Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
So, to know God is the have eternal life. How can we know God?
We can read the Bible. I have heard many people say that the Bible is the word of God, and by word they mean the Word, the logos, spoken of in the New Testament. (The Word is Jesus, and so saying the Bible is the Word is saying the Bible is Jesus, which I believe would be idolatry.) By that thinking, knowledge of the Bible would be knowledge of God.
Sorry, but no. Reading the Bible will help you to know about God, but it will not help you to actually know God.
The problem comes from a misunderstanding about what the word know actually means. The Hebrew word for know is yada. It has a broader meaning than our English word know, which includes understanding and experiencing. It isn’t just about being informed intellectually.
Don’t forget, the word know was also used for sex.
I think that is the best metaphor for the kind of knowledge that we are talking about here. Obviously I am not talking about actually having physical sex with God. I mean the intimacy that comes from making love. Knowing is to be one with the other. To be lost in the other. You must lose yourself if the other to really know them. And that is eternal life, to lose yourself in God and be one with Him. To know Him as He knows you, and become like Him.
You can’t get that kind of intimacy with someone by reading a book about them. Ask anyone who has ever looked at a Playboy centerfold. I am not trying to be blasphemous or insulting, I just want to point out the difference.
That is the problem with so much Christianity today. We think knowing about God is the same as actually knowing Him. Too many people stop there. Worse, they merely accept what they are told. They have no experiential knowledge of God. This is why so many Christians are the most judgemental, self-righteous, holier than thou people you will ever meet. They think they know God, but since they have never gone to the source all they have is second or third hand(at best) information about Him. This is why so much of Christianity is so toxic.
We must go back to the source. Read the Bible, yes, but don’t stop there. Pray. Talk to God, but don’t just talk, listen to Him. Meditate. Contemplation is where you meet God. It is in contemplation that you will find yourself falling into the infinite abyss that is His love. It is there that you will lose yourself in Him. You will know Him, and you will begin to become like Him.
This brings up one other thing. Obedience. If you are having trouble obeying God, it might be because you are putting the cart before the horse. You won’t obey God until you love Him. You won’t love Him until you know Him. And you won’t know Him until you spend time with Him in prayer. You have to go through the process of transformation. Call it what you want, transfiguration, sanctification, born again, being saved, it comes through experiential knowledge of God. Not through information and force of will.