As a young follower of Christ, I remember reading J. I. Packer’s classic book, Knowing God. A deep conviction formed in me that this was at the heart of what being a Christian was about. I wanted to know God. I read my Bible as often as possible. I went to as many gatherings at the church that I could find. I wanted to know God.
But at many points it became an exercise in knowing about God rather than knowing God in loving relationship. I think this can happen to any of us in subtle ways. God goes from being “You” to being “Him.” Instead of being in an interactive personal relationship, we can become masters of God-details.
So I was especially touched recently when I read a line Paul used in a letter to his friends in Galatia:
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
It’s the distinction Paul makes in verse 9 that captured me. Even better than knowing God now, I am known by God. I sometimes still have a tendency to focus on my side of the relationship—my side of the knowing. But God knows me. God knows me and loves me.
God sees me today. God knows me inside and outside. He knows my worries. He knows my shortcomings. He knows my history and my future. And he knows all these things in love. He cares for me. He has chosen me. He has appointed me to live in his kingdom fruitfully.
When we live ignorant of the true God, we are slaves to so-called gods—or powers—that aren’t rooted in the goodness or abundance of God. Once we come to know God, there is no power greater or better than his. Settling for our old authorities or resources is empty when we have the power that raised Jesus from the dead and all the riches of God in Christ available to us.
I was provoked to pray in response: “Lord, forgive me for the ways I turn back to old, miserable, weak ways when I could walk in your fresh, abundant, powerful ways. The former led to slavery and the latter led to freedom. Why do I choose the former? Habit, I guess. All of my outward ways of measuring my faithfulness are empty because I am being transformed from the inside by the presence and power of God’s Spirit. More than knowing You, I am known by You. Help me remember this today.”