God in His total and unlimited greatness, majesty. magnificence, and power is beyond our very limited human comprehension, and His total and unlimited knowledge, understanding, and wisdom are also beyond our very limited human comprehension. However, through His creation, through His written word, and through Jesus, God has revealed quite a lot about Himself that we can understand. Through His written word, through Jesus, and through His Holy Spirit, God also reveals Himself relationally and experientially to His children.
When I asked the members of an adult Bible Study if they had experienced God speaking to them, all said they had, some very tentatively because when they had spoken of it before, they had been mocked. The actual experience of God is an important and integral part of Christian life and faith, part of believers’ common ground, but a part that is hard to define and talk about because it is individual, private, varied, and not observable by others. Because we cannot observe spiritual experience in each other, we lack the vocabulary and common understanding to communicate well about it. We can see this difficulty even for Jesus as He made extensive use of figures of speech such as similes and metaphors comparing the spiritual with familiar things we can observe, and also as He used many parables. Among examples are the many times He said, “The Kingdom of God is like….” Practising the traditional Christian disciplines, which include prayer, study, submission, service, confession, worship, celebration, and others, can help us to better understand, know, and experience Him The ways and times that God relates to us are many, varied, personal, rare, and unpredictable from our perspective because it is something we have no control over. However, the more consistently and sincerely we love Him and seek to know Him for Himself, the more joy we will find in His presence as we contemplate His Word and chat with Him in prayer, as we grow in relationship with Him.
God looks on the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7) As David told his son Solomon, “the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.” (1 Chron. 28:9b NIV) He knows how genuine our love is for Him and for people. He knows the attitudes and true motivation behind our actions, the reasons for our obedience or disobedience. He knows exactly how genuine or hypocritical we are. He knows exactly how important we consider Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves, right down to the number of hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30) and all that is in our subconscious. Knowing us so well, He still loves us and desires relationship with us, to dwell in us and with us eternally.
Christianity has been called a relationship, not a religion. God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, knows and loves us, but He does not force Himself upon us. A traditional creed reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.” Put another way: the primary goal of the Christian life is to love and seek to know God so well that we experience our greatest joy and delight in our relationship with Him. If we love Him this much, we want to live life His way, to obey Him. If we seek to know Him this well, we eagerly do the things that lead to knowing His ways and His will. This is the relationship with God that makes experience equally as important as right belief and action.
So God is the common ground. Experiencing a love relationship with Him is the ever increasing joy of accepting Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and living in right belief and love that flows out in right actions. He is the common ground of the faith that identifies the church and that is the key to Heaven’s gates. He is the common ground of the relationship that makes the Christian life the very best quality of life to live.
However, the time is coming when God will be, not only the common ground for the Christian life and faith and experience, but for everyone. The time is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11 NIV) The question every human must answer in this life is whether to bow the knee to Jesus Christ now and acknowledge and live for Him as Lord now, or wait until it is too late.