Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
I assume that those who are listening today are those who profess to be children of God and have the opportunity to know God by attending church and reading the Holy Scriptures. Are you growing in the knowledge of God? And does the knowledge of God preserve you in the midst of a wicked world? Does it preserve you in the way of holiness and truth?
Every child of God who professes to know God must admit that he has a great need to grow in the knowledge of God. We are always being called to know God better. We see our need of growth in the knowledge of God when we compare ourselves to those in the Scriptures who knew God intimately, and when we think of the powerful effect that that knowledge of God had in their lives. For instance, Joseph. As a young man in the evil world of Egypt he was tempted to sexual impurity, but he maintained his purity and ran away from the temptation. Why? In Genesis 39:9 he said this: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” It was the knowledge of God that made him pure.
In Psalm 73:25, Asaph spoke of the fact that he had, for a while, envied the prosperity of the wicked. But then God brought him to the sanctuary are
and gave him to know more of Himself. Asaph, in the midst of a world gone mad after things, learned contentment by knowing God. He says: “And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.” Knowing God, he was perfectly content with his life.
Or we think of Daniel’s friends as they stood in the midst of Babylon and were called to worship the image that Nebuchadnezzer had made. They would not bow down, even at the threat of their life. Why? They said this: “We serve the most high God. And let it be known unto you, O king, we will not bow down to your image, no matter what you do.” The knowledge of God preserved them in faithfulness in a wicked world.
We need to grow in the knowledge of God. That knowledge of God is the most practical, most vital, and most important thing in your life and in mine.
But perhaps you object: “You say that we must grow in knowledge of God, and that we must be active in growing in the knowledge of God. And you even ask what we are doing to grow in the knowledge of God. But isn’t it a matter of God’s initiative? Isn’t knowing God a matter of His grace?”
The answer to that is yes, of course, knowing God is possible only by His grace. He must first come and make Himself known unto you or you cannot know Him in a saving sense. But that grace of God whereby He gives us to know Him is not something mechanical. It is not like inserting a computer chip at the brain stem. Grace is a living power of God, infused into children of God, so that from their heart and mind and will they desire to know Him who hath loved them. That grace of God causes them to seek Him. Psalm 27:8, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face (there is the command: Seek My face, know Me); my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” Just like a salmon who will die in its efforts to reach the stream where it was born, so the child of God has one great desire implanted by grace in his heart: to know the living God.
But what must we do if we are to grow in the knowledge of God? One’s attitude, of course, is the crucial thing in all areas of learning and knowledge. One must desire, one must have the proper spiritual attitude, if one is to grow in the knowledge of God.
There are a number of things that the Scriptures teach us about the true spiritual attitude that we must possess if we are to grow in the knowledge of God, an attitude that we must cultivate.
The first thing is godly sincerity. In Jeremiah 29:13 we read, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” That is, God has willed that He will reveal Himself to His people only in the way of their sincerely (and by His grace) seeking Him. The spiritual sluggard, the one who is apathetic and indifferent, will not find God. God withholds Himself from those who are indifferent.
Again we read, in Isaiah 29:13:
Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. . . .
God speaks here of the fact that a mere outward, dead, formal seeking after Him will benefit a soul absolutely nothing. God calls us to seek Him from the heart, the heart that He has given, the heart that loves Him.
So the first thing that is necessary if we are to grow in the knowledge of the living God is sincerity. The knowledge of God cannot be appreciated by one who is apathetic and sluggish in his heart.
We read in Proverbs 2:1-3 the following:
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding. . . .
Observe the verbs that God has used for the call to action. “Incline thy ear…apply thy heart…cry after knowledge…lift up thy voice…search for it as silver.” Then shalt thou know the living God. God calls us to seek Him in sincerity, godly sincerity. God calls not for part of the heart. God requires all the heart, an undivided heart, to search and to seek Him.
Are you sincere? The sermons that you hear, do they mean nothing? Or do you put your heart into listening to the sermons? Do you want to know God? Do you read the Holy Scriptures in no other way than the way of sincerity? That is the way, first, to know God.
But secondly, the Scriptures reveal to us that the way to know God is the way of humility. We read in Psalm 138:6: “Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” God reveals Himself to those who are humble and lowly of heart. There is no greater affront to God than a proud heart, a heart that assumes an indifferent position toward Him, a heart that does not fall down in awe before the living God. We read in II Chronicles 7:14:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Again, God says that those who walk in pride, those who walk in conceit—God shall hide His face from them. God reveals Himself only in the way of the grace of humility.
What is humility? One is humble only when God has brought him to a right understanding. Humility is not a false understanding of things. Humility is a true understanding. It is a true understanding of three things: who you are, who God is, and what God has done. When you know yourself as a fallen, depraved sinner; when by grace you know God, the living and the true God; and when you know by His grace what God’s grace has done in giving His Son—hen the result is humility.
I must have a right understanding of who I am: sinner; who God is: the living Holy One; and what God has done for me: by mercy saved me in Jesus Christ. A child of God who knows those things cannot be proud.
And God delights in drawing near to the lowly. The world despises humility. The world says, “Don’t grovel.” But God loves nothing more than drawing near to the contrite heart.
So the way to know God: godly sincerity, and profound humility.
Then there is a third element. That element is purity. We read in Isaiah 59:1, 2:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
There the prophet is measuring sin in terms of the distance it puts between the child of God and his God.
A child of God can never say, “There are no effects, there are no consequences of my sin.” No, the prophet says, your sins have hid His face from you. Sin puts distance between us and God. We read again in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Jesus is saying that in the way of sin, overt sin, walking in the way of sin, we shall not see God. But walking in the way of purity we shall see God. There the prophet is measuring sin in terms of the distance it puts between the child of God and his God.
A child of God can never say, “There are no effects, there are no consequences of my sin.” No, the prophet says, your sins have hid His face from you. Sin puts distance between us and God. We read again in Matthew 5:8: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” Jesus is saying that in the way of sin, overt sin, walking in the way of sin, we shall not see God. But walking in the way of purity we shall see God.
These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
God’s special presence is found in the way of purity, of preserving our temple (our body) pure and holy unto the Lord. And impurity, sexual impurity, is that which robs us of seeing His face. It is that which corrupts. Revelation 17 and 18 describe the Antichrist, the antichristian powers, as the great whore. Satan knows spiritual dynamics.
So this world is swallowed up with pornography. Why? Perhaps because no sins so silence the testimony of God and so cause God to withdraw and to give men over to their own darkness as the sins of sexual impurity.
That is true in the world of unbelief. God gives a society over to its filth until at last it stands ripe for judgment. That is also true in the life of a child of God. Our lives as children of God are precious. They have been purchased by the blood of Christ. We have been saved in order that we might know God’s face; in order that we might stand before God; in order that we might see Him in Jesus Christ. Now, child of God, the Scriptures warn us against impurity. No matter how prevalent, no matter how accepted, no matter how pervasive, no matter how harmless, innocent, and accepted it may appear to be, it is a great evil. And it is an evil that does great damage and destruction to the soul.
Have you lost your purity, purity in your heart? God calls you to repent. Bow before the cross of Jesus Christ. That blood of Christ and grace of Christ are able to restore holiness and purity, wash you from evil, forgive you, and give you to walk in the knowledge that you are not your own, but belong body and soul unto your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. God’s presence in Jesus Christ gives the blessing of purity. And in that purity is joy. So we may read in Psalm 84: “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” No other earthly thing gives joy so great as to know God in purity.
Are you growing in the knowledge of God? God calls you to grow in the knowledge of Him through godly sincerity, through profound humility, and through true purity. None of these things can be attained of ourselves. So we come to God time after time, in prayer, in the Holy Scriptures, and through the preaching of His word on the Lord’s day.
Earnestly we desire to grow in the knowledge of God.