Two years ago we had Nard Pugyao as our speaker at the mission conference. He told us about what it was like when he grew up. He and the people of his village in the Philippines lived with an animistic religion. The belief was that the gods are evil and out to get you and you never know when something bad might happen. He spoke of going into the forest in fear of the gods and what they might do. In that way of looking at the gods, the human response is fear.
As Christians, we have a much better object of our faith. We know that God is kind and just and holy and so we have a different response to God. And yet, even as Christians, we sometimes don’t have an accurate view of God and we sometimes respond to only one aspect of who God is. If we only see God as one who punishes evil, we will respond with fear. If we view God as a teddy bear, we may live as if anything goes and we don’t expect consequences to the things we do wrong.
The world we live in is three dimensional. That means that we can look at things from different angles. For example, if we look at this piece of paper only from the narrow side or from the top, we would say that there is nothing there and you can’t do anything with it. But when we look at it from this side, we can see that it has a surface and we realize that we can write on it.
If we look at God from only one angle, we might also not have a clear perception of who He is and we might not respond to Him in the right way. What if we have a holistic view of God? How will that change how we respond to life, to difficulty and ultimately to God?
Our Bible study group is reading the book “Crazy Love” which invites us to see God in all His glory and invites us to respond to God in appropriate ways. This morning, I would like to remind you of three aspects of the character of God and then think of what it means to respond to God with an awareness of all three aspects in the picture at the same time. I hope it will help us grow in our understanding of God and in our relationship with Him.
There are primarily three ways in which God has revealed Himself and each of those ways helps us begin to see a different way of knowing God.
Creation helps us understand what an amazing God we have. Most people enjoy getting out in nature in order to see how beautiful it is, but it isn’t only majestic and amazing in and of itself. It also tells us something about what God is like. I love to be outside on a clear night in a place which doesn’t have a lot of light. When we look up into the sky and see the vast number of stars and realize how far away they are and remember that God has not only created each one, but knows the name of each one, it tells us something about how big God is. I also enjoy looking closely at an insect. It is quite amazing to think that the one who created the vast reaches of space and the majestic mountains and the roaring oceans also created all the tiny creatures which swim, fly and crawl upon this earth. The delicate insects with their tiny legs are nevertheless able to walk or fly and do all the things that insects do. What an amazing contrast of the vastness of God and the delicacy of God.
Of course, God isn’t only revealed in these ways in creation, but also in His word, where we learn of His great power to create. As we look further in His word, we get an even bigger picture of how awesome He truly is. We see that God is holy and eternal and all powerful and fair and just. The awesomeness of God is praised in the Psalms in beautiful verses that invite a response of praise in us.
But the wonder of God’s greatness is revealed in His word to an even greater degree when we look at some of the passages which describe the throne room of God. In Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4, 5 we have some pretty amazing descriptions of the presence of God. Let me read Revelation 4:2-6. Wow! Doesn’t that just make you stand in awe and wonder at the greatness and awesomeness of God? That is our God and in reality just a glimpse of what He is really like. When I read these things and contemplate them, I am speechless and desire to see more and desire to worship my Creator and Savior.
But that is only one view of God, only one way of looking at God and our relationship to Him. The Bible is our clearest revelation of God and tells us many more things about Him.
When we read the Bible we read some pretty amazing stories about some pretty interesting people. We read about Abraham who was willing to leave his home land in order to follow God. He followed Him to the Promised Land, but lived his whole life without ever inheriting that land. Yet he also saw God do some amazing things, probably the most amazing was when Isaac was born to him and Sarah when they were already really old. But as amazing as that story is, the story of the Bible isn’t about Abraham.
We read the story of David who is described as a man after God’s own heart. We read some great stories about all that David accomplished. Although not the first story about David the story of his encounter with Goliath is probably the best known. We are amazed as we read that a young boy without any armor who simply trusted God defeated this giant. In all the amazing things David accomplished he is probably one of the best known figures in Bible history. But the story of the Bible isn’t about David.
The apostle Paul is responsible for writing more books of the Bible than any other author. He was a powerful evangelist, an able apologist and a gifted preacher and writer. He has probably had more influence in advancing Christianity than any other human being. But the Bible isn’t about Paul.
The story of the Bible is about God. God has a plan. God has initiated the plan. The story of the Bible, the story of Christianity is a story about God. It is all about Him.
Many years ago people thought that the sun revolved around the earth. This is a belief about the physical world known as a geocentric view of life. At one time everyone believed that until gradually scientists discovered that the world actually revolves around the sun. That is a heliocentric view of the world. This is not only a way to look at the physical world; it also represents a spiritual worldview. It is still true that many people believe that the world revolves around them. What the Bible tells us is that we are part of a much bigger picture. Life isn’t about us. We have our few days on earth, but just as the story wasn’t about Abraham or David or Paul, so the universe does not revolve around us. The whole universe is about God. He is the center of it. He is the creator of it. He is the one who plans and directs.
The book of Job is probably one of the best books in Scripture to help us understand this truth. Job had trouble and inquired of God and fought with his friends who wanted him to admit that he had trouble because he had sinned. In the end of the book, God appeared to Job and demonstrated in a powerful way that the universe is about God.
The third way in which God has revealed Himself to us is through His Son, Jesus Christ. From Jesus, we learn above all about the amazing love which God has for His children.
The nature of God as a loving, compassionate God is revealed early in Scripture. It is present in many of the early stories of the Bible, but is most concisely declared in Exodus 34:6, 7 where it says, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished…”
The clearest revelation of the love of God has been demonstrated through the sacrifice which Jesus made when He died for us on the cross. God’s love was powerfully shown in this as Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As we come to a full appreciation of the love of God in what Jesus did and as we read the Scripture through the lens of the awareness of what Jesus did for us, we continue to see His love all over. It is not just a general love of mankind for which he was willing to make a sacrifice. It was and is a love which is directed personally to each person who has ever been born. That personal love was shown to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:4, 5 where it says, “…Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” It is not a stretch to realize that God has the same personal love for us.
The question I would like to pose this morning is, “How do you function at the intersection of these realities? How do you live your life, how do you face difficult things when all of these things are true at the same time?” So often we think of God in one way and as a result have an inadequate view of God or of what our response to life or to a particular situation should be. It is in looking at all three at the same time that we come to a much deeper understanding of who God is and also demonstrate how we can have a more balanced view of life.
First of all, let us think about how we live life. What are the things that are important in life? How do we decide how we live our life? How do we live in relationship with others?
If we look at God as awesome and powerful, that is a good thing because we recognize that He is so amazing and the result is that we understand that it is really worth following Him. But if we only think of God’s greatness, it may make us so afraid of God that we don’t want to approach Him. If we look at God as the one who is at the center that is a good thing because it causes us not to take ourselves too seriously and not to think of ourselves as more important than we are. But if we only think of God this way it may make us feel so small and unimportant that we don’t really think God cares about us. We may feel unnoticed and this may cause us not to take Him seriously. If we think of God as love, that is a good thing because we know that we are accepted, valued and cared for. How wonderful to know and experience such a blessing! But if we only think of God as love, it may cause us to take Him for granted and assume that He will accept us no matter what we do. We may believe that since we are loved it doesn’t matter how we live.
It is when we recognize all three realities at the same time that we begin to know God better and live in a way that is faithful and a blessing. When we know that we are loved, it helps us overcome the feelings of being afraid of God produced by His greatness. When we are aware of the greatness and holiness of God, it helps us overcome the carelessness of feeling that we are accepted no matter what. If we know it is all about God, it helps us orient our life towards Him and if we know that God cares for us individually, we do not get caught in the trap of feeling that God isn’t paying attention to us.
We could go through this same exercise in regard to some of the difficult things that come into our life. Whatever our difficulty is, whether a serious illness, the realization that death is near, the brokenness experienced by family members or friends or some other difficulty; how do these three realities about God help us deal with them?
If we know that God is awesome, we know that He is able to heal every disease and has all power to overcome every difficulty. But if we only think about the power and holiness of God, we don’t know if that power is directed towards us in goodness. If we only think of God’s power, we may feel like what would happen if you pulled a huge tractor and cultivator into your garden to till it – lots of power, but it would create a mess. If we know that everything is about God, that is a good thing and we can have the hope that somehow whatever happens to us has a purpose in the grand scheme of things and that in the end, no matter what happens, God will be glorified and His will shall be accomplished. But if we only think that it is about God, we may wonder if God really cares about us. What do we matter? How significant is our problem when we realize that it isn’t about us. To know that God is love is a great benefit. We know that He cares about our problem and that He desires to help us with our problem. If we only think that God is love, however, we may wonder if God is able to help us with our difficulty.
Once again we can see that it is in looking at all three of these aspects at once that we can have peace in the midst of our trials. God’s love answers to the notion that God doesn’t care about us or that we don’t matter. God’s love answers to the fear that God’s great power may overwhelm us and not really help us. God’s power answers to the fear that God is not able to help.
Sometimes when I go through difficult things my mind gets pulled in several directions. I look at the difficulty and wonder how it can be dealt with. Then I remember that God has all power. He created the world and is the sovereign Lord of the entire universe. I pray and ask God to help me with His great power. But then I realize that God is sovereign and that there are many other people who are also praying and I wonder, “Will He really help me?” Sometimes I have thought – “God did great things for Moses and David and Paul, but who am I?” That makes me wonder if God will really help me. But then I remember that God is love and that He loves me and that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for me and I am at peace to wait upon Him.
May we keep our eye on all of the wonder and glory, the power, majesty, holiness, sovereignty and compassion of God as we approach Him so that we can live accurately in a close and deep relationship with Him.