Theology Proper: the Most Important Thing About You

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

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Theology Proper

The Most Important Thing About You

 

We are doing theology for nine weeks–why?  Because we’re trying to shrink the church size?  No, its because everybody has theology.  Often people think of theology as something for scholars, for pastors and that it’s useless.  But the reality is that everybody does theology.  Everyone has some opinion of God.  Everybody has some thoughts about who and how life after death is possible.  Everybody has an idea of what the church should be.

Oprah does theology.  Larry King does theology.  Richard Dawkins, atheist, does theology.  Your boss, your brother and your kids all have theology.  And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.  Even if you think that God doesn’t exist–whatever concept of God you have will guide your life.

Theology matters.  We all have it.  We ought to talk about it.  And today the question is–who is God?  This is the most important question you can ask.  Your answer will define your life.  This is one of the few questions where your answer matters for eternity.

Presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann said in Iowa two Sundays ago, “We too are at a crucial time today, and I think it is for us to remember, that if we do as Chronicles tells us, if we humble ourselves, and pray and confess our sins, and turn away from our wicked ways, and ask an almighty God to come and protect us and fight the battle for us, we know from his word, his promise is sure. He will come. He will heal our land. And we will have a new day.”  Is she right?

In Ogden, Utah, a couple weeks ago, at a major Jehovah’s Witness rally, Jason Rogers (one of the leaders) said that God would not allow mankind to ruin the earth.  People can live forever on this jewel if they take the time to learn what the Bible really teaches about the earth and then live by those standards.  Is he right?

In Seattle about 10 days ago, Isaiah Kalebu admitted guilt to a courtroom in a murder and rape trial of a lesbian couple by saying that “I was told by my God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to attack enemies.  I followed the instructions by God.”  Is he right?

Lady Gaga has said, “I believe in Jesus, I believe in God, I’m very spiritual, I pray.  At the same time … I guess you could say I’m a very religious woman who is confused about religion.”  So she sings, “It doesn’t matter if you love him or capital H-I-M,” and also is a strong advocate for gay rights.  Is she right?

Indian guru Sai Baba claimed to be god incarnated.  A lifetime of claiming that brought him fifty million followers and $8.5 billion.  His message is “Love all, serve all”–adopted by the Hard Rock Café because its founder is a strong supporter of Sai Baba.  Could this be right?

Richard Dawkins believes that the biblical concept of God is “very, very improbable” and equal to “Thor, fairies and leprechauns.”  Instead observed, demonstrable scientific principles guide and rule all of life.  To him, that “provides a complete and deeply satisfying explanation for all that we see and know.”  Science is god.  Maybe he’s right?

A.W. Tozer rightly said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  What do you believe about God?  I don’t know the answer to that for you, but I do know that it will guide your life and the decisions you make every day.  You will live according to your belief in God.

According to Tozer, were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, “what comes into your mind when you think about God?” we might predict with certainty the future of that man.  You will live according to your belief in God.  The real question is, are you right and accurate about who God is?  Or are you living by imagination, having a concept of God that’s not actually true?

At FBC, we believe that the Bible accurately and clearly describes who God is.  We believe that He has spoken to mankind through the Bible, and that the Bible has His exact words contained within it–everything He wants us to know.

Often we think of theology as cold and sterile and knowledge-based.  But it’s the study of God–the most excellent person that exists.  If you were to sit and study your spouse, to learn their likes, dislikes and character, you would not call that cold, sterile or knowledge-based.  Theology can be warm, passionate and cause you to grow in your love for God.  That’s my ambition for you today–for our study of God to cause you wonder, and love, and passion.

In Psalm 145, David gives praise to God, and I want that to be our starting point.  Open your Bibles there.  “I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. 4 One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. 5 On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. 6 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness. 7 They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.”

David goes on to describe God, to praise God and to call others to do the same.  David is thinking about who God is, and the result is praise.  He’s doing theology.  He’s thinking about what’s true about God, and it’s affecting his heart.  Notice how he says, “I will bless your name forever” and “I will praise your name forever.

In biblical times, a person’s name was to be a description of their character.  When we pray and ask for something in Jesus’ name, we are saying, “I ask that this would align with you, who you are, Jesus.”  Let my desires be consistent with your character.  So when David says, I will praise your name, He’s saying, I will praise your character, O God.  I will praise all that the Bible and creation tell me about you.  He says, I will extol you, I will bless you, I will meditate on your majesty and your works–You are great, I will tell of your greatness.

But verse 3 is the one that stands out to me, “His greatness is unsearchable,”—not unknowable, but unsearchable.  It’s not that he can’t know the greatness of God, because David says in verse 6 that he will tell of God’s greatness.  No, what David is saying here is that God can never be fully known.  There is always more to know about God.  You cannot search out and find all of His greatness.

If you want to search out Jon Stead’s mad basketball skills, you can eventually learn all that he can do on the court.  If you want to search out Pat Perez’s extensive knowledge of grocery stores, you will find that he knows tons, but you will reach his limits.  God cannot be fully known, not because He is unknowable, but because there are not limits to His knowledge, His character, His power, His glory or His greatness.  He is unsearchable.  And that’s the problem we face this morning.

We have less than an hour to talk about who God is.  And if we had two to three hours it would be incomplete.  If we had a conference devoted to the topic, we couldn’t cover it all.  If Chris came back from France and announced that he would only preach on the character and nature of God for the rest of his life, I’m sure it’d be good, but he would not run out of material.  God is unsearchable.  So expect to be frustrated.  Expect to leave with questions.  So we are going to cover only three questions today:

Can we know God?

Who is God?

Is there only one God?

1  Can we know God?

Yes–absolutely.  God Himself says so in Jeremiah 9:23 to 24, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

And Jesus says in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  God is knowable.  He has revealed Himself in many ways.

(a)  He has revealed Himself through creation

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

When you look at the stars, when you walk in the mountains, as you watch the ocean waves–you are seeing evidence of the greatness and glory of God.

(b)  He has revealed Himself through your conscience

Romans 1:19 says, “that which is known about God is evident within (man); for God made it evident to them.”

Romans 2:14 to 15 says, “for when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, … they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them (on the day of judgment).”

God has placed the knowledge of Himself inside each person.  His Law and His person are written on the hearts of every man and woman.  People who deny God are denying what they innately know to be true.

(c)  He has revealed Himself through Scripture

2 Peter 1:21 says, “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 say, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

The Bible contains the exact words of God, spoken to man, preserved by Him through the ages so that we would know His will, plans and promises.

(d)  He has revealed Himself through Jesus

John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Literally, Jesus has exegeted the Father.  He has made visible the invisible.  But ultimately the world, the flesh and the devil have blinded the eyes of all people to God (2 Corinthians 4:4).  We learn of God from all these things, and then we naturally dismiss and reject them, unless He removes our blindness and foolishness and allows us to see Him.

So yes, God is knowable.  But you may be blind to Him.  If you do know Him, you won’t reach the end of Him.  You won’t stop learning about Him.  He can be known when He opens your eyes and heart to see and understand.  And if He has done this for you–you look outside and the breeze, the sun, the children and the elderly all make you wonder and feel awe at the creative power of God.  If you read the Bible, you grow amazed at what God has done–then you know that theology is not dry or academic, but warm and worship-inducing.  Can you know God?  Yes.

Who is God?

Have you ever tried to answer this?  I about went nuts trying to figure out how to begin this answer.

He’s not like us–but neither is a tulip

He’s invisible–but so is the wind

He’s spirit–but that makes me think of ghosts (Slimer, Casper, Sam, Moaning Myrtle)

He’s all-wise–but so was Yoda

He’s perfect–but we use that to describe the weather

Do you get a sense for how hard this is?

Who is God?  He is the only one who has always existed.  He is without beginning and He will never cease to exist.  He created all things that exist.  He was not in need of company or praise.  His value, worth, knowledge and being were not changed or improved by what He created.  He created everything so that everything, and specifically you could enjoy Him.  He does not need your worship.  But He made you to worship so that your greatest pleasure would come from Him.  He knows you, the hairs on your head, the sand of the sea, the stars in the sky, the breadth of our galaxy, the span of the universe, and He is greater than what He has created.

The clearest way to describe God is to describe who He is.  If I ask you, who is Mark Petras, you would describe what he looks like, what he does and what he’s like.  His looks–Mark is about my height, he’s a tan Caucasian, he has graying curly hair, he’s always smiling.  What he does–Mark is a real estate agent.  He works with his wife.  Their kids are almost out of the house.  He travels to Mexico for dental work.  He runs our hospitality ministry.  What he is like–Mark is warm and friendly.  You feel like he cares about you.  He has a heart for collegians and twenty-somethings.  Mark is a servant.  He loves to help others.  That’s how we describe people—their looks, actions and character.  And it’s really not that different for God.

His looks—that’s a tough one.  What He does–the Bible is full of what He has done.  What He is like—His character and attributes—that’s tough because He’s not like us.  Often in fact, His character is broken up into two lists.  The fancy words that are used are communicable and incommunicable attributes.  Really, this just means that God and us are similar in some ways, and not in others.  Communicable attributes of God are those that are somewhat visible in man, and incommunicable attributes of God are those that have little correspondence and are totally unlike us.  So let me try and answer “Who is God?” by describing His character.

INCOMMUNICABLE

(1)  God is ETERNAL

He has always existed and will never cease to exist

Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

Job 36:26 says, “The number of His years is unsearchable.”

He exists outside of time.  Before creation, there was no time.  God created time.  He is not influenced by it.  In His eyes, it is always present.  And so a thousand years seems as a day, and a day is like a thousand years in His eyes.  God sees and knows the past, present and future with full clarity.  And He sees events in time and acts in time.

You endure time.  Each birthday marks another year of joy, pain, growth and decay.  God does not mark time in this way.  There is no birthday party for God.  He is different than us in this way.

(2)  God is INDEPENDENT

You may have had a family member diagnosed as codependent.  They live for others in an unhealthy way.  Their need for other people’s approval and appreciation is an idol.  God is the opposite of what the world calls codependent.  He is independent to the degree that He needs absolutely no one and nothing.  A baby withers without the love of a parent.  A man dies if he does not have air to breathe.  A pregnant woman requires chocolate.  Everything that exists is dependent on something.  God alone is independent of all things.

Acts 17:25 says, “nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.”

Before creation, God was not lonely and thinking that having some people around would be nice.  Without us, God would still be infinitely loving, just, omniscient, Trinitarian, and patient.  He is who He is.  That’s why when Moses asked for His name, God said in Exodus 3:14, “I AM WHO I AM.”

We need people.  Our very life is dependent on both things like food, and on people.  We are influenced by people–they affect how we think, how we feel and what we do.  God is not like us.

(3)  God is UNCHANGING

For much of his adult life, Jason Berbaum has eaten the same lunch every day–two peanut butter sandwiches on double-fiber wheat bread, an apple, peach or nectarine (depending on the season), and a protein bar.  His lunch menu is unchanging.  He talks about all the places he should eat lunch when working in San Diego, but somehow, everyday it’s the same meal.  Every photo I’ve seen of him, he has the same haircut.  The color is changing, but the cut is not.  Jason Berbaum is a rock–he is unchanging.

But that is nothing like what it means for God to be unchanging.  God’s being, nature, perfections, purposes and promises are all unchanging.  Who God is will never change.  What God has promised will come to pass.  Referring to his own patience and mercy, God says in Malachi 3:6, “For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Psalm 102:25 to 27, “Of old You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. 27 But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.”

First Samuel 15:29, “Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”

We change our minds regularly as new information comes to light.  We change over time due to the influence of people and circumstances.  God’s character, person, purposes and promises never change.  He is not like us.

(4)  God is OMNIPRESENT

Just as God is not limited to time, so he is not limited by space.  He is everywhere–not in a weird, Eastern “God can be found in your soup” sense.  It’s not that, God is the hidden substance of all things.  What we mean is that God does not have size.  When we say that He is bigger than the universe–that doesn’t mean He is slightly larger.  We mean God exists outside of space.  He created it.  He is present at every point in space with His whole being, and He is able to act differently in different places at the same time.  At the same time, He is present to punish, to sustain and to bless.

Jeremiah 23:23 to 24, “’Am I a God who is near,’ declares the Lord, ‘And not a God far off? 24 Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’” declares the Lord.”

In Psalm 139 David says the same thing.  He says that there is nowhere you can hide from God.  This means that wherever you go, God is with you.  When you pray, God is not busy elsewhere–He is there with you.  When you are feeling tempted to sin, when you are weary, when you are feeling persecuted God is not far off–He is there.  He knows what’s happening.  When you’re in your house alone, when its dark outside, when you are traveling to a faraway city God is there–He’s present.

He doesn’t need the internet, email or a cell phone to stay connected.  There’s no divine video feed that allows Him to watch everything from a distance.  God is literally there–all of Him.  He is not like us.  He is eternal, independent, unchanging and omnipresent.  Those are a few of His incommunicable attributes–ways He’s not like us.

Communicable

There are other attributes of God that overlap with who we are.  Genesis 1:26 says that we are made in the image of God.  We’ll unpack that more next month, but one of the significances of that reality is that we reflect the character of our Creator–they are shared with us.  For example–as we have knowledge, so God also has knowledge.

(1)  God is Omniscient (a fancy term for knowledge)

Our knowledge is limited.  It is ever-growing and expanding, but it is finite.  The amount of information that man has collected already exceeds the capacity of our brains to contain at one time.  But God’s knowledge is not limited.  It is not growing, but is already infinite.  He has all the information about everything that is, that was, that will be, that could be and that could have been.

Isaiah 46:9 to 10 says, “I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done.”

First John 3:20, “God knows everything.”

God’s omniscience means that He is fully aware of all that is going on in the world at every moment.  He knows the thoughts of every man’s heart.  He knows when a pineapple rots on the tree.  He knows the currents of the ocean.  He knows if the Cubs will ever win another World Series.  We know these things in real time–God knows them before they happen.  We keep records of history and can forget what happened.  God never forgets.  We dream about what could be and what could have been.  God knows exactly.  We share in knowledge with Him, but His is infinite.

(2)  God is Holy

To be holy means to be separate from sin, and devoted to God’s own honor and glory.  When we flee sin and live for God’s glory, we are reflecting His holiness.  That is his call to us.  It has two parts.

Leviticus 19:2 and 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.”  We are called to imitate God in his separation from evil.  The word “holy” literally means “set apart”–used of tools devoted to the temple.  You didn’t take home a flat bread pan from the temple and bake a veggie pizza on it.  The pans were holy, only to be used for the worship of God, and not for something so profane as a veggie pizza.  To be holy is not just to be separate from sin.  To be holy is to be devoted to God’s glory, and God is the most holy one there is.

Isaiah 6:3 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  This is a Hebrew way of saying He’s the holiest of all.  That means that He is completely separate from sin. and that He is overwhelmingly devoted to His own glory.  Our call to personal holiness is not just to be free of sin, but also to be devoted to His glory.  Our holiness follows and flows out of His holiness.

(3) God is Love

God, by His very nature, gives of Himself for the benefit of others.  John 17:24 speaks of how that love existed before the creation of the world, and it continues now and into eternity.  Psalm 136:26, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Our ability to love others is grounded in the nature of God’s love.  We give ourselves to others because He gives of Himself to others.  His love exceeds ours, for He loves those who are ugly, pitiful, disgusting and haters.  His love is defined by sending His Son to die for us.

First John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”  God is love.  It’s not all that He is, but it’s a part of who He is.  And alongside of that . . .

(4)  God is Wrath

The Bible seems to speak of God’s wrath as much or more than His love.  If God loves all that is right and good and He is devoted to His own glory, then it should not be surprising that He hates everything that is opposed to His character, plans and purposes.  He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).  God’s wrath means that He intensely hates all sin.

Exodus 32:10, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”  And as much as we fear and dread this, even wishing it were different–we also rejoice in God’s wrath.  You do not want a God who delights in sin.  You do not want a God who looks kindly upon rape, murder and child abuse.  You do not want a God who lets cruelty and evil go unpunished forever.  Our hearts rebel against such an idea.  Sin is worth hating.  Evil is hateful–it should not exist.  When your stomach clenches at the sight of abuse, you are innately sharing in God’s wrath.

The wrath of God is something we share with God–it causes us to hate sin.  It provokes us toward evangelism, knowing that God’s wrath is coming on those who reject His Son.  John 3:36, “He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  God’s delay of His active wrath toward sin is a mark of His patience and grace toward us.  He is able to do whatever He wants.  He could consume us in an instant.  That is because . . .

(5)  God is Omnipotent (a fancy word for power)

God is all-powerful.  He is able to do anything and everything that He desires.  Jeremiah 32:27 says, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”  God’s power is infinite.  He is able to do more than all He has done.  If you look at creation and think, “How amazing!”–know that God could do even more.

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”  Here is the only thing that God cannot do–He cannot do anything that would deny His own character.  For example, God cannot lie.  God cannot cease to be God.  God cannot sin.  He always does whatever He pleases.  But He will not do what is unpleasing to Him.

Psalm 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”  Our ability to rule, whether a kingdom, a workplace or a family is derived from his power and rule.  He has freedom to do what He desires.  He has given us relative freedom to make real choices and decisions that affect life.  He has given us physical, mental, spiritual and emotional power to bring results in a way that’s pleasing to Him.  In some ways we are like God.  In other ways, He is utterly unlike us.

The thing to remember is that God is not the sum of these things.  He is not a collection of attributes.  These characteristics are not even a part of who He is.  They describe His whole being.  Every attribute of God is qualified by and equally manifest in every other attribute of God.  His love and justice are not at odds and do not diminish one another.  They coexist perfectly, equally and without conflict, and each influence every action that God takes.

Some people suggest that God is angry in the Old Testament and loving in the New Testament–He is not.  He is the same.  There is not one supreme attribute of God that rules over and limits Him.  He is not subject to His character.  God defines His character, and His character then defines us.  And that should move us to worship Him.  He is amazing!  We cannot exhaust His greatness.

Even more amazing–the One who needs nothing somehow finds delight and joy in you.  So God is knowable and He is not like us, though we are somewhat like Him.  Now I’ve assumed the answer to this last question, but its not quite so easy.

Is there one God?

I saved the hard one for the end.  Scripture says again and again that there is one God.  Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”

Isaiah 43:10 to 11, “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.”

First Corinthians 8:4, “We know . . . that there is no God but one.”  But doesn’t it seem like there’s three? . . . God, Jesus, the Spirit . . .

Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Second Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”  Is there one God, or are there three?  The answer is yes–there is one God who has eternally existed as three persons–Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each person is fully God, sharing in the same nature and being.

The theological word for that is Trinity or Tri-unity–one God, three Persons, one Nature.  Think of an egg–it has a shell, it has a white and a yolk.  Each are independent, but together form an egg.  Yeah–God’s not really like that because every person possesses all attributes of God.

Think of water–it can appear as ice, as liquid we drink or as steam.  There are three different forms, but they all have the same chemical composition.  Yeah–God’s not really like that either.  That’s modalism, ancient heresy that says God appears in different states at different times.  So the Father will morph into the Son or the Spirit as needed.  But God exists as Father, Son and Spirit at the same time, while retaining the same nature.

Think of Dojo here–he is a husband, he is a father, he is a son.  He has one nature and can fulfill these roles, even at the same time.  But God’s not really like that either because God exists as three distinct individuals.  The Father sends the Son into the World.  The Spirit intercedes before the Father for us.

Pretty much every analogy that’s been suggested for the Trinity falls short.  God is three persons, one God.  We see this all over Scripture.

Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’”

Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Isaiah 63:10, “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy.”

Malachi 3:1, “’And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.”  So clearly the Old Testament speaks of God as one God and also as multiple persons, most clearly in . . .

Isaiah 48:12 and 16, “I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. 16 And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”  And our understanding of the triune God gets clearer as the Son comes to dwell on earth.

Matthew 3:16 to 17, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

And many other passages confirm this understanding of God as three persons–1 Corinthians 12:4 to 6, Ephesians 4:4 to 6, 1 Peter 1:2, Jude 20 to 21, John 1:1 to 2, 14:26, 17:24, Acts 5:3 to 4, Rom 8:27.  Scripture clearly teaches that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each fully God–individually and distinctly.  Yet there are not three Gods, three equally divine beings, and there is only one God and no others.  They are one in purpose, and one in essence and nature–one being, three persons.

Does your brain feel like its shifting gears without a clutch?  Now let’s get even crazier–each person of God has unique roles and purposes within the Godhead (which is a fancy way of saying “within the Trinity.”)

When you read about creation in Genesis, Colossians and the gospel of John, you see that each person of the Trinity played a different role in creation.  God the Father spoke the creative words that brought the universe into being.  God the Son carried out these creative decrees.  God the Spirit was moving over creation, apparently sustaining and manifesting God’s presence in creation.

When you read about redemption in the Bible, you see that God the Father planned redemption and sent the Son into the world.  God the Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption.  God the Spirit was sent by the Father and Son to apply redemption to us.  So God is one in three persons, each having the same nature but distinct in role and function.

There is an old Indian story that tells of a group of blind men who encounter an elephant.  Each man describes the elephant by what he is able to feel.  One describes the trunk, another describes the tusk, another the tail, and still another the foot.  They’ve all met an elephant, but they have different images of what it looks like.  When we encounter the Trinity, we are not just talking about different ways of looking at the same God.  We are describing something that is totally foreign–something that stretches our ability to understand, but something that is clearly revealed in Scripture.

There is one God who appears in three persons, with distinct roles, but united in nature and being.  This should draw us to worship God, for His very being is far greater than we can understand.  And that Trinity is the foundational doctrine behind marriage.  A husband and wife, as equals before God, join together as one flesh, each with a distinct role and function, but united in purpose and plan.  First Corinthians 11 makes that connection.

Every day you see distinct people come together in unity of purpose.  It could be in a concert where everyone plays together.  It could be a football game, where a team fights together for a first down.  It happens every Sunday morning, when people gather to make church happen.  Every day you see distinct people come together for a common purpose.  This happens as a testimony and faint reflection of the glory of God as a Trinity.

Is it not amazing?  We can know God–a God who is utterly not like us, but in whose image we are made.  A God who has made Himself understandable and even incarnate, but a God who is greater than our best descriptions and more complex than our best explanations.  The thing you must be sure of is, are you right and accurate about who God is, or are you living by imagination, having a concept of God that’s not actually true?  You will live and die according to your belief in God.

As Tozer said, “For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

Do you know the God of the Bible?  Evidence of His existence is all around us every day.  He has written His words in the book we call the Bible.  He has revealed Himself to us in there, and He came and lived among us.  The miracle is that God became a man named Jesus who lived among us and died for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him.

Every day you do theology.  How you live reveals your theology.  Is your God the same God as the one revealed in the Bible?  It is that God before whom you stand and to whom you give an account.  If you hold a Bible in your hands, you cannot claim ignorance.

 

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church
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