My friend, I have a very important question: how can we know God? And does God really want us to know Him? If so, what has He done so that this might be possible?
Often a simple illustration helps us to understand some deep truth. Let us, therefore, use an illustration: Suppose a skillful carpenter who lives in a distant land, and of whom we had never heard, should wish to make himself known to us, what might he do?
First of all, he might make a beautiful table and send it to us as a sample of his knowledge and skill. Then all who saw the table would exclaim, "The carpenter who made that table was indeed a master workman! We do not know his name or his nationality, but from his handiwork we can see that he is careful in his work, for there are no flaws in it. Also he loves beauty, for he has made the table as beautiful as possible. He knows the basic principles of carpentry, and has wonderful skill in his profession." So by studying what was made we are able to know a little about the maker.
Has God made Himself known to man in this way? Yes, indeed He has! For God's wisdom and power are seen everywhere, and every day science is telling us more and more of the wonders of the universe which God created. As David the prophet says: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork." (Psalm 19:1)
Since the world which God has created is so wonderful, how much more wonderful must the Creator be! Surely everyone who uses his eyes and his mind must realize that there is a God, and that God is great and wise and mighty. But there is much about God which we cannot see simply by looking at nature.
In the second place, if the carpenter wishes to tell us more about himself, he might send one of his close friends to talk to us about him. This friend will be able to give us more interesting information about the carpenter, such as where he lives, how old he is, how large a family he has and what his character is like. And so we feel that we are now much better acquainted with him than we were when we had only the table to know him by.
But has God ever sent any friends of His to tell us about Him? Yes, He has! He sent a man called "Abraham, the friend of God" and also other friends of His, to tell the people of the world about Him. These men, who are often called "prophets," told people that God is One, that God is pure and holy, that God loves truth and goodness and hates all that is false and evil, and that God cares for people, and wants all people to know and love Him. By listening to these friends of God we can learn far more of Him than we were able to learn simply from the study of nature which God created. But this knowledge is through others, and we do not yet have any direct contact with God.
Yet another way in which the carpenter might make himself known to us is by writing us a personal letter. How happy we would be if one day the postman brought us a letter from him, written in his own hand! Perhaps he might write thus: "My dear friends, I have heard that you like the table I made for you, and that you have talked about me with my friend who visited you. I want you to know that I desire to be your friend, and to live in close touch with you. I am ready to help you in every way possible, and I hope to visit you some day." Such a friendly letter would convince us that what the carpenter's friend had said about him was true, and we would feel that we were at last in personal touch with the carpenter, and would be more eager than ever before to see him.
But has God written any letters to men? Yes, the writings called the "Holy Scriptures" (the Holy Bible) are truly letters from God to us. In these writings God tells us Who He is and what His purpose is for people. He says that He created man not only to be like Him, but also to be His beloved child. God says that, although man has disobeyed and forgotten Him, He still loves man and wants to save him from sin. Sin has separated him from God, and God wants to bring man back to his Heavenly Father. Long ago when men read these messages from God, they rejoiced. It was almost as though they heard God's voice speaking to them from the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Concerning these messages David said, "Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105). Yes, through these writings many people in ancient times truly came to know God.
However, if the carpenter really wants us to know him and to become his close friends, what else would he do? He would pay us a visit! One day he would surprise us by knocking on our door! When we open the door and say to the stranger standing there, "Who are you?" he will reply, "Don't you know me? I am your friend the carpenter. I have come to see you!" Then we would welcome Him joyfully and talk with him, and listen to his kind and wise words! He tells us that he wants to live for a time in our home and be our guest; and he promises to help us in our work, and to share all our joys and sorrows. Then in the days to come, as he lives with us, we will really begin to know the carpenter. Our friendship with him will become perfect, because we have seen him face to face.
So, if God wants to make Himself known to us as completely as possible, what will He do? Will He not come Himself to visit us and to live with us? God has, to some extent, revealed Himself to us by showing us His wonderful works in nature, by sending to us the prophets and by giving to us the Holy Scriptures which contain messages from Him. Yet we desire to know Him better. We want to see Him and hear His voice. We want Him to come to our earth and live among us. For only then will we be able to know Him as we wish to do.
But is such a thing possible? Can the Most High God live on earth among sinful man? Can the True God Who created all things come to earth so that everyone can see and know Him? Now, because we believe that God created all things, we say that He is Almighty and therefore nothing is impossible for Him. So, if He wishes to reveal Himself to mankind He is certainly able to do so. To say that God cannot do this would be to deny His almighty power, and that would be blasphemy. Yes, if He so desired, God is surely able to come and live with men, in order that we may be able to know Him intimately!
The question is, does God want to visit us? Now we have good news to tell you all - God was so eager that we should know Him and love Him with all our hearts that He in His infinite mercy has come to live with us!"
Nearly 2000 years ago God caused His Light, Who is One with Him, to shine into our world in a special way. The Light of God, Who is also called the Word of God, clothed Himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary with the garments of humanity, and Jesus Christ was born. He was truly man, for He was born of Mary, and all that is in man was in Him - except sin. But He was also far higher than man, for He was one with God. Therefore the coming of Jesus Christ into the world was truly the coming of God among men, as is clearly seen from His title "Immanuel," which means "God With Us."
In addition to "Immanuel," Jesus has many high titles and beautiful names, but the special title which God gave to Him was "Son of God." Jesus Christ sometimes called Himself "Son of Man," and sometimes "Son of God," and He usually spoke of God as His Father. This is in the spiritual sense - not in the sense of a human father! Once when Jesus was talking to His disciples about His Father, meaning God, one of them requested Him, "Show us the Father!" Men have always desired to see and know God more perfectly. What reply did Christ make? He said to the disciple, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father... I am in the Father, and the Father in Me." (John 14:7-11) Men used to make idols in order that they might see God, but of course no idol that man could make was able to show him what the Unseen God was like. So God revealed Himself perfectly in Jesus Christ, Who in the Holy Bible is called "The Image of the Invisible God" (Colossians 1:15), that all who wish to see God and come close to Him might find Him in Christ. How many seekers after God have said, "We did not know God until we came face to face with Him in His Son Jesus Christ." For the Son perfectly resembles His Heavenly Father, and whoever sees the Son has seen the Father, because they are One.
HALF WAY POINT
It is therefore evident that Jesus Christ did not merely tell people about God, as the prophets had done. Rather, He showed God to men because He was the perfect manifestation of God. As we explained above, some of the qualities of God, such as wisdom and power, have been revealed in nature. But in Christ we also come to know the thoughts and purposes and acts of God which can be known nowhere else. Let us consider some of these:
(1) In Christ we see the purity and holiness of God. We know from history that in ancient times many people thought that their gods were not pure and good. Of course the prophets told the people that their God was not like the gods of the nations, but was very holy.
But what is holiness? No one had seen perfect holiness, for, as it is written in the Holy Bible, all people - men, women and even children - have sinned, and none of them, not even the prophets, were truly holy. Hence no man, not even Abraham or Moses, was able to reveal God's holiness to the people, for they were themselves sinners.
It was only when Jesus Christ appeared as the image of God that people saw perfect holiness, and were able to understand what was meant by the words "God is Holy." For we know from the Holy Injil (New Testament) that never in all His life did Jesus Christ commit sin, either against man or against God. He never broke any of God's commandments, either in act or in thought. All that He said and did was absolutely true, and in Him there was no falsehood or hypocrisy. He did not say one thing and do something different, but always did what He said. He did not covet the property of others, and took no payment or gift for His services to men. His life was perfectly pure, for He treated all women as His sisters and all men as His brothers. He did not kill His enemies, but rather prayed for them that God would forgive them. Since He was perfectly pure and true He hated everything that was evil, and sternly rebuked those who loved falsehood and hypocrisy. Christ was light, and in Him was no darkness at all, and He was therefore able to reveal to men the holiness of God. When we behold His pure life as recorded in the Holy Injil we realize that He is indeed the manifestation of God, and we are better able to understand how holy God is.
(2) In Christ we see God's love and care for individual people. When we look up at the stars and consider how vast the universe is we realize to a small degree how great God is. And then we ask, "Can the Great God Who made the millions of stars and holds them in their places ever look at someone as small as I, and care for me, and hear my prayers? Surely God is too great to be interested in the affairs of each individual person among the millions of people on this earth?"
Now we are told in the Holy Injil that God created all things by His Word, and that the Word became flesh, and, as a man, lived among men, and His name was Jesus Christ. (John 1:1-18) Let us consider then how Jesus, the Word of God, Who created the whole universe, treated individual people. Was He too great to be concerned about the joys and sorrows of ordinary people? NO! On the contrary, we see that Jesus Christ had love and sympathy for every person He met, and wanted to give health and happiness and salvation to every one. He talked at length one night with an educated man in order to answer his questions. In the same way He talked with a woman at a well and told her how to worship God and how to receive eternal life. When a leper came to Him He touched him and healed him. He took the hand of a blind man and led him outside the village, and there touched his eyes and gave him sight. Once a distressed father came to Him and begged Him to heal his little daughter who was dying. Jesus at once went to the house and made the child live again, and then told the mother to give food to her. Thousands of people came to Jesus for help, rich and poor, old and young, men and women, His own people and foreigners, and no one was turned away. For Jesus said, "Him who comes to me I will not cast out." (John 6:37)
This amazing love that Jesus Christ showed to needy individuals is just a sample of God's love for each one of us. When Jesus touched the sick and healed them, it was truly God Who touched them and gave them health. When Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them, it was really God showing His love to the weak and helpless. And so to the question: "Does God care for individuals?" we confidently reply, "Indeed He does! Look at Jesus Christ, God's perfect Son. As the Son loved people, so the Father loves them, for the Son is the image and revelation of the invisible God."
(3) Also in Christ we see God's love for sinners. Because God is pure and holy He will surely hate sin and evil, and we suppose that He will also hate sinners and wish to destroy them. As we are all sinners, we may imagine that the Holy God is our enemy, and so be afraid of Him.
But when we become acquainted with Jesus Christ, the perfect manifestation of God, we are surprised to see that He does not hate sinners. Instead of condemning them, or avoiding them, Jesus often went to the homes of sinners and ate with them and was kind to them. For this strange conduct He was severely criticized by the religious leaders of the people, who called Him "the friend of sinners." But Jesus replied that these sinners were sick, and He was their physician, and so must go to them, and heal them. As the doctor does not wish to kill the patient, but to make him well, so God does not want sinners to perish, but to be saved. He came to seek and to save those who had lost the way and were dying in sin.
Therefore, when Jesus Christ forgave the adulteress who was brought before Him and told her to go and sin no more, it was God Who had mercy on her and forgave her. And when He went to the house of Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, and saved him from the love of money, it was really God Who entered the house of this sinner. Also, when Jesus Christ on the cross spoke to the repentant robber, who was being crucified beside Him, and promised him salvation, it was truly God Who looked on the wretched man and forgave his sin.
God's love for sinners is seen not only in the way Jesus treated sinful people, but especially in His willingness to give His life for them. Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Let there be no misunderstanding here! Christ was not forced to die nor was He overcome by His enemies. Of His own free will He gave His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world - for your sins and mine. If Jesus Christ had been only a man, or only a prophet, His willingness to sacrifice His life would have amazed us, but He could not have atoned for the sins of mankind. But since Jesus was indeed the Son of God, His sacrifice was not that of a mere man, but of a being worth more than all the world. For Christ's suffering for us sinners was truly God's suffering, and His love in giving His life for us was God's love. Therefore, if we want to know how much God loves us sinners we must look at Christ dying on the cross. There we see the perfect revelation of the love of God. As it is written in the Holy Injil: "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
(4) Finally, we see in Jesus Christ God's life-giving power. For, as we read in the Holy Injil, Jesus Christ did not remain in the tomb after His crucifixion, but rose from the dead on the third day, which is absolute proof that He is indeed the Son of God. For of all the millions of men who have lived and died on earth, only Jesus Christ has come to life again to die no more. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God is demonstrating the truth of Christ's claim to be the Son of God. Moreover, the same divine power which raised Christ from the dead will in the last day also raise up those who believe in Him and give them eternal life. So the resurrection of Christ reveals God's life-giving power, and assures us that death will not defeat us. For God Who created us and Who loves us and forgives our sins will raise us with Christ, and keep us in His Heavenly Home forever.
In conclusion, I ask again - "How can we know God?" The answer is that God in love has come to us and made Himself known to us perfectly in Jesus Christ, so that everyone who wishes may draw near to Christ, and thus see and know God. For Christ Himself said, "I am the way... no one comes to the Father, but by Me... he who has seen Me has seen the Father." (John 14:6-9) The way is open, and Christ invites all the people of the world to come to Him and meet God face to face. Do you truly want to find God? Then accept Christ's invitation and believe in Him, and He will reveal His Father to you.