Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
As the Lord Himself says through His prophet Jeremiah, our ultimate purpose is to know Him. This is what pleases Him. In John 17:3 Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is knowing God and Jesus. And we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
As Charles Spurgeon so eloquently states, “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.” Everything we study, do, and give our attention to should be learning more about God.
Our life’s pursuit and purpose – the most important thing we can do – is to know and understand God. Granted, we can never fully understand or know the mind of God, but we are to order our steps and plan our days so we can know Him more. This is why we don’t find fulfillment in all the other things we place in our lives. We fill our lives up with busyness, possessions, accomplishments, and entertainment. But these things are not accomplishing our purpose. They do not help us to know and understand this great God whom we call Father.
The way to know and understand God is to be in God’s Word. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
Paul knew the only way for people to follow God in truth and not wander into false teaching is to remain in God’s Word. Understanding God wouldn’t be based on how a teacher made them “feel” about things or on their own wisdom, it would be based on God’s Word. So Paul charged Timothy to preach God’s Word, whether it was favorable or unfavorable, whether the people wanted to hear it or not. Timothy was to teach God’s Word and correct any false understandings of it – because not teaching God’s Word meant people could not know God.
In order to know God, there is also the expectation for us to grow in our knowledge of God. We should be continually learning deeper truths about God as we pursue God. As Paul explains to the Corinthians, a child cannot feed forever on milk. At some point, the child must grow so he can eat solid food. Likewise, we are not to be content with only the milk of the Christian faith. We must grow in our knowledge of God to be able to partake of the solid food of the faith, the deeper and fuller things of God. We cannot be content with the flannelgraph illustrations of Bible stories that we were given as children. Our pursuit of God is a lifelong pursuit, which should result in growth.
The key to knowing God and growing in that knowledge is to stay in God’s Word. However, there was a time when believers didn’t have access to God’s Word. For hundreds of years, the Bible was solely in the hands of the priests. The lay person did not have access to nor could they read God’s Word for themselves. Without having direct access to God’s Word, believers were left to the whims and rulings of the Church.
Believers would have no way of determining what was false doctrine and what was true doctrine. Not only was this an unbiblical and dangerous power grab by the Church authority, it thwarted the growth of believers in their knowledge of God. They had to just trust in the words of the priest instead of in the testimony found in the Scriptures. The priests were considered the only ones capable of reading and understanding God’s Word.
Then people like Martin Luther and John Wycliffe began translating the Bible into their common language. Combine that with the invention of the printing press, and God’s Word became accessible to everyone. Then believers could read God’s Word for themselves. They could once again grow in their understanding of God and grow in their walk with God. Meanwhile, those great men working to place God’s Word into the hands of everyone were labeled heretics, excommunicated, and even executed for their work by the Church authorities. Those men and many others gave their lives so that God’s Word could be known by everyone. That is how important God’s Word is to the growth of the believer and of the church.
Are we doing any better as a Church now than the days of the early Church? Are we doing everything we can to preach and teach the word in season and out of season? Or do we think it is too difficult for the common man to understand? Are we teaching the difficult things of the Bible in order to grow from milk to solid food? Or are we content with the milk of the flannelgraph Bible stories? Are our church gatherings more like social clubs or are they the earnest studying of God’s Word where “iron sharpens iron”?
When our churches only present us with simple explanations and watered down Bible stories, they are doing no differently than the church of Huss and Luther’s time. They have considered these concepts too difficult for the average person to understand. So they simplify the Bible down to a child’s level and write church material on a 9th grade reading level. No one is capable of growing in their depth of understanding about God with that approach. How is your church handling the spreading of God’s Word? Is the Word of God alone used or is it just an accessory to their own personal story telling hour?
The advantage you have now, as opposed to in the 1300s, is you do have wide open access to the Scriptures. You even carry it around in your back pocket through an app on your phone. That alone gives you the ability to overcome the limitations of the Church, by studying God’s Word for yourself, something the early Church members were willing to die over.
But don’t be deceived into thinking the preaching and teaching is only within the walls of the church. Consider the walls of your home. Are we raising our children with a depth of knowledge of the Scriptures? Or do we send them to the church social club for one hour a week to overcome the 35+ hours they have spent at school learning how not to think about God?
We are charged with raising up the next generation, not so they can play sports or watch our favorite movies. We are charged with raising up the next generation so they can know God.
We should look closely at the opening of Judges as a warning to take this job seriously. In Judges 2:10-14 it says, “ And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger.”
These are the children of the generation who inherited the Promised Land! This comes right after the death of Joshua. The Israelites had failed to teach their children about who God is and what He had done for them. As a result, the next generation did not know God. So they did evil in the sight of the Lord. God then had to raise up judges to deliver them out of the judgment for their wickedness.
This is precisely why God told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
The Israelites were to teach their children at all times – in season and out of season, while they are sitting, standing, walking, lying down. They were teach their children to know God. And so are we.
Teaching our children about the commands and Words of God is what God has charged you to do. It is to be a continual process, not something relegated to the church for one hour, maybe two, per week. That is not sufficient for our children to know and understand God. It is not sufficient for them to ever grow from milk to solid food.
We must show them by the way we conduct our lives that we are to continually pursue God. In other words, to adequately teach your children to pursue God, you must be pursuing God yourself. If the ultimate purpose of our lives is to know and understand God, if eternal life really is knowing God and Jesus, then that should be the most important thing we teach our children. And it must be done daily, at all times.
After all, why wouldn’t we want to share with our children the only thing that fulfills the purpose in our existence?