So I belong to a parish called the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy in Lekki, Lagos and we are always being told how fortunate we are in the parish regarding the programs organized for our spiritual growth. I know that our parish is always busy with one thing or another but after today’s seminar, I truly feel blessed to be part of this parish. We are to embark on a 30-day workshop on Discipleship Training and we started with what I would call Catholicism 101 – knowing God.
The facilitator started off by stressing that Christians do not have the same God as those who follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism or Islam. We worship One Triune God while they worship more than one God which may include carvings of stone and metal as well as animals. While, in the case of Islam, they clearly deny the existence of the 3 persons of the same God.
He then explained that we are made to know God and to relate with Him. This reminds me of the image I keep on getting whenever I think of God in the Garden of Eden, when God would come down to fellowship with Adam and Eve. He stressed that although we are familiar with this need for intimacy and to know God, we must transcend from this head knowledge to an experiential knowledge of God. He summed this up by saying that the longest journey to make is from the mind to the heart while the highest mountain on earth is the mountain of ignorance.
HOW MUCH DO I REALLY KNOW GOD
The facilitator made this simple point – that we can only worship God based on our knowledge of Him. So, honestly – how much do you really know God? I remember telling someone that if you think you know someone, get married to them and then you will realize that you haven’t even started. This isn’t quite the same with God. James 4:8 assures us that if we draw close to God, He will draw close to us, as this is His ultimate longing. Can you imagine how amazing it is that the almighty God would want to draw close to use mere beings?
Reference was made to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who knew their God. It was this knowledge of God which made them ready to die for Him and suffer persecution. He then posed a very personal question of whether we would have such courage if under persecution. The sad reality is that a few hours away in Northern Nigeria, people are facing such persecution daily. What would we do in their situation when faced with death? Would we deny our God? I recently watched a movie on Peter where the Roman emperor Nero had offered to spare Peter from being crucified if he denied being a Christian. Instead, Peter asked that he be crucified upside down, having found himself unworthy to die as Jesus had died. So what is that thing which pushes people to sacrifice their being? It is that they know their God and inspite of their impending persecution, they hold firm.
He continued by revealing that the main way to know God is by reading the Bible. He pointed out that people can deceive us, as seen in the rise of religious cults where their leaders pose as prophets of God or even God Himself. This shelving of the reverence of God reminds me of the reparation which we are called to do for such sacrilege. If we really knew who God is, we would not wait to be told how to know Him because we would take the initiative and rush to know more and more about him, as we continue to be students of the Word.
NATURE OF GOD
The facilitator stressed that we must know who God is. Not know about him, but know him personally and as we journey in this knowledge, we would come to know so many aspects of His nature. She listed the following attributes of God:
- God is unchangeable: This aspect of God always brings comfort to me – to know that God is faithful and will always be true to His Word.
- God is Spirit : It is this very nature that allows us to connect to God with the same Spirit which he breathed into us. We are spiritual beings and we are from the Supreme Spirit – God Himself.
- God is eternal: This is a fact which I cannot wrap my head around and is captured in our prayer “Glory be to the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit As it was in the beginning, it is and ever shall be world without end. Amen.” To not have a beginning or an end and to have been in existence in the past, be in the present and be forevermore is surreal.
- God is omnipresent: This presence of God is one which David treasured in Psalm 51:11 where he prays that God’s presence should not be taken from Him. There is an awesome feeling you get when you tap into the presence of God which is all present and we must be grateful to Him for allowing us to access Him wherever we find ourselves.
- God is omniscient / all-knowing: God is Wisdom so it follows that He is all-knowing. He knows how things will end up and in His loving nature, He gives us the free will to cooperate with Him.
- God is the Creator: Even science falls short in its inability to explain who made the atoms which brought about the universe. Genesis 1:1 answers this existential crisis by revealing that nobody created God – “In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” Simple!
- God is personal: This is where we must get to in our journey to discipleship and knowledge of God. Since God is personal, He longs for us to enter into a relationship with Him. God has emotions and God longs to connect to us on a personal level.
The facilitator explained that the more you get to know God, the more you discover that God knows you more. She stated that we must go beyond what we know and realize that God is beyond a description. This inability to fully describe God was brought home to us when we watched a brief clip called the Cosmic Eye which I urge you all to google to ponder upon. It shows just how insignificant we are in the scheme of things and yet God loves us with an unfathomable love. David understood the awesomeness of God in Psalm 8:4-8 where he said “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor; the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! “
The speaker ended by repeating that our appreciation of who God is, is necessary if we are to be disciples of God. Do we really understand the words when we sing “I have a very big God o; He is always by my side?” She mentioned that if we truly internalize the words, then we would see it as an utmost privilege to be God’s disciple. We must not let this opportunity pass us by. Who is God to you? See you at Day 2.