By Matt Rose
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven. 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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'” (Jesus, recorded in Matthew’s gospel)
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (Jesus, recorded in John’s gospel)
Think about this for a minute: your friends are talking about movies they like when somebody immediately remembers a great piece of Hollywood gossip. “You guys know [insert actor/actress]?!” Your reply, caught in suspense already, probably sounds like this, “Yeah, what about him/her?” But do you know this person? Or do you simply know a lot about this person? There is a difference.
I used to idolize Dave Matthews. I could tell you about how he was a bartender at Miller’s in Charlottesville, VA. He had a little demo that he asked local talents Leroi Moore and Carter Beauford to assist him in recording. I could tell you about them sneaking their underage bassist in and out of the bars just long enough to do a gig. I could even tell you about his sister being murdered by her own husband. But, while I know a lot about Dave Matthews, I do not know him personally.
Far too many Christians have grown up in churches where they hear an awful lot about God, but they are never encouraged to know Him personally. Prayer is made to sound like extra credit. The focus in churches is to sing a few songs and think about God or to hear a preacher list three or five brief points about some passage in the Bible. We walk away having thought about God and heard about God, but never spending time with God, getting to know Him better. Everybody tells you that you have to know God, but if it’s so important, why is that not the focus of our church services?
Why do so many think that God can’t speak to us in the present day? You will hear that God spoke long enough for the Bible to be written, and now we only hear from Him as we read it. I think it’s quite true that God’s Word speaks to us today through the power of the Holy Spirit living in our hearts. But I also think that God can speak to us, Spirit to spirit. It is more a question of whether we want to listen, to take the time out of our busy schedules to just “be still, and know [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10).
The point of the Scriptures at the top of this post is to show us that knowing a lot about God or even doing a lot of great things in His Name is not the same as knowing Him. We have to be a people of prayer. He wants to hear it from you. He wants to be with you and hear about what hurts you and what thrills you and what struggles you are facing. I can know [my wife] loves me, but if I never heard her say it, I would never experience the great feeling I feel when she actually does tell me.
We cannot be a people who simply admire God or admire Jesus and the things He did on earth; we have to be people who know God. Unless we know His voice, how will we be able to discern the truth from the lie? The world’s system has seeped into the Church so much that now we can only argue with each other about what God wants from us. We’ve replaced the voice of God with lists of rules about our clothing or our entertainment choices. We don’t have to pray and ask God to lead us; we have our rules. It has become so much about the rules that people just ask what they have to “do” to be a good Christian. In other words, what activities do I have to stop taking part in to be considered a “Christian?”
Somebody somewhere decided that God couldn’t lead His people with the conviction of the Holy Spirit, so codes of rules and regulations were made. This boils down to little more than our own measurable standard of how “good” somebody is, especially in comparison to ourselves.
However, the Bible says that God looks at a man’s heart, something we can’t see, while man can only see the outward appearance (how they dress, how short they keep their hair, how close they are to perfect attendance in Sunday school). We have to know God. We can’t be content to know about Him or to hear about somebody else’s relationship with Him. We have to know Him personally. We have to spend time in prayer, revealing every detail of our lives to Him, telling Him what He means to us*, praying that His will would be done on earth–even above our will.
We can’t afford to live life with a checklist of good deeds, scratching off when we go to church each week or when we read a chapter in our Bible before we fall asleep or when we hold the door for an elderly person at the mall. The time is coming soon when God will shake everything that can be shaken, and all of our half-hearted worship will be stripped away. The only thing that will survive this is our relationship with God.
We cannot neglect genuine prayer.
Matt lives in South Carolina with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Charis. He has a passion for authentic relationships and true, heartfelt worship.