I hear much talk in Christian circles about the importance of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Some Christians model the fruits of their relationship with Him as they pray and worship God with others; study God's Word in community, and share their personal testimonies with those around them. They carry joy and confidence in Him; practicing His presence and being connected with Jesus in conversation throughout the day/night.
Others, however, seem to be content talking about God; learning more and more about Him, growing in knowledge of Him, but exhibiting little fruit of a relationship with God.
What's the difference between knowing about God vs. knowing Him personally?
Reading and studying the Word of God is good and profitable in many ways. Paul charged Timothy accordingly: 16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The quest for knowledge motivates many Christians to go into the Word of God. That's a great place to begin! However, have you considered your motivation for reading or desiring to read the Word of God? Is it a check-off on your daily to-do list? Is it to learn something new? Is it to help you know God more personally? Is it to better learn God's will in your life? Or is there a different motivation still?
A Christian can know a lot about God, but not know God personally. A Christian can sing many hymns or praise songs, and sound nice doing so, but not know God personally. A Christian can go around doing charitable giving and works, but not know God personally. A Christian can go around thinking or feeling his/her life is in order, but not know God personally.
Jesus said,“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
- Matthew 7:21-23 (emphasis added)
Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”
“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” - John 8:19 (emphasis added)
But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”
“Who are you?” they asked.
“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” - John 8:23-26 (emphasis added)
What does knowing Him look like?
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. - John 14:6-17 (emphasis added)
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” 11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
- Psalm 46:10-11 (emphasis added)
If you've received Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, make some time within your day to read his words in the Word. Pray. Ask the Lord to bring those words to life by the working of His Spirit living inside of you. Ask Him to help you grow in that personal relationship with Him in prayer, study of His Word, being in community with other Christians- and in telling others about Jesus, and how He changed/is changing your life.
But relationship with God is not a check-off or to-do list. It's being in His presence. It's being still and listening for His voice (for impressions He desires to place on your heart). Sometimes, it's meditating on a truth of Jesus or God from Scripture (seeking God to help you live out or apply that truth in your heart, mind, and/or life that day). Sometimes, in that time of being still, it's allowing God to increase your understanding, joy, or awe of a truth or attribute of Himself.
As with any deeper human relationship, a relationship with God can have countless facets. Stories shared between two people reveal new or unique characteristics of one's character, personality, and more. That's true with God and in being in relationship with Him too.
Tell Him what's on your heart, your experiences that day, and more. Then, let him reply, share His side or vantage point of those experiences, and more. He may do that by pointing you to a passage in Scripture, or in other means. Engage your heart with His. Bring your mind along in the process as well. Just be careful to keep your heart engaged as you grow in knowledge, trust, understanding, love, and depth in Him.
Knowing Him brings out the much deeper depths of God than simply knowing many truths of facts about Him. Seek to know Him well, then pursue Him mightily!