What does it mean to ‘know’ God? (part 2)

In the last post we considered that the true Christian life is about having a relationship with God and coming to know him, and that this comes about through a process of transformation and “renewing of your mind”.

What does this mean?

What does it require you as a Christian to do? How can you tell if this transformation is really happening in your life?

The process of transformation begins when a person makes the commitment to begin a new life with God. This new life begins when a person is baptised, that is, immersed fully in water. This symbolises the washing away of the old life and all of the negative or selfish thoughts and actions which that person wishes to leave behind them. It also symbolises dying and rising to a new life as Jesus did when he was crucified and then resurrected by God.

Yet baptism and the new life it brings are only a beginning. A newly baptised Christian is not the finished article. Their responsibility from then on is to live out the commitment they made.

How can they do that?

  • By always learning and growing in their knowledge of God.
  • By looking to the life and teaching of Jesus as the example to follow.
  • By transforming their minds to be more like his and in practical terms changing the way they:
    • think
    • speak
    • make decisions
    • act
to be less like the person they were before and more like Jesus.

Is that easy? Of course not. Our natural human tendency is to do what feels right to us or would make us happy.

Do we trust God enough to listen to him instead of our own hearts?

The Bible’s creation story tells us that God “created humankind in his own image”. This doesn’t mean that God made us physically look like him, but rather that he created us with the capacity to emulate him in the way that we think and behave. He set himself up as the model for us to follow. He then sent Jesus to show us how that can be achieved in a human life.

Unfortunately the first human beings who God called to follow him did the opposite. Adam and Eve listened to the temptation to interpret God’s instructions in a way that would let them do what they really wanted to do, and they fooled themselves into thinking they’d have God’s blessing on their choice.

That same tendency exists in all of us. So often we take what God has said and try to interpret it in a way that favours us. We begin with our own set of priorities or assumptions and try to find a way to make God fit them.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be made in God’s image, we try to make him in ours. For example, in the past there were people who wanted a God who would approve of slavery or holy war. Today people might want a God who would approve of you having lots of money and comfortable lifestyles while so many people in the world are starving. Or a God who would approve of you persecuting other Christians and having them thrown out of the church. Or a God who would approve of sexual activity with someone who wasn’t your husband or wife.

We may find ourselves creating our own idealised version of God, one who is made in our own image, who shares all of our most deeply-held views and prejudices, who doesn’t challenge us on the areas where we are comfortable and who tolerates us doing whatever makes us happy.

Who is your God? Is it the God described in the Bible and worshipped by Jesus? Or is it an idealised version of yourself? Or is it something based on the values and ideas you’ve picked up from the culture and society around you?

The only way to know God is to allow his word and his spirit to take precedence over any other source of information or emotion, to allow them to influence the way you think, speak and act, and to learn and grow from the way those find practical application in your life.

That’s exactly what Jesus did.

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