To Know & Be Known
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."
In a previous blog, titled “Knowing and Following the Will of God - Can We?,” I shared some of the many Biblical ways in which we can expect God to communicate with us personally. The above passage in the gospel of John gives us further comfort and assurance from Jesus that: (1) we can expect God to speak to us because He "knows" us, and (2) we have His promise of eternal protection. Earlier in this chapter of John, Jesus begins this teaching with the simple, yet beautiful, analogy of a shepherd and his sheep to paint a picture for us of His and the Father's great love and care of their own. Jesus says in verse 3, regarding the shepherd, "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Furthermore, in verse 14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” When we put our trust in Jesus as the son of God and begin to follow, we can expect Him to go before us and guide us in our earthly lives, just as a shepherd does his sheep. And as we “follow,” we can expect to continue to hear His voice!
I hope you agree with me that this passage is packed with some amazing promises and truths! However, if you are not experiencing these truths, I want to help you discover the reason(s). If you feel you are not “hearing” God’s voice, I suggest you begin by gaining a better understanding of the vast ways that God can and will communicate with us. You may want to go back and read the previous blog that I mention above, in addition to revisiting any or all of the other posts on our blog which give great examples and testimonies of God speaking and making His will known to us.
A second point, regarding the “hearing,” is that while you or I may have heard His voice clearly when He first called our name and we initially began to follow, many of us may struggle to currently “hear” Him because we aren’t currently following Him closely enough. We, like sheep, have a tendency to stray (see Isaiah 53:6)! In the natural world, we all clearly understand that if a person speaking to us is too far away from us physically, we are going to struggle to hear what he/she is saying. Please understand that this same principle holds true in the spiritual realm as well. If we are not walking closely with our Shepherd, we will strain to hear His voice!
The other truth that I want to unpack here relates to our “knowing” the Shepherd. Jesus says He knows His sheep and His sheep know Him (v.14). What I have learned first hand in my walk with the Lord is that knowing God through personal experience is radically different from knowing about God from what others have written, even the Bible. I know that I can definitely rely too heavily upon my mind and all of the vast knowledge about God that I can cram into it! And while knowledge is good, I know that knowledge about someone can become a poor substitute for truly knowing someone, even God! While our churches and Bible studies and even Christian schools can be wonderful environments where we can learn about God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, somewhere in all the attaining of knowledge about Him, we can become lost in the actual knowing and experiencing Him. Our Lord knows us, but we must get to know Him as well in order to have more faith and trust in Him and in order to follow Him more closely. Knowing about God is only part of the equation of our faith experience. Our pursuit of God and “knowing” Him has to extend beyond what we are taught about Him, and that, my friends, begins in our hearts/spirits!
This “knowing” then most certainly requires time on our part beyond the time that we may spend reading the Word or about the Word, participating in Bible studies, memorizing scripture, hearing sermons, etc. It involves time spent one-on-one with Him, talking and listening! Next, comes the obeying part which is simply putting into action what we have learned and heard [from God]!
Far too many [professed] Christians in this world know a little, or a lot about God, but still don't know Him well, and in some cases, I dare say, they do not know Him at all. I am not playing judge here as I am in no way pointing fingers at anyone and their salvation; however, I do believe it is important for each of us to take this point very seriously. Some have even turned from the faith because they never came to know the Shepherd that they had learned all about. This makes for a shaky foundation that cannot stand the test of time and the trials of this life.
When I was teaching God's Word weekly in a women's Bible study a few years ago, I quickly came to realize that the best way for me to fully understand a biblical topic or idea, and then effectively teach it, was to “live it” and openly share what that looked like. And without fail, if I had no previous personal experience to draw upon for a particular teaching, God would give me one the very week that I was preparing! I learned then to trust God emphatically to provide me with what I needed weekly in order to teach and to experience His living Word in my life.
My final point, regarding “knowing” God as we should, is that without this type of relationship, we have no compelling personal testimonies about God to share with others. If our testimonies don't go beyond our salvation story, then we need to reevaluate our walk with the Lord and see “where” we have been going and “if” we have been following well. Perhaps it is time for us to put into action all of the knowledge that we have obtained about Him and step out in faith in our lives to experience Him. When we do, we will begin to see God in very real and tangible ways in the circumstances and details of our lives. When this happens, we should find it difficult to NOT talk about what God is doing in our lives and how we see Him in all of the details. In the process, we may even need to temporarily close our Bibles or our books about God and begin to have some “face to face” time with Him, seeking His direction, His will, and His voice for us personally.
Our greatest desire in life should be to “know” Him and to be “known” by Him - our personal Lord and Savior. Can you confidently say that He knows you and likewise that you know Him? It might be time to do a little soul searching for the honest answers to both of these questions!