Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The World Today (1) - Who is God?

This is part 1 of chapter 9 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

Having briefly discussed the present day worldview in the introduction of this book, I want to expound on some additional concerns in this chapter. I previously mentioned the trouble with post-modernism, secular humanism, and moral relativism. I also pointed out how our fast-paced society prides itself on hyper-tolerance and how technological breakthroughs have made the twentieth century a monumental benchmark in the world’s history.

This chapter is a good place to examine what Biblical history can teach us about America’s progression—or regression, depending on your worldview. But first, since we have not yet discussed in detail the character of God, it may be wise to address the following concerns: Who is God? Where is God today?

Who is God? The following names of God come from a popular worship song: Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Mighty God, Lord of Everything, Immanuel, the Great I AM, Prince of Peace, Risen Lamb, Living God, Saving Grace, the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, Savior, Messiah, Redeemer, and Friend. The Bible uses hundreds of names for God. Some of them, as listed by Lambert Dolphin in the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages, include:

ELOHIM: God (a plural noun, meaning more than two, used with singular verbs).
ADONAI: Lord (Capitol letter L, lower case ord); Adonai is plural, the singular is Adon. “Lord” or “Master” is always plural when referring to God; when singular, the reference is to a human lord.
JEHOVAH: LORD (all capitals). Yahweh, the covenant name of God, refers to “The Self-Existent One,” “I AM WHO I AM” or “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE;” the name of God, too sacred to be uttered, is written YHWH without vowels.
JEHOVAH-JIREH: “The LORD Will Provide.”
JEHOVAH-M’KADDESH: “The Sanctifying LORD.”
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU: “LORD Our Righteousness.”
JEHOVAH-ROHI: “The LORD Our Shepherd.”
JEHOVAH-SABAOTH: “The LORD of Hosts” or the commander of the angelic host and the armies of God.
EL SHADDAI: “God All Sufficient” or God Almighty.
EL ELYON: “Most High.”
EL ROI: “God of Seeing” or the God Who opens our eyes.
EL-OLAM: “Everlasting God” or God of everlasting time.
EL-BERITH: “God of the Covenant.”
EL-GIBHOR: “Mighty God.”
ABHIR: “Mighty One.”
KADOSH: “Holy One.”
SHAPHAT: “Judge.”
KANNA: “Jealous” (zealous).
PALET: “Deliverer.”
YESHA: “Savior” (Y’shua).
GAOL: “Redeemer.”
MAGEN: “Shield.”
EYALUTH: “Strength.”
TSADDIQ: “Righteous One.”
ZUR: “God our Rock.”
MELEKH: “King.”
`ATTIQ YOMIN: “Ancient of Days.”
KURIOS: “Lord.”
THEOS: “God.”
I AM: Jesus upset His generation when He claimed to be equal with God, saying: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). He also claimed to be Jehovah in such phrases as: “I am the Bread of Life,” “I am the Light of the World,” “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 6:35,48; 8:12, 9:5; 11:25; 14:6).
THEOTES: “Godhead.”
HUPSISTOS: “Highest.”
SOTER: “Savior.”
JESUS: “Y’shua” or “Je-Hoshua” meaning JEHOVAH IS SALVATION.
CHRIST: “Messiah” or “The Anointed One.”
LOGOS: “The Word of God” referring to Christ.
SOPHIA: “The Wisdom of God” referring to Christ.
THE FIRST AND LAST: “The Alpha and Omega.”
ABBA: “Daddy” or “Father.”
SHEPHERD: “The Good Shepherd.”

The Bible gives God many more names, and obviously, the names above tell us a great deal about Who God is; but I think the question, “Who is God?” really begs the deeper question, “What is God like?” Anyone asking this question wants to know about God’s character. We can never expect to learn or presume to know everything there is to know about God, but the Bible, His revealed Word, does tell us everything we need to know about Him.

God is eternal; He always has been, and He forever will be. He is I AM; in other words, He just is! He is the only Being without a cause; all other beings were caused by Him. Nothing has existed apart from Him. He is beyond time, transcending time as its Creator and Sustainer. Our past, present, and future are known in the present to God; He presently knows everything in perfect and total omniscience.

Because humans are finite, we cannot fully comprehend the infinite. We wonder, “How is anything beyond time?” Humans cannot fathom beyond time, because we are governed by time; we are inside time. The Bible says:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the
Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His
understanding no one can fathom (Isaiah 40:28).

God is omnipresent; no one can hide from Him. He is immortal, promising to grant immortality to all who believe in Him with saving faith in Jesus Christ. He is righteous and holy; He demands us to be righteous and holy too.

He is consistent; His character does not change. He cannot change, because He is absolutely perfect. People change; the weather changes; the world has changed significantly over its short history, but neither God nor His Word have changed. God’s Word remains constant as our primary source of absolute truth. The Bible says:

Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; It stands firm in the heavens. … The grass
withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our God stands forever. … The Word
of the Lord stands forever. And this is the Word that was preached to you. …
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah
40:8; 1 Peter 1:25; Hebrews 13:8)!

God is Spirit and, therefore, invisible. He has no physical appearance, except in His Son, Jesus Christ, Who took on the physical nature of humanity according to the will of God the Father. While some claim that God does not exist, because He cannot be seen, we can be certain of His existence on account of both His creation and His Word. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

God is life; without Him there is death. God is love; the love of God is conditioned upon His moral and spiritual attributes. His love is infinitely “wide and long and high and deep” (Ephesians 3:18); it “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19)! God is truth; it is impossible for God to lie (see Titus 1:2). It is against His character; He cannot do it. Everything He says and does is true; therefore, we can completely trust His revelation through His Word.

God is omnipotent. He can do all things that His character allows. He cannot do anything contrary to His perfect character. He alone has power over sin and death, and He has demonstrated to us and told us that they have been conquered through Jesus Christ.

God is infinite in the attributes of Himself; He is infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely patient, infinitely merciful, infinitely just, and infinitely beyond our understanding. We will never know the totality of God!

God is faithful. Because I do not cheat on my spouse, I often think of myself as being a faithful husband. Jesus said: “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Surely there are few men who have not looked lustfully at a woman! As faithful as I think I am, I fall miserably short of God’s faithfulness; I am completely unfaithful in comparison with His standard of perfection. Though it is simple for me to remain faithful to my wife by not cheating on her—I would never consider it!—it takes serious prayer and concentration for me to live up to God’s standard of perfection regarding faithfulness to my wife. My sin nature desires to look lustfully at pretty women, but God’s Spirit within me is working to keep me from doing that. (I explain this battle a bit more in a moment.) God’s unwavering faithfulness is awesome! He cannot be unfaithful! All of God’s attributes are this way. Praise God!

God is sovereign. All things are under His complete control. He is never uncertain or unaware. His purpose is ultimately to glorify Himself. He accomplishes this eternal goal in creation and by saving sinners according to His perfect mercy while punishing sin according to His perfect justice. God is merciful in that He has chosen some of us to be saved for His glory; He is just in that He will punish sin for all eternity. God is so sovereign that:

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole
earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they
should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for
Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 18:26-27).

What a great feeling of security it is to know that the Creator God of the universe placed us in America during this time in all of history! He did not place us in France during the Dark Ages; He did not place us in China during the time of Confucius. He wanted us here and now. Why? Perhaps it is because this country and these times offer the best opportunity for us to seek, reach out for, and find God. The beautiful thing is He is seeking us! We are all unique people, but God knows the number of hairs on our head (see Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7). He has predestined our lives for His glory. So we should glorify Him!

We have seen that natural man, anyone unenlightened by the Holy Spirit to the truth of the Gospel, will not believe the Bible until the Holy Spirit convicts him or her of its truth. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Ultimately, the Bible will only be believed by those whom God has chosen. If you have come so far as to have saving faith in Jesus Christ, then be assured God has chosen you; we know we are chosen by our faith in Christ, which comes from God.

Is this unfair? Only for those who are chosen to be saved! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It is unfair that any should be saved, but God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (see Romans 9:15; Exodus 33:19).

Natural man also knows nothing of the ongoing inner struggle between the Spirit and the sin nature within a Christian. As the sin nature is slowly evicted by the Holy Spirit through the process of sanctification, the Christian struggles with decisions between right and wrong, good and evil, etc.; meanwhile, the unbeliever does not understand these struggles, because he or she lives to satisfy the desires of the sin nature. There is no spiritual conflict, as the Spirit has not yet indwelt the unbeliever.

Unbelievers can be transformed into believers, if it is God’s will, by the Holy Spirit through hearing the Gospel, which “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). The Bible says:

[Unbelievers] stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they
were destined for
. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy
nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him Who
called you out of darkness into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:7-9, emphasis

Now some of God’s character traits may seem nice to many people, but when we think about the impact of His perfect justice, we often shutter. His perfect justice requires Him to punish sinners with a most severe and unending wrath. The wrath of God must not be taken lightly!

According to His perfect justice, God’s wrath must fall on every sinner on judgment day, but Jesus Christ has already endured the wrath which would have otherwise fallen on the elect, those who trust in Him.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9)! Christ saves us from God’s wrath, which was reserved for us, “but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36, emphasis added).

“Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). God’s wrath in judgment is righteous! It is just and fair! All sinners deserve the wrath of God, but it is by His mercy that some are saved. This may not paint the picture of the God people want. Some people may be angry that God would take out His wrath on everyone who does not trust in Christ; but the Bible says:

Shall what is formed say to Him Who formed it, ‘Why did You make me like this?’
Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some
pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to
show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of
His wrath—prepared for destruction? What if He did this to make the riches of
His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for
glory—even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the
Gentiles (Roman 9:20-24)?

Now to some, God may seem insincere, just plain boring, or downright offensive. In fact, prior to knowing God and having a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, all people are slaves to the sin nature and will not find God attractive. “He had … nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Sinners will not seek God, but “the good news is that while sinners do not seek God, God seeks sinners.” This is the character of God as revealed in the Bible. We may not be able to fully grasp the answer to “Who is God?”, but we can praise Him for His perfect character.

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