Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Secret of the Knowledge of God

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. … I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. … I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given to me, for they are yours. … My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:3, 6, 9, 20).

The secret of the knowledge of God is revealed by Jesus himself to his disciples. Jesus then charged his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). So the secret of the knowledge of God will be passed on continuously in every generation. Paul speaks of the ministry entrusted to him: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5-6). Therefore, the ministry of the kingdom of God is to bring the knowledge of God to all people who would believe in God.

And this knowledge of God means eternal life. Adam and Eve lost eternal life when they chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil over the tree of life. Since the beginning, the greatest knowledge is the knowledge of God. In the case of Adam and Eve, once they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they have lost the knowledge of God. The Bible records how Adam and Eve responded negatively to God. When God “called to the man, “Where are you?” (Genesis 1:9), Adam did not respond to God properly, but instead he answered “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 1:10). Adam did not answer God’s question properly. Instead of explaining to God his whereabouts, Adam stated his fear of God. Eve too did not respond to God properly. God’s question: “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 1:13) was answered incorrectly “The serpent deceived me and I ate” (Genesis 1:13). God did not ask Eve what the serpent did to her, but God asked Eve what she did. Instead of telling God what she did, Eve told God what the serpent did. This incident proves how Adam and Eve no longer knew God.

Since then, the entire human race has had difficulty knowing God. What we have lost, Jesus brought back through his incarnation. The true knowledge of the living God is again introduced through Jesus. When one embraces this true knowledge, one gains eternal life. This knowledge is the greatest knowledge. One may be a physicist who understands the secret of quantum theory, or a biologist who knows the secret of genetic code, but without the true knowledge of the creator of the universe, one is lost. The only knowledge that will bring us eternal life is the knowledge of the true God. So Jesus did not come to the world to be the greatest businessman, or the greatest physicist, or the greatest biologist, or the greatest mathematician, or the greatest politician, etc. but Jesus simply chose to become a teacher, a rabbi. And the knowledge that he brought was simply the knowledge of God.

This knowledge is at the heart of Christian education. To know other things without knowing God is futile. Therefore Christian education rejects any knowledge that does not acknowledge God. This great “treasure,” Paul called it, is entrusted to us who are imperfect. Paul said it wonderfully: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The greatest knowledge is entrusted to broken vessels like us to carry and proclaim. The value of the treasure does not depend on the jar. The treasure is still valuable even though the jar is worthless. However, the value of the jar follows the value of the treasure. Many people in our modern era buy things because the wrap looks very good even though the inside is garbage. No wonder that the wrap industry grows very fast due to the demand in the market. People can’t see pass the wrap. So people buy the wrap, not the actual thing inside. Paul pointed out that the wrap is nothing. The jar is broken, but the treasure is priceless. So suffering or death does not scare him from continuing his proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the true knowledge of God that brings eternal life. Paul considered his own life as worthless compared to the treasure of heaven.

But let me correct a mistake often people take following this understanding. Some people argue that because this jar of clay is worthless and that the treasure’s value does not depend on the jar, then one can degrade his life and still carrying the valuable treasure of heaven. People got it wrong. The value of the jar follows the value of the treasure. When the treasure is entrusted to the jar of clay, the jar must be chosen. The jar cannot be a rebellious jar. The jar must be an obedient jar, so whatever the owner decides, the jar will obey. This jar must first be chosen and then go through a cleaning process for it to be considered worthy to hold the treasure. The choosing and cleaning procedure can only be done by the owner of the treasure and the jar. The jar can’t choose or clean herself. The jar can’t force the owner to fulfill her demand to hold the treasure. The freedom of the owner determines what jar will be entrusted with the treasure. The same like our life. We are all jars of clay. God is the potter. God chose those who He will entrust with the knowledge of the true God. But to be able to hold on to the true knowledge, one must believe in God. But no one can believe in God, except if chosen by God and then saved in Jesus Christ. Once one is saved in Christ, the old life must be abandoned, for the new life is already given. One can’t claim to be saved in Christ but still “wearing” the old life as his dearest. Therefore, the chosen can’t live a worthless life and carry the knowledge of God. For the person carrying the knowledge of God will be transformed by the knowledge so that he/she will not live a worthless life. Back to the argument above, that the treasure’s value does not depend on the jar. This concept is true. The meaning is that the treasure’s value can’t be judged by the actual value of the jar. The treasure is far more valuable than the jar. It is the jar that has increased in value when the treasure is put inside it, not the other way around.

Jesus sacrificed his life for the purpose of the knowledge of God to be revealed to his people. Paul, received his commission from Jesus himself, sacrificed his life for the purpose of the knowledge of God to be passed on to his fellow believers. All the apostles, the prophets, and the saints of God of all ages, sacrifice their lives for the knowledge of the true God to be spread to the ends of the earth. Thus, as Christians, as educators, we are all carrying this treasure to be proclaimed to all people, and to be passed on to the next generation of believers until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Consequently, all Christian educators must know this knowledge. We must accept it by faith, and we must let this knowledge of the true God penetrate and transform our lives. We should no longer live like when we were still in the dark. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God has lightened us up, and the life we live now must be the life of light.

The secret of the knowledge of God is that this is the only knowledge that brings the knower to eternal life. But one cannot know without believing. But one cannot believe without totally committing his/her life to the owner of the knowledge. For one cannot pick and choose what piece of the knowledge to be kept and what is not. To accept the knowledge of God, one must accept its entirety. It’s a one package deal. Either one accepts it whole or not at all. Therefore, Christians carry in us eternal life. No life can be compared to this. Eternal life is the greatest life. Humans’ course during life is to learn a certain way of life. Whatever we deal with if it does not deal with life, then it is meaningless. All philosophies always deal with life as the ultimate value. There are many ways of life that is being offered in our world. But the knowledge of the true God offers a certain kind of life that might not be desirable for some people. This knowledge cannot be accepted easily by all people. Only the chosen can accept this knowledge. This fact bears consequences. Since this true knowledge is unpopular, then rejection of this knowledge is common. Rejection does not stop at merely rejecting the formal knowledge, but rejection usually escalates to the rejection of the person carrying the knowledge. This happens because this knowledge deals with the very core of our human life. Rejecting this knowledge means rejecting the eternal life. The weight of the rejection presses heavily not on the knowledge but on those who reject the knowledge. However, the messenger suffers an effect of the rejection, for many times the rejection manifests itself in the removal of the messenger from the face of the earth.

A simple knowledge, the knowledge of the true God, determines one’s life and death. This knowledge of the secret of the knowledge of God should have made us Christians to be more eager to proclaim it. Not only to proclaim the knowledge but to live the transformed life accordingly for the confirmation of the treasure entrusted within us. Paul’s defense to the Corinthians is an important defense due to the fact that false teachers were attacking his character for the sake of refuting the gospel that Paul was entrusted with (2 Corinthians). The false teachers threw cheap shots to undermine Paul’s integrity and assassinate his character so his message could be discarded in Corinth and replaced by the message the false teachers were bringing. Paul’s appeal to the church at Corinth was for them to embrace the real truth that they belong to God. Paul did not defend himself for the sake of his own fame. But Paul defended himself so the church of Corinth would not abandon the one true God. Paul argued strongly for the Corinthians to truly know the value of the treasure without judging it according to the jar. Not surprising if Paul wrote the love letter to the Corinthians to convince them of the truth. In fact it is God who wrote the letter through Paul to express his true love to the church. To illustrate Paul’s defense as actually an act of love, I will use the analogy of the family. Say that a kid is being raised by his parents and his parents love him very much. Then one day this kid goes to school, then in school his teacher tells him that his parents are fake. Then when this kid goes back home, he immediately raises the question whether his parents are his true parents. What would you feel if you are his parents? As a parent if my kid suddenly raises a question like that because of the information she got from a certain teacher, I would definitely defend my integrity and reveals in detail that I am truly her parent. My act of defense is not for the sake of my fame, but it’s for the sake of my kid to know the true truth. And it can’t be named differently other than an act of love. In the same way God through Paul (Paul himself) loved this church that he defended his paternity and Paul defended his credibility as God’s apostle.

The Fatherly love of God is being expressed here so his children will embrace eternal life, so one day they will be together with God forever. God would not compromise the true knowledge of God. This is the one knowledge that determines life and death. Such is the secret of the knowledge of God and it is the business of Christian Education to continue to pass it on.

* The Business of Christian Education XVIII

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