Knowing is everything. It’s why we read the news. It’s why we surf the internet. It’s why Facebook has become ubiquitous. It’s why we probe Yelp reviews. Simply put, knowing satiates.
And knowing is important. Even our eternal life depends on it. “And this is eternal life,” Jesus said, “that they know. . . the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
Ellen White highlights the boomerang of getting God wrong. “The whole spiritual life is molded by our conception of Him, and if we cherish erroneous views of His character, our souls will sustain injury” (Review & Herald, Jan 14, 1890).
In other words, our Christian experience—how we perceive it, feel it, and do it—is affected by our aggregate perception of who God is.
And for the unbeliever, their understanding of God will determine how they’ll react (or not) to God.
This is why Satan works so hard to slander His name. Satan “has sought to misrepresent the character of God,” she says, “to lead men to cherish a false conception of Him. . . as arbitrary, severe, and unforgiving,—that He might be feared, shunned, and even hated by men” (Testimony Treasures, vol. 2, p. 334).
And for the believer, our comprehension of God determines the essence of our spiritual experience.
Think of a dog that’s been physically abused by a previous owner. Once that dog’s rescued, and no matter how nurturing the new owners may be, a gesture of love will be misunderstood. At least initially. It will cower and cringe from the new owner. What the dog knows of humans determines how it will react to any and all gestures.
In the same way, our accurate (or misguided) perceptions of God will determine the outcome of our experience. And if one’s impression of God is based on what’s true of God, the result will be a cognitive coherence between their positive experience and the rational understanding of who He is.
But here’s another profound thought. We cannot know God—in the quintessential, deeper sense—without becoming like Him. Only like can appreciate like. Only a Vietnam or World War II veteran can truly appreciate the heroism and atrocities forged on the bloody ravines of Southeast Asia and Normandy.
Fundamentally, our potential to know God is limited; we’re confined by our subjective capacity and limited experience. We can only truly understand what we’ve gone through.
Consequently, we can only comprehend God, in this sense, to the extent we’ve become like Him.
In the book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, Ellen White states,“Only like can appreciate like. Unless you accept in your own life the principle of self-sacrificing love, which is the principle of His character, you cannot know God. . . . We discern the truth by becoming, ourselves, partakers of the divine nature.”
This is an intriguing thought. Chew on it for just a second.
There was a time whenever I visited my folks I would wake up to fresh-squeezed orange juice by my bedside. Every morning, my mom would squeeze fresh orange juice for me.
And I took it for granted.
But one morning, my mother asked me to prepare the orange juice for the entire family, including extended family who were visiting. It wasn’t until I began to slice each orange, and painstakingly squeeze what seemed like gazillions of oranges that I began to appreciate more deeply the love of my mother.
Only like can appreciate like.
As the father of a three-year-old and a 10-month-old, I’m beginning to love my parents more than ever because I now understand the sacrifice, the sleepless nights, the hours spent washing bottles, and the handling of smeared and whiffy diapers.
Similarly, the experience of sanctification—the life of a converted, self-sacrificing Christian—informs our take on God.
It really does.
Knowing who God is, is everything. But if we want to know Him deeply, we must also become like Him. To me, this is the ultimate purpose of sanctification. In the end, it’s all about Jesus, and I have no problem saying that.
In the church today, the notion of sanctification is sometimes undermined or minimized, and frankly this is really really concerning. It decapitates our potential to feel, know, and emphathize with Jesus, and there’s nothing more we need than that.
Because only like can appreciate like.
Department of Communications and Sabbath School Director