All Things New: God Revealed Part 2
Sunday, May 6th, 2007
One of the things that I remember doing together as a family when I was growing up was watching the Wizard of Oz every year. I think it was always on on Thanksgiving Night. Back then, we didn’t have cable and the 9000 channels you can choose with that, we didn’t have a VCR, you couldn’t TiVo something and watch it whenever you wanted, so when something like, The Wizard of Oz came on, something that we could all watch as a family, it was an event. We’d make popcorn and all settle in to watch the movie. There are a couple of things that I remember about this movie. First, my brother always cried when the flying monkeys made their appearance. He wasn’t afraid of the mean talking trees, the munchkins didn’t bother him, the wicked witch of the west was not a problem. It was the monkeys. I can remember my mom asking him if he was going to be alright and if he wanted to watch it and he always said yes. As soon as the monkeys appeared, he would freak out and start crying. Of course, being the compassionate older brother, I would wait until we were almost asleep that night and make flying monkey noises from the top bunk so he’d cry again. Those were the days!
I also remember the part where they first stand before the Great Oz. They stand, shaking, in this huge chamber, after all the things they had to go through to get there, and this voice echoes all around them and tells them what they have to do to get the Great Oz to grant their request. It’s an impossible task, something that they should not be able to accomplish. When they question him, Oz acts as though they are a nuisance and he dismisses them quickly, with a shout. It’s intimidating and scares the lion so bad that he runs out of the room and jumps through a window. Oz was not what they expected.
I think that there are a lot of people who have this kind of perception about God. They know that He’s big, they know that He’s powerful and they picture Him speaking in a big booming voice and commanding us to do whatever He wants us to with no thought as to what we want or are asking for. Many believe that like the wizard was, God is too busy and too occupied with running the universe to care about us.
But Dorothy and her friends didn’t have the right picture of who the wizard was. When they returned and stood before the Great Oz again, they made an interesting discovery, behind the curtain, was a small and insignificant man who was playing the role of the Great and Powerful Oz. They had gone out in search of the only one who was powerful enough to meet each of their needs. A way home, a brain, a heart, and some courage. They were looking for the only one who could provide everything that they longed for and wanted. They thought they had found him, but when the curtain was pulled back, they found someone who could not live up to their expectations.
So many people today have huge need sin their lives, big gaps that they are looking to fill. They are searching for what only God can provide. They are searching for peace and for meaning and purpose in life, they know that there is more to life and are desperately seeking what that is. They look many different places and try to satisfy those needs with different things but find that nothing else in life can fill the place that was created within us to know God and to fellowship with Him. As they search, there may be bells and whistles and billowing smoke, like with Oz. There was enough to distract and to confuse and disorient, but in each case, when the curtain is pulled back, when what they are chasing is revealed, there is disappointment.
There is none but God that can truly satisfy. There is none but God that can truly live up to and fulfill the claims that He alone can make. There is none but God who possesses the characters and attributes that He does and who possesses them in perfection, fullness, and completeness. Whereas every other god or religion or self help idea, or faith placed in anything that has its roots in mankind, will disappoint, when we begin to pull the curtain back on God, we can’t even get it open more than a crack before we are overwhelmed with how much more He is than we imagined. Moses asked to see God’s glory in all its fullness and was granted but a glimpse because God said that no one could see His face and live. In every instance where God reveals a bit of His glory to man, the reaction is the same, face down with a sudden understanding of how sinful we are and how perfect God is. We see it with Moses, Isaiah, Paul during his conversion, with John on the island of Patmos, and with others, in our humanity, we can’t handle the full revelation of who God is, of what’s behind the curtain.
But God has provided a way to know Him, we can know parts of His nature, get glimpses of His glory, we can know God by what has revealed to us. We looked last week at the fact that He has revealed Himself to us through nature, through his word, and through His Son. He has given us a glimpse, a part of the whole, enough to satisfy and more than we need to be convinced of who He is and who we are. As we continue in our series, “All Things New,” we are going to be pulling that curtain aside a little more this morning and looking at what God longs for us to know and to understand about Him. We’ll complete the picture, as best that we can, of who God is, we’ll compare it to the picture of who we are that we looked at 2 weeks ago, and see the depth of love and favor that God has shown us as we wrap things up next week with the reality of who we are in Christ, this new creature that Scripture says God will make us into. So, we have the before picture in place. Today, we finish with the credentials of the God who changes us. And next week you can hold up that after picture and understand all that God has accomplished in us and for us and see what He wants to do in the lives of those who have yet to know Him.
This morning, we’re going to continue our quick look at the nature and attributes of God.
These attributes fall into two categories. Theologians have categorized them with nice long, impressive sounding names. God has attributes that are communicable and God has attributes that are non-communicable. Communicable attributes are those that He shares with us, to a degree. God, by nature, is merciful, gracious, just, and good (those are among some of the attributes that we don’t have time to look at today). These are characteristics of God that are expected to be reflected in our lives. Because we are created in His image, we will resemble His character and nature in these ways. We can be good, we can show mercy, we can show grace, we can be just, in fact we are expected to be those things. Now, we will never possess them as God does, in perfection, but they can and should be mirrored in our lives. Last week we looked at the attribute of holiness. This is a communicable attribute of God. Only He possess it perfectly, only He is the standard of holiness, but His children are to reflect it and to show it, to a degree, in our lives.
Incommunicable attributes are those that God alone possesses. Eternity, unity, immutability, self-Sufficiency, these are the ones that when we stop to ponder them, our brains hurt! We have no reference point in our own lives to hold them up to. We talked about the attribute of Sovereignty last week. Sovereignty is the fact that God rules completely and has the authority to accomplish anything in any way that he chooses. This is an incommunicable attribute. We do not have even a measure of this kind of all encompassing power. Sovereignty belongs to God alone. We have power in some situations and control over some things, but sovereignty is not a part of our nature as it is God’s. This is a part of His nature that is incommunicable. We’re going to start here, let’s look for a moment at some of the other parts of God’s nature that are unique to Him.
I. Incommunicable Attributes:
I wasn’t going to spend any time on these other than the brief mention last Sunday, but I don’t think the picture would be complete without at least a basic understanding of some of the things that set God apart. We’re going to start with those three omnis, that we mentioned last week. Omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.
First of all, God is
This means that God is all powerful. The word omnipotent comes from the Latin and is the root for the English word Almighty. The word Almighty appears over 50 times in Scripture and it is used only in reference to God. It’s also an attribute that God chooses to use when describing himself. When God spoke to Abraham in the book of Genesis, this is the characteristic that He chose to identify Himself with, He said: "I am God Almighty.” While His sovereignty speaks of His authority to do what He wants, His omnipotence speaks of the power to carry out that out, to accomplish His wishes and His will.
JER 32:17 "Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
Paul says in Ephesians that He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
He is powerful and has all the power necessary to carry out His plans. The universe was created because through His omnipotence, He works in our lives in ways that we can’t fathom because He is omnipotent. Our God lacks nothing when it comes to power. We can’t forget this, some have tried to paint a picture of God as a nice grandfatherly figure in the sky with a quick wink and a hug for us, and they have stripped God of His power. While love is certainly a part of His nature too, you cannot forget that He is the all powerful God of Creation. He has the power to accomplish whatever He wills.
God is also:
This means that God is everywhere, He exists at all times in all places. Obviously this is a quality that we do not share in any way with God. We have the annoying restriction of only being in one place at a time. If I am here, I cannot be there, it’s simple and it’s easy to understand. God, however, experiences none of the limitations that we do when it comes to time and space. He is in all things and there is nowhere that we can hide from his presence.
JER 23:23 "Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD,"and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?"declares the LORD.”Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD.
A.W. Tozer tells the story of a missionary among Hindus who observed a strange ritual. The men would walk through the woods to try and locate where the gods were residing. They would tap on the trees and whisper softly, “Are you there?” Again and again they would repeat the process, you know what, I guarantee you that they never got an answer! We don’t have to guess with God! The omnipresence of God means that we don’t have to wonder if He is near us. We don’t have to wonder if we are in His presence. There is nowhere that we can go that God is not already there. There is tremendous comfort and confidence in knowing this about His nature. We are never alone. Jesus promised the disciples this in Matthew just before He left them physically and was taken up into heaven, He said: And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Only a God who is omnipresent by nature could make that promise. And not only is God around us, but He is in us as well. Paul says that we are temples of the living God! 1CO 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
What a wonder that God should choose to dwell in us! God is everywhere! God is all powerful! And the last incommunicable attribute that I want to look at is the fact that He is:
God is all knowing. The fact that He is omniscient means that He knows all things both actual and possible. There is nothing that is outside of the realm of His knowledge, nothing that He still needs to learn. For humans like us who have trouble remembering what we had for breakfast, the thought of perfect knowledge, of all past, present, and future events is mind boggling! Impossible for us, but it’s an innate part of the nature of God.
David writes about this attribute in Psalms 139:1-4
PS 139:1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
God knows all, from the affairs of countries to our innermost thoughts and desires. Not only can we not find anywhere to hide from His presence, we cannot hide our thoughts or actions from His knowledge. He knows what goes on in our minds! This is a sobering thought. The minds of men, yours and mine, are filled with evil and struggle and impurity and none of it escapes the attention of God.
This should have a profound effect on us in many ways.
1) Raises the bar of purity.
We can hide things from our parents, from our pastor, from our friends, and from our spouses but not from God. It calls us to a new level of purity, not an outward purity but the cleansing of our hearts, the cleaning of the inside.
As Erin and I were working in the basement of the parsonage, there didn’t seem to be any problems with the walls or anything that we could see that would cause concern. But, once we began to open up some walls and get behind the drywall, we found huge areas of mold and rot. Water had gotten behind the wall and they were decaying from the inside but you would never have known it to look at the outside.
There are a lot of Christians who look sound and fine on the outside but they have allowed sin to get inside and their hearts are moldy and rotten. You can’t hide that from God, it’s a part of who He is, an unchangeable aspect of His being that He knows all, He sees the inside.
The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Sam 16:7
What do our hearts look like? The point is, knowing that God is omniscient means knowing that keeping the inside clean is even more important than keeping the outside clean; it raises the bar of purity.
2) Raises the bar of His love.
When we understand His omniscience and the fact that He knows all, our thoughts and every choice we will ever make, every sin we will ever commit, it raises the bar of His love. Scripture clearly teaches that He knows all and still loves us. You won’t find that love anywhere else, from anyone else, no one can truly see the worst of who we are and still offer unconditional, unexplainable love to us like God.
This sermon kind of took on a life of its own this week, I had intended to focus on other things, other attributes, but God laid it on my heart to present this picture of Him this morning so that we could begin to see just how amazing and unlike anything else, God is. He is all powerful, able to do anything, He is everywhere, able to lead, guide, and comfort us with His constant presence, and He is all knowing. Those are the characteristics that allow Him to possess the sovereignty that we looked at last week, those are also the characteristics that should blow your mind when you consider the width and depth of who He is. The parts of His nature that we’ve already looked at, those show His power. Those prove His divinity and those are the ones that most non-Christians think of when they think of God. USA Today did a survey that said over 40% of Americans think of God as powerful and in control but also as unconcerned with us and distant from us. I wish I had time to really go into the rest of His communicable attributes today. These are the ones that focus those others, they take the picture of His might and power and show us that He uses those things for our good and that He is not disinterested and distant, in fact His motivation for everything is a deep love for us and a deep desire for us to know Him. That is what so many people miss seeing and understanding. They see the power and the control, but they miss the parts of His nature that explain how He chooses to show that power and for whose benefit that authority is exercised. In the few moments that we have left, I do want to just glance at 2 of the communicable attributes of God.
II. Communicable Attributes.
The first one I want to point out to you is the Wisdom of God.
The wisdom of God means that God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. Basically, God knows what He’s doing. It makes sense. If He is all knowing, then He will know things that we can’t possibly know, He will see an entirely different picture than us. If we understand that He is working in our lives to bring about the best possible results, then we have to trust that, if we are following Him, the circumstances that we are in are God’s way of accomplishing what’s best for our lives, our families, and our marriages.
Most of us have no problem with God’s Sovereignty. Again, He’s God, we understand that He has the power and the authority to rule over His creation. Where we can tend to get tripped up is that we doubt His wisdom. God is Sovereign to the same degree that God is wise, they are both essential aspects of His nature and we can’t separate them. If we believe that He is, by nature, wise, then we will stop complaining about what is happening to us in life and begin to look for what God wants to accomplish through us. If God has put you in a position then it is what’s best for you and His purposes and plans will eventually be revealed if you are faithful to serving Him and glorifying Him in all things. Again, I wanted to just point this one out because we have looked so much at God’s power, I want you to understand that that power is governed by perfect wisdom to accomplish what’s best for His people and His kingdom. Until we understand that God is all-wise, we will never truly be able to rest in the knowledge that He has a perfect plan for our lives. Wisdom is a part of who He is.
And finally, the attribute that captures the essence of who God truly is and the one that He tries to get across to us in so many ways:
God is wise, he possesses perfect wisdom, God is just in that He acts justly, God displays mercy, God shows us grace, but Scripture says very clearly that God IS love. This is God’s essence. He is not merely lovely or loving or capable of displaying love, or even an example of love, He is love. The very definition of love is wrapped up in the nature of God. The love of God is not contingent on us, we are not the source of that love, we cannot earn it or change it, the source of the love is God Himself and for that reason His love for us will never end. Chip Ingram says: God is affectionate and gracious when we are good and God is affectionate and gracious when we are evil. His disposition towards us is love, that is who He is.
We see His love in how He communicates with us, we see His love woven throughout the pages of Scripture and we see His love poured out upon the cross as He gave his son to die for our sins. The love of God is probably the toughest of all of His attributes to understand.
He is God, it’s not a stretch to imagine Him as big and mighty and sovereign. It is hard sometimes to understand why He would love us. Honestly, if I had months to explain it, I don’t think I could. God loves me and God loves you and He wants to make sure that you know that. How did He prove that love?
For God so loved the world that He gave us His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
When we come into the presence of God and we pull back that curtain just to get a glimpse of who He is, we will see the power, we will see the perfection, we will marvel at the holiness but what we will always take away from that encounter is His love.
That’s who He is! Nothing can change that, and God promises that nothing can separate us from that love.
Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is love, He showed that to us in a very real way when He sent His Son to save us.
I feel that I have not done this topic justice as we’ve explored who God is. I’m not sure we ever truly can. Words alone can never convey who God is, God intends for us to have a relationship, to experience Him in our own lives. Until that happens, our understanding of God will always be lacking. I remember very little about my wedding day. It was a day that I had been looking forward to for a very long time. It seemed to go by in a blur. But there is one moment that I will never forget. As I stood beside my father and my friends who were standing up with me, I remember that moment that I got my first glimpse of Erin at the back of the church. She was amazing AND she was, barring any last minute bouts of common sense, going to marry me! That picture of her will be forever burned into my memory. Each wedding I have done since then, I have told the young man to wait for that moment. They always ask me what its like. It’s a mix of love and amazement and awe and wonder and so many other things. If you ask me to describe it perfectly, I can’t. The right words don’t exist. There is no other moment in my life to compare it to. I don’t try, I just tell them that they’ll see, they’ll know for themselves and I love to watch their face at that moment as the wonder and reality of seeing a woman who you love standing there waiting to be your wife strikes them. Until you’ve experienced it, words can’t do it justice.
There are so many other attributes that I wish we could have looked at this morning, others that play a large role in the way that God longs for us to see Him. Justice, Truth, Peace, Righteousness, Beauty, Glory, all pieces of this picture, all ways that God, in His love for us, has chosen to reveal Himself to us. But they are not meant to be understood as much as they are to be experienced. God doesn’t want for you to simply try and understand Him, that will never happen! He wants you to know Him, He wants you to experience Him, He wants you to be able to testify to His love and goodness that you see working in your own life through a relationship with Him. So know that God is big enough to accomplish anything in your life and that He loves you enough to work any and every situation out for your good. He loves you enough to send Christ and to pursue a relationship with you.