The day was fresh, different and exciting. The old guard of volunteers and youth darted about, smiling, welcoming and exuberant. But today there were unfamiliar souls present, new volunteers and youth, reserved and watchful, some cautiously engaging, others stonewalling the new experience. The call to “circle up” was made. The veterans began to happily move toward the old horse round pen. The newcomer faces questioned the sudden movement but were welcomed and encouraged into the grassy, open-air circular wall of weather-beaten boards.
A long red rope with the ends tied together in a knot lay on the grass. All present were encouraged to grab the rope naturally bringing the group into a shoulder to shoulder circle. Some stepped away, unprepared for the intimacy. Others were excited. The group was instructed to find the knot. Whoever had the knot was to share their name and their favorite thing to do in the Summer. Then the group would collectively pass the knot to the next person in the circle. Surprisingly, each person chose to share, some loudly and overly detailed, others mumbled and kept their answer brief.
I say surprisingly because these are no ordinary youth. They have each come from single and no-parent homes, some from a fairly stable home. Others have experienced unimaginable tragedy. I am glad they each chose to find their voice in that moment.
“Do you feel like you know each other, now?” I asked. Many of the youth now perched on the top boards around the round pen. No’s and yes’s mixed together in the morning air. What does it mean to know?
There are two types of knowledge. Peter encourages us to add knowledge to our faith in 2 Peter 1:3-7. In verses 5 and 6, Peter uses the greek word gnosis (knowledge, knowing, science) which can be translated “to know or learn about.” In short, Peter is saying we should learn more about God.
“Knowledge is power” right? Even the world recognizes the importance of having knowledge. If a surgeon is about to cut on you, would it be a good thing for them to have some knowledge of anatomy, anesthesia and such?
When you are in love with that special person, you want to know everything about them don’t you? It is no different when you are in love with God, you will want to know more about HIM!
Interestingly, Peter uses a different word for knowledge in verses 2,3& 8. It is the greek word epignosis (to recognize, full discernment, acknowledgement) which can be translated “to intimately know”. To know about someone is very different from intimately knowing them.
For example, think of your favorite superstar musical artist. Pretend you study all about them, you learn about their childhood, their family and their hobbies. You spend years learning all their lyrics, going to all their concerts, buying all their t-shirts and albums, etc. Now you might feel like you KNOW them!
So, what is going to happen if you try to go backstage to one of their concerts without backstage passes? You can tell the security guards you know the musician. But when the musician comes to see who you are, what are they going to say?
See, you thought you knew them, but you only KNEW ABOUT them. Why the long illustration? Because this is an eternally significant differentiation.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says that at the end many people will be trying to get into heaven as they tell Him all about the great things they did for Him (He is talking about religious people). Unfortunately, Jesus says He will tell them to go away because He never knew them. How sad!
So, how does anyone come to know God? You must meet Him. When you meet Holy God you must be ready to truly understand yourself as well. You must accept your place under His loving authority. We are a creation. He is the Creator… a creator that wants a relationship with you.
You see, we live in a world where we have all chosen to step out from under God’s design for our lives. We try to do it our own way. Living our way instead of God’s way is called sin. God tells us that sin leads to destruction, death and eternal separation from God in Hell. He does not want that for us! In fact He has done everything He can to prevent it! God loves us so much that He sent his son, Jesus Christ to make the way back to a right relationship with God, His Father. Jesus never strayed from the will of His Father. He was sentenced to death even though he never did one thing wrong. He died in our place, to pay the penalty for our sin. Then He arose again to prove that He was truly God.
The only way to a right relationship with God is to trust that Jesus died in your place and in mine. To try and approach God in any other way will not work. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
It is great to learn more and know about Jesus. But like the Superstar musician, if you only know about them without meeting them there is no actual relationship there. God deeply desires a relationship with you. And trusting that Jesus’ death on the cross is the only way to heaven is how you come to intimately know Jesus. Then you can spend the rest of this life and eternity learning more about the one true God, His love, His humility, His wisdom, His creativity, His justice, goodness, power etc, etc, etc!
He has made a few cool things like galaxies, the duck-billed patypus, sunrises and you! He made each one of you with a plan in mind. God wants you to come to intimately know Him so that He can help you become the amazing person that He designed you to be!