The Knowledge of God
Mr. John W. Bramhall of Charlotte, N.C., favours us with another devotional article, showing us the transforming power and manifold value of a personal knowledge of God and His character.
Personal knowledge of God will change character, performing transformations which follow the new birth. It is gradual, not sudden in its change, as the Spirit of God introduces new motives and objects into the life for God’s glory— (2 Corinthians 3:18). ‘Christianity in its revelation of a personal God and Saviour, of a future life, and of moral responsibility, and its view that the glory of God rather than the mere pleasure of man is the highest object of life, is the most powerful force in the formation of character’ (A.T. Schofield, M.D., from Springs of Character).
Therefore, we turn from modern philosophy and ethics, preferring the “depths of God” to man’s shallow pride, for we must dwell deep - (Jeremiah 49:8).
‘Dwell deep my soul! – forbid thou shouldest stay shallow!
Dwell deep in thought, in purpose, wish and will!
Dwell deep in God – let His own presence hallow;
Thy inner being let His presence fill.’
The Mind is Changed by a Personal Knowledge of God
It has been said, ‘The mind casts a shadow just like the body.’ As we pass through this world, unknown to ourselves, our mind, personality, without effort or desire, is casting shadows for good or evil on whom we meet. To know God is to be a blessing, for then we can be the unconscious channel through which God passes into the hearts of others as unconsciously we radiate His glories as we live in personal enjoyment of God.
The sphere of the mind has been called ‘the hidden home of character.’ Therefore, we hear the Spirit plead for ‘the renewing of your mind’ in Romans 12:2. It implies ‘a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better’ (Thayer’s Lexicon). ‘Being renewed in the spirit of your mind; and having put on the new man’ etc. (Ephesians 4:23, 24). To be so changed, that the spirit which governs the mind is renewed. What a change! Read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 which reveals the wisdom and knowledge of God to one who is “spiritual,” noting the last phrase – ‘But we have the mind of Christ.’ ‘We are said, having the Holy Spirit, to have also the mind of Christ, the intelligent faculty with its thoughts’ (footnote of J.N.D. Trans. Read Romans 11:33-36). Let us then fulfill Romans 12:1,2.
The Desires are Changed by a Personal Knowledge of God
‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’ writes Paul. The renewing of the mind will produce, without effort on our part, unconsciously, a change of desires. The word “transformed” indicates ‘a change of moral character for the better, a process of changing’ (Thayer’s Lexicon). How greatly to be desired! How the habits of life can be changed for us by the Spirit, which we earnestly would have altered!
It is harmful for us to attempt changing habits without changing desires; no progress is made and nothing is gained! On every hand Christians ask – “Is this right? Is this wrong? “ It is unspiritual to do so, for to give up anything without changing desires is but to be a hypocrite. The change of desires is made by the transforming work of the Spirit and involves no giving up. Draw near to God; learn to know HIM; the result is that the desires are changed. There is no loss; nothing but gain! (read Psalm 73:25, 26; Psalm 37:4). The old desires (Ephesians 2:3) disappear! The new desires conform to the Will of God.
The Manners are Changed by a Personal Knowledge of God
It is an evidence of God’s power when our manners are changed, for they will be compatible to God’s character and reveal us to be a friend of God! Abraham ‘was called the friend of God’ (see 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). What behaviour and deportment must have been reflected in Abraham through this intimate friendship with God!
Enoch walked with God three hundred years! (Genesis 3:21-24; Hebrews 11:5). Had no Bible as we do; no Christianity as we know it; no revealed Father as we have. Yet what a life! God became his nearest and dearest Friend as he walked with HIM all those years! What must have been the character of his deportment? What were the results of such a walk?
1. An unassuming and humble dignity in his earthly life.
2. Truth and sincerity in perfect wisdom must have been reflected in perfect love.
3. An inward peace and calm always seen in his manners, though surrounded by ante-deluvian sin and wickedness; and knowing of the coming judgment of God by the flood. How we should seek to possess this unconscious stamp of God in our manners in these perilous times! (see Isaiah 26:3).
The Pursuits of Life are Changed by a Personal Knowledge of God
This follows the change of desires, for the pursuits of life will be definitely affected by our increasing knowledge of God. The inward change of desires must precede the outward change in pursuits. If not, the outward change will be artificial and also contrary to the principles of Christianity. Christianity is the life of Christ working from within and outward in its direction (Galatians 2:20). It is the life of Christ communicated to the believer, dwelling in the believer and to flow through the believer.
When God works within (Philippians 2:12,13), there will be the necessary change of pursuits, for He Himself will fill the vision. We can be just as keen in our pursuits but after different objects than formerly. Instead of man, God will be in the foreground of life. Man will shrink to his proper perspective and the pursuit of God will change the pursuits of life! Let the wilderness Psalm of David be the earnest cry of our hearts (Psalm 63, noting particularly verses 1, 5, 8).
The Heart is Content by a Personal Knowledge of God
The world seeks for contentment but apart from God! It drinks from sources that can only fail (see Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; John 4:13). How different are the words of Paul — ‘I have learnt in those circumstances in which I am, to be satisfied in myself’ (Philippians 4:11 -- J.N.D. Trans.).
Christ is his source of satisfaction. Contentment, satisfaction, harmony, holiness and wholeness of spirit are in Him (see John 4:14; 1 Timothy 6:6). The sight of God changes all, even one’s self; and how needful is this! ‘Now mine eye seeth Thee’ said Job, ‘wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes’ (Job 42:6). ‘My heart is fixed’ (Ps. 57:7; 108:1; 112:7).
The Man is Conquered by a Personal Knowledge of God
There always seems to be a war in our members (Romans 7 and Galatians 5:17), but if we lived in the reality of God’s presence there would not be that constant conflict. The reason our evil natures and fleshly desires make such a strong fight within, is simply because we do not know God as we ought.
When God is the Victor, there is no battle; there is no strife. The power and value of heart knowledge of God will show that His love conquers; love that is not constrained, nor forced, but spontaneous love. There can be no fight where God is known!
The Thoughts are Changed by a Personal Knowledge of God
The personal knowledge of God will affect each thought I think and each word I speak. He is to be the central truth of my life, the pivot around which my existence revolves. When I know Him as I should, He is all-wise; He is all-love; He is my Father and I am His Child! I will not seek to explain, defend or still less, question His dealings with me! My thoughts of God in my inmost soul will be with deepest reverence and love! My thoughts will be guarded by Him! How greatly we need this!
‘The Lord is near; be careful about nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God: and the peace of God, which surpasses every understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts by Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:5-7 —J.N.D. Trans.). Beloved, let us permit God Himself to form our character and personality!