How we know God is through the revelation of Jesus. How we live for God is through the revelation of Jesus. Jesus is the perfect picture of God and the perfect example of what it means to live for God. However, there is one last problem we need to be aware of. We don’t just have a broken creation and are a broken people, but we also have…
A broken vision…
Throughout the Scriptures, it is quite clear what the main goal of life is: to know God. As Jesus would put it in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent”. Yet, after the Fall of man in Gen. 3, a dramatic change occurred. Whereas we were created to know God and make Him known, we see in Gen. 6:5 that after humanity sinned in Adam and Eve, “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time”. Jeremiah reiterates this in Jer. 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Whereas before our hearts were turned towards God to know God, after the Fall our hearts turned away from God (cf. Eph. 2:1-3). Our hearts have become “evil” and “deceitful”. As Jesus says in John 3:19-20, rather than loving the Light (Jesus-God), men love darkness (sin) instead, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed”. And because of this, as Jesus highlights in Jn. 9:35-41, we have become spiritually blind (cf. Jn. 12:40); as Paul would put it in Rom. 3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes”.
Yet, we are not merely blinded by our own sinful hearts, we are also blinded by the ruler of darkness, as 2 Cor. 4:4 puts it, “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
To illustrate, if Jesus were a book and our vision to see him a set of spectacles, what we have done in Genesis 3 and ever since, is take the set of spectacles we have received (our vision) and smashed it (because in our hearts we did not want to read the book). Now the pages of the book are a blur or distorted. At best, we view it with a cracked lens. What makes matters worse is that we haven’t just broken the spectacles; we have been blindfolded by the “god of this world”. Things are not merely blurry; it is pitch black when it comes to knowing God.
A restored vision: the Holy Spirit
Knowing our hearts have turned away from knowing God and that our vision of Him is blinded, in Ezek. 36:26-28, God promised that He will change the hearts of His people and indwell them by His Spirit, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you… I will put my Spirit within you”. The indwelling of the Spirit will, “…cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules… you shall be my people, and I will be your God”. Similarly, God promises in Ezk. 37:14, “I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD”. The result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will be a changed heart and a new life which will result in knowing God.
And we see the Holy Spirit fulfilling these two promises in the New Testament. In Tit. 3:5-6, we see that it is through the Holy Spirit that our hearts are changed (renewed or remade), “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour”. Simultaneously, with this change of heart, Jesus points out in Jn. 16:13-15 that the Holy Spirit will also make known (reveal) Jesus to His people; “the Spirit of truth…” will, “guide you into all truth”. His mission will be to “bring glory to me (Jesus)…” and He will do it this way, “All that belongs to the Father is mine (Jesus’). That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you”. God the Father revealed Himself through Jesus (Jn. 14:6), and the Holy Spirit will make Jesus known to us (Jn. 16:15).
This revelation of Jesus was received by the Apostles through the Holy Spirit, written down for us in the New Testament. Yet, in order to read, understand and see the reality of these written words, we also need the Holy Spirit to “illumine” us or put on the light bulb in our hearts to see clearly; as Paul prays in Eph. 1:17-18, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (the Holy Spirit), so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened (by the Holy Spirit) in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you…” It is through the Holy Spirit that we “know” God in Jesus and really “know” the hope of the Gospel (cf. Eph. 3:16-19).
So where, due to sin, our hearts turned from God, blurred our vision and became blindfolded by the devil; through the Holy Spirit our hearts are turned back to God (renewed, changed, born again), the blindfold is lifted and the lightbulb is put on so that we can see Jesus clearly. To use our analogy, the Holy Spirit gives us a renewed hunger to read the book of Jesus, and gives us the spectacles (vision) to read its words clearly. So realise, every moment you spend seeking to know God, you are dependent on the Holy Spirit to turn your heart towards God and to see God. Without Him, we are lost.
As Jesus said to Nicodemus in Jn. 3:3-8, “no one can see the Kingdom of God unless He is born again… born of the Spirit”… Irenaeus (2nd Century church father) sums it up beautifully: God the Father reveals Himself through God the Son, but it is through the God the Holy Spirit that we behold God the Son. In this way, to know the Trinity (God), you need the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).