Christian Spirituality: Ways of Experiencing God (Part 6)

Reflection: Genesis 17:1; Colossians 1:15 – 20; Revelation 1:8.

It is self-evident that knowing oneself is simpler than to know God. Scripture informs us that it would take the whole church (past, present and future) to appreciate Him (Eph 3:14-19), and that would still be extremely finite at the human level. But I am still looking forward to the day when that becomes a reality. So how does one get to know this ever-gracious, holy and invisible God? As you can imagine, the scope of this piece is going to be rather limited.

God’s uninterrupted exchanges with humankind in the OT are astonishing in its intimacy and accountability. Although His holiness pervades every aspect of these recurring contacts, God did not always insist on His ways, and it appears He tolerates a level of bargaining and ‘sign-seeking’ with His choicest intimates – that is quite shocking, being God, and not some flea-market stall owner (Gen 18:16-33; Judg 6:36-40). As the narratives unfold and as He is described as ‘a fortress,’ ‘a shepherd,’ ‘a deliverer,’ and ‘a husband,’ and so on, it becomes obvious that Christian spirituality is grounded in knowing our God and not merely gaining knowledge or theologizing about Him. In the NT, Jesus became the very expression of His Father, so knowing Him is to know the Father (John 14:7), and to know them is to know His love as He IS love (1 John 4:16) and be transformed by it (Eph 3:17-19). Furthermore, our spirituality is firmly rooted in the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8; John 14:16-17); thus, spirituality that is not established in His Spirit is not Christian. The character of the Christian God is such that He consistently tells us by word and deed that He aspires to know us and be known to us (Ps 139:7-12; Luke 19:1-10; James 4:8). I am certain we all have our own stories of our encounter with the Almighty. A few questions we can ask on our experience with God are: How do my perceptions about Him square with my explicit experience of Him? How do I experience His extravagant love and concerns over me? What are His responses to my prayers? What can my prayer patterns and habits teach me about my relationship with Him? Do I know His will? Did I know more clearly His love and will for me years back compared to the present? What would be the reasons? When I surrender aspects of myself to Him, how does He respond and what is the outcome?

Unlike us modernist with rational analytical mindsets, the early Hebrews who came from an animist background possess an appreciation of the unseen impacting our visible world (Gen 12:6-8; 31:17-35; 35:4; Josua 24:14; Moses & the Golden Calf). They appear better able to navigate more deeply a relationship with the invisible God with their deep respect and awe for spiritual forces that parallel a reverence for the Almighty God; for no one is like Him in all of creation. Although Scripture is our only guide as to who this God is and how we ought to relate to Him, it does not seem to detract us from our odd, and at times, flippant conscious acknowledgement of Him. Friendship with Him cannot be equated with any normal earthly friendship we know, as His character puts Him apart from humanity. Yet He IS in us! Herein lies the tension! Our willful individuality makes it awfully difficult for Him to express His life through us. We need to be mindful that our ‘being-ness’ has been secured in Christ (Eph 1:3-14), and His expression through us remains our responsibility (James 4:8). Hence, God is only known through our openness, surrender, and receptivity to Him (Heb 11:6), and the foremost evidence of this relationship is our manifestation of His love (1 John 4:7-14).