Monday, August 27, 2012
God and His Rivals, Part 3
Allow me to begin by simply stating that I merely touched upon the nature and person of God. I could have shown how Scripture explains His holiness, mercy, justice, and so much more; but there are other and better writers to have done so already. I merely wanted to catch a fragment of our God’s character so we can contrast the living God against the backdrop of His self-appointed rivals.We live in a highly pluralistic culture that has absorbed many ideas as to who or what God is. We are a nation indulged with pleasure, ease and luxury, given too much choice, too many options and so much liberty that we have mistaken privilege for our right. Rather than adhering to the authority of revelation giving us the clearest picture mankind could have for a God whose existence goes beyond our universe we rely on subjective inward pursuits for truth; such can only ultimately reflect our own nature. Apart from that such seeking would be in vain if the truth existed internally and was discovered by our own diligent searching; by going inward rather than looking outward to revelation we fall prey to the assumption that pantheism is true. We are part of God and the universe as a whole. This reduces God to being nothing greater than the material universe He’s bound by. If we are instead gods (such as Scientology teaches) then polytheism is true and the universe is under the cruel dominion of billions of warring divine wills.
As a society largely content with superficiality a glossed over God void of judgment or genuine grace fits all too well. Give us something to do, tell us that God approves of our efforts and we shall keep going to the end. The Christian is a small voice in a sea of choices crying out that God’s judgment is the basis of His mercy, and since all mankind has sinned and fallen short of His glory therefore our great God can provide mercy and atonement universally in the Person of Jesus Christ. Unlike the distant god of Islam Yahweh is personal and relational. Unlike the pantheon of gods abounding in Hinduism God possesses unity in His unique oneness. In this regard He lacks a multiplicity of wills whose purposes could cross and cause conflict.
So, back to our questions: where does God come from? Why have they created this physical universe and peopled it with us, and what do they want from us? Since we have established that the God of the Bible is immortal and eternal (He never had a beginning and is outside of time) this is actually a simple question. God never “came from” anywhere. He has always been and He infinitely antedated time/space. The choices are an eternal God or an eternal universe that somehow “evolved” god and everything else we see, including abstract thought and value judgments which have no corresponding parallel in the physical, material universe.
It is said in Scripture that God created this universe for His pleasure, Revelation 4:11, KJV. God placed man on this planet as a race with which He could share Himself with and have a reciprocal relationship of fellowship and love; grace on His part (love that condescends) and worship on ours (love that ascends). To have such a relationship and for it to be genuine choice (free will) must be allowed. The freedom to love permitted man to err and choose to reject and disobey his Creator. But without free will love (and any relational, reciprocal quality) does not exist; it cannot exist. Without free will mankind would not be capable of sharing fellowship with God. To be capable of only choosing the good is to discreetly imply that removing free will would remove evil; perhaps it would, but it would also remove our identity and individuality. We would be machines following a program, no matter how elaborate. God would essentially still be the only being in His universe.
With freedom to choose comes the inevitable consequence of making improper choices; of doing things unworthy of a perfect God. God wants the love of man; He desires that all men come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved, 1st Timothy 2:4; 2nd Peter 3:9. He wants our love and is attempting to woo us by the conviction of the Holy Spirit through the power of the gospel, John 16:8-11; Romans 1:16; 1st Corinthians 1:21. Our God, being our Creator and Redeemer, holds the instruction manual in His hands as to how life was meant to be lived, Luke 4:4. Sin emerges and does its damage when man acts in a way contrary to how he was designed to function. It’s like putting fuel in a vehicle that it doesn’t run on; it may run, but its performance will be sorely affected and there is always the risk of imminent (and guarantee of inevitable) breakdown. Man was not meant to function by doing “what was right in his own eyes,” Judges 21:25. God warns that such flawed thinking leads to death, Proverbs 16:25.
We were created not only so God could care about us, but so He could care for us. As a wise parent He knows what to prescribe for our safety and genuine, lasting happiness. As peevish children we seldom listen. The ultimate answer of “what does this God want from me?” is merely this: He wants you to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, redeemed and renewed in body, soul and spirit by the Son of God who died in your stead for your sins so that you may be forgiven your sins in Christ’s name, pardoned and adopted into God’s household. All of this is solely through faith in Christ. God has granted man a free will but not autonomy; this concept should be easy to grasp since there is no man on earth independent of others. The very wealthy and powerful still need food, drink, sleep, clothing, shelter, air, etc. God made us relational/dependant one toward another as a hint that we are relational and dependant on our Father in Heaven. In God we live and move and have our being, Acts 17:28. Our life is a gift of God’s grace but He never intended to give it over to us so we can live it by our own rules. There is one Lawmaker, and whether we accept or reject Him each one shall eventually come before Him, Ecclesiastes 12:7.
A glimpse at the true God manifested in Jesus Christ can be difficult to accept, John 17:3; 1st John 5:20. He asks so little of you, yet demands much. He provides the means but requires your willingness to take it. He has lain down the groundwork as to how life functions and expects that we will comprehend this and acquiesce to live life by the rules, so to speak. Rules aggravate some, but what structure functions without them? Remove the rules that provide the guidelines to define the structure and you have made it meaningless; this is perhaps why post-modern America is adrift in meaningless pursuits and pleasures. Our efforts to erode boundaries have in actuality eroded our identity. The removal of rules also extracts purpose. Imagine a football game without rules! What would be the point?
Yes, God is still in control, and in this day of longsuffering grace He calls to us to be saved and to come out of this perverse generation, Acts 2:40. Perversion indicates the corruption of an intended purpose. God calls on us to recognize this and repent; literally this word means to change your mind. In this instance it would mean to change one’s mind regarding the person and purpose of Jesus Christ. Who is the true God? He is the triune God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets. He is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God the Son was manifested in the flesh; profound is this mystery, 1st Timothy 3:16.