What is greater than God, worse than the devil, dead people eat it and, if a person ate it, he or she would be dead, too? The answer is "nothing," Dr. Scott Pace told OBU students.
The riddle relates to a message Pace said God has impressed on his heart for years. Pace, who serves as the Hughes Chair of Christian Ministry at OBU, shared the message during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Raley Chapel.
Rather than dismiss the riddle as corny pastoral humor, Pace invited the students to consider another series of significant questions: What do people know about God beyond their own conceptions of him, what somebody else has told them about him, or what they hope he will be like in a way that will make them feel better about who they are? Often, the answer still is "nothing," he said.
"The sad commentary about our understanding of who God is, is that our assertions about God are primarily based on our assumptions about God - what we assume him to be like, what we conceive of him to be like - rather than who he really is."
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Pace, who serves as the Hughes Chair of Christian Ministry at Oklahoma Baptist University, urges students to have a passionate pursuit of knowing God. He spoke during a weekly chapel service Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Raley Chapel. (OBU Photo by Bill Pope)
Pace shared a quote by Christian author and preacher A.W. Tozer, who said, "What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us." Pace interpreted the quote that if what a person believes about God is misguided, his or her life also will be misguided. But if what a person believes about God is true, then his or her life - and goals and ambitions - will be true, Pace said.
He offered guidance on how a person can truly know God, based on the Scripture passage found in Jeremiah 9:23-24, which reads, "'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord."
"Knowing God should be our consuming passion," Pace said, noting people are passionate about a lot of different things, including sports, studies, relationships, goals or ambitions. "You can be passionate about a lot of things, but there is one passion that God has created us to be consumed by, and that is knowing him."
The Scripture describes competing passions as wisdom, strength and riches, or, Pace interpreted, as "what you know, what you can do and what you have." While the Bible does not condemn any of those things, a person should not pursue them more than he or she pursues knowing God. The way a person can determine the foremost passion in their life is to evaluate what consumes his or her time and thoughts, Pace said.
Knowing God achieves a person's created purpose: to have a relationship with God. He said the Bible clearly indicates God will not "play peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek" with people but, rather, it reveals numerous indications God wants to be found.
"Apart from God accommodating himself to us, there would be no way to conceive of him," Pace said. "Our finite minds could not conceive of an infinite being. He is infinite and, at the same time, intimate. He is mystery and, at the same time, majesty. How can we know God? Because he has made himself knowable."
In Psalm 19:1-6, the psalmist says God's creation declares his power. Pace said creation is screaming, "God is real!" God also disclosed his person through his written word, the Bible, and through the "Living Word," Jesus Christ; who Jesus is reveals who God is. God also redeemed his people, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to allow mankind to bypass the penalty for sin.
Truly knowing God requires a person's constant pursuit, Pace said, and knowing God covers different levels of knowledge. A person can have empirical knowledge of God in that he or she acknowledges factual information about Him, such as the truths that God is holy, God is kind and God is good. Empirical knowledge is found in spiritual infancy, he said.
A person gains experiential knowledge of God when he or she experiences firsthand something he or she knows to be true about God's attributes. Experiential knowledge is found in spiritual intimacy, he said.
"It is profoundly different to say, 'I believe God is love,' contrasted against, 'I have experienced his love,'" Pace said. "It is profoundly different to say, 'I believe God forgives,' and to say, 'I have experienced God's forgiveness.' … To know God on an experiential level takes the facts that God asserts about himself, and to experience them in our lives in a practical day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis."
While most people think experiential knowledge of God is a spiritual pinnacle, Pace said the ultimate level of knowing God is embodied knowledge - God practicing his attributes through a person seeking to know him. An embodied knowledge of God recognizes, for example, that since "God has been merciful to me, I will show mercy to others," Pace said. Obedience becomes an expression of a person's love back to God. Pace qualified that level of knowledge as "spiritual intensity."
"It must be our constant pursuit to grow in our knowledge of God," Pace said. "It is a lifelong endeavor that achieves our created purpose and can ultimately be the consuming passion that brings us the greatest pleasure. This is what we were created for. This is what we're here for."