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The passionate pursuit of the knowledge of God

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31–32

I remember a stained-glass window that adorned the library of my college. It was situated above the stairwell at the second-floor landing. In leaded letters, the words in the window declared, “Knowledge is power.”

Every time I ascended or descended that staircase I cringed at those words. I did not like them. There was something arrogant about them. I could not deny that the words were true. Knowledge is power. But the lust for power is not a sound motivation to gain knowledge. The Bible is right: knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Even the pursuit of the knowledge of God can become a snare of arrogance. Theology can become a game, a power game to see who can display the most erudition. When it is such a game, it proceeds from an unholy passion.

A holy passion is a passion inflamed by a godly motive. To pursue the knowledge of God to further our understanding of him and deepen our love for him is to embark on a quest that delights him. Jesus encouraged such a pursuit (John 8:31–32). Jesus linked knowledge not with power but with freedom. Knowing the truth is the most liberating power in the world. Not the power to dominate; not the power to impress—these are not the powers we seek. But the power to set free, to give true liberty, is tied to a knowledge of the truth.

We all want liberty. We want to be free of the chains that bind us. That liberty comes from knowing God. But the pursuit of that knowledge may not be casual. Jesus spoke of “abiding” in his Word. The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm, pressing with violence to get in.

The pursuit of God is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for the duration. We do not graduate until heaven.

Coram Deo

Echo this prayer of the Apostle Paul: “. . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

Passages for further study

  • Romans 3:23–24
  • Romans 6:7
  • Romans 8:32

Adapted from Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul, one of the country’s leading theologians.

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