in our hearts in order for revelation to happen, but there’s something we can do as well. We can pray and ask like Paul did, for God to reveal himself to us, and then we can position ourselves to experience him by creating space in our lives for that to take place. God can reveal himself to you anytime and anywhere he chooses, but he also desires that we seek after him – to pursue him like hidden treasure.

So we are going to devote time each week for that right here at church, but you can also do that in your own life through daily time alone with God for prayer and worship. Some of you may even be able to set aside a whole day or half a day, just to meet with God. Maybe you have a cabin or a favorite coffee shop or State Park. I encourage you to spend time seeking him in his creation. Psalm 19:1-2 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” God reveals his glory through his creation. Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”

But most importantly, we need to seek God in his Word. God reveals himself most clearly and accurately through the Holy Spirit inspired writings of Scripture. Without Scripture to guide us, our understanding of God will become quickly flawed. So spend time with God in the Word and in his creation.

Several weeks ago I took about half a day just to connect with God and I want to try to share with you what happened. I took Tozer’s book to the library and read a few chapters and then I went for a walk on the Stower Seven Lakes Trail – just to be with God. I was just about to turn around because I was too cold, but I put my hood on and warmed up, so I kept walking. I don’t know exactly what I was praying about, but I remember I was thinking about what I had read and at one point I said “You are God.” And the moment I said that something happened. It’s hard to explain, but my being was electrified by a sudden wave of awareness and experience of the presence of God all around me. It was a powerful experience in my spirit that I was very aware of that left me in a state where I wasn’t even aware of my surroundings or what I was doing – only aware of being in the presence of God.

I felt very small – but appropriately so – in my rightful place. I felt safe; I felt held; I felt secure; nothing concerned me; no fear; no doubt; no self-awareness. I felt as if I was glowing from within. The thoughts that came to mind and the words that came to my lips were of awe, worship, and confession. It was truly unlike any experience I’ve ever had in my natural life; though similar to other experiences when God has revealed himself to me.

So I can’t really explain exactly what it was like – I can only try to describe what I felt and experienced. It was completely beyond any of my 5 senses, beyond any logic or reasoning or imagination. And completely unexpected – it was a gift. The only thing I did was make myself available – I created space to meet with God and he, in his sovereign goodness, gave me a little taste of his presence. As soon as it began I never wanted it to end, but I also knew it would. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had – and that was just a one hour little taste of God in this body of flesh. It makes me really excited for heaven.

To close I want to read this quote from Christian poet Richard Rolle who wrote this about 100 years ago: “Verily God is of infinite greatness, more than we can think;… unknowable by created things; and can never be comprehended by us as He is in Himself. But even here and now, whenever the heart begins to burn with a desire for God, she is made able to receive the uncreated light and, inspired and fulfilled by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, she tastes the joys of heaven. She transcends all visible things and is raised to the sweetness of eternal life… Herein truly is perfect love; when all the intent of the mind, all the secret working of the heart, is lifted up into the love of God.”

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