Truly knowing God begins with accepting His salvation. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, we are dead in sin (Colossians 2:13). A dead person cannot raise himself to life in order to come to know anyone. However, once we have accepted the gift of Christ through faith, we can begin to truly know God. The wonder of salvation is that we are not only saved out of an eternity in hell, but to a life in Christ. We are invited into fellowship with God (John 17:20-26), made part of His family (Romans 8:15-17).
After salvation, knowing God starts with hearing what He has to say about Himself. Though we cannot know God fully in this lifetime (Isaiah 55:8-9; 1 Corinthians 13:12), we can know Him in part. He has revealed certain things about Himself to us. We find these revelations in God’s written Word—the Bible—and the Word incarnate—Jesus. We also glean them through creation, which is His general revelation to all (Romans 1:20). Believers have been given the Holy Spirit so that we can make sense of God’s Word and perceive the things He reveals to us (John 16:13).
Along with reading Scripture, we also engage in things like prayer, fellowship, and worship. God desires to have a personal and intimate relationship with us. We grow that relationship as we would any other – through time, conversation, sharing our hearts. We study the truth of the Word and also pay attention to our experiences. We ask God for His guidance. Jesus said, “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). We have been invited to seek God. We can do so boldly (Hebrews 4:16).
We also come to know God by obeying Him. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. … You are my friends if you do what I command you. …You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:4, 14, 16-17). When we obey someone, we begin to understand his desires. When we obey God, we also experience the blessings He has for us because His commands are meant for our good. Abiding in God is one way we come to know Him; and when we do, our attitudes and actions will begin to reflect God’s character (Matthew 12:33; Galatians 5:22-24; Ephesians 2:10).
Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) sums up the key to truly knowing God: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” First, we must have faith to believe in God. Then we must understand His character – that He has good things in store for us. Finally, we must seek Him earnestly. We are called to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). Knowing Him is a life response to His love for us. As we engage daily life, we do so with God on our hearts and in our minds (Colossians 3:17).