Does God Know Us Personally?

No matter what you know or believe about Jesus Christ, everything He knows and believes about you is true.

   You may or may not believe that He was God Himself breaking into human history almost two thousand years ago, but this in no way diminishes His intense minute by minute concern for you.

   You may or may not be aware of Him. But He is, at this very moment, sharply aware of you.

   He knows you — as you are.

   He knows what you could have made of your life. He knows what you have made of it. He knows the reason behind every failure, behind every success. He knows the consequences of your failures. He knows the effects of every success. It is no mystery to Him how your failures and successes have marked you.

   If you have lacked human love and companionship, He knows about it. If you have been coddled by someone who "meant you well" but who weakened you to the point where you find it difficult to make a decision on your own, He knows about that. If you are a strong human personality and proud of it, He knows this, too.

   If life has offered you more tragedy than joy, this is

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no secret to God. If you are suffering physically, so that every new day stretches away pain-dimmed and heavy, He knows. He knows about your fear, all the way from its cause to its devastating effect upon you now. He is the God of the shaking hand and the tormented mind. He is the God of the heart torn by grief and the eyelids swollen from weeping. "Jesus wept." And He still remembers the tight pressure of the heavy heart; the distorted way the world looks through eyes filled with tears.

   We do not need to explain ourselves to Him. He already knows.

   We are often a mystery to one another. Deceiving our fellow human beings is an easy thing to do. Deceiving ourselves is even easier. There isn't a person who is not in some way self-deceived. In each one is at least a tinge of the neurotic. Some have refused for so long to accept life realistically that all power to see it as it is seems lost. These, the psychologist calls genuine neurotics. God is a realist. He is the only Person who can bear to look realistically at things as they are and people as they are. But He can bear it and He does.

   He knows all that is good and all that is bad in you. He knows all that is good and all that is bad in me. God is not deceivable. "He knows what is in man." And He begins from there.

   If you are a new Christian and some well meaning person is right now attempting to pour you quickly into a mold before you "cool off," thank him for his effort, but do not be confused by it. No human being can know you as you really are. And the Christian life is a life lived in a strictly personal relationship with God Himself through Jesus Christ.

   If you have just met Christ, relax. There is no possible way for you to know Him fully yet. But He brought His own love into your heart when He came, and with this love of His you can learn to understand and forgive those

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who seem to be pushing you toward a stifling, unrealistic conformity.

   Each human being is conditioned by his own particular background and environment. Even those who have known Jesus Christ personally for many years are still, in one sense, apt to be victims of some man-devised marginal emphasis. Remember this, if you are new in the Christian life. Everything you are told to do or think by some Christian friend or counselor is not necessarily God's preferred way to deal with you. Allow your mind to grasp this early and start now to form the habit of going straight to Him for counsel. Learn of Christ Himself in the Scriptures. Talk to Him in prayer. Jesus Himself said He would send the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, to teach you.

   We need one another, but new and old Christians alike need to realize that only God knows each heart's actual condition. Only God knows the depth of the old patterns formed in and out of the Christian life. Conformity is not the key to the dynamic Christian life. Jesus Christ Himself is Christianity. He is alive. He got up and walked out of that tomb. He is eternally involved with every human life, and He is involved with your life as it is now. Not as you want to make it, not as someone keeps telling you to make it. Christ is involved with you as you are. He is realistic with you and He will remain realistic.

   Other human beings can change us superficially, where our outward behavior is concerned. Only Christ can change us at the center of our beings. And I have found that He does this according to our cooperation and according to His own timetable. Not that He hesitates for one and hurries with another for some cosmic reason of His own. I have found Him to be utterly realistic in His procedure. His timetable is set according to what He really knows about us.

   Whatever the length of time involved in your personal

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walk with God, He is still working in the depths of your personality according to what He knows is there. Realization of this, if you are a new Christian, will prevent you from making the always fatal blunder of putting on a pedestal someone who has known Him a long time. Realization of this, if you are a long-time follower, will stop you short if you have unwittingly been "playing God" and trying to convert someone yourself.

   Every person who has become involved consciously in the life with Christ needs to remember that we are all in school with Him. No one has graduated. We are all on the way. No one has arrived. He is every minute intensely and equally concerned in the deep places with us all.

   A new Christian said to me not long ago, "Why, I never think of praying for you to grow in your spiritual life — I figure you've got it made!"

   What a ghastly distortion of the truth about the Christian life. Christians are merely people who have finally woken up to the frightening fact of their own desperate needs! And we remain only this. We remain just people still in need of a Saviour. Those who are believers have Him, but this does not lessen their need for Him.

   When I stand on a platform and talk about Him, He speaks through me to the people, in spite of my own weaknesses and personality twists. He is working with me, too. Just as He is working with you, with us all — as we drive our automobiles, ride trains, read our Bibles and newspapers, cook dinner, pound typewriters, speak from platforms, pray, make business decisions and sleep. "He who hath begun a good work in you, will bring it to completion...."

   And He knows us all — as we are.

   I think I love and admire Jesus' disciple, John, most of all the disciples. But I am more like Peter, as you may know yourself to be. And I have learned much about God

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Himself through tracing His actions and attitudes toward Peter.

   Just as He knows all that is well intentioned and all that is satanic in us, He also knew it about Peter. The word satan in Hebrew merely means adversary. Anything that is in itself adverse to God or to man is in the simplest sense satanic. Since God is for us, anything that harms or degrades us is against us, an adversary, therefore satanic. Jesus, when He was on earth, did not look at outward signs of righteousness or unrighteousness. Today, He still works with the inward adversaries of God and man, which only He can see and which only He fully understands.

   Peter was impetuous, perhaps hot-headed and emotionally unstable, but generally sincere. He was ready to try anything. But, like most of us, he only succeeded some of the time. Peter's story is a striking description of God Himself. Jesus gave him the name Peter, which means little rock. And as we live along with Peter through some of his ups and down, we begin to see clearly — not Peter, but His Lord, who Himself is the unshakable Rock.

   Peter hit extreme spiritual highs and lows, but I am convinced that none of it surprised the Master. He knew Peter. Not as Peter thought he was. Not as the other disciples considered him, but as he was. Peter vacillated just as we do. One day up, the next day down. But nothing he did or did not do in any way altered God's attitude toward him.

   One day when Jesus and His disciples "entered the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

   This is the question of questions. To its answer is hinged God's complete estimate of man. To its answer is hinged man's estimate of God. So far as we know, this is the first time the question was ever voiced by Jesus.

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And that day, in the outskirts of the little city near Mount Hermon, it was answered. At first, there was a babble of typical snap-judgments and downright hearsay. The disciples, we are told in Matthew's account, apparently all began talking at once: "Some say, John the Baptist; others, Elijah; others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."

   Jesus pinned them down. "He asked them, but who do you say that I am?"

   There must have been a long, sharp silence. Then Simon Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

   Peter had gone straight to the heart of everything. His answer was not only right, it contained God's total answer to every human problem. It shouted across the years to every listening heart that God is discoverable at last!

   I'm sure Peter was a little proud. He might even have swaggered a bit, trying to look pious at the same time. After all, he was the one who said it. Had he leaped ahead of the others spiritually? Perhaps, in his own considered opinion. After all, Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah." But because He knew Peter, and to save him from the satanic "adversary" of pride, He reminded him that it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to Peter, but His Heavenly Father.

   This was Peter's highest point. It was the high point in history, in fact. A human being had recognized his Creator in the flesh! And right there Jesus gave Simon the name of Peter, and said that on the unmovable rock of Peter's statement of truth, He would build His Church.

   Peter, like many of us on our good days, was in tune with heaven, and heaven revealed itself.

   But if we read on in the same chapter of Matthew's account, we find Jesus telling His disciples that He must "leave for Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, priests and scribes, and be killed and raised again on the third day." This was too much for Peter. Even with his

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new "spiritual progress," he grabbed matters in his own hands and, "leading Him aside, undertook to remonstrate with Him: Mercy on you, Lord; this must never happen to You!"

   I can see Peter pull the Lord almost roughly to one side to scold Him. "This is ridiculous, Master. Nothing like this should happen to You. Why, look who You are!"

   Jesus Christ, God in human form, turned and faced Peter. With the same concern for him as a few moments before, He said, "Peter, you get behind me, Satan, you are a snare to Me; for you are not minding things divine, but things human."

   This same complex Peter, who had heard from heaven as he identified the Son of the living God, had suddenly become earthbound! He was no longer tuned to heaven. He was "minding things human."

   Does this sound familiar? Do we not often grasp spiritual truth in our quiet times with God and within an hour or less lose our tempers or take things into our own hands like "adversaries of God?" Like "satans"?

   Does this surprise God?

   Not at all. He knows us, as we are. Just as He knew Peter.

   Did it change Jesus' love for Peter? Not at all. At the moment the hard-muscled, headstrong fisherman declared Jesus to be God's Son, Jesus knew the later moment of spiritual confusion would come.

   The day He chose Peter, along with James and John, to see His Transfiguration on the mountain, He knew that on the darkest night, when He most needed a human hand to clasp His, Peter would fall asleep in shadow-streaked Gethsemane. After the Last Supper, when Peter vowed vehemently that even if every other man on earth would forsake Him, he, Peter would not, Jesus knew what was in Peter's heart. Here He saw an incongruous mixture, such as He often sees in our hearts. Peter meant it

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when he said he would never forsake Jesus. As far as Peter knew himself at that moment, he was sincere. But Jesus quietly told Peter that before the rooster crowed the next morning he would deny his Master three times. On the dusty road outside of Caesarea Philippi, when Peter exclaimed, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," Jesus knew that the third time Peter denied Him during His dark night, he would swear about it to make his denial stick.

   Did Peter's blasphemy change Jesus' love for him?

   No.

   On the morning He rose from the dead and left the sealed tomb forever, He left word with the angel who said, "Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He precedes you into Galilee."

   He wanted to make sure that Peter knew his Master's love had not changed. He longs to make sure that we know that He knows us as we are, and that His love for us does not change. That it is in no way diminished or increased according to our defeats or victories, our so-called backsliding or progress.

   He knows us — as we are. Faithless and faithful. Trusting and doubting. Accepting and resisting. Blessing and cursing. And only Jesus Christ knows how to change us where we need changing. Only He knows where to begin and how to continue.

   He knows that we do not "make progress" with Him. It is He who makes progress with us! And we never surprise Him either way.

   He knows us and can bear to look at us and live with us — as we are.

Chapter Five  ||  Table of Contents