SBTS chapel live blog: Bruce Ware – Jeremiah 9:23-24

Communications Staff — September 10, 2009

Preacher: Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary.

Text/title: Jeremiah 9:23-24 – Knowing God: The Sum and Substance of Life.


In “The Knowledge of the Holy,” A.W. Tozer writes that the most important thing about us is what comes into our minds when we think of the question: “who is God?”

We were made to know God. We were created to know God: this is the sum and substance of life.

The true good and lasting satisfaction of people and the glory of God is at stake in us knowing Him.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

Jeremiah 2-10 details a litany of Israel’s sins against the Lord. In 9:3-6, the Lord declares that Israel does not know Him. The reason Israel is living out lives of sin is because they have left the one path God intended them to walk on: the path of knowing Him, which would produce righteousness, obedience and faithfulness.

To fail to know God – don’t be deceived – is to travel the path of destruction. To know God is to travel the path of life, goodness and glory to God.

Don’t esteem riches, might or wisdom – all gifts from God – as your glory, as your boast. These things are not of supreme value. God is of supreme value.

We should not boast in our riches, might or wisdom (1) because we cannot take credit for any of them. What do we have that we have not received? Paul asks in 1 Corinthians 4:7. Any wisdom, riches or power that we have come from God. Job recognized this. Every good and perfect gift is from above (Js 1:17).

We should also not boast in wisdom, power or riches (2) because there is something that is surpassingly greater, infinitely more glorious, to boast in. Boast in this: that you understand and know me, says the Lord.

Understanding and knowing God

We should have actual, factual insight into who God is. We have a lot of work to do as Christians to shed false conceptions about God. How tragic when the conceptions we have of God from the culture around us and not God’s self-revelation: Scripture. We must be open to being corrected by the Word of God our understanding of who God is.

9:24 reveals that the Lord practices steadfast love, righteousness and justice. This is not a full description of the attributes of God. This list does reveal some characteristics of the Lord that Israel was not mirroring. Knowing God necessarily results in the character of God being formed in us and coming out of us.

Canonical witness to the fact that knowing God is the sum and substance of life

Isaiah 11:1-9: This speaks of the new creation as says the elements of the new creation will be true because the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.

Philippians 3:7-11: Why do I live? What is my purpose? Why have I been redeemed? Paul asks. It is to put aside everything I thought was of greatest value in my life in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Going from knowing God to knowing Christ is not a change of subjects. We have not changed the subject. We have grown the subject. We have enriched the subject.

Consider John 1: what did Jesus portray in visible, physical form? The glory of God Himself. The greatness of God’s grace and truth.

Consider John 14: Jesus says if you have seen me, you have seen the Father. Jesus portrays the Father, in physical, visible form.

Consider Hebrews 1: Jesus, the Son of God, is the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of God.

We have not switched subjects, we have enriched our subject. We have a fuller revelation of God in Christ.

Paul is understanding the fullness of what it means to know God. As we know Christ, we know God.

More on Philippians 3

Paul says he counts all things as loss compared to knowing Christ. Paul is saying that anything we think of as valuable, we should count as loss compared to knowing Christ. Everything else is put in its place. What is primary is one thing and one thing only: that we know Him, know Christ. That we may be found in Him, knowing Him, the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Christ’s reason for living becomes my reason for living, so that I enter into His life, character and ministry and accept everything that comes with that, that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul says he counts all things as rubbish, a very strong word, so that He may know Christ. You cannot love God and mammon. You must recognize mammon for what it is: a gift from God to be used for His glory.

You must decide if you are going to boast in you, or boast in Christ.

The sum and substance of life is this, that we may know God. This is why we live. This is what we have been made for, this is what we have been redeemed for.

3 steps for growing in the knowledge of God

1. Examine your own hearts.

Ask yourself this question: What in this world do I consider of great value and why? Probe a bit. See what is in there, what drives you to some of the attainment that you seek. Get to the heart of your own heart and uncover the hidden idolatry of your loves and affections. Expose sin and turn from it.

2. Meditate on the majesty, character and works of God

What in God, especially manifest in Christ, should I consider of greatest value and why? Get at the heart of God’s own heart and uncover the splendor and glory that must become your greatest love and affection.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 over and over and over and over and over.

This is life. This is life as God intends us to live it. We live this life, we who are Christians, as Christians who are prone to wander. We must constantly examine our hearts and renounce sin. We must also constantly meditate on God’s character. It is great to do devotions every day, but why are you doing it? Why? If you are not coming to the Bible and seeking to know the greatness, majesty and glory of God, then you are missing it. And we must do this day by day by day.

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