Head knowledge or heart knowledge? Most of us know the difference. Growing up on the west coast, I “knew” that the plains are flat—but until the year I saw them gently rolling uninterrupted to the horizon as we descended the eastern slope of the Rockies, I really had no concept of what “flat” meant. I can intellectually grasp that it hurts to lose a loved one, but until someone close to me died, it was only an academic principle.
Much of what we learn about God and His ways fits into one or the other of these categories. We study the Bible, listen attentively to sermons, discuss truths in our small groups. But until God reveals these things to us, we are merely learning about Him. We don’t really know.
The word “reveal” shows up many times in Scripture. It may be God giving knowledge to someone, such as in Daniel 2:19: “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.” It may be God revealing Himself: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27). In fact, there’s no way any of us could have become believers except that God chose to reveal Himself to us. We can hear the facts, but it takes the Holy Spirit to convince our hearts.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Bible studies, Sunday schools, and sermons have no value. Sometimes it helps to put something into our head first. Then, when God reveals a truth to us, we have context. We realize that He’s making real something that until now we’ve only heard about and tried to grasp.
I’ve made this analogy before, but it’s appropriate here. When I was in college, my science classes often had two parts: the lecture and the lab. In my vertebrate biology class, we heard all about the inner workings of the body, memorized the names of the bones and muscles, and saw photos of the organs. But it wasn’t until I dissected a cat in the vertebrate lab that I truly understood how it all fit together. None of us would want to visit a doctor who had only read about medicine. We want one with lots of experience! Real life often is far more complicated than standardized drawings and descriptions.
God’s revelation to us is much more than just experiencing something that we’ve heard about. In some mysterious way, He takes a truth we understand intellectually and injects it into our very being. It becomes something we can trust enough to risk putting our full weight on.
We can hear about God doing miracles in other people’s lives. He’s done plenty of them in mine, and I often share those with you. But don’t you want miracles in your own life? Don’t you want to see God’s power at work, in yourself and in others? How can we ask with confidence unless God reveals His power to us? How else can we have the faith to expect the impossible? If we are to “… be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” we need revelation that His power is trustworthy.
I write lots of posts about what God has taught me, is still teaching me. And I read books and listen to sermons about what He’s taught others. But learning about God secondhand is a poor substitute for experiencing Him for ourselves. To truly understand God and His kingdom, we are dependent on God’s revelation. That’s why Paul often prayed prayers like this one in Ephesians 1:17-19a:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
We don’t need to wait for someone else to pray this for us. We can ask God ourselves. Pray that He’ll reveal to you all that He’s given us—His presence and power in our lives now, our hope of eternal life with Him in the world to come.
If we are to truly love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, we need to know, not just about Him, but know Him better than we know our friends and family. There is no way this can happen except that He reveal Himself to us.