Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Philosophical Transformation Series: Who is God? Comprehending an Infinite Creator

Audio Message:

Accompanying Video:  Who is God, really?

One of my favorite gospel preachers A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

We were building a foundation in the previous messages. The foundation of the structure is truth, that we can know truth, and make use of knowledge and information to understand reality. Secondly, the next layer on top of truth was science. Given that we can know truth, we can certainly know science, and through science, reason that a God who made the universe is in fact logical, and given our universe’s harmony and the earth’s ability to sustain life in such a delicate balance, it is quite reasonable to believe. Next we talked about history, given that science supports the existence of God, we looked at the biblical documents and recorded history, seeing that we can in fact trust the Bible as the word of God, given manuscript authority, historical accuracy, and a demonstration of supernatural facts in the Bible, like the fulfilled prophecies of Christ’s coming.

So now today we’re talking about Theology, which literally means, the study of God. I think it’s important that we understand though that we’re not self-referencing the Bible to itself. The Bible is the word of God, because the Bible says it’s the word of God, is a fallacious argument. But, we can reasonably say that science supports the existence of God, the Bible is historically and archaeologically accurate, and the Bible has demonstrated a supernatural ability to predict future events. One can also reason from the growth of Christianity, the personal witness of 2.1 billion Christians who testify to the divinity of Jesus, and the eye witness accounts in the scriptures that say that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. All of this makes a cumulative case that the Bible is the word of God, and Jesus Christ is a Living savior.

So we ask today: Who is God?  First, let’s look at what the Salvation Army doctrines say about God:

2. We believe that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship.
3. We believe that there are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, undivided in essence and co-equal in power and glory.  

God created all things. God preserves all things, meaning he literally holds reality together, and God is also the governor of all, he’s sovereignly in charge of reality. This infers our moral accountability to Him. And we also see that God’s nature is fundamentally triune. God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. Yet He is One God, not three. One God. And he is infinitely perfect, a statement indicating a transcendent perfection that goes beyond our natural understanding.

Next we’ll take a quick look at a section of a famous confession of faith made in 1646, called the Westminster Confession:

"There is but one only,[1] living, and true God,[2] who is infinite in being and perfection,[3] a most pure spirit,[4] invisible,[5] without body, parts,[6] or passions;[7] immutable,[8] immense,[9] eternal,[10] incomprehensible,[11] almighty,[12] most wise,[13] most holy,[14] most free,[15] most absolute;[16] working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will,[17] for His own glory;[18] most loving,[19] gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin;[20] the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him;[21] and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments,[22] hating all sin,[23] and who will by no means clear the guilty."[24]

-excerpt from “Of God and the Holy Trinity.”

This is a classic reformed statement regarding who God is. Each of the numbers in the statement reference a different scripture verse. This is actually only 1/3 of their “Of God and the Holy Trinity” statement. But I thought it would be fun to read over some of it.

We are truly exploring a wonderful question, and what’s amazing and shocking about the search for God is that when we search after Him, He responds and comes close to us. It send shivers up my spine to think of it actually. I've studied many subjects, but to study God is to feel his presence in the room with you.

Often times what God says about himself is phrased as a question, not all the time, but many times. Just as in our scripture today the first verses were, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” God gave those words to Isaiah, probably directly into his mind, and Isaiah wrote them down. What an elegant way to address the question!

"Who is God?"  Well, a good response is, "To whom could we compare God?"  And essentially that is the best we can do. God is infinite, eternal, and all powerful. Those are three realities we simply cannot understand. We are linear as humans, we exist at a single point in time, able to reflect backwards and forwards, but we can’t see eternity. We just can’t. We can hardly comprehend what the word means. Which is why many skeptics will ask, well if God created the universe, who created God? And its just like… what do you mean? If God could be created by something else, he wouldn’t be God. The thing that created Him would have to be God, which then becomes an infinite regression, a fallacy of logic. But that’s how many think; in human terms. But ultimately there has to be something at the very beginning, with no beginning and no end. Many thought maybe it was the universe, but scientists today know that the universe had a beginning. That leaves, God, who must be infinite. Which we can’t understand. Which is tough.

So the best way we have to at least glimpse some of who God is, is through comparisons. And we certainly have reasonable comparisons, after all, if God made all things, then everything offers at least some reflection of who He is. Just as if I paint a painting or write a story, certain things in those works will display who I am.

Let’s look at who God is from two perspectives, first, How God relates to us, in other words, How God connects to us. and secondly, what God says about himself in the holy scriptures.

You can open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 40 if you'd like, that’s where we’ll be looking at God’s relational aspects.

First of all God shows that he is Father. The way a son or daughter relates to dad, gives us some clues as to who God is. Like children to a dad, God our Father firmly insists that we are accountable to him. Yet he is so tender with us, that he invites us through the Spirit to call out “abba” which means “daddy.”

Any of you remember the game you played as kids, “my dad is the strongest?” With my cousins, Travis would say, “my dad is the strongest dad in the world.” And Ben would say,”My dad is even stronger than that.” And Then I’d say “Yeah well, my dads stronger than Chuck Norris.” When we’re young we look up at our dads in awe of their strength, and ability, and firmness and resolve. In the same way God calls us to reflect on his ability, wisdom, and majesty.

God’s wisdom is beyond measure, his greatness beyond all we can comprehend. Isaiah chapter 40 verse 10; “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm.”

Secondly we have God as our savior. He is our hero. Much like we see heroes in popular media, who come along and do great deeds. We see the fullness of God as our savior in Jesus Christ.

Again from Isaiah chapter 40 verse 30 “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” God is our great redeemer, the one who strengthens us, gives us hope, renews our strength and sets us to soar upon the heights.

Thirdly, God is indwelling presence. He is our leader. A good analogy I think is of Gandalf the wizard from the Lord of the Rings. We set out on a quest, and companions go along with us, our family, friends, and of course, God, the guide, the wizard, the supernatural presence with us on the journey of life. Whenever we’re in trouble, or we need help or guidance, or wisdom, we turn to the wizard, the supernatural presence with us, which is God who indwells us.

Isaiah 40:11 says “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Truly, we have a God who is tender, gentle, and full of love. God is our shepherd, our guide through the world, as He lives within us.

These are three pictures of who God is to us, and how he connects to us. We accurately see him as our Father, and our savior, and our guiding spirit. All true. Yet I’d like to direct you to a 4th aspect of God.

For the rest of this mystery of God, we turn to the name of God. God’s name is Yahweh. Which means, “I am.” And God specifically told Moses, my name is “I am who I am.” Theologians have said that this phrase points us directly to the otherness of God.

This is a vital statement to understand: God is not like us. He is not human. This is the grand mystery, the enchanting, mystifying, glorious, unimaginable fact of God. He says “I am who I am.” He is saying, I am the self existent one. I made everything. I made the universe from nothing, and I am not like you. He is not ruled by petty passions, he is not limited by human concepts, he is not stationed in time or space he is beyond time, beyond space, beyond sun, moon, galaxies or parallel dimensions. He is so far beyond us. He is a grand, shocking, mystifying, and often terrifying mystery to us as humans. He is not like us. Our thoughts are not his thoughts.

Psalm 90 verse 2: ”Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, you were God. You are God from everlasting to everlasting.” Before there was a universe, an earth or a human race, there was God. Psalm 90 verse 4 says “A thousand years in your sight

are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” Which means, God exists outside time. He probably perceives time like we perceive looking at a painting. He sees it all at once.

These aspects of God, his otherness, his eternal nature, and his timeless perspective point us to the fact of God’s otherness. He actually designed our species. He designed everything we see around us, it all comes from God’s creativity and artistic personality. But not only did he design this reality we exist in, he designed the concepts that undergird our reality. Concepts like seasons, romance, work, art, birth, music, cities, and even creativity itself. He designed time in fact. We are made by God, because God creatively decided to craft billions of souls to inhabit bodies, all because it pleased Him. Though technically speaking, you came from your parents as a conjugation of their DNA, culminating in your birth. But don’t think for one minute that God didn’t give you the most important part of you: your soul; That which transcends your bodily form.

Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real? The truth is, you are the dream. You’re the dream in the mind of God. Humanity often affixes itself as ultimate reality, but we are not. God is ultimate reality, and we are the dreams he has made, to live and to be. Yet he has put a part of himself and his nature within us, we are special, and he has placed within us a slice of infinity; that we long after eternity, though we live in a temporal state.

This is a tough thing to accept. It’s a tough thing to accept that life is not about us, but is actually about God. And it’s tough to accept that God is beyond our full comprehension. But we must accept it. There are some things that will be beyond our comprehension and only a fool could refuse to admit such a thing, as Leonardo Da Vinci said.

We are creatures, beings, made by this mysterious God. We are his people, his creation. Which is why he loves us so much. Yet it’s not about us, or his love for us, ultimately everything is about Him. Specifically, everything is about Jesus. The more we consider the enormity and magnitude of who God is, the more it should draw us to center our lives on worshiping Him, glorifying Him, and bringing everything in ourselves under his dominion. For He made us, he owns us. We are his property, His people. Designed to worship Him. 

So we should seek to understand Him. And to Know Him. Thankfully, he has given us his word. And in His word, God speaks of Himself. God says about himself:

1st John 4:8 I am love. First of all, God is love. He does not just love us, but he IS love.

Leviticus 11:44 I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. God is holy, he is perfect and thus his standard for us is holiness. He calls us to consecrate ourselves today by trusting in Jesus.

Psalm 7:11 I am a righteous judge. Rest assured, God will call us all to account. We will be face to face with Him and we will give an account of how we lived.

Jeremiah 32:27 I am the Lord, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me? God is sovereign over us, has rightful dominion over us, we are his property, and we owe our allegiance to him. He can do anything that is in keeping with his perfect nature.

Exodus 34:14 I am a jealous God. He wants us, and he will not tolerate our chasing after false gods or our own pleasures. This is a good jealousy, a jealousy that one has for those who are rightly his.

Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord who takes hold of your right hand and helps you. God delights in reaching out to us and helping us. Amazing.

Malachi 3:6 I am the Lord, I do not change. Everything around us may be changing, including ourselves, God does not change.So we should seek to understand Him. And to Know Him. In ancient times God spoke through Moses and the prophets, but today he speaks to us through His son. In fact, anyone who has seen the son has seen the Father.

In ancient times God spoke through Moses and the prophets, but today he speaks to us through His son. In fact, anyone who has seen the son has seen the Father.  Again, we can look to the New Testament gospel of John to find of several things our God says about himself. Jesus Christ our God said about himself: 

1. I am the bread of life -John 6:35, 48, 51

2. I am the light of the world -John 8:12; 9:5

3. I am the door of the sheep -John 10:7, 9

4. I am the good shepherd -John 10:11, 14

5. I am the resurrection and the life -John 11:25

6. I am the way, the truth, and the life -John 14:6

7. I am the true vine -John 15:1

God has spoken. His word is the truth. He speaks to us. He speaks about himself. God is true. He is our God and he calls us to relationship with Him, to trust in His son Jesus Christ, and to surrender to the leading of the Lord Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, God says to us today, in response I believe, to our search for Him: 

“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”

A Philosophical Transformation Series
4: Theology: Understanding God
8: Government & Law: The Unique American Experiment 
9:  The Future Destiny of Man: The New Heavens & New Earth
10: Everything is about Jesus: Closeness with Christ & Living Missionally

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