Can ONE Person Fully Know God? + Why is it Important for Believers to Worship Together and Not Be Separate? #290

Happy Monday, friends! Less than 48 hours before my wife and the kid’s mom returns from the deep south, and we are counting down the days here at the Bible Reading podcast bunker! Our readings for the day include 1 Kings 15, Psalms 99, 100 and 101, Ezekiel 45 and Colossians 2, the very first part of which will serve as our focus passage. But first, some most excellent listener feedback from a friend with many names, many siblings and many submarines. One of those facts are made up to protect his identity, since he prefers to go by, “Where, What, Huh?” He left a comment on our Youtube page relative to our recent discussion of prayer, and praying for places and people we’ve never met.

Can it ever be useless to speak to God? If we believe that He is powerful and that He loves us, then we must also believe that He hears us and acts upon the requests we bring to him. Now, what specific effect each individual prayer has … that is the question. When I was very young, and even as a young man, I used to pray that the Berlin Wall would fall. I never thought that it would come down. But I prayed for it, partly because of the influence of “Brother Andrew.” In 1986, when Ronald Reagan told Premier Gorbachev to “Come here to Berlin, and tear down this wall” I thought it was a noble speech but that it was Quixotic at best. One evening in November 1989, I turned on the TV and saw West Berliners climbing onto the wall, dancing on the wall, spray-painting the wall, striking the wall with sledgehammers and cutting it with concrete saws. The East Berlin guards looked on and smiled. I could not believe my eyes. The next day, the Berlin Wall fell. Was it because of politics? Was it inevitable? Was it chance? I think that the wall fell because of the combined weight of the prayers of millions of Christians on both sides of the wall. God answers prayers. If I am truly honest and think carefully, I have never prayed a prayer that was not answered. I did not receive all that I asked, but that is because I too often asked for foolish things. But God has never withheld good from me. God is faithful, and He answers prayer.” 

A most insightful and encouraging comment, dear friend – thank you for sharing it with us all. One other comment from the masked man:

“So that they do not transmit holiness to the people through their clothes…” There’s a mind-blowing thought.” 

I was wondering if others would catch that quote from Ezekiel 44:19 as well. What in the world does that mean?! I’ve honestly no idea. Perhaps a Bible mystery to tackle down the road. Wholeheartedly agree that this is a mind-blowing verse. When I read it on the show, I actually stopped for quite some time to read it and reread it…you guys didn’t hear that part because I edited it out. But, we aren’t able to solve that mystery today – I’d love to hear any insight you might have, however.

Our Bible question today is slightly less mysterious, but just as profound, if not more. A most fascinating truth is lying in plain sight at the beginning of Colossians 2, but it is not a truth I’ve heard discussed from this text very often in church, and therefore I consider it something of an undiscovered treasure. Let’s read the whole chapter together, listening to hear if it somehow answers today’s Big Bible Question.

Here is the Bible passage that sparked our question for the day:

I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Colossians 2:2-3

I think Paul is expressing here a very deep and profound truth – maybe even more than one deep and profound truth. In the first part of verse two, he begins a conditional statement: He wants the hearts/mindsets/innerbeings of other Christians to be ENCOURAGED and JOINED TOGETHER IN LOVE. That’s great, and not particularly surprising or profound yet, given that there are so very many Bible passages that call Christians to love and encourage each other. The profound part is in the conditional – the results of the hearts of the believers being encouraged and joined together in love. When that happens, according to Paul, those believers will have ALL THE RICHES OF COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING  AND have knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. I take that passage to be showing us a deep and crucial spiritual dynamic: In and of ourselves as individuals, our insight and understanding will be limited – we certainly won’t be rich in complete understanding. However, joined together in love and encouragement, we will be on the way to richly having complete understanding into the things of God, into the person and character of God and into His most profound act – the sending of His son Jesus.

In other words, there is a reason why we are the Body of Christ. We know Him and are fully known by Him as a body, not by individuals. I have many friends who I believe are Christians, but they either do not believe in gathering with the ‘institutional church,’ or they just don’t prioritize it. Ultimately, it means those friends don’t usually gather together with other believers and worship/pray/seek God and study His Word together on a regular basis. They may do so sporadically, but almost never every Lord’s Day, and the end result is the more limited our interactions are with other believers, the more limited our understanding of God and His ways will be. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a traditional brick and mortar church with a sanctuary and a building but it does mean that regularly gathering with other believers – in a house, by the river, in a coffee-shop – where-ever – for worship, ministry, prayer and time in the Word is an absolute essential. Minimizing the gathering means minimizing your understanding. I have long loved how C.S. Lewis explains this truth in the context of friendship. I should say he begins by discussing friendship, but ends by discussing how to know God:

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, ‘Here comes one who will augment our loves.’ For in this love ‘to divide is not to take away’. Of course the scarcity of kindred souls—not to mention practical considerations about the size of rooms and the audibility of voices—set limits to the enlargement of the circle; but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another (Isa. 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.

SourcE: C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves

In commenting on this passage from Lewis’, pastor Tim Keller says:

Here’s what that means. Your Christian friends see parts of Jesus Christ you will never know or love unless you know and love them. Your Christian friends see things in Jesus you’ll never see, you’ll never know, because of who they are, because of what they’ve been through, because of their experiences. In a sense, because of where they’re standing.
Take a look at an object. Any place you stand, you see the same object, but you see it differently. It depends on where you’re standing. You see a different aspect, a different side. Your Christian friends know parts of Jesus Christ you will never know or love unless you know and love them. Why? Because he’s real, because he’s risen, because he’s a real person. He’s not someone you know through historical research. He says, “Lo, I am with you all. I am with you in the community of my people. That’s where you’re going to really find me fully.”

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).

So then – LET US know Him together. I think there is a very important reason why Hosea 6:3 is in the plural – addressed to the congregation, not addressed to individuals:

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Hosea 6:3

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