We Gather Here to Know God and Make God Known
God created us to be in a family. For almost every one of us, our earliest memory is that of belonging to a group of people – father, mother, or siblings. God’s design in creating us within a family environment is for our protection, and for us to learn what love is about. Our happiest memories in life are almost always together with our families or a closely-knit group of friends.
Unfortunately, as we grow up, we lose sight of God’s design and lead lives that are increasingly devoid of love and trust. For many people, days may go by without receiving or giving encouragement, or having a deep heart-to-heart talk with someone who cares about us.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Ephesians 2:19 (NIV)
Knowing how easy it is for us to lose our hearts, God designed the church to be the household in which we can protect our hearts and feel free to love again. The bible is clear that God’s household is not just a place where people mingle once a week, but rather a group of people who gather together as often as possible to protect one another’s hearts. It is not just the quantity in the number of times that we meet up together, but it is also the quality and depth of our relationships.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15–16 (NIV)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24–25 (NIV)
One of the themes that run throughout the bible is that we need other people in our lives to have a consistently deep relationship with God. A sincere and earnest heart may get one started in his journey to heaven, but what’s required to make it to our destination is the helping hands and healing words of those who are committed to us in love. We need people to teach us how to be more Christ-like, as well as hold us accountable to the pledge we made to obey our Lord Jesus.
Let us, as the bible says, not give up meeting together in church so that we may love others and be loved by others. Whether we live in a fast-paced modern society, or one filled with inconvenience and danger, we need to be committed to prioritizing our time by fellowshipping with the Christians for Sunday worship, midweek services, and bible talk meetings. And part of meeting with our spiritual family is related to getting our hearts discipled, either by a spiritual mentor or a group of friends dedicated to helping each other make it to heaven.
Therefore, let us also remember that, while each of us will face God alone on judgment day, He has given us a spiritual family to protect our hearts here on earth as we gather here…
The second part of our mission statement is a reflection of our desire to know God and His will. The importance that God places on knowing Him (and His heart) can be seen clearly in many scriptures throughout the bible.
I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart… Acts 13:22 (NIV)
Thousands of years after David walked this earth, we are still inspired by this shepherd boy turned king who was given the title “a man after God’s own heart”. David had such an intimate relationship with God that it went far beyond that of creator and created. The Psalms written by David show us he greatly desired, pursued and needed God. It was inevitable that he came to know and understand God and His ways.
As members of God’s family, we are called upon to love Him, first and foremost, with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27). In order to love God we must know God. Not just know ‘about’ Him in a purely intellectual way, but to know Him in a personal, heartfelt manner that enables us to have a relationship with Him. David’s relationship with the Lord is an inspiration to us all. He passionately desired to know God more than anything else. We can see this clearly from the words he used in his Psalms, such as yearning, thirsting, and hungering.
We are called by God to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Knowing God is a journey and a process. Can any of us say that we know God well enough? It is neither instant nor is it automatic; in fact it is a constant pursuit that will take the rest of our lives.
As a church that is committed to knowing God, we purposefully seek to be closer to Him. The Bible says “…let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28). Our worship of God needs to be conducted in a way that pleases Him. When we worship, God looks past our words and our singing to see the attitude in our hearts. God gives us emotions so that we can worship Him with deep feelings.
When we gather together for the breaking of bread and drinking of wine, let us do so with hearts that desire to understand His intense love and sacrifice for us on a deeper level. God knows that we are busy, distracted beings, so He instituted the communion in order that we could regularly realign our hearts and minds, and never forget His grace and mercy.
When we come together for deeper bible teaching, let us be grateful for the way God reveals Himself to us in His Word. Truly the treasure of God’s Word is so deep and rich (Romans 11:13) and His Word stands as His counsel forever. How important it is that we take these bible lessons seriously if we desire to know Him and His ways more.
Last but not least, what can replace our own personal devotion to God? It is ultimately our choice how close to God we choose to be. Like any relationship, it takes desire, time and energy to form a deep, intimate connection with God. Drawing near to His Words should be the utmost importance to us each day as we walk through life with it lighting the “path of our feet”(Psalms 119:105). God also desires for us to pour our hearts to Him daily in prayer because He cares how we feel. Lingering in God’s presence will remind us that God is always near (Philippians 4:4-6).
To spend time, energy and effort to know God is to invest in something of eternal, life-changing values. David had many other gifts and strengths – he was well-known for his physical prowess and might as a warrior and king – but more than anything else, he was known as one who had an inspiring relationship with God.
The third part of our mission statement is to Make God Known. To understand the importance of this, let’s compare the wording found in different versions of Luke 15:20 (part of the Parable of the Lost Son):
And he got up and went to his father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity for him and went quickly and took him in his arms and gave him a kiss. Luke 15:20 (Bible in Basic English)
The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (Common English Version)
He got right up and went home to his father. When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (The Message Bible)
And having risen, he went unto his own father, and he being yet far distant, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and having ran he fell upon his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (Young’s Literal Translation)
No matter what version of the Bible we read, Luke 15 shows us an undeniable truth – that even when someone turns away from the Father, God still welcomes them back with arms opened wide! The passage reveals God’s compassion and His passion. Who is the recipient of this great love? We are! He welcomes us back, as his offspring; with tears, laughter, a great big kiss and hug!
Isn’t this an apt description of us, when we were helped out of the waters of baptism? At a point in our lives when we knew no other way, no other choice, wasn’t it reassuring to have a God that didn’t give up on us? We felt a deep sense of gratitude because we knew we were being reunited with our loving Father. It is a joy that is difficult to describe adequately in words, because it represents the joy of finally coming home.
God wants all men to be saved (2 Timothy 1:4). We are the chosen instruments through which His heart for the lost can be known, so as to let them come to knowledge of the truth. All the things God has done for men were directed towards the one single purpose of making Himself known to them. In Luke 15, the older son spent years with the Father, yet never understood His heart. Instead, he served his time, but in bitterness. He should have learned to serve his father with gladness and sincerity of heart. His example harkens us to learn the lesson.
Making God known to the lost around us is not about earning our way to heaven. It is about being the salt of the earth and the light to the world. It is nothing to be afraid of, nothing to be ashamed of, and it should not be a matter of religion. Making God known is a pure alignment of our hearts to His. Using another metaphor, it is like us becoming His eyes, roaming back and forth on the earth, seeking the prodigal sons and daughters who are ready to come home. Making God known is about seeing the Father jumping for joy as He sees those who were once dead raised back to life again. Making God known is the heart of Him who created us.