Do you know God, or just know ABOUT God?

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:18–19)

This week, I began to lead a book study through J.I. Packer’s modern classic “Knowing God.” In one of the first chapters, he draws the important distinction between knowing about God and knowing God. A person can know a great deal about theology, church history, apologetics, and even the Bible, but all that knowledge counts for nothing if you do not have an actual saving relationship with God. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” And as Jesus pointed out in John 17:3, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” And Jesus again, in Matthew 7:22–23: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Knowledge alone counts for nothing. Neither does simply believing in God’s existence. In James 2:19, James writes, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” Do you believe that God exists? Congratulations! You are on the same level as the demons of Hell. They also believe God exists – and have a much stronger belief than you do.

So what is missing in the life of the one who only knows about God, or in the demons of Hell? Repentance from sin and a submission to Jesus as Lord. The demons believe God is real and that Jesus is Lord, but they refuse to repent of their sinful rebellion against God or to submit to Jesus’ rule in their lives. And those who only know about God have obviously missed the central plot of the Bible, the gospel message that Jesus Christ died for sinners (1 Corinthians 15:1-3) and that all who turn from sin to trust in Him will have their sins forgiven and will have eternal life (John 3:16, Luke 24:47).

So what about you? Do you know God, or simply know about Him? And if you do know Him, how much of your head knowledge has made its way into your heart and your will? Saving faith is that faith which looks to Jesus’ death on the cross for our righteousness, and displays the evidence of God’s Spirit within by a transformed life that bears the fruit of the Spirit and good deeds. Head knowledge and belief is not enough. Just look at the demons, as James says. Turn from sin and trust in Jesus as both Savior and Lord.

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