It’s impossible to really know God without really knowing yourself.
It’s no wonder Satan’s got so many schemes and strategies for keeping us from seeing ourselves for who really are. If we have a distorted image of ourselves we will end up with a distorted image of God.
Clement of Alexandria put it like this, “If one knows himself, he will know God.”
Of course to truly know oneself you have to know God, which is probably why John Calvin begins every version of Institutes basically the same way.
“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.”
In other words, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of oneself are inextricably related.
To really, truly, experientally know myself I have to really, truly, experientially know God and to really, truly, experientially know God I have to really, truly, experientially know myself.
This is like super practical.
It means one of the best ways to prepare myself to really study doctrine, to get to know God is to make sure I am going into the whole study with a right, biblical, view of myself. While a lot of bad doctrine is based on bad exegesis, bad exegesis is often based on something deeper…a wrong perspective of oneself. And you know, what’s more, a wrong understanding of oneself can ruin even the best exegesis. We’re concerned with more than simply being able to repeat the right doctrines, we’re concerned with knowing those doctrines and there’s no doubt that one of the primary reasons many of the same people who are able to recite all the right doctrine don’t really know that doctrine truly because they don’t really believe what the Bible says about who they are.
What I’m saying is if we really want to grow in true wisdom then, we need to get out our exegesis tools and all that…but we must do that while getting on our knees and reminding ourselves of who we really are before God.
We can start by reminding ourselves of the fact that any gifts we have are from God. Or by thinking about how completely dependent we are on Him for absolutely everything. Or one of the best places to start, by taking a good, long, look at our own sinfulness.
John Calvin writes,
“Indeed our very poverty discloses the infinitude of benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, especially compels us to look upward…Each of us must, then, be so stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness as to attain at least some knowledge of God. Thus from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity, and – what is more – depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone. To this extent we are prompted by our own ills to contemplate the good things of God; and we cannot seriously aspire to him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves.“