In the Beginning, God ...
These are the first four words in your Bible. No effort to prove God. No lengthy appeal to persuade an unbeliever to accept His reality. As the Bible begins, God is there. The existence of God is just assumed.
In like manner, we begin "The Seeker" series with the firm conviction that... God is! The words of the Bible express the deep conviction upon which this study course is based, "For in Him we live and move and have our being--we are His offspring." (Acts 17:28)
If you struggle with your belief in God, please do not be discouraged. Remember the promise of Jesus: "Seek and you will find."
If you definitely do not believe in God and feel that you cannot proceed with this study course on this basis, you may like to enroll in another correspondence course that will better suit your needs.
Acceptance of God's reality is the foundation rock of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6)
The goal of this lesson, then, is not to ask, "Does God exist?" Instead, we will be exploring the question, "What is God like?" Humans have always struggled to describe the nature of the God who is indescribable. To God, Moses said, "Show me Your glory!" (Exodus 33:18) As with all efforts to describe the nature of God, when we complete this exercise, the mystery and unfathomable nature of God will still grip us.
Two Key Words
Transcendence... the idea that God is so awesome that He is beyond the limits of human knowledge and experience.
Immanence... the concept that God is near--that He has revealed Himself to humans and allows us to know Him and enjoy intimacy with Him.
Is God transcendent or is He immanent?
The Bible answer is, "Yes!" He is both. There is a very definite sense in which God is "unknown" and "unknowable." The Psalmist writes, "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom." (Psalm 145:3) No one will ever be able to say, "I have God all figured out."
He is a transcendent God. At the same time, there is a very definite sense in which God is known and knowable. He is immanent. To say that God is incomprehensible is not to say that you cannot know "anything" about God--just that you cannot know "everything" about Him. While praying for His disciples, Jesus said, "And this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3) Yes, we can know something of God's true nature, yet what we know of Him leaves us at the mere edge of His greatness and majesty.
So, based on the teachings of the Bible, what is our God really like?
A God of Unlimited Power
God is not just powerful. He is all powerful! A more technical word for this truth is... "omnipotence." According to Revelation 19:6, the multitudes around God's throne in heaven cry, "Hallelujah! For our Lord God all-mighty reigns." God's power is so enormous that he was able to call the universe into being out of nothing, simply by speaking. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth." (Psalm 33:6) Read about this creative power in the first chapter of Genesis, noting the mighty power that was unleashed every time God spoke.
God said, "Let there be light," and there was light! Again and again in this opening chapter of the Bible, you find the words, "And God said... and it was so."
Along the way, God took clay and fashioned it. He breathed into it. At that moment, the clay began to move, breathe, think, feel, and worship. Man was created. (Genesis 2:7)
Truly, a God of great power!
A God of Unlimited Knowledge
He is an "omniscient" God--He knows everything! He knows the past, present, and future. His knowledge is complete and perfect. Never does God have to "learn" anything. Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, and nothing is mistakenly forgotten by Him.
He knows all about people. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. (Matthew 10:30) "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13) He even knows about the many creatures that fill the universe. When a sparrow falls to the ground, God knows it. (Matthew 10:29)
The passage that says it best is Psalm 139. Read it. God knows us through and through--every motive, every thought, every deed, and every word. All. No cover-ups!
A God Whose Presence is Unlimited
This is a reference to God's "omnipresence." It's the idea that God, as a spirit being (John 4:24), can be everywhere at once. "Am I only a God nearby and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth?" (Jeremiah 23:24) Ponder this. Paul's testimony was, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." (Acts 17:28) God is nearer than our own thoughts.
How long have humans been trying to escape the presence of God? How long? Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:6-9) Humans are still attempting to run away and hide from God. It cannot be done. God is omnipresent. Every act we commit is as if we did it right in front of the very Throne of God. He is near to bless and comfort when we are doing right, but He is also a God who disturbs and convicts when we do wrong. He is near. In Acts 17:27, Paul says, "... God is not far from each one of us."
A God of Holiness
Many today have no understanding of the concept of "holiness." The Bible is clear. God is a holy God. "Who among the gods is like You, O Lord? Who is like You--majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?" (Exodus 15:11) "Who will not fear You, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For You alone are holy." (Revelation 15:4)
But what does this mean--a holy God?
His holiness has to do with His "separateness" or "differentness." God is pure and perfect in every way. Humans are the very opposite--impure and imperfect. "Holiness" is a word that should convey the idea of God's total and absolute perfection. He never does anything wrong. He never makes a mistake. He is flawless. Speaking of God, the Old Testament prophet said, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong." (Habbakkuk 1:13)
"God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5) Continually, around the majestic Throne of God, the heavenly hosts are singing, "Holy, holy, holy." What a scene that must be!
Meanwhile back on earth, what should be our posture? Bowed down before a holy God in humility, praise, and dependency is the only posture that will ever allow human beings to stand before Him in strength. "Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His footstool; He is holy." (Psalm 99:5)
How Will We Respond?
The Creator is all-powerful, all-wise, ever-present, and holy. How should His creation respond?
William Beebe was a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Beebe tells about nights when he and Roosevelt would walk outside and look up into the starry heavens. Both were great lovers of nature. Beebe said, "After we would stand for a while looking up into the skies, Roosevelt would turn to me and say, 'Beebe, I think we are small enough now. Let's go to bed!'"
Serious contemplation of the greatness of God should create within the human heart a sense of smallness, humility, dependency, obedience, and worship. There is an interesting passage in Luke 19. Jesus is making His grand entry into Jerusalem coming to His people as their long-awaited King. The people began to praise Him.
"Hosanna! Save us!" they cried. This response to their miracle-working Messiah was as natural as a bird flying in the air or a fish swimming in the water. At that moment, they saw Him as their King. Yet, the professional religionists of the day were jealous and disturbed. They called for Jesus to rebuke His disciples for their expressions of praise. How did Jesus respond? In verse 40, He said, "I tell you, if these people keep quiet, the stones will cry out!" When humans experience a deep sense of God's presence and power, they want to respond in humility and praise.
Today, this awesome God is not being given the place of pre-eminence that He deserves. Our culture is finding ingenious ways to crowd Him out and stifle His voice.
In the next lesson of "The Seeker" series, we will be taking a closer look at modern-day trends which are creating barriers between ourselves and God. Some of these are so subtle that we are unaware of their impact on our lives! Could these barriers be affecting you?
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