If I were asked to define eternal, at one time I would have said, "life that lasts forever" or "life that begins when I get to heaven." But my answer changed when I came across John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." The more I think on this verse, the more I realize that it is a very rich verse.
As children grow up there is a progression in the way they relate to others. When a mom first invites a child to play with her child, she soon realizes play is not automatic At age one a child is generally content to be in the same room with a friend, but each child is playing by themselves with their own toys. The interaction is very limited to and is usually a glance at the friend every now and possibly a push to get the other's toys. Over a period of time they will learn to play with toys together and will carry out quite creative, interactive stories with each other.
When a child is first asked to describe a friend the description will be about external features like the color of hair or size. The description may also contain over behaviors like being loud, chatty, or mean. As children grow developmentally they see past the physical and communicate thoughts, ideas, viewpoints, hurts, and joys. At this point their descriptions of friends will include internal characteristics and one can get a clear idea of the character and personality of their child's friends.
I think we do the same thing with God. When we first come to Him, we mostly know about Him. When I began to understand that eternal life is about knowing God I began to search my heart to see if I viewed God as an acquaintance or a more intimate relationship. I know the Bible reveals the character, thoughts, heart, and actions of God. So I knew if there was lack of intimacy between me and Him it was on my part. I began to ask myself, "Do I really know God or do I only know about Him?" It is difficult question to answer and those who are task oriented may not give it much thought. However, those of us who are more relational by design contemplate the question long and hard and are often prone to shame in the process. To avoid that shame I've had to frequently tell myself all relationships, including the relationship I have with God takes work.
I know I am a person who needs to guard against falling into the trap of thinking of God as an ideal, a law, or a being that is high and aloof. He is a living person with whom I can have an intimate relationship in the here and the now. It is God's very nature to communicate and it's His desire for me to know Him intimately Christ used terms like servants, brothers, friends, and children to describe His relationship with us and these terms denote intimacy to me. A. W. Tozer points out in his book, The Pursuit of God, "God is a loving Person who is always present, speaking, pleading, loving, working, and manifesting Himself when we have the receptivity necessary to receive the manifestation."
God wants us to experience Him! I found the following verses that really indicate that! Notice the senses He calls us to use:
Psalm 34:8 -- Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Palm 48:8 -- Your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad
John 10:27 -- My sheep here my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
Matthew 5:8 -- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
If I'm not experiencing God continually, I need to examine my heart and discern why. It could be that I lack knowledge and can rectify that through His Word. It could be because something in my past causes me to doubt that God wants to relate to me in the same ways He relates to others, especially those named in the Bible. But a careful read of His word dispels that lie and shows me me that the people in His Word were as human as me. They were just as fail, just as sinful, and even just as victimized as me. There is not a one of us to whom God doesn't want to reveal Himself. I may at times struggle with the lie that God's daily presence in my life is for others, but the lie is from the enemy. I can choose to confess the unbelief and choose to sit before Him, soaking up His truth, exclaiming I believe and asking Him to help my unbelief.
So, how do I make our relationship with God come alive? First, I have to check my thinking. Do I think of God and the spiritual world as a reality or a fable? I must be ever be mindful that God is a person who thinks, wills, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as we do. I need to remember that to know God is to come face to face with a real person, not an idea, or a theology, or a system. Because He is holy and I am not--I can trust that a face to face meeting with Him will forever change me in some way. God desires me to experience Him and He is not now, nor ever will He play hide and seek. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." He also says that it only takes a mustard-seed-sized faith!
I can also come to know God through His Words. John 5:39 says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." If I want to know God, I can spend time in His word, not just reading it, but meditating on it and looking at it as a personal love letter from a very personal God. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still, and know that I am God." Our culture calls us to busyness and I for one am prone to rushed quiet times in which i quickly read a passage and then deliver a quick dissertation of my wants or demands. But my strength, my safety, my security, my joy, and my transformation will never come in the busy, noisy, messy places of my life, they will come in quietness at the Savior's feet as gaze at Him.
We will never really desire to spend time in God's Word until we come to recognize and believe that our God is not silent and that His Words are relevant to us today. The Scriptures will help us come alive as we that God uses His Word to articulate His love in very real and personal ways. As we begin to comprehend God's love, we will begin to respond to His love with the desire to love Him in return.
Tozer also pointed out that the people of the Bible who knew God were never completely satisfied with the depth of their relationship with God. They always longed for more. Moses, who saw God's glory in ways others hadn't expressed this desire in Exodus 33:13, "Now therefore, I pray thee, if I found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in the sight."
I do not want to settle for knowing about God. Nor do I want to let the complex society I live in or church system I participate in replace the joy of knowing God. Life and all that it holds will always have a way of drawing me away from the true treasure--but those earthly treasures can never satisfy the deep longing for God written on my heart when I was knit in my mother's womb, proof in itself that He desires a relationships with me. Knowing God requires an experience of the mind as I interact through His word, the will as I stand against temptation and choose Him, and my emotions as I sit at His feet to experience His joy and His peace.