The Mystery and Marvel of the God Who Loves Us
I love Fall. And yet, when you live in South Dakota, 1300 miles from the Canadian border, you KNOW that there are two sides to that coin. Fall is stunning, but it is a prelude to winter.
Maybe this double-edged sword plays into the affinity we have for Fall. Perhaps the bright colors and invigorating temperatures are precious not despite the impending winter but because of it!
This kind of duality is the perfect springboard for contemplating the nature of God.
His mercy is like no other, but He also promises righteous judgment.
His grace tempers the harsh realities of life, and yet He allows the harsh realities of life.
He is our great Provider, yet in His wisdom, He often waits until we are in a place of our most profound need before He makes provision.
He is a mystery.
The psalmist made this same observation in the form of a question.
"Who is this King of glory?" Psalm 24:8
We're going to honor the psalmist's question by looking at seven attributes of God.
We'll only scratch the surface of who God is. But how wonderful that He enables the small amount we discover to make big changes in our lives.
Jeremiah 32:17 says:
"O Sovereign Lord! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power.
Nothing is too hard for You!"
Do we really believe that nothing is too hard for God? It's easy to bring Him down to our level. It's human nature. When we're trying to get to know someone, often our basis for comparison is ourselves or another person.
The truth is that God is incomparable. We cannot compare Him to anyone or anything else. He is a stand-alone!
Astronomers believe our universe contains over 100 billion galaxies. God spoke that universe into existence. God simply said the word, and light was born. Heaven and earth were created. Animals and plants were verbalized into being. Mankind was brought to life with a breath.
And creation is just one small reflection of God's power.
A.W. Tozer says that God possesses what none of us can… "incomprehensible power, a potency that is absolute." He continues,
"Since [God] has at His command all the power in the universe, the Lord God omnipotent can do anything as easily as anything else. All His acts are done without effort. He expends no energy that must be replenished. His self-sufficiency makes it unnecessary for Him to look outside of Himself for a renewal of strength. All the power required to do all that He will do lies in undiminished fullness in His own infinite being."
God never sleeps! His strength never requires renewal. When we look at God's many other characteristics, we can have absolute confidence in their ongoing nature because God's enduring power is at their foundation. He never has, and He never will quit.
When God says that He is everywhere He means e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
Psalm 139:7-12 says this:
"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you."
What a comfort to know that God is all around us. But He's more than that–– He's in us. So the Apostle Paul reminded his readers that God's Spirit lived in them.
God told Moses that He would be in their midst as they traveled from Egypt. The word "midst" literally means to be "in one's entrails." So, in essence, God told His kids, "Don't worry. I'm not just with You; I'm so close that I'm IN you."
It should be no surprise that some of Jesus' parting words to His disciples were along the same line.
"I am in them, and you are in me." (John 17:23).
We never have to face anything in life on our own. We only need to ask God to help us remember that we are never alone.
A.W. Tozer writes:
"God, being who He is, cannot cease to be what He is, and being what He is, He cannot act out of character with Himself." "God is unchangeable. And since He is faithful and unchangeable at the same time, we can know that He will never be unfaithful."
Can one of us ever say that we've experienced complete and total faithfulness from anyone else on this earth?
Some may have. Others may have been fortunate enough to come close. Suppose we were never on the receiving end of overt faithlessness. In that case, it is likely that even if it was unspoken, the people we count on have, at one time or another, been tempted to give up, walk away, and leave us to ourselves.
This thought has never even entered God's mind.
As I was studying this aspect of God's character, I was tempted to write:
God is smart. The end.
How do we unpack God's knowledge? I think about the burdens that accompany knowledge. Yet, I'm humbled to know that God is all-knowing, and thankfully He is also all the other things that He is.
How else could one carry the burden of infinite knowledge. There is a reason God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge. He knew it would be too much for our small frames to bear.
But not for Him.
Tozer observed that when we recognize God as all-knowing, we also unveil the truth that God never learned and cannot learn.
Scripture asks, "Who has taught the Spirit of the Lord?" It's a rhetorical question.
God knows all. He has ALWAYS known all. And He will continue to always know all.
Confession. I don't think I desire hardy holiness. I am, as Tozer described, "comfortable" with my own unholiness and the unholiness around me.
As Tozer stated, "We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our businesspeople or full trustworthiness in our friends."
Perhaps many of us have become comfortable with unholiness.
S. Lewis said this: "Our desires are not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Leviticus 11:44 says,
"For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am holy."
God desires to see His likeness in us. What, then, are we to do?
Tozer has the answer, "We must, like Moses, cover ourselves with faith and humility while we steal a quick look at the God whom no man can see and live. We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all, we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us so that we may be partakers of His Holiness."
I'm confident that each one of us could quickly come up with examples of things in this life that have been unfair. We want it to be made right. We want justice.
Tozer said, "Justice embodies the idea of moral equity, and iniquity is the exact opposite; it is in-equity, the absence of equity from human thoughts and acts. Justice is the application of equity to moral situations…."
God. Is. Just.
God. Is. Merciful.
How do those two things co-exist? This is when we draw on the truth that ALL of God's attributes exist in perfect harmony.
God is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. He is present in every situation and understands every detail. He is faithful to every person no matter which side of an issue they are… the one who has done the hurting and the one who has been hurt.
God knows when to dispense justice. He knows how to restore equity when there has been iniquity. He also knows when to be merciful.
Mercy and justice work in tandem, and because our God is perfect, the implementation of these two things will always be at the right time, in the right way.
The temptation was real to make a simple offering. "God is love." The Apostle John wrote it. In today's culture, we often hear, "Love is love." As if love is the defining characteristic… the seat of identification, if you will.
But A.W. Tozer doesn't let us off the hook with this line of thinking. In fact, he's in our faces about the importance of grasping what "God is love" really means.
"Equating love with God is a major mistake which has produced much unsound religious philosophy…." "For our soul's sake, we must learn to understand the Scriptures. We must escape the slavery of words and give loyal adherence to meanings instead.
Words should express ideas, not originate them.
We say that God is love, we say that God is light, we say that Christ is truth, and we mean the words to be understood when we say of a man, "He is kindness itself." By saying so we are not stating that kindness and the man are identical…."
When the Apostle said God is love, it was meant to describe an attribute. It is true about God, but it isn't God. This is important because our understanding of God's love can only be attainable when we look at it in the light of all His other attributes.
God is just… He loves like that.
God is holy… He loves like that.
God is all-knowing… He loves like that.
God is faithful… He loves like that.
God is always with us… He loves like that.
God is powerful… He loves like that.
This post is longer than most, but I'd be remiss if I didn't close with Tozer's beautiful prayer from his chapter on love. I hope you'll join me.
"Our Father which art in heaven, we your children are often troubled in mind, hearing within us at once the affirmations of faith and the accusations of our conscience. We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and just as You. Yet, You have declared Your unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Your love, then nothing in the universe can keep You from loving us. Help us believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear, and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what You declare Yourself to be. In Jesus' name, Amen."
*References to the writings of A.W. Tozer are from his book, The Knowledge of the Holy. It's a tiny but thought-provoking book. If you've never read it, I highly encourage you to check it out!