Today’s message of May 15, 2016 from Melvin Gaines:
When I was very young—about 10 or 11 years old—I was asking myself questions about my life in general. Now, age 10 or 11 may seem rather late in life to start asking these questions, but I honestly did not know much about what was going on until I turned age 7. I can remember some bookmarks tied to the events of that decade. I barely remember John F. Kennedy’s funeral on our black and white television, but I had no concept of what a funeral really meant, let alone who Kennedy was and how monumental that occasion was. I also remember news stories about the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Hough riots (in Cleveland), the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the mounting calls to end the war and strive for peace. I also began to pay very close attention to music. I was mindful of the lyrics that epitomized the sounds of the streets and the moods of the people: “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye, “War” by Edwin Starr and “Give Peace a Chance” by John Lennon.
The mood of the late sixties and early seventies began to shape my understanding of the world that I was living in. As a black male, I was more conscious of the discussion for equal rights and opportunities for blacks, but I was insulated from a lot of that because of my age and by staying close to home. It was not long before I started paying more attention to the environment where I was growing up. I lived on a tree-lined street in a very nice neighborhood, and I was able to see birds, flowers, gardens and parks all around where I lived in Cleveland and its suburbs. In looking at these things, I started to wonder about where all of these things came from, and also where I came from.
From the moment that you determine that there is something—and even more specifically, someone—who is responsible for life as you experience it, you are now beginning the exercise of learning about God, who He is, His presence and His relevance to you. It may be a matter of asking one of these questions or all of them at one point or another. The key to discovery in this is the amount of time and effort that you take to investigate the answers. Trust me—it will take a considerable amount of time and effort.
How do you begin to answer such questions? There is no predetermined way to do this. When a student asks a teacher a question, the student has an expectation that there is an answer. When I asked my mother for something, my Mom would sometimes reply, “Ask your father.” Sometimes I would ask my father a question, and he would say, “Ask your mother.” I realized that there are times when I have a question about something, but there is no direct or immediate answer. This is also how it is when it comes to questions about God. We have the ability to ask many questions about God, but we also need to realize that there are times when there is no straight answer when it comes to Him.
My questions about God involved His presence. (That was within the first phase of questions.) It was not until much later where I started asking about how His presence related to me. This is what a person contemplates at the very moment when they are considering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is now about reflection and repentance from sin and the need for a Savior. The questions about God don’t end there…they are only just beginning.
First, let’s be clear about something. As we noted earlier, there are no direct or immediate answers as we seek God. Even as we seek Him, we will never get a complete picture of God. Why? As we frame our questions about Him, we need to see God in a completely different way than how we see ourselves. When we do this, we begin to see God as a God who deserves our reverence, our worship and our praise. He is more than just a god. He is the God of the universe.
Here are four different attributes about God that bear consideration:
1.) God is infinite and self-existent. When we use the word “infinite” about God, it means that there are no boundaries about Him. He is without any limits. When it comes to our lives, everything that we are involved in has some sort of limit. We have to use measurements to build things. We have to use numbers to calculate math problems, but there is no number for infinity. It cannot be measured. God, in this way, cannot be measured. In addition to his infinitude, God is self-existent. He is a God without origin. As each of us has a beginning along with everything else that was created, it is hard for us to conceptualize God as, according to A. W. Tozer, the Uncreated One. If you think about it, anything that is or ever was created must have a creator. God is the only One who is self-existent; namely, without a creator.
1 Corinthians 8:5-6 HCSB
For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth—as there are many “gods” and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father.
All things are from Him, and we exist for Him.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ.
All things are through Him, and we exist through Him.
As we learn more about Jesus Christ, we discover that He is at one with the Father as the infinite, Uncreated One.
2.) God is sovereign. This means that God is all-knowing and is free to act as He directs at any moment in order to fulfill His will and purpose. With all of the things that have occurred throughout time and space, this is a significant attribute of God.
Daniel 4:17 HCSB
This word is by decree of the observers; the matter is a command from the holy ones.
This is so the living will know that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men.
He gives it to anyone He wants and sets the lowliest of men over it.
In the book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer noted that God’s sovereignty raises two additional questions (or problems) from our perspective: one is the presence of evil, pain and death (from the presence of Satan), and the other is the free will of man. As far as sin is concerned, Tozer noted that God, in His sovereign wisdom, “has permitted evil to exist in carefully restricted areas of His creation, a kind of fugitive outlaw whose activities are temporary and limited in scope. In doing this, God has acted according to His infinite wisdom and goodness.” In spite of sin and evil, God remains in control over all because He is all knowing.
Satan declared that he wanted to be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:12-14), but he cannot be the Most High because he cannot be God. There is only one God (Isaiah 43:10-11, 44:6). As far as man’s free will is concerned, Tozer noted that a God who is less than sovereign would have difficulty with providing man with freedom to make choices. He would be restricted in His ability and; as a result, could not be God.
3.) God is holy. In order to begin to really understand the nature of God’s holiness, we have to look at the nature and character of God. When we compare our acts of human nature to the need to have Jesus Christ as our personal Savior that is merely the beginning of searching the depths of God’s holiness and power over sin and death. Scripture captures the magnitude, albeit immeasurable by human abilities, of God’s holiness:
Psalm 96:9 ESV
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
1 Samuel 2:2 ESV
There is none holy like the Lord; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.
Isaiah reflects the understanding of the disparity of God’s holiness and mankind when God calls Him into service as sees the ultimate vision:
Isaiah 6:1-8 HCSB
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above Him; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts;
His glory fills the whole earth.
The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke.
Then I said:
Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of Hosts.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your wickedness is removed
and your sin is atoned for.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying:
Who should I send?
Who will go for Us?
Here I am. Send me.
Tozer noted, “Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard.” Furthermore, he said, “God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe. Sin’s temporary presence in the world only accents this.” His desire is for each of us to strive to attain holiness as we grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV
But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Leviticus 19:2 ESV
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
We can only achieve holiness with the blood of Christ that covers our sins and through our faith in Jesus Christ. Our holiness is derived from how God sees us in His love for us through Jesus.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7 ESV)
4.) God is love. God’s love for us is far beyond how humans see love. It is an attribute of God in the same way that He is infinite, sovereign and holy. It defines Him and His actions for mankind because of the desire to not see anyone perish (1 Peter 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9) because of the actions of Jesus Christ as Savior (John 3:16-17).
We can only begin to describe His love because it is barely comprehendible. Even the angels marvel at how God is carrying out His salvation for His people (1 Peter 1:12).
He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:4-6 HCSB)
We must rely upon the words of John to best describe the sacrificial love and grace of God for each of us. He gives us the foundation of how we are to love others through His love for us.
1 John 4:7-12 HCSB
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us.
With these attributes we can only begin to see the nature and character of God. It is a way for each of us to contemplate who God is and what His relationship means to us. As we focus on who He is, we will learn more and more about Him as we bask in the glory of His presence and in the power of knowledge through the Holy Spirit. We can live a lifetime and still learn more about Him, but we will readily praise Him and glorify Him for who He is! He is the great I AM!
Romans 11:33-36 HCSB
Oh, the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments
and untraceable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been His counselor?
Or who has ever first given to Him,
and has to be repaid?
For from Him and through Him
and to Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines