Monday, July 28, 2014

What is God Like?

What is the higher pursuit, but to know God?  But how can a finite being like myself, yourself, understand an infinite being like the God of the universe?  We cannot fully understand him, just as we cannot fully understand a stranger, a friend, a lover, or ourselves.  But we don't need to have a perfect understanding of our friend the divine creator of heaven and earth.  We can know things about him, know what he is like, and by that gain a better understanding of our heavenly Father, and indeed have a better, richer, fuller experience of the God of heaven and earth on a daily basis.

Let's begin.  I'm already said a few things about God, haven't I?  He's infinite, and we are finite.  What does that mean?  Since the human soul is indeed eternal, to say we are finite beings I would be saying that we are beings that exist within time that have a definite starting point. 

God is infinite.  Let's look at Exodus chapter 3:

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord,[d] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation."

God's name "I am who I am" is a statement of self existence.  No one created God.  He is.  Sometimes people don't like the idea of an uncreated first cause.  But you have to have one.  Otherwise there would be no end to anything, we'd just have to keep jumping back to who created what and it would never end.  It doesn't make sense.  There has to be, logically, a first cause that is uncaused.  That's God.  If you can't understand it, can't comprehend it, that's fine neither can I really!

Revelation 22:13 says "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."

Alpha is the first letter of the greek alphabet, and omega is the last letter of that alphabet.  Such wonderful language, beautiful written  It's very mysterious.  How can God be infinite, uncaused, eternal, all powerful, yet be the beginning, the end, the first and the last?  

God is outside time is what the author is getting at.  Time is a dimension of our existence as human beings.  As I write these words, time is passing.  And more time will pass while you're reading the words.  God is not only here with me in this moment in time, he is in every future moment and every past moment, eternally present at every moment in all history, and beyond time itself.  

It is true to say that God has chosen to step into the experience of time, when he came in the form of Jesus Christ.  During that time he experienced time as a human would, moment by moment.  

Sometimes we can dig in so deep, study so much scripture and learn so many apologetics but really who is God?  What is he like?  What does he do?  

1 John 4:Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.


 Love is so important to the character of God that he is said to be love.  One could write ten volumes on the relation of love, what is love, why is God love, what are the areas of love, what is tangible love, what isn't love, and how far does love go, but I won't step into that arena at this moment.  I would be writing for days.  

John 4:24 (ESV)
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 


 God is love, God is also spirit.  Most theologians believe this is a reference to the immaterial nature of God.  God is not a biological life form like I am, or you or your dog is.  He is spirit essence.  So is he plasma?  Matter?  Anti-matter?  Energy? Dark matter? Is his elemental makeup similar to the Higgs Boson particle?  I haven't any idea.  

Here's a mind-bender: Do you think they speak english in heaven?  Of course they don't.  You could possibly argue that they might speak hebrew or ancient greek, but highly doubtful.  There is most likely a heavenly language.  Isn't that intriguingly mind boggling?

It's important to explore these issues.  Sometimes I feel so tied to a bolder of "acceptable conservative theology" that I'm trapped in a boring little bubble, and if I don't prang off the same dull lines that have been repeated since the dawn of the reformation I'm going to be publicly expelled.  And then I'll be on Youtube with fifty different videos "Steckbauer EXPOSED."  Type in Rick Warren or Mark Driscoll or John MacArthur or any big name evangelist/pastor and you'll see a laundry list of accusations.  I digress.

Deuteronomy 32:4 (ESV) “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he." 

God is perfect.  Once again, beyond my comprehension.  But his perfection is one of the greatest reasons why we ought to worship God.  He is entirely perfect in all manners.  He's never made a mistake, ever.  Wow.  That's pretty foreign to me.  I think I was born making mistakes and then took it on as a lifetime pursuit.  God is perfect, he is perfection embodied.  The angels who are actually living in his unshrouded presence are so in awe and affection and adoration for the Heavenly Father they can't shut up about it, they just keep saying "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!"  His radiant perfection is that overwhelming. 


Yet he came.  He's not some far off distant perfection that snubs his nose at us in prideful snubbery.  He loves people.  So he comes.  And he makes dead people live.  The greatest issue in the history of man, death.  Everyone has 70 - 100 years at the outside and then they're dead.  Body decays, and it's done.  That is the greatest problem.  Of course today people can't even see the problem, sin, it's been carefully removed.  And we're taught to think as if we'll live forever, but we don't.  So we die in credit card debt, addicted to pharmaceuticals, miserable, half asleep and totally confused.  Maybe if church leaders stopped cowering on these difficult issues, they would be respected, instead of ridiculed as money loving hypocrites who support the status quo and their agenda.  Of course that would take genuine humility. 


I see the problem.  So does God.  It's death.  The curse.  And as sin reins to this very moment in history, the world is a very scary place.  In America we kind of have our little bubble of modern convenience, and liberals act as if the world is somehow always getting better, despite the evidence.  It's easy to forget about the two world wars that occured only 70 years ago, and the other various conflicts, and the starvation and the diseases, epidemics, and so on.  But the problem is there, sin.  And it's very very scary sometimes.  Ugly and hard to watch.  And we wonder, what do we do, what can we hold on to?


God is our rock in all this.  He is our anchor.  His work is perfect.  


 Every decision God makes is just.  It's interesting how often the idea of justice comes up.  Justice is so important to people.  Until we're the ones under the lash.  "Put that pedophile away for life!"  But then it's us, in trouble.  Made a mistake..  Suddenly we want mercy then.  I need a lot of mercy.  And I need a lot of grace.  Because I screw up and make mistakes everyday.  


God is perfect, just in his decisions and upright in all his ways.  We can trust that.  Look over the scriptures, the Gospel accounts.  Does Jesus, who is God, commit even a single sin in those extensive accounts?  He does not.  


God is present, everywhere.  He's here with me, around me.  Amongst the room, watching, listening, encouraging me.  But he's also within me, the Holy Spirit, filling me as I write and placing the right thoughts in my mind.  Yet there is another force at war with that spirit, the flesh.  


Exodus 33:14 (ESV) And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 


See, as humans being our whole existence is dependent on God.  We were made to live in close connection to him.  Without God it's like unplugging a laptop.  The battery comes on for a few hours but eventually it shuts off the display goes gray and it doesn't function.  

 That's why the idea of hell is not some spooky lava pit.  Not at all.  Hell is just a word in the greek language closely related to a terrible place.  This "place" is eternal disconnection from God.  Someone lives their whole life, getting offers from God, from their Christian neighbors, "Come this way, this path."  "See look at this evidence for God's existence"  "No."  "I see how much pain your in addicted and lost, come to faith in Christ, he can help you!"  "No."  And the answer is always "No"  or "Well, maybe later" and eventually God says, very well, your will be done.  578 times in your life I had people offer you the gift, all those times you refused it.  So be it.  And that person gets to spend eternity exactly how they desired, disconnected from God.  


"Those who don't want God in this life will not want Him in eternity" -Ravi Zacharias.


Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high


Jeremiah 32:17 Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 


God understands our struggles.  He understands us more than we understand ourselves.  Through his son Jesus Christ, he brings us from death to life, and by his Spirit he changes us painstakingly from bad people to good people.  It is God's will that we be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3).  The offer, the hope, the glory, the encouragement, the objective truths of the faith never change.  God is forever unchanging.


Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 


There are so many aspects to God, so many scriptures to reference. 


God is power.  He can do anything, the one who brought the universe into existence will also resurrect our bodies for eternal life.


God is glory.  Oh the mystery of glory.


God is shrouded at this time in history.  But we Christians will see his face.


God is love.  His affection for us is overwhelming and bounding, binding, warm, complete, and we may take refuge within his shelter.  


God is spirit.  He is present within us and about us, and elsewhere, in other places and other times.


God is justice.  His decisions are right.


God is mercy.  His justice is perfect, but in perfect justice levied with endless love, there comes mercy.  Yet even further mercy gives way to grace, a state of justified completeness declared over your soul and mine before God, by the incredible, unstoppable, boundless, shocking, admirable gift of Jesus Christ the perfect sinless one who died for you and I, while being mocked and ridiculed, hung from a cross to die slowly he called out, "Father, forgive them they don't know what they're doing."


Wow, that's love.  

One could get very deep into searching out God's aspects, his ways and means.  But often it seems like we try to pin down his methods and put him in a box.  He has more methods than we can comprehend, and when we think we've noticed a way in which he acts in the world, he surprises us a moment later with a different approach to work on and with his children.  It's humbling.  He is so much more complex than me or you, yet so infinitely simple in his perfection and grace given.  He is just the kind of God I can worship.  I couldn't worship a different kind of god who might stand far off, or act in unjust ways.  


So it's a beautiful scenario.  I found just the perfect God to worship in the God of the Bible, the mysterious one who calls himself "I am who I am."  He is God.  And amazingly, God is also real.  The truthful inspection of science, history, art, entertainment, philosophy, archaeology, theology, and other areas of discipline all lead back to one idea: God.  Science in the first cause, history in the Biblical documents, art and entertainment at the level of awe and magnificence, philosophy in the ideals projected from the gospels of Jesus Christ which empirically show to be the ultimate way of peace, archaeology in the remains of civilizations, the historical manuscripts, and the evidences that suggest the Biblical writers were writing the truth, and the theology that explains the various aspects of what we today call Christianity.. but which is boiled down simply to a relationship between me and the Creator of the Universe, made possible by Jesus Christ who intersected into human history to show a beautiful way, and to make dead people like myself lost in sin, live again.


 God bless you all. Amen.