Today our message is about “Knowing God.” There is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
Michelangelo is one of the greatest artists in history. He lived in Italy during the Renaissance and completed painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1512. The centerpiece of this magnificent work is the famous painting of God stretching out his hand to touch and give life to Adam.
Yet when Michelangelo painted this image, he did not have a relationship with God. Like other educated Europeans of his day, he was very familiar with the Bible and its stories and characters. They were the basis of many of his paintings and sculptures. But Michelangelo did not know God, he only knew about God.
Later in life, Michelangelo turned from his sins and committed his life to Christ. Just four years before he died, Michelangelo created a sculpture of Nicodemus and Jesus. In that sculpture, the face of Nicodemus was the face of Michelangelo. He identified with Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night to find eternal life.
After being saved, Michelangelo wrote these words. “Neither painting nor sculpting can any longer quiet my soul, turned now to that divine love which on the cross, to embrace us, opened wide its arms.” Michelangelo is a powerful example of the change that takes place when someone goes from just knowing about God to experiencing a life-changing relationship of truly knowing God.
What is the evidence that someone knows God?
Matthew 7:21-22 (ESV) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
Jesus gives us insight into what is not proof of knowing God. Simply saying that Jesus is Lord is not proof. Even doing supernatural things in Jesus’ name is not evidence of knowing God. Many who assumed they knew God will discover on Judgement Day that they did not.
Matthew 7:23 (ESV) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Jesus’ judgement of these is that He never knew them. You see, knowing God is a relationship in which you know God and He knows you.
Today, we’re going to look at 1 John 2 to discover three proofs of knowing God. These will help us examine our own lives and the lives of those around us for the evidence of knowing God. So let’s look at the first piece of evidence of knowing God, which is …
1 John 2:3-4 (ESV) And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
The first piece of evidence that a person knows God that they obey his commands. You don’t know God by keeping His commands, but those who do know Him will keep His commands. There were many in John’s day and in our day who say that they know God, but their lives to not show they are keeping His commands. John is very straightforward here and explains that such people are liars.
Why does knowing God result in obedience to His commands? Any genuine relationship changes a person’s lifestyle. In this case, knowing God actually means to follow Jesus. In fact, the term Christian literally means a follower of Jesus Christ. If you know God, you will not only follow Jesus’ teaching or commands, you will …
1 John 2:5-6 (ESV) but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
So what does obedience to God’s commands look like? John tells us that if we say we abide or remain in Jesus, that we are His follower, we ought to walk or live as He did. In other words, when people look at our lives, they should see the same kind of love that was seen in the life of Jesus. In any situation, our goal should be to talk and act as Jesus would.
Notice that John is carefully telling us that saying we have a relationship with God is not evidence of knowing God. The proof of knowing God is in our lifestyle. To obey God’s commands is not only to live like Jesus, it is also to …
1 John 2:9-10 (ESV) Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
If someone says they are walking in God’s light, but they hate another believer, they do not truly know God. The second example of the evidence of obedience is loving other believers. To love other believers is to have fellowship or close relationship with them. Loving other believers is proof that a person truly knows God.
Why is it important to understand that obedience to God’s commands is evidence of knowing God? First of all, it’s important so that we are not deceived about our own relationship with God. Many people are. As Jesus said in the verses at the beginning of our message, those who think they know Him, but really don’t, are in for a terrible shock on judgement day.
Secondly, it’s important for us to understand the evidence of knowing God so that we can help others who may be deceived about their relationship with God. We must be very clear that obedience to God’s commands does not save us, because none of us can ever obey perfectly. What John is teaching is that those who know God will increasingly live out that relationship through obedience.
The second proof of knowing God is …
1 John 2:15-16 (ESV) Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
In these verses, the term world does not refer to our physical planet, nor does it refer to unbelievers. The term world refers to the sin and rebellion against God that is seen in our fallen world. Notice that in verse 16, John speaks of three temptations that are in the world. The temptation to sin with our bodies, to sin with our eyes and minds or to sin through pride. John puts the love of the world and the love of God as polar opposites. If you truly love and know God, you will not love the world and vice versa. How does not loving the world play out in our lives? We will …
1 John 2:17 (ESV) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
All the things that we may be tempted by in this world are temporary, they are transient, they will pass away. People who love the world pursue pleasure, money and power. Yet none of those things will last forever. Rather than loving the world and pursuing things of temporary value, those who truly know God are to pursue doing God’s will. If we do God’s will by obeying His commands, we truly have eternal life and will live forever. Our vision, our focus in life must be on the eternal, not the passing things of this world.
Another aspect of the world that we must …
1 John 2:18-19 (ESV) Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
The last hour spoken of here is the last days, which is the time between Jesus’ resurrection and His second coming. During the time of the last days, many antichrists or false teachers will come. Those who love the world will follow after them and their false teaching. These false teachers will love the world and seek to deceive others into following them and their teaching.
Where do false teachers come from? They come from within the church. They claim to know God, they speak with biblical language, but their message is false and dangerous. In fact, they may have at one point taught the truth, but now their message contains falsehood. The evidence of those who truly know God is that they do not love the world or follow false teachers who seek to deceive.
We are seeing a great increase in false teachers in our day and time. Many times, these false teachers have taught the truth in the past. Yet, over time, they have turned from the truth and now mix in falsehoods in their teaching. These false teachings appeal to worldly temptations of desires of the flesh, eyes and pride. One growing mark of false teachers today is that they will seek to appeal to every denomination and even other religions.
There is no common ground between Christianity and other religions. Be very wary of non-denominational teachers or ministries that seek to appeal to every denomination. The differences between most denominations are not harmless diversity but are a result of false teaching that appeals to worldly desires. False teachers tend to over emphasize love and minimize the necessity of repentance from sin. Those who know God will reject false teaching and be …
1 John 2:20 (ESV) But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.
Believers who know God are anointed or filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and give us knowledge of the truth so that we can …
1 John 2:26-27 (ESV) I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
False teachers seek to deceive people. Those who know God, those who have the anointing of the Spirit, don’t need to listen to those from outside for special knowledge. False teachers often claim new knowledge or new insight, which is not based on Scripture. The point that John is making here is that the teaching from Scripture through the Spirit is all that you need. Those who seek special knowledge often end up being deceived by false teachers. Finally, those who know God and are anointed by the Spirit …
1 John 2:28-29 (ESV) And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.
Those who know God, who abide in Him, look forward to the return of Christ and prepare for it. How can a believer prepare for Christ return? John tells us that we must live lives that practice righteousness. As God is righteous, we must live holy lives so that we have confidence and nothing to be ashamed of when He comes. Whether we’re alive when Jesus returns or we meet Him after we pass on, we must prepare by practicing righteousness in our lifestyles. Those who abide in Christ in that way prove that they have been born of God and truly know Him.
Those who know God rely on three main things to make godly decisions and avoid being deceived by false teaching. First of all, every decision, every belief must be in keeping with the clear teaching of God’s Word. God’s Word, properly interpreted is our standard. Secondly, the anointing of the Holy Spirit will help us, not only understand God’s Word, but apply it to our specific situation. Finally, receiving godly counsel of those in authority over us who know God will keep us from deception, either by false teachers or our own false thinking.
As we learn to not make decisions or change our beliefs unless these three inputs line up, we will continue to grow in knowing God and following Jesus.
What is the evidence that a person truly knows God and is a follower of Jesus? The first proof is that they are living in obedience to God’s commands as their lifestyle. The second proof is that they do not love the world, but rather they love God. The third proof that a person knows God is that they listen to and learn from the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Not only are those three proofs evidence of knowing God. As we grow in those three areas, we will be protected from being deceived by false teachers and false teaching. We can live for eternity and do our part to help others know God as well.