Knowing About God In The Christian Ghetto
2012-03-02
In seminary and while living my life in the Christian Ghetto I learned a lot of knowledge about God.  I went to a Christian high school.  I went to church at least two days a week.  I am thankful for all of these experiences.  I spent a bunch of time with a bunch of Christians and learned a bunch of things about God.  We went on retreats together, bought cheesy Christian T-Shirts (that we didn't think were cheesy), listened to bad Christian Music (when we really want to listen to the real Def Leppard and not the "Christian" Def Leppard), and tried to hide everything we did from our parents, youth leaders, and Christian school teachers (we were mostly successful). 

In the Christian Ghetto I also learned how to talk like a Christian and act like a Christian.  I knew right from wrong according to the Scriptures.  I knew that Jesus was Lord and Savior and that he died on the cross for my sins. But something was missing and I knew it.  In the Christian Ghetto the line between believer and unbeliever is invisible.  Parents and children made big assumptions about the eternal destiny of so many.  These assumptions are deadly.  The line between knowing about God and of God is almost imperceptible.  Many people in the Christian Ghetto know about God but they do not know God. 

Recently, I was speaking with a long time friend who has lived in the Christian Ghetto along side of me.  When they were younger they had been involved in a tragedy that had changed their life forever.  Only recently have they begun to struggle with the repercussions of that horrific time in their life.  They are asking all of the same questions we would ask when peril comes our way--"If God is so good why did this happen to me?"  In the middle of their struggle and through conversations with me, it has became pretty clear that my friend does not have a real understanding of the Gospel and how it applies in their life.  They know the story but they don't know of the story.  They know about God but they don't know God.  Their tragedy has called the question.  They don't really know of Jesus though they know much about Jesus.  I believe that my friend's tragedy might have actually saved my friend's life rather than destroy it.  Because of this tragedy, my friend's deadly assumptions have been brought to light.  They lived in the Christian community but never knew Jesus.   

You see, in my context of the Christian Ghetto, knowing about God was often sufficient.  But there were much bigger pursuits--girls, sports, money, college, music, girls, money, music, popularity, girls, money, music and feeling good during the annual spiritual renewal week for all the girls and boys who were looking to score at the first available opportunity between retreat sessions.  In this context God was no big deal.  Knowing of God was not the great objective.  We were taught that God is most important but it never really panned out that way in real life for many of us. 

J. Packer writes, "What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?"

When I was younger I could think of many more exalted and more compelling goals than knowing God.  Today, I still struggle with having bigger objectives than knowing God.  But what can be greater than God?  What in my life can replace God?  Many of us make great and terrible assumptions about God.  We assume too much.  We assume that our knowledge about God is sufficient.  But you must have a knowledge of God not just a knowledge about God.  Packer states the difference, "We can state the gospel clearly; we can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If asked how one may know God, we can at once produce the right formula: that we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of his cross and mediation, on the basis of his word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith. Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us—rarer, perhaps, than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known. Here, too, it would seem that the last may prove to be first, and the first last. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him."

If you know of God and just about Him then:

First, your thoughts will be about God.  We have a lot of thoughts each day.  How many thoughts are dwelling on who God is and what He has done?  Many Christians are quick to share their knowledge about God, their theology and their opinions but their thoughts are not held captive to the glorious nature of God.  Your thoughts and not just your facts should be about God. 

Second, you will be bold and talk about Jesus.  There are a lot of wimps in the church.  I'm going to side with the atheist Penn Jillette--if you actually believe that God is who He says He is, you'll stop wimping out and you will step up and tell people about Jesus. 

Third, you'll stop your complaining and grumbling and find contentment in God.  Sheesh.  The church has been full of grumblers and complainers.  I happen to be in a church where the Gospel is going forth and so there isn't a lot of time to grumble and complain. When people do begin to get wilderness-Israelitish on us, we call them out.  When the church isn't bold for Jesus and thoughtful about Jesus they have much more time to complain because they are bored.  It is impossible to have knowledge of God and to continue as a grumbler. 

Are your thoughts about God?  Are you bold in Christ?  Are you content with knowing God as the greatest objective in this life?
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