21st Century Discipleship Resources

Session 3: Knowing God

What is God like? How can I get to know him?

Ice-breaker

If you feel able, tell the group about your spiritual journey so far.

Q) A stranger comes into the group and asks, ‘Does God exist?’ What words would you use to describe God? How would you explain to them what God means to you, personally?

The unknown God?

Read: Acts 17:22-24.

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship —and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.”

Q) What does Paul tell the people of Athens about God?

Often people are very open spiritually but they don’t know where to look.

From the beginning of time, people have tried to define God and to find him. Checking out what the Bible says will help us with our search.

God the Creator

Q) Think about something beautiful in nature that you really love. Describe it to the group. How does it prompt you to respond?

Read Genesis 1:1-5.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning —the first day

This world did not happen by accident – God created it.

It is a mistake to read the opening chapters of Genesis as a scientific textbook. Their primary purpose is to teach us about God and to show that it is possible to have a relationship with Him. In other words, they try to answer the ‘Why?’ about creation, rather than giving us specific details about the ‘How?’

Now read Psalm 8 to the end.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Modern science is still uncovering the mysteries and scale of the universe.

Q) What do you think this passage tell us about the place of human beings in it? How significant are we as individuals in the great scheme of things?

In the New Testament we read:

(W)hat may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. Romans 1:19-20a, NIV.

However, knowledge of the natural world can only take us so far. We need God to reveal himself to us.

The God who reaches out

The Bible teaches us about God’s concern for all that he has made, and about his desire to have a relationship with us.

Apart from the Creation, there are two major ways in which God shows his love and interest in human beings. Israel

He chose the nation of Israel to demonstrate to the rest of the world who he is.

Read Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. NIV

Running right through the Old Testament is the story of how God intervened in history in dramatic ways and revealed himself to his chosen, but often rebellious, people.

Jesus

He sent his Son Jesus to earth, to show us in tangible form what God is like.

Think about the following verses:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After. Hebrews 1:1-3a, NIV.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15, NIV.

The word translated that is translated here as ‘image’ is the Greek ‘eikon’ - an exact, visible representation. As in the image on a hammered coin or the reflection in a mirror. No one has seen God, but in Jesus we can learn what he is like.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8, NIV.

Although he was God, Jesus chose to become one of us, sharing our humanity.

In the next session we will look in more detail at what Jesus shows us about God, and how a deep relationship with God is made possible through Him.

God the Father

We began by thinking about God as Creator. He also wants us to think of him as a Father.

When Jesus introduced the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples in Matthew 6:9, he told them to pray, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name’. Through familiarity it is easy to forget how radical an idea this would have been to Jesus’s first hearers.

Q) How would thinking of God as your Father affect your understanding of who he is?

For some people the image of a father may conjure up a negative picture of what God is like. The reality, of course, is that God is neither male nor female but has qualities that reflect both.

People who call the same person ‘Father’ are usually brothers and sisters. In knowing God as Father, we are introduced into his family. Think about all the brothers and sisters you now have – not just the ones you know, but throughout the world and time!

Like any good parent, God has hopes and dreams for us and wants to show us how we should live, both as individuals and as a community. The Bible is like a letter of instruction to us from our Father. If we want to get to know God, we need to find out what he is most concerned about.

For example, the Bible teaches us that God is passionate about justice and cares deeply about those who are at the margins of society.

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19, NIV.

Q) What do you think are the values there that God wants to see reflected in his children?

Getting to know God

You may not realise it but today, in this room, God is already working in your life. He is not distant or far away. We will explain in another session that this is because God’s Holy Spirit is at work in your life.

Christians experience God being with them in three ways: as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This key concept is what Christians call the Trinity and relationship is at its heart. There are some supplementary notes which will help you to think about this topic in more detail.

Your choice (home study option)

Between now and next week, read through the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. What does it say to you about the character of God, and the kind of relationship he wants to have with you?