At the culmination of life)

Chapter 2 - Believe in God

Believe in God

But how?

Believing in God can be difficult, especially if you just don’t. So, for those of us who just don’t, but still wonder, let us ask the telling question. If God is God, why is He silent?

Let’s face reality. If God is really there, why can’t we see Him? Is there really some huge invisible God out there who never speaks and never makes Himself known? Can He not speak? Is He hiding Himself?

What does the Bible say about this. Does the Bible say that God is hiding Himself?

Yes, it does.

Does that mean that He makes Himself known to some people but not others?

Yes, it does.

Let’s start from where Jesus says that God hides Himself. Jesus makes this statement in what is perhaps the earliest question and answer dialogue in history.

Jesus had been teaching about a spiritual realm called The Kingdom of God. That night, after Jesus taught these things, a man named Nicodemus came to him and asked Him about it. This is what Jesus said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”1

Jesus is saying that there is a Kingdom of God, but not everyone can see it.2 It is a spiritual reality that is superimposed on the material world.3 That is the reason why not everyone can see it. In order to see the Kingdom of God we have to be born again.

So, we might as well give up trying to perceive or experience this spiritual reality by any means other than being born again.

So exactly what is being born again? Nicodemus asks Him the same question that we would have asked:

“How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb can he?”4

Jesus answers and says that the Kingdom of God is spiritual, not physical:

“…Unless one is born of water [his mother’s womb] and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”5

Jesus was teaching about something that is invisible; He was teaching about spiritual things, not physical things (His entire ministry was about spiritual things rather than physical things). The next question, of course, is “How can there be a spiritual reality that we cannot perceive?” Jesus answers this question before Nicodemus can ask it.

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”6

Jesus is saying that you have to experience it to either see it or believe it. Christianity is knowing the Kingdom of God. Being born again is like feeling the wind blowing. We know that the wind is real because we can hear it and feel it, but it is invisible. Jesus is telling us that we can know the Kingdom of God just a certainly as we can feel the wind blowing, but it is invisible.

The next question would have been how can we experience this Kingdom of God? Jesus knows that this is the next question, and again, He answers this before Nicodemus can ask it:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [trusts] in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”7

Jesus is saying that those who trust in Him will gain entrance to this Kingdom and will given the gift of eternal life. But He is saying something else as well.

He is saying that He (Jesus) will be like the serpent in the wilderness. So what is the serpent in the wilderness?

After the Jews had escaped Pharaoh, they were in the desert and had encountered poisonous snakes that bit them (very much like sin bites us today). But, God provided a cure, a cure that was of a spiritual nature and had nothing to do with the snakebites themselves. The cure was simple.
Moses made a bronze statute of a snake and raised it up on a pole. If someone was bitten, all he had to do was to go out of his tent and look at the snake and he was healed.8 So people who had enough faith to go to the door of their tent and look at the serpent were healed. Those who did not even have enough faith to try were never healed; they died. That was the test that God imposed. They had to have enough faith to look. Not much. God was separating the committed unbelievers and letting them die.

Jesus is telling Nicodemus that He will be like the serpent in the wilderness. Jesus will be lifted up on the cross in the same way that the snake was lifted up on the pole. Jesus will be the cure for sin in the same way the snake was the cure for the snakebites. All we have to do is look to the cross and we will be healed. But, just like with the Hebrews, some people won’t bother to try. God is separating the committed unbelievers.

But why did Jesus compare himself to a serpent when the serpent represents sin in the Bible? Because, you see, in order to save us from our sins, Jesus became sin for us.9

How can we believe in something that we have neither seen nor experienced? The key is in the word “believe.” Believe means to trust. That is all. It does not mean to know. Knowing comes as a result of yielding after trusting.

But trust Him for what? Trust that through him all of our sins have been totally forgiven. When we do this, we avail ourselves of benefit of the cross. When Christ died on the cross he paid for the sins of the world so that we can be completely forgiven.10 We obtain this forgiveness when we trust in Christ.

How much real faith does one need to trust in Christ? Just enough to trust sincerely in Christ even without being sure. Knowing is not necessary. This is not unusual because we exercise the same kind of faith when we put our lives into the hands of someone we do not know every time we get on an airplane or trust in a surgeon. Trusting in Christ is just as easy. Some people trust in him and some do not, but the invitation is open to all.11

Trusting in Christ may be a leap of faith for some. But it is never a leap of certainty because certainty is not faith and it is faith that is required.12 Trusting in Christ is simple and free. He made it that way. It is like the serpent in the wilderness. All we have to do is look. It may be done through prayer. For instance, one may pray “God, I will trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of all my sin.” That is what faith is. It is trusting even though we are not certain. Certainty comes with knowing God and that comes later.

But some do not experience the Kingdom of God after trusting in Christ. Why not? Some people trust in Christ and just kind of hope that it will all work out in the end. Why is this?

Because knowing God is a two-step process. The first step is to obtain forgiveness for all of all sin because it is sin that separates us from God. That step is a free gift with no strings attached.

The second step different. The second step is where Christ makes Himself know to you personally. The second step is establishing an experiential relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s where the term “knowing God” or “knowing Christ” comes from. It is no theory. It is real. But, like all relationships, it takes two and God does not relate to just anyone. So, what is God looking for in us before He discloses Himself to us?

First understand that God is indeed God and as such He is fully aware of our true intentions. We can’t hid anything from God. So, real honesty is really important. A relationship with God is all about honest intent followed by action.

What is your intention? Do you intend to take what you can from Him and go your way, or do you want to establish a relationship?

The gift of forgiveness is free and you can have it just for the asking. And you can take this gift and go your way if you wish. But that is like being given a check for a million dollars and never cashing it.

A relationship with God is like any other relationship: you have to stick around and relate. Otherwise there is no relationship. It always takes two because that’s what relationships are. They are always two-sided.

How do we relate to God? We establish a relationship with God in the same way that we establish a relationship with a friend13 and one of the most important things in a friendly relationship is mutual respect. Each one respects the other and accepts the other for who they are. We must respect God for who He is, too. We do this by recognizing that He is God and because He is God, it means yielding to Him. It means obeying Him because His word is not just law; it is Truth.14 To respect God means to give to Him all that He deserves and He deserves our worship. If we want to know Him, we must worship Him in spirit and in Truth.15 From God’s perspective, He respects us because He has made us in His image16 and He can relate to us because in Christ we have been cleansed from all sin.17 So, it’s a relationship; not a religion.

Knowing God is everything of eternal value:

“His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him…”18

“He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature…”19

So, can you take His gift and go your way? Sure you can. But that is like receiving a check and never cashing it. Knowing and relating to God is the most wonderful thing in the world.

Knowing God has to be experienced to be believed. Knowing God in this life is magnificence beyond description. Nothing can compare to knowing Him.20 Knowing God is what eternal life is. If you miss it, you have missed everything.

“This is eternal life that you might know the Father and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.”21

So how can you really know Him? Jesus tells us how to know Him in no uncertain terms:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself [make Myself known] to him.”22

Jesus is saying that in order to know Him, we must have His commandments and keep them. So, first we have to know what His commandments are. They are written in the New Testament (the Bible). Most of us know them already; Jesus is telling us not to sin. If anyone has a question about whether something is a sin, just look in the Bible.

But does that mean that we have to be sinless before Christ will make Himself known to us? No, because we are not dealing with a formula. We are dealing with a relationship. This is neither a ritual nor a contract; it is a relationship. It is a spiritual love affair,23 and as with any deep relationship the key is “heart” backed up with commitment and actions. Our entire Christian life is a progression toward sinlessness; God made us and set it up that way. He is fully aware of who we are, where we are and what we can do and His love for us (you) is not measured by our (your) performance.24 It is measured by heart. God is very forgiving,25 but we must have heart (sincerity) and express our true heart by our consistent choices.

Because of this, knowing God can occur immediately.

When we sincerely come to Christ and we yield to Him totally, two things happen. First, our sins are forgiven and we receive the gift of eternal life (although we may not feel it). At that point in time Jesus Christ will become sin for us so that we may, in Him, be fully righteous.26 At that point, we have become effectively sinless and fully acceptable to God and open to a relationship. But what is our intent for the future? Are we yielded to Him? Do we really see Him as God? Certainly, at this point we are still in the midst of a leap of faith and perhaps don’t really know that is going to happen, if anything. But what is our true intent? If God really does disclose Himself to us do we really intend to relate to Him as our God in total yieldedness or do we intend to take His gift and walk?

True intent is everything here because God sees and judges the heart27 and He gives to those according to their heart.28 Indeed scripture judges and discerns the true thoughts and intents of the heart.29

The sum of it is that God is God and He will relate to us exactly the we choose. We decide. Do we fully surrender or not? The extent that He discloses Himself to us depends on the extent of our surrender. It is a love affair, except you can’t fool Him. You can’t fake heart. You have to mean it when you yield to Him.

Just like us, God is not interested in relating to anyone who does not want to relate to Him. Love is a relationship and knowing God is to be in a spiritual relationship with Him. Look how often the word love is used in this very crucial statement by Christ:

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father and I will love him, and will disclose [make Myself known] to him.”30

To God, relationships are everything. And to us as well, relationships are everything. Nothing is more important in life than relationships. The sad tragedy of a person who does not recognize this truth will eventually learn it one way or the other.

God’s love is described in detail in First Corinthians 13. First John 4:8 tells us that the specific kind of unconditional love described in First Corinthians 13 is what God actually is. God is a God of relationships because that what love is. He is so much a God of relationships that He is a relationship (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

So knowing God is based upon becoming sinless by simply trusting in Christ and upon the true intent of your heart. So, hold nothing back. Yield to Him sincerely and unconditionally and God will disclose Himself to you in no uncertain terms. You don’t need one bit more belief or one bit more faith than what is necessary just to do that.

The Creator will come and live with you and you will experience His presence and His immense peace:

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”31

On the other hand, when we sin, we show that we do not love God and His presence may depart:

“He who does not love Me does not keep My words…”32

If anyone trusts in Jesus Christ, his sins are forgiven and the door is open. If God remains silent, it is because we are not sincere about yielding to Him. God knows it and He is not going to stick around to watch us fake it.

Christ is the door,33 but we must walk through it.

“Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”34

1. John 3:3 Christians have been preaching and singing about knowing God in this life for centuries. For instance, see Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee, a hymn by Bernard de Clairvaux, 1091-1153 A.D., Worship and Service Hymnal (Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream IL, 2001), verse 4, “But what of those who find [find Christ]? Ah! This nor tongue nor pen can show, The love of Jesus, what it is. None but His loved ones know”

2 Also see Luke 17:20 “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’

3 John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

4. John 3:4

5. John 3:5. Here, Jesus specifies that one must be born of water because the right to be born again extends only to humans and not any other created being, such as angels.

6. John 3:7,8

7. John 3:14-16

8 Numbers 21

9. Second Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

10. Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

11. Revelation 22:17 “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

12. Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God

13 John 15:15 “ I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

14 John 17:17 “Thy word is Truth.” John 14:6 “I am the way, the Truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

15 John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.”

16 Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

17 John 1:7 “the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin

18 Second Peter 1:3

19 Second Peter 1:4

20 Philippians 3:8 “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christfor whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”

21 John 17:3

22 John 14:21

23 First John 4:8 “God is love.”

24 First Corinthians 13 describes God’s love for you.

25 First John 1:9

26 Second Corinthians 5:21 “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

27 First Samuel 16:7 “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

28 Jeremiah 17:10 “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.

29 Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

30 John 14:21

31 John 14:23

32 John 14:23

33 John 10:9 “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

34. Ephesians 5:14