Knowledge of the Holy

Knowledge of the Holy

Knowledge Of The Holy, by A.W. Tozer (updated language)

 

Table of Contents

Day one – PREFACE and CHAPTER 1 Why We Must Think Rightly About God

Day two – CHAPTER 2 God Incomprehensible

Day three – CHAPTER 3 A Divine Attribute

Day four – CHAPTER 4 God is Three in one

Day five – CHAPTER 5 The Self-existence of God

Day six –   CHAPTER 8 The infiniteness of God

Day seven –  CHAPTER 10 The Omniscience  of God

Day eight –   CHAPTER 13 The Transcendence of God

Day nine  –   CHAPTER 14 The Omnipresence of God

Day ten –     CHAPTER 15 The Faithfulness of God

Day eleven – CHAPTER 16 The Good ness of God

Day twelve – CHAPTER 19 The Grace of God

Day thirteen – Chapter 20 The Love Of God

 

PREFACE

True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time. The believer, must also, as the Quakers used to say, “speak to the condition” of his audience; otherwise he will speak a language known only to himself. His message must  not only be timeless but timely. He must speak to his own generation.

The message of this book isn’t just for these times but for yours as well. It grew out of a condition that has been a problem in the Church for many years and is growing worse by the decade. I’m talking about the loss of the concept of majesty and awe in the local church body.  The Church has walked away from her once lofty concept of God and has started to think so lowly that they are no longer in awe of Him. No one did this deliberately, it’s been a long process that has taken place subconsciously in the minds and speech of believers, and the fact that it’s subconscious only makes it more tragic.

The low view of God held almost universally by Christians leads to a hundred lesser evils among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the loss of awe and the awareness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10) mean next to nothing to the stressed out, fearful worshipper at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses are completely internal; and since it is the quality of our relationship with God that is affected by internal conditions, it might be that all our supposed gains are really just losses spread over a wider field.

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make the corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy is the root of the problem. And a better understanding of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep your faith sound and your inward heart right while your idea of God is wrong or weak. If you want to bring back spiritual power to your life, you have to stare to think of God more like He really is.

As my humble contribution to a better understanding of this Majesty I offer this reverent study of the attributes of God. If Christians today were reading authors like Augustine or Murray a book like this would have no reason for being. But such amazing thinkers are unknown to the average Christian today. Publishers still reprint their books but only the really devoted ever even open them up. (Of course the language difference is a major barrier.) But the whole trouble lies right there: the greats never get read by the average believer.  The current religious mood makes the reading of them virtually impossible even for educated Christians.

Obviously, not many Christians will wade through hundreds of pages of heavy religious material that requires so much concentration. Such books remind too many people of the classics they were forced to read in school and they turn away from them with a feeling of discouragement.

For that reason an effort such as this, to update the language on a work like this might just be helpful.  While I believe that nothing will be found here contrary to sound Christian theology, I’m not writing to professional theologians, but to the plain persons whose heart stirs them up to go after God Himself.

It is my hope that this small book might contribute somewhat to the promotion of a personal heart religion among us; and if a few people might be encouraged by reading it and start to practice a reverent meditation on the being of God, that will more than repay the labor required to produce it.   – A. W. Tozer

 

CHAPTER 1 Why We Must Think Rightly About God

 

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.  The history of mankind will probably show that no people have ever risen above their religion, and man’s spiritual history will reveal that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or messed up as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the most important question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most revealing thing about any person is not what they say or do, but what they believe in their deep heart about who God is . You tend subconsciously move toward your mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the the Church as well. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more descriptive than her speech. The church can never escape the self-disclosure of their witness concerning God.

If you could get a complete answer to the question, “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” you could predict with certainty the spiritual future of the one who answered. If you could know exactly what the most influential religious leaders think of God today, you could predict where the Church will be tomorrow.

Without a doubt, the most powerful thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the most important word in any language is its word for God. Thought and speech are God’s gifts to creatures made in His image; these are intimately associated with Him and impossible apart from Him. It is highly significant that the first word was the Word: “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) We can speak because God spoke. In Him words and ideas are inseparable.

It should be very important to you that your idea of God is as close as possible to the true being of God. Compared with your actual thoughts about Him, your doctrine or theology is of little consequence. Your real idea of God just might be buried under the rubbish of conventional religious speak and might need a concerted and thoughtful search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing can you truly discover what you actually believe about God.

A right conception of God is fundamental, not only to systematic theology, but to practical Christian living as well. It is to worship, what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or uneven the whole structure will sooner or later collapse. I believe there isn’t an error in doctrine or a failure in Christian behavior that cannot be traced back to imperfect and unworthy thoughts about God.

It is my opinion that the modern Christian concept of God is so wimpy that it is utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God, and has become a moral disaster.  All the problems of heaven and earth, even if they came at us all at once, would be nothing compared with this overwhelming problem of our God: what He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.

When you have a right belief about God you will be relieved of ten thousand problems, because you will see your biggest and most deadly problem, that overshadows all others, and that is your obligation to God. And that is your duty to love him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to worship him acceptably. When you discover that you have  done none of these things, but that you have been guilty of revolt against the Majesty in the heavens, the inner pressure of self-accusation just might become too heavy to bear.

But take heart, the gospel can lift this destroying burden from the mind, bring beauty from ashes, and exchange heaviness with praise. But until you feel the weight of the burden the gospel will mean nothing to you; and until you sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no sadness and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.

Of all the sins the human heart is prone to, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, because idolatry is an attack on His character. The idolatrous heart believes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. This little god always looks like the one who created it and will be made in the image of the mind that worships it.

A god born in the shadows of a fallen heart will obviously be no true likeness of the true God.

“You think,” said the Lord to the wicked man in the psalm, “that I am like you.” (Psalm 50:21) Surely this has be a serious offense to the Most High God before whom cherubim and seraphim continually cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Armies.” (Is 6:3)

Beware of believing that idolatry is only about metal and wooden idols and that the modern church is free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It starts in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place.

”They knew God,” wrote Paul, “but did not praise and thank him for being God. Instead, their thoughts were total nonsense, and their misguided minds were plunged into darkness.” (Romans 1:21-22 GWT)

Then followed the worship of idols fashioned after the likeness of men and birds and beasts and creeping things. But this series of degrading acts all started in the mind. Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon ruin the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel shows this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. A lofty concept of God is so necessary to the Church that when that concept declines in any way, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there has to first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there. Though she might continue to cling to a sound doctrine, her practical working doctrine has become false. The masses of her congregation come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

The heaviest obligation on the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. In your prayers and labors this should have first place. You do the greatest service to your and the next generation of Christians by having the undimmed and undiminished noble concept of God that you received from your Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past. This will prove of greater value to all of us than anything that art or science can devise.

Q and A:

Where do you get your idea of God from?

What are some attributes of God that you believe in? In other words is he kind, stern, loving, judgmental, generous, stingy, etc. You can pick from the following if you need some help.

To me God is:

Loving

Kind

Cruel

Joyful

Good

Sometimes good

A disciplinarian

Grace filled

Generous

Vengeful

Faithful

Stingy

Exacting

Compassionate

Judgmental

Gentle

Harsh

Powerful

Sweet

Mean

Patient

Bored

Distant

Close

Friendly

All-knowing

Part-time

Easily accessible

Busy

Boring

Lazy

Generous

Restrictive

Easy-going

Other: ___________________

 

 

Writing Assignment:

Writing about what you are learning is not only a good way to learn it more, but a great way to teach others. As you go through this study I want you to start journaling. We want to make sure this stuff is sinking in, and having to spend some time putting your thoughts and feelings into words will really help it to do just that.

 

So your first assignment is to write about this study. Answer questions like why you are doing it. Why it’s important to know who God is. And what you’ve learned about this idea of the attributes of God so far.

 

 

 CHAPTER 2 God is Incomprehensible

The child, the philosopher, and the believer all have one question: “What is God like?” This book is an attempt to answer that question. But first I have to say that, that question cannot be answered except to say that God is not like anything; that is, He is not exactly like anything or anybody.

We learn by using what we already know as a bridge to pass over to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most intelligent and thoughtful mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination. Those strange beings that populate the world of science fiction and mythology are not pure creations of fancy. The imagination created them by taking the ordinary inhabitants of earth and air and sea and extending their familiar forms beyond their normal boundaries, or by mixing the forms of two or more so as to produce something new. However beautiful or grotesque these might be, their prototypes can always be identified. They are like something we already know.

 

The effort of inspired men to express the inexpressible has placed a great strain on both thought and language in the Holy Scriptures. The ideas are so often a revelation of a world above nature, and being written for the natural mind, the writers are compelled to use a bunch of “like” words to make themselves understood.

 

When the Spirit teaches you something that lies beyond the field of your knowledge, He tells you that this thing is like something you already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save you from slavish literalism. For example, when the prophet Ezekiel saw heaven opened and visions of God, he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was completely different from anything he had ever known before, so he fell back on the language of simile. “The living creatures looked like burning coals and torches.” (Ezek 1:13)

 

The nearer he approaches to the burning throne the less sure his words become: “Above the dome over their heads was something that looked like a throne made of sapphire. On the throne was a figure that looked like a human. Then I saw what he looked like from the waist up. He looked like glowing bronze with fire all around it. From the waist down, he looked like fire. A bright light surrounded him. The brightness all around him looked like a rainbow in the clouds. It was like the LORD’s glory.” (Ezek 1: 26-28)

 

As strange as this language is, it still doesn’t create the impression of unreality. You get the idea that the whole scene is very real but entirely alien to anything we know on earth. So, in order to communicate an idea of what he sees, the prophet has to use the words “looked like.” Even the throne was something that ‘looked like’ a throne, and the figure that sat on it can only be described as something “like a human.”

 

When the Scripture says that man was “made in the image of God”, we dare not add to that statement an idea from our own head and make it mean “in the exact image.” To do this is to make man a replica of God, and that is to lose the one-of-a-kindness of God and to end up with no God at all. It is to break down the wall, infinitely high, that separates That-which-is-God from that-which-is-not-God. To think of creature and Creator as just alike is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature. It is, for instance, to rob Him of His infinitude: there cannot be two unlimited substances in the universe. It is to take away His sovereignty: there can’t be two absolutely free beings in the universe, because sooner or later two completely free wills must collide. These attributes, without mentioning the others, require that there is only one to whom they belong.

 

When you try to imagine what God is like you have to use that-which-is-not-God, the created, as the raw material for your mind to see Him; so whatever you visualize God to be, He is not, because you have made your imagination out of that which He has made, and what He has made is not God. If you insist on trying to imagine Him, you end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.

 

”The intellect knows that it is ignorant of You, Oh Lord” said Nicholas of Cusa, “because it knows You cannot be known, unless the unknowable could be known, and the invisible seen, and the inaccessible attained.”

 

”If anyone should put forth any concept by which You can be conceived,” says Nicholas again, “I know that, that concept is not a concept of You, because every concept ended inside the walls of Paradise…. So too, if any were to tell of the understanding of You, wishing to supply a way that You might be understood, this person is yet far from You…. because You are absolute, above all the concepts that any man can conceive.” Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can, in some measure, control. We need the feeling of security that comes from knowing what God is like, and what He is like is of course a composite of all the religious pictures we have seen, all the best people we have known or heard about, and all the sublime ideas we have imagined.

 

If all this sounds strange to modern ears, it is only because we have taken God for granted for generations. The glory of God has not been revealed to this generation. The God of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of mythology, if indeed He is not actually inferior to them, in that He is weak and helpless, while they at least had power.

 

If what we conceive God to be He is not, how then should we think of Him? If He is really incomprehensible, as the Creed declares Him to be, and unapproachable, as Paul says He is, how can we Christians satisfy our longing for Him? The hopeful words, “Be in harmony and at peace with God,”(Job 22:21)still stand after the passing of the centuries; but how can you acquaint yourself with One who escapes all the straining efforts of the human mind and heart? And how can you be held accountable to know what cannot be known? ”Can you, by searching, find out God?” asks Zophar the Naamathite; “can you find out the Almighty perfectly? It is high as heaven; what can you do? deeper than hell; what can you know?”

 

No man knows the Father except the Son,”said our Lord, “and those to whom the Son willing reveal him.”(Matt 11:27) The Gospel according to John reveals the helplessness of the human mind before the great Mystery, which is God.  And Paul, in 1 Corinthians, teaches that God can be known only as the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the heart that seeks Him.

 

The yearning to know What cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calls to deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this happen?

 

The answer of the Bible is simply “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In Christ and by Christ, God lives in complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience. God came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him.

 

” God is of infinite greatness,” says Christ’s enraptured poet, Richard Rolle; “more than we can know; … unknowable by created things; and can never be comprehended by us as He is in Himself. But even here and now, whenever the heart begins to burn with a desire for God, it is made able to receive the uncreated light and, inspired and fulfilled by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it tastes the joys of heaven. It transcends all visible things and is raised to the sweetness of eternal life….This is perfect love; when all the intent of the mind, all the secret working of the heart, is lifted up into the love of God.”’

 

That God can be known by the soul in tender personal experience while remaining infinitely aloof from the curious eyes of reason is a paradox best described as darkness to the intellect, but sunshine to the heart. Frederick W. Faber, the author of the celebrated little work The Cloud of Unknowing,develops this thesis throughout his book. In approaching God, he says, the seeker discovers that the divine Being dwells in obscurity, hidden behind a cloud of unknowing; nevertheless he should not be discouraged but set his will with a naked intent upon God. This cloud is between the seeker and God so that he may never see God clearly by the light of understanding or feel Him in his emotions. But by the mercy of God, faith can break through into His Presence if the seeker can just believe the Word and press on.

 

Michael de Molinos, the Spanish saint, taught the same thing. In his Spiritual Guide he says that God will take the soul by the hand and lead her through the way of pure faith, “and giving the understanding to leave behind all considerations and reasoning, He draws her forward…. So He causes her by means of a simple and obscure knowledge of faith to set her heart only on her Bridegroom.”

 

For these and similar teachings Molinos was condemned as a heretic by the Inquisition and sentenced to life imprisonment. He soon died in prison, but the truth he taught can never die. Speaking of the Christian soul he says: “Let her suppose that all the whole world and the most refined conceptions of the wisest intellects can tell her nothing, and that the goodness and beauty of her Beloved infinitely surpass all their knowledge, being persuaded that all creatures are too ignorant to inform her and to conduct her to the true knowledge of God…. So, she ought to go forward with her love, leaving all her understanding behind. Let her love God as He is in Himself, and not as her imagination says He is, and pictures Him.”

 

”What is God like?” If by that question we mean “What is God like in Himself?” there is no answer. If we mean “What has God revealed about Himself that the reverent mind can comprehend?” there is, I believe, an answer both full and satisfying. For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He, in his divine love, has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes.

 

Q and A

What do you think about this statement Tozer makes, “If you insist on trying to imagine Him, you end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”

 

Have you ever tried to imagine God?

Does what Tozer is saying make sense?

What is an idol of the mind?

Can you think of some other idols of your mind that you might have?

 

Bible Study:

Do a quick study on idols. What is an idol?

What does God’s word say about idols?

To do this I want you to look at a concordance. Online, type in the word ‘idol’ and find the verses that talk about them. Or use a real book and look up the word ‘idol.’

Then start a notebook with all your research you will do here in GG 201.

Create one section called Verse Lists. Here you will collect all the verses you can on different topics. You can also do this on your computer, I use excel for that or Logos Bible Software. But no matter how you do it, it’s time to start to create lists so you can quickly go back and find verses that have meant something to you.

 

Can you answer the questions about idols? If you want more info on idols, pick up Idol Girls, what’s your obsession?

 

CHAPTER 3

A Divine Attribute: Something True About God

 

The study of the attributes of God, far from being boring and heavy, are for the enlightened Christian, a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that thirsts for God, nothing could be more delightful.

 

Only to sit and think of God, Oh what a joy it is! To think the thought, to breath the Name Earth has no higher bliss. Frederick W. Faber

 

It would seem to be necessary before going any further to define the word attribute as it is used in this book. It is not used in its philosophical sense or confined to its strictest theological meaning.  I am using it to mean whatever might correctly describe God. For the purpose of this book an attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true about Himself.

 

And this brings me to the question of the number of the divine attributes. Religious thinkers have different ideas about this. Some have insisted that there are seven, but Faber sang of the “God of a thousand attributes,” and Charles Wesley called them numberless.

 

True, these men were worshiping, not counting; but we might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart instead of the more cautious reasoning of the theological mind. If an attribute is something that is true about God, we might as well not try to count them. Furthermore, about this meditation on the being of God, the number of the attributes is not important, because only a limited few will be mentioned here. If an attribute is something true about God, it is also something that you can conceive of as being true of Him. God, being infinite, has to have some attributes that we can know. An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God’s self-revelation. It is an answer to a question, the reply God makes to our questions about himself.

 

What is God like? What kind of God is He? How can you expect Him to act toward you and toward all created things? These questions aren’t just academic. They touch the inner most part of the human spirit, and their answers affect your life, character and destiny.

 

When you ask them in reverence and humility, these are questions that can’t help but be pleasing to the Father. “For He wants us to be occupied in knowing and loving,” wrote Julian of Norwich, “till the time that we shall be fulfilled in heaven…. For of all the gazing and the loving of your Maker leads your soul to seem less in its own sight, and fills you with reverent dread and true meekness; with plenty of charity for your fellow Christians.” God has provided answers to your questions; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy your intellect and ravish your heart. These answers He has given in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.

 

The idea that God reveals Himself in the creation is not held with much esteem by modern Christians; but it is, nevertheless, said in the inspired Word, especially in the writings of David and Isaiah in the Old Testament and in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans in the New. In the Holy Scriptures the revelation is clearer:

 

“The heavens declare Your glory, Lord, In every star Your wisdom shines;

But when our eyes behold Your Word, We read Your name in fairer lines”.Isaac Watts

 

And it is a sacred and indispensable part of the Christian message that the full light of revelation came at the incarnation when the Eternal Word became flesh to dwell among us. (John 1)

 

Though God in this threefold revelation has provided answers to our questions concerning Him, the answers are by no means on the surface. They have to be sought by prayer, by long meditation on the written Word, and by earnest and well-disciplined work. However brightly the light might shine, it can be seen only by those who are spiritually prepared to receive it.  ”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matt 5:8)  If you want to think accurately about the attributes of God, you have to learn to reject certain words that are sure to come crowding into your mind – words like ‘trait,’ ‘characteristic,’ ‘quality,’ words that are proper and necessary when you are considering created beings but altogether inappropriate when you are thinking about God. You have to break yourself of the habit of thinking of the Creator as you think of His creatures. It is almost impossible to think without words, but if you permit yourself to think with the wrong words, you will soon be entertaining wrong thoughts; for words, which are given to us for the expression of thought, have a habit of going beyond their proper bounds and changing the content of your thought. “As nothing is more easy than to think,” says Thomas Traherne, “so nothing is more difficult than to think well.” If you ever think well it should be when you think of God.

 

A man is the sum of his parts and his character is the sum of the traits that make up his parts. These traits vary from person to person and might, from time to time, vary within the same person. Human character is not constant because the traits or qualities that constitute it are unstable. These come and go, burn low or glow with great intensity throughout you life. So a man person is kind and considerate at thirty might be cruel and rude at fifty. Such a change is possible because man is made; he is in a very real sense a composition; he is the sum of the traits that make up his character.

 

It is natural and correct to think of man as a work made by the divine Intelligence. He is both created and made. How he was created lies undisclosed among the secrets of God; how he was brought from no being to being, from nothing to something is not known and may never be known to anyone but the One who made him. HowGod made him, however, is less of a secret, and while we know only a small portion of the whole truth, we do know that man has a body, a soul, and a spirit; we know that he has memory, reason, will, intelligence, sensation, and we know that to give these meaning he has the wondrous gift of consciousness. We know, too, that these, together with various qualities of temperament, compose his total human self.

 

These are gifts from God arranged by infinite wisdom, notes that make up the score of creations loftiest symphony, threads that compose the master tapestry of the universe. But in all this we are thinking creature-thoughts and using creature-words to express them. But these thoughts and words are not appropriate to the Deity. “The Father is made of none,” says the Athanasian Creed, “neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone, not made, or created. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son: not made nor created, but proceeding.” God exists in Himself and of Himself. His being He owes to no one. His substance is indivisible. He has no parts but is single in His being.

 

This means not only that there is but one God; it means also that God is simple, uncomplex, one with Himself. The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but of the absence of parts. Between His attributes no contradiction can exist. He need not suspend one to exercise another, for in Him all His attributes are one. All of God does all that God does; He does not divide himself to perform a work, but works in the total unity of His being.

 

An attribute, then, is a part of God. It is how God is, and as far as the reasoning mind can go, we may say that it is what God is, though, as I have tried to explain, exactly what He is He cannot tell us. Of what God is conscious when He is conscious of self, only He knows. “no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) Only to an equal could God communicate the mystery of His Godhead; and to think of God as having an equal is to fall into an intellectual absurdity.

 

The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures. Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself. And so with the other attributes. (1 John 4:8)

 

 

Q and A

What’s the most important thing to remember from this chapter?

How does this change your thoughts about God?

As you look at the Table of Contents, which attribute of God is the one you are the most interested to learn about?

Which one is the hardest for you to wrap your brain around?

 

Writing:

Today, write about what you read. Just a quick little paragraph on what this chapter had to say. Summarize it, teach it, share it.

 

CHAPTER 4 God is Three in One

 

To meditate on the three Persons of the Godhead is to walk in thought through the garden eastward in Eden and to tread on holy ground. Your sincerest effort to grasp the incomprehensible mystery of the Trinity must remain forever futile, and only by deepest reverence can it be saved from complete arrogance.

 

There are some who reject all they can’t explain and have denied that God is a Trinity. Subjecting the Most High to their cold, level-eyed scrutiny, they conclude that it is impossible that he could be both One and Three. But they forget that their whole life is enshrouded in mystery. They fail to consider that any real explanation of even the so of the simplest phenomenon in nature lies hidden in obscurity and can no more be explained than can the mystery of the Godhead.

 

Every person lives by faith, the nonbeliever as well as the believer; the one by faith in natural laws and the other by faith in God. Every person throughout their entire life constantly accepts things without understanding. The most learned sage can be reduced to silence with one simple question, “What?” The answer to that question lies forever in the abyss of unknowing beyond any man’s ability to discover.

 

Thomas Carlyle, following Plato, pictures a man, a deep pagan thinker, who had grown to maturity in some hidden cave and is brought out suddenly to see the sun rise. “What would he think,” exclaims Carlyle, “imagine his astonishment at the sight we witness daily with indifference! With the free, open sense of a child, yet with the ripe faculty of a man, his whole heart would be kindled by that sight…. This green flowery rock- built earth, the trees, the mountains, rivers, many-sounding seas; that great deep sea of azure that swims overhead; the winds sweeping through it; the black cloud fashioning itself together , now pouring out hail and now rain; what is it?  What? At the bottom we do not know; we can never know at all.”

 

How different are we who have grown used to it, who have become jaded with so much wonder. “It is not by our superior insight that we escape the difficulty,” says Carlyle, “it is by our superior frivolity, our inattention, our want of insight. It is by not thinking, that we cease to wonder at it…. We call that fire of the black thundercloud electricity, and study every aspect of it, and study the awe right out of it: but what is it, really? Where did it come from? Where does it go? Science has done a lot for us; but it is a poor science that would hide from us the great deep sacred infinitude of unknowing, which we can never penetrate, on which all science sits as a superficial film. This world, after all our sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.”

 

These penetrating, almost prophetic, words were written more than a century ago, but not all the breathtaking advances of science and technology since that time have invalidated one word or rendered obsolete as much as one period or comma. Still we do

not know. We save face by repeating frivolously the popular jargon of science. We harness the mighty energy that rushes through our world; we subject it to fingertip control in our cars and our kitchens; we make it work for us like Aladdin’s lamp, but still we do not know what it is. Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies. We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper “mystery.”

 

The Church has not hesitated to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Without pretending to understand, she has given her witness, she has repeated what the Holy Scriptures teach. Some deny that the Scriptures teach the Trinity of the Godhead on the ground that the whole idea of trinity in unity is a contradiction in terms; but since we cannot understand our infinite universe or the hatching of a robin’s egg in the nest, why should the Trinity be a problem to us? “We think more loftily of God,” says Michael de Molinos, “by knowing that He is incomprehensible, and above our understanding, than by conceiving Him under any image, and creature beauty, according to our rude understanding.”

 

Not all who called themselves Christians through the centuries were Trinitarians, but as the presence of God in the fiery pillar glowed above the camp of Israel throughout the wilderness journey, saying to all the world, “These are My people,” so belief in the Trinity has since the days of the apostles shone above the Church of the Firstborn as she journeyed down the years. Purity and power have followed this faith. Under this banner have gone forth apostles, fathers, martyrs, hymnists, reformers, revivalists, and the seal of divine approval has rested on their lives and their work. However, they may have differed on minor matters, the doctrine of the Trinity bound them together.

 

What God declares the believing heart confesses without the need of further proof. And, to seek proof is to admit doubt, and to obtain proof is to render faith useless. Everyone who possesses the gift of faith will recognize the wisdom of those daring words of one of the early Church fathers: “I believe that Christ died for me because it is incredible; I believe that he rose from the dead because it is impossible.”

 

That was the attitude of Abraham, who against all evidence stayed strong in faith, giving glory to God. It was the attitude of Anselm, “the second Augustine,” one of the greatest thinkers of the Christian era, who held that faith must precede all effort to understand.

 

Reflection on revealed truth naturally follows the beginning of faith, but faith comes first to the hearing ear, not to the thinking mind. The believing man does not ponder the Word and arrive at faith by a process of reasoning, nor does he look for confirmation of faith from philosophy or science. His cry is, “O earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord. Let God be true, but every man a liar.”

 

I’m not dismissing scholarship completely.  The scholar has a vitally important task to perform within a carefully prescribed area. His task is to guarantee the purity of the text, to get as close as possible to the Word in the original language. He may compare Scripture with Scripture until he has discovered the true meaning of the text. But right there his authority ends. He must never sit in judgment upon what is written. He dare not bring the meaning of the Word before the bar of reason. He dare not commend or condemn the Word as reasonable or unreasonable, scientific or unscientific. After the meaning is discovered, that meaning judges him; never does he judge it.

 

The doctrine of the Trinity is truth for the heart. The spirit of man alone can enter through the veil and penetrate into that Holy of Holies. “Let me seek You in longing,”

pleaded Anselm, “let me long for You in seeking; let me find You in love, and love You in finding.” Love and faith are at home in the mystery of the Godhead. Let reason kneel in reverence outside.

 

Christ did not hesitate to use the plural form when speaking of Himself along with the Father and the Spirit. ”we will go to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) Yet again He said, ”The Father and I are one.” (John 10:30) It is most important that we think of God as Trinity in Unity, neither confusing the Persons or dividing the Substance. Only so may we think rightly of God and in a manner worthy of Him and of our own souls.

 

It was our Lord’s claim to equality with the Father that outraged the religious of His day and led to His crucifixion. The attack on the doctrine of the Trinity two centuries later by Arius and others was also aimed at Christ’s claim to deity. During the Arian controversy 318 Church fathers (many of them maimed and scarred by the physical violence suffered in earlier persecutions) met at Nicaea and adopted a statement of faith, one section of which runs:

 

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, The only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of Him before all ages, God of God, Light of Light,

Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made.

 

For more than sixteen hundred years these words have condensed, in theological language, the teaching of the New Testament concerning the position of the Son in the Godhead.

The Nicene Creed also pays tribute to the Holy Spirit as being Himself God and equal to the Father and the Son:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Lord and giver of life, Which proceedes from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and Son together Is worshipped and glorified.

 

Apart from the question of whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone or from the Father and the Son, this tenet of the ancient creed has been held by the Eastern and Western branches of the Church and by all but a tiny minority of Christians.

 

The authors of the Athanasian Creed spelled out with great care the relation of the three Persons to each other, filling in the gaps in human thought as far as they were able to, while staying within the bounds of the inspired Word. “In this Trinity,” runs the Creed, “nothing is before or after, nothing is greater or less: but all three Persons coeternal, together and equal.”

 

How do these words harmonize with the saying of Jesus, “The Father is greater than I am”? (John 14:28)  Those old theologians knew, and wrote into the Creed, “Equal to His Father, as touching His Godhead; less than the Father, as touching His manhood,” and this interpretation makes sense to everyone who is looking for truth in a region where the light is all but blinding.

 

To redeem mankind the Eternal Son did not leave the Father; while walking among men He referred to Himself as  “the one who is closest to the Father’s heart,” (John 1:18) spoke of Himself again as “the Son of man who came from heaven.” I’m offering mystery here, but not confusion. In His incarnation the son veiled His deity, but He did not void it out. The unity of the Godhead made it impossible for him to surrender anything of His deity. When He took upon Himself the nature of man, He did not degrade Himself or become even for a minute, less than He had been before. God can never become less than Himself. For God to become anything that He has not been is unthinkable.

 

The Persons of the Godhead, being one, have one will. They work always together, and never one smallest act is done by one without the instant acquiescence of the other two. Every act of God is accomplished by the Trinity in Unity. Here, of course, we have to start thinking of God in human terms. We are thinking of Him by analogy with man, and the result falls short of ultimate truth; but if we think of God at all, we have to do it by adapting creature-thoughts and creature-words for the Creator. It is an understandable error to conceive of the Persons of the Godhead as conferencing with one another and reaching agreement by interchange of thought like humans do. It has always seemed to me that Milton introduces an element of weakness into his classic Paradise Lostwhen he presents the Persons of the Godhead talking with each other about the redemption of the human race.

 

When the Son of God walked the earth as the Son of Man, He spoke often to the Father and the Father answered Him; as the Son of Man, He now intercedes with God for His people. The dialogue involving the Father and the Son recorded in the Scriptures is always to be understood as being between the Eternal Father and the Man Christ Jesus. That instant, immediate communion between the Persons of the Godhead which has been from all eternity has no sound, effort or motion.

 

 

A popular belief among Christians divide the work of God between the three Persons, giving a specific part to each.  For instance, creation is attributed to the Father, redemption to the Son, and regeneration to the Holy Spirit. This is partly true but not completely so, because God cannot divide Himself so that one Person works while another is inactive. In the Scriptures the three Persons are shown to act in harmonious unity in all the mighty works that are in motion throughout the universe.

In the Holy Scriptures the work of creation is attributed to the Father (Gen. 1:1), to the Son (Col. 1;16), and to the Holy Spirit (Job. 26:13 and Ps. 104:30). The incarnation is shown to have been accomplished by the three Persons in full accord (Luke 1: 35), though only the Son became flesh to dwell among us. At Christ’s baptism the Son came up out of the water, the Spirit descended upon Him and the Father’s voice spoke from heaven (Matt. 3:16, 17).

 

Probably the most beautiful description of the work of atonement is found in Hebrews 9:14, where it is says that Christ, through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God; and there we see the three persons operating together.

 

The resurrection of Christ is likewise attributed to the Father (Acts 2:32), to the Son (John 10:17-18), and to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:4). The salvation of the individual man is shown by the apostle Peter to be the work of all three Persons of the Godhead (1 Pet. 1:2), and the indwelling of the Christian man’s soul is said to be by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-23).

 

The doctrine of the Trinity, as I have said before, is truth for the heart. The fact that it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favor. Such a truth had to be revealed; no one could have imagined it.

 

Bible Study:

If you haven’t done it already, look up all the verses Tozer references and start a verse list on the Trinity. It’s important to know what you believe and why you believe it.

Can you find more verses that refer to the Trinity? Do a word study to see if you can find more.

What are your feelings or thoughts on the concept of a Trinity? Is it hard for you to believe in?

What is a dichotomy?

Are there any other dichotomies in scripture that you can think of?

 

Writing:

This week journal your thoughts about God. What is he revealing to you as you attempt to learn more about who he is.

 

Further study:

If you are having trouble believing something about God then you might like this little book, Why do you Not Believe, by Andrew Murray. You can read it for free here – http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/murray/why_not_believe/wnbelieve.htm

 

 

CHAPTER 5 The Self-existence of God

 

“God has no origin,” said Novatian and He has no beginning, and it is this idea that tells you the difference between That-which-is-God from whatever is not God. Origin is a word that only applies to things created. When you think of anything that has origin you are notthinking of God. That means that God is self-existent, while all created things have to have originated somewhere at some time. Aside from God, nothing is self-caused.

 

When man searches for the beginning of things he reveals his belief that everything was made by Someone who was made of no one. Life just teaches you that everything “came from” something else. Whatever exists has to have had a cause that came before it and was at least equal to it, since the younger cannot produce the older. Any person or thing is both caused and the cause of someone or something else; but God is the One who is the cause of all but is Himself caused by none.

 

The child who asks, “Where did God come from?” is unknowingly acknowledging his creaturehood. Already the concept of cause and effect is firmly fixed in her mind. She knows that everything around her came from something other than itself, and she simply extends that concept to God. The little philosopher is thinking in true creature-idiom and, allowing for her lack of basic information, she is reasoning correctly. She has to be told that God has no origin, and she will find this hard to believe since it introduces a category that is totally unfamiliar and contradicts the bent toward origin-seeking so deeply ingrained in all intelligent beings, a bent that impels them to probe ever back and back toward undiscovered creators.

 

To think about something without origin isn’t easy, if it’s even possible. But just like under certain conditions a tiny point of light can be seen, not by looking directly at it, but by focusing your eyes slightly to one side, so it is with the idea of the Uncreated. When you try to focus your thought on the One who is pure uncreated being you might see nothing at all, because He lives in a light that no human can go into. Only by faith and love are you able to get a glimpse of Him as he passes by your shelter in the cleft of the rock. (Ex 33:22) “And although this knowledge is very cloudy, vague and general,” says Michael de Molinos, “being supernatural, it produces a far clearer and more perfect understanding of God than any sensible or particular thought that can be formed in this life; since all physical and sensible images are immeasurably remote from God.”

 

The human mind, being created, has an understandable uneasiness with the Uncreated. We do not find it comfortable to allow for the presence of One who is totally outside of the circle of our familiar knowledge. We tend to be uncomfortable with the thought of One who does not need us for His being, who is responsible to no one, who is self- existent, self-dependent and self-sufficient.

 

Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of explaining things and are impatient with anything that refuses to explain itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there’s a lot that they don’t know; but it’s another thing completely for them to admit that there’s something that they can neverknow, and which they have no technique for discovering.

 

To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, or submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us have, so we save face by thinking God down to our level,or at least down to where we can manage Him. But how He eludes us! He is everywhere while He is nowhere, for “where” has to do with matter and space, and God is independent of both. He is unaffected by time or motion, is wholly self-dependent and owes nothing to the worlds His hands have made.

 

It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and work to promote Christianity, could spend our whole lives on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God. Few of us have let our hearts gaze in wonder at the I AM, the self-existent Self of which no creature can think. Such thoughts are too painful for us. We prefer to think about things that will do more good – about how to build a better mousetrap, for instance, or how to make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. And for this we are now paying too heavy a price in the secularlzation of our religion and the decay of our inner lives.

 

Maybe now you are asking, “What does this have to do with mylife?  What possible meaning can the self-existence of God have for me in a world like ours?” Here is why, because God made you, it follows that all your problems and their solutions are spiritual.And because of that a knowledge of what kind of God it is that runs the universe is essential to your sanity.

 

The much-quoted advice of Alexander Pope, “Know then yourself, presume not God to scan: The proper study of mankind is man,” meaning know yourself, knowing God is a waste of time, you should be learning about yourself. But if you do this, then it actually destroys any possibility of you ever knowing yourself in any but the most superficial way. Because you can never know who or what you are till you know at least something of what God is. For this reason the self-existence of God is not out-of-date and useless doctrine, just for the academic; it is, in fact, as near as our breath and as practical as the latest surgical technique.

 

For reasons known only to Himself, God honored man above all other beings by creating him in His own image. This divine image in man is not just fancy poetry, it’s not just an idea born of religious dreaming. It is a solid theological fact, taught plainly throughout the Scriptures and recognized by the Church as a truth necessary to a right understanding of the Christian faith.

 

Man is a created being, a created and dependent self, who of himself possesses nothing but is dependent each moment for his existence on the One who created him after His own likeness. The existence of God is necessary to the existence of man. Think God away and man has lost the possibility of existence.

 

That God is everything and man is nothing is a basic tenet of the Christian faith and here the teachings of Christianity is similar to some of the more advanced and philosophical religions of the East. Man for all his genius is just an echo of the original Voice, a reflection of the uncreated Light. As a sunbeam disappears when cut off from the sun, so man apart from God would go back into the void of nothingness from where he first leaped at God’s creative call.  And not only man, but everything that exists came out of and is dependent on the continuing creative impulse. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:1-3).” That is how John explains it, and Paul agrees with him when he says, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” (Col 1:16) To this the writer to the Hebrews adds his voice, testifying of Christ that He is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His Person, and that He upholds all things by the word of His power.

 

In this utter dependence of all things on the creative will of God lies the possibility for both holiness and sin. One of the marks of God’s image in man is his ability to exercise moral choice. The teaching of Christianity is that man chose to be independent of God and confirmed his choice by deliberately disobeying a divine command. This act violated the relationship that normally existed between God and His creature; it rejected God as the reason for existence and threw man back on himself. From that point on he became not a planet revolving around the central Sun, but a sun in his own right, around which everything else has to revolve.

 

A more obvious statement of selfhood could not be imagined than those words of God to Moses: I AM THAT I AM.(Ex 3:14) Everything God is, everything that is God, is set forth in that unqualified declaration of his independent being. Yet in God, self is not sin but the perfect example of all possible goodness, holiness and truth.

 

The natural man is a sinner because and only because he challenges God’s selfhood in relation to his own.In all else he may willingly accept the sovereignty of God; in his own life he rejects it. For him, God’s dominion ends where his begins. For him, self becomes Self, and in this he unconsciously imitates Lucifer, that fallen son of the morning who said in his heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. . . . I will be like the Most High.”

 

Yet so subtle is self that hardly anyone is conscious of its presence. Because man is born a rebel, he doesn’t know that he is one.His constant self-assertion, as much as he thinks of it, feels like a perfectly normal thing. He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself. No matter how far down the scale of social acceptance he may slide, he is still in his own eyes a king on a throne, and no one, not even God, can take that throne from him.

 

Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one: moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, “I AM.” That is sin in its concentrated essence; yet because it is natural it appears to be good. It is only when the gospel brings the soul before the face of the Most Holy One without the protective shield of ignorance that the frightful moral incongruity is finally realized. In the language of evangelism the man who is confronted by the fiery presence of Almighty God is said to be under conviction. Christ referred to this when He said of the Spirit that He would send into the world, “And when he is come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).”

 

The earliest fulfillment of these words of Christ was at Pentecost after Peter had preached the first great Christian sermon. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) This “What shall we do?” is the deep heart cry of everyone who suddenly realizes that they are a fraud sitting on a stolen throne. However painful, it is an accurate assessment of how terrible you really are that leads you to true repentance and makes a joyful Christian after your self life has been dethroned and you have found forgiveness and peace through the gospel. “Purity of heart is to will one thing,” said Kierkegaard, and to that I add,  “The essence of sin is to will one thing,” because to set your will against the will of God is to dethrone Him and make yourself supreme in your own little kingdom of your soul. This is sin at its evil root. Sins may multiply like the sands on the beach, but they are just one. The doctrine of total depravity says that the you can do nothing but sin and that your good deeds are really not good at all, but done for selfish reasons. Your best religious efforts God rejects like He rejected the offering of Cain. Only when you have restored the stolen throne to God are your works acceptable.

 

The struggle of the Christian to be good while they still serve self, even if subconsciously, is vividly described by the apostle Paul in the Roman 7. Take a second and have a look in your Bible.

 

And 800 years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah called sin rebellion against the will of God and the desire  to choose for yourself the way you will go. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” he said, “we have turned every one to his own way,”(Is 53:6) and I believe that no more accurate description of sin has ever been given.

 

An inward principle of self, lies at the source of all human conduct, turning everything men do into evil. To save us completely Christ has to reverse the bent of our nature; He has to plant a new principle inside of us so that our actions will spring out of a desire to promote the honor of God and the good of our fellow men. The old self-sins have to die, and the only instrument that they can be killed by is the Cross.“If any man come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Luke 9:23),” said our Lord,  and years later Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

 

Q and A

How does God’s self-existence change the life of man? How about the life of the believer?

Is there any emotional relief in knowing he is self-existent?

What would you think if he weren’t self-existent?

 

Writing:

Today write about this chapter. Explain it to your friends and get their thoughts on it.

Find at least one quote from this chapter that you can tweet or Facebook. Start to use your social networks to glorify God. Talk about Him, share truth and encourage one another.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 8 The  Infinititeness of God

 

The world is evil, and the glory of God has departed from the church as the fiery cloud once lifted from the door of the Temple in the sight of Ezekiel the prophet. The God of Abraham has withdrawn His conscious Presence from us, and a different God that our fathers never knew is making himself at home among us. This God we have made and because we have made him we can understand him; because we have created him he can never surprise us, never overwhelm us’, nor astonish us, nor transcend us.

 

The God of glory sometimes revealed Himself like a sun to warm and bless, but often to astonish, overwhelm, and blind before He healed and bestowed permanent sight. This God of our fathers wants to be the God of their children. And all you have to do is to prepare a habitation in love and faith and humility for Him. If you want Him badly enough He will come and show Himself to you.

 

Take a look at these words from Anselm; or better still, try them out:

 

Get up. Get away for awhile from your occupations. Hide yourself for a time from Your disturbing thoughts. Put away Your burdensome cares, and Your tiresome business. Make room for a little time for God, and rest for a little time in Him. Enter the inner chamber of Your mind; shut out all thoughts except those of God and those that can help you in seeking Him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek Your face; Your face, Lord, will I seek.”

 

Of all that can be thought or said about God, His Infinitude is the most difficult to comprehend. Even to try to conceive of it would appear to be self-contradictory, because conceptualization of his infinitiness is impossible. But we’ve gotta try, because the Holy Scriptures teach that God is infinite and, if you accept His other attributes, you have to accept this one too.

 

You can’t give up trying to understand because it’s too hard and there’s no technological aids for the research. The view is better the farther in you go and the journey is not one for your eyes but for your heart. Look for the clues God wants to give you, knowing that He often gives spiritual eyesight to the blind and whispers truths to children that wise men never dreamt of. In Him the blind will see and the deaf will hear. In Him you have to expect to receive the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of the secret places.

 

Infinite means limitless, and it is obviously impossible for a limited mind to grasp the unlimited.  So you are left with a  dilemma. Trying to envision a being altogether foreign to you, and completely unlike anything you have known in your familiar world of matter, space, and time. ”Here, and in all our meditations upon the qualities and content of God,” writes Novatian, “we pass beyond our power of conception, our words cannot state the power of His greatness. At the contemplation and utterance of His majesty all eloquence is rightly dumb, all mental effort is feeble. For God is greater than mind itself. His greatness cannot be conceived. Could we conceive of His greatness He would be less than the human mind that conceives of him. He is greater than all language, and no statement can express Him. Indeed, if any statement could express Him, He would be less than the human speech that could by such a statement comprehend and gather up all that He is. All our thoughts about Him must be less than He, and our wisest words will be trivialities in comparison with Him.”

 

Unfortunately the word infinite has been over used, for things like ‘tons of’ or ‘a lot of’ something, like when we say that an artist takes infinite pains with his picture or a teacher shows infinite patience with her class. In all truth the word can be used of no created thing, and of no one but God. So, to argue about whether or not space is infinite is to play with words. Infinitude can belong to but One. There can be no second.

 

When we say that God is infinite we mean that He knows no bounds. Whatever God is and all that God is, He is without limit. And here again we have to forget the uses of these words in modern speech. Words like “unlimited wealth” and “boundless energy” are examples of the misuse of words. Of course no wealth is unlimited and no energy boundless unless we are speaking of the wealth and energy of God.

 

Again, to say that God is infinite is to say that He is measureless. Measurement is the way created things have of accounting for themselves. It describes limitations, imperfections, and cannot apply to God. The measurement of weight describes the gravitational pull of the earth upon material bodies; distance describes intervals between bodies in space; length means extension in space, and there are other familiar measurements such as those for liquid, energy, sound, light, and numbers. We also try to measure abstract qualities, and speak of great or little faith, high or low intelligence, major or pathetic talents. It should be obvious that all this does not and cannot apply to God. It is just the way we see the works of His hands, but not the way we see Him. He is above all this, outside of it, beyond it. Our concepts of measurement embrace mountains and men, atoms and stars, gravity, energy, numbers, speed, but never God. You cannot speak of measure or amount or size or weight and at the same time be speaking about God, because these talk about degrees and there are no degrees in God.All that He is He is without growth or addition or development. Nothing in God is less or more, or large or small. He is what He is in Himself, without qualifying thought or word. He is simply God.

 

In the awful abyss of the divine Being there may even be attributes we know nothing about and which can have no meaning for us, just as the attributes of mercy and grace can have no personal meaning for seraphim or cherubim. These holy beings might know of these qualities in God but be unable to feel them sympathetically because they have not sinned and so have no need for God’s mercy and grace. In the same way there may be, and I believe there surely are, other aspects of God’s essential being that He has not revealed even to His ransomed and Spirit-illuminated children. These hidden facets of God’s nature concern His relation only to Himself. They are like the far side of the moon, that we know about but that has no immediate meaning for men on earth. There is no reason for us to try to discover what has not been revealed. It is enough to know that God is God.

 

But God’s infinitude belongs to us and is made known to us for our everlasting profit. But just what does it mean to us beyond the mere wonder of thinking about it? Much more as we come to know ourselves and God better. Because God’s nature is infinite, everything that flows out of it is infinite also. We poor human creatures are constantly being frustrated by limitations imposed upon us from without and within. The days of the years of our lives are few, and as quick as a blink of the eye. Life is a short and fevered rehearsal for a concert you cannot stay to give. Just when you appear to have attained some proficiency you are forced to lay your instruments down. There is simply not time enough to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of your natures indicates you are capable of.

 

How completely satisfying to turn from your limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries.There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those who aren’t in Christ, time is a devouring beast; but for his children time crouches and purrs and licks their hands. The enemy of the old creature becomes the friend of the new creature, and the stars in their courses fight for the man God delights to honor. This is what you can learn from the divine infinitude.

 

But there is more. God’s gifts in nature have their limitations. They are finite because they have been created, but the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is as limitless as God. The Christian possesses God’s own life and shares His infinitude with Him. In God there is life enough for all and time enough to enjoy it. Whatever is possessed of natural life runs through its cycle from birth to death and ends, but the life of God returns upon itself and ceases never. And this is life eternal: to know the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

 

The mercy of God is infinite too, and the man who has felt the grinding pain of inward guilt knows that this is more than academic. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20) Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind. However  much sin may abound it still has its limits, because it is the product of finite minds and hearts; but God’s “much more” introduces us to infinitude. Against your deep creature-sickness stands God’s infinite ability to cure. The Christian witness through the centuries has been that “God so loved the world . . .”; (John 3:16) and that love has to be seen in the light of God’s infinitude. His love is measureless. It is more: it is boundless. It has no bounds because it is not a thing but a facet of the essential nature of God. His love is something He is, and because He is infinite that love can enfold the whole created world in itself and have room for ten thousand times ten thousand worlds beside.

 

Bible Study:

 

Take a look at some verses that support this idea of God’s Infiniteness.

Isaiah 40:15-17

Psalm 147:5

Job 42:2

Isaiah 59:1

Psalm 90:2

Psalm 102:24-27

 

Q and A:

 

What does God’s infiniteness mean to you?

 

How does it affect what you think about it? Feel about him?

 

Writing:

 

Write a write post about this idea, and why it’s important for all believers to understand the infiniteness of God.

 

 

CHAPTER 10 The Omniscience of God

 

To say that God is all knowing, or omniscient, is to say that He has perfect knowledge and so has no need to learn anything. But it’s more than that, it’s to say that God has never learned and cannot learn.

 

The Bible says that God has never learned from anyone. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or instructed him as his advisor?  Whom did he consult? Who gave him understanding? Who taught him the right way? Who taught him knowledge? Who informed him about the way to understanding?” (Is 40:13-14)  ”For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?” (Romans 11:34)  These rhetorical questions asked by Isaiah and Paul reveal that God has never learned.

 

From there it is only a step to the conclusion that God cannot learn. Could God, at any time or in any way, receive into His mind knowledge that He did not already have and had not had from eternity? If He could then He would be imperfect and less than himself. To think of a God who has to sit at the feet of a teacher, even though that teacher is an archangel or a seraph, is to think of someone other than the Most High God, maker of heaven and earth.

 

This reverse engineered approach to divine omniscience is a useful tool for understanding. Since our intellectual knowledge of God is so small and obscure, we can sometimes get some advantage in our struggle to understand what God is like by the just thinking about what He is notlike. So far in looking at the attributes of God we have seen that He had no origin, that He had no beginning, that He needs no helpers, that He never changes, and that He has no limitations. The Bible uses this same method of showing us what God is like by showing us what He is not when it says “Have you not known? Have you not heard,” cries Isaiah, “that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired, or become weary?” (Is 40:28) And when God Himself says, in Malachi 3:6, “I, the Lord, never change,” it says more about his all-knowing nature than could be written in ten-thousand words. God’s eternal honesty is affirmed by Paul, who says, “God… cannot lie”(Heb. 6:18); and when the angel asserted that “with God nothing is impossible,” (Luke 1:37) the two negatives, nothing and impossible, add up to one big positive ‘all is possible.’

 

That God is omniscient is not only taught in the Scriptures, it can also be inferred from everything else that is taught about Him. God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and perfectly every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet to come.

 

God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell. And because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything or (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He look for information or ask questions.  God is self-existent and self-contained and knows what no creature can ever know – Himself, perfectly.  “No one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit”(1 Cor 2:11). Only the Infinite can know the infinite.

 

That God knows each person through and through can be a scary thought if you have something to hide – some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against someone else or against God. You might tremble to know that God knows the flimsiness of all of your defense and never accepts poor excuses given for sinful conduct, since He knows perfectly the real reason for it. “You have set our sins in front of you.  You have put our secret sins in the light of your presence.”(Ps 90:8). How tragic to see the sons of Adam hiding among the trees of just another garden. But where can we hide? “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit? Where can I run to get away from you?  If I go up to heaven, you are there.  If I make my bed in hell, you are there.  If I climb upward on the rays of the morning sun or land on the most distant shore of the sea where the sun sets, even there your hand would guide me and your right hand would hold on to me.  If I say, “Let the darkness hide me and let the light around me turn into night”(Psalm 139:7-11).

 

How amazing is it that your Heavenly Father knows you completely. No tattletale can tell on you, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to ambush you and expose your past; no unsuspected weakness in your character can come to light to turn God away from you, since He knew you completely before you knew Him and called you to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against you. “The mountains may move, and the hills may shake, but my kindness will never depart from you. My promise of peace will never change,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you”(Is 54:10).  God knows your frame and remembers that you are dust. He knows you were born in iniquity, and for His own sake engaged to save you (Isa. 48:8-11). His only begotten Son, when He walked among us, felt our pains in their naked intensity of anguish. His knowledge of your afflictions and adversities is more than theoretic; it is personal, warm, and compassionate. Whatever might happen to you, God knows and cares as no one else can.

 

Q and A :

 

What does God’s all-knowingness, or omniscience mean to your life?

Are there things that you have tried to hide from God? What are they?

Knowing what you know now about God’s all-knowing attribute, how do you feel about hiding what he could clearly see?

The Bible says that we are to confess our sins to God to receive forgiveness. Have you confessed those sins you tried to hide yet? If not, then now is the time. If it helps, write them down in your journal. Tell them all to him, though he knows all he still wants you to confess all, to agree that they were sin.

Read James 5:16. Have you confessed your sins to another who you can trust? If there is some big hidden sin that controls you, that you need healing from then I encourage you to confess it to a godly person this week. Make sure it’s someone you can trust. Just get all the sin out in the open so that the devil can’t use it for his benefit any more, and so you can agree with God that his law is perfect.

 

Writing:

Write about your experience so far. Talk about what God is showing you in this season of life and how knowing him more is changing your life.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 13 The Transcendence of God

 

When I speak of God as transcendent I mean that He is exalted far above the created universe, so far above that human thought can’t even imagine it. And by “far above” I’m not talking about physical distance from the earth but His quality of being. Not His location in space, but His life.  God is spirit, and to Him size and distance have no meaning. To us humans they are useful as analogies and illustrations, so God uses them constantly when speaking down to our limited understanding. The words of God as found in Isaiah, “the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place.” (Isaiah 57:15)  give a distinct impression of altitude, but that is because we live in a world of matter, space, and time and tend to think in material terms and so we can grasp abstract ideas only when they are identified in some way with tangible things. In order to get free from the natural world, the human heart has to learn to translate upward the language the Spirit uses to instruct us.

 

It is spirit that gives significance to matter and apart from spirit nothing has any value at all. A little child strays from a family of sightseers and becomes lost on a mountain, and immediately the whole mental perspective of the members of the family is changed. Rapt admiration for the grandeur of nature is replaced by acute distress for the lost child. The group spreads out over the mountainside anxiously calling the child’s name and searching eagerly into every secluded spot where the little one might be hidden.

 

What brought about this sudden change? The tree-clad mountain is still there towering into the clouds in breath-taking beauty, but no one notices it now. All attention is focused on the search for a curly-haired little girl not yet two years old and weighing less than thirty pounds. Though so new and so small, she is more precious to parents and friends than all the huge bulk of the vast and ancient mountain they had been admiring a few minutes before. And in their judgment the whole civilized world agrees, for the little girl can love and laugh and speak and pray, and the mountain can’t. It is the child’s quality of being that gives it worth.

 

But you can’t compare the being of God with any other like the mountain and the child. You can’t think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with the single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would make God important, but that is not enough; we have to see His transcendence in the fullest meaning of the word.

 

Forever God stands apart, in an unapproachable light. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, because the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite. The caterpillar and the archangel, though far removed from each other in the scale of created things, are still the same in that they are both created. They both belong in the category of that-which-is-not-God and are separated from God by infinitude itself.

 

You must understand that it is God Himself who puts it in your heart to seek Him and makes it possible in some measure to know Him, and He loves even the weakest effort to seek Him. If some watcher or holy one who has spent his entire life in the presence of God were to come to earth, how meaningless would the busyness of humanity be? How strange and how empty would the sound the, flat, stale and worthless words heard in the average church from week to week be to Him?  And if he were to speak on earth wouldn’t he speak of God? Wouldn’t he charm and fascinate his hearers with rapturous descriptions of the Godhead? And after hearing him could you ever want to listen to anything less than theology, the doctrine of God? Wouldn’t you suddenly demand that pastors speak to churches from the mount of divine vision or not say a word?

 

When the psalmist saw the sins of the wicked he said this, “there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Psalm 36:1) In that explained the psychology of sin: the failure to fear God. When you fail to fear God you break His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone.

 

In olden days men of faith were said to “walk in the fear of God” and to “serve the Lord with fear.” But however intimate their communion with God was, however bold their prayers were, at the base of their religious life was the concept of God as awesome and dreadful. This idea of a transcendent God runs through the whole Bible and gives color and tone to the character of the saints. This fear of God was more than a natural apprehension of danger; it was a non-rational dread, an acute feeling of personal insufficiency in the presence of God Almighty.

 

Wherever God appeared to men in Bible times the results were the same – an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. When God spoke, Abram laid himself out on the ground to listen. When Moses saw the Lord in the burning bush, he hid his face for fear of looking at God. Isaiah’s vision of God came out of him in the cry, “Woe is me!”and the confession,“I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

 

Daniel’s encounter with God was probably the most dreadful and wonderful of them all. The prophet lifted up his eyes and saw One whose “body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.” (Daniel 10:6)  “I Daniel alone saw the vision” he afterwards wrote, “And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.” (Daniel 10:7–9) These experiences show that a vision of the divine transcendence soon ends all controversy between the man and his God. The fight goes out of the man and he is ready, with the conquered Saul to ask meekly, “Lord, who are you?” (Acts 9:6)

 

Conversely, the self-assurance of the modern Christian, the basic light heartedness present in so many of our churches, the shocking disrespect shown for the Person of God, are evidence enough of deep blindness of heart. A lot of people call themselves Christian, talk a lot about God, and pray to Him sometimes, but don’t know who He is. “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,” (Prov. 14:27) but this healing fear is hardly found today among many Christians.

 

Once in a conversation with his friend, the poet Goethe turned to thoughts of religion and spoke of the abuse of the divine name. “People treat it,” he said, “as if that incomprehensible and most high Being, who is even beyond the reach of thought, was their equal. Otherwise they would not say ‘my friend God, the dear God, the good God.’ These expressions become to them, especially to the clergy, who have it daily in their mouths, just empty words that have no meaning. If they were impressed by His greatness they would be dumb, and out of profound respect they would be unwilling to even say his name.

 

Q and A:

 

What does transcendent mean? Don’t just guess, study it, look up the definition, understand it before you answer.

What is the fear of God? Have you ever felt it?

Why is it so important?

What is he talking about when he talks about “the shocking disrespect shown for the Person of God?”

 

Writing:

Write about this chapter, make it understandable to the average person. Read and re-read this chapter until you can say it in your own words.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 14 The Omnipresence

 

 

The word omnipresent is made up of two parts, ‘omni’ and ‘present.’ The word ‘present,’ of course, means ‘here,’ ‘close to,’ ‘next to,’ and the prefix ‘omni’ means ‘all’ or ‘everything.’ God is everywhere here, close to everything, next to everyone. Few other truths are taught in the Scriptures with as much clarity as the doctrine of the divine omnipresence. The passages supporting this truth are so plain that it would take considerable effort to misunderstand them. They say that God is indwelling in His creation, that there is no place in heaven or on earth or in hell where men can hide from His presence. They teach that God is both far off and near, and that in Him men move and live and have their being. And what is equally important is that his omnipresence explains many other facts about Him.

 

For instance, the Scriptures teach that God is infinite. This means that His being knows no limits. So there can be no limit to His presence; He is omnipresent. In His infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it. There is no place beyond Him for anything to be. God is our environment as the sea is to the fish and the air to the bird. “God is over all things,” wrote Hildebert of Lavardin, “under all things; outside all; within but not enclosed; without but not excluded; above but not raised up; below but not depressed; wholly above, presiding; wholly beneath, sustaining; wholly within, filling.”

 

The belief that God is present within His universe cannot be held in isolation. It has practical implications in many areas of theological thought and bears directly upon certain spiritual problems, like the nature of the world. Thinking men of almost every age and culture have been concerned with the question of what kind of world this is. Is it a material world running by itself, or is it spiritual and run by unseen powers? Does this interlocking system explain itself or does its secret lie in mystery? Does the stream of existence begin and end in itself? Or is its source higher up and farther back in the hills?

 

Christian theology claims to have the answer to these questions. It does not speculate or offer an opinion but sticks to “Thus says the Lord” as its authority. It declares positively that the world is spiritual: it originated in spirit, flows out of spirit, is spiritual in essence, and is meaningless apart from the Spirit that inhabits it.

 

The doctrine of the divine omnipresence personalizes your relation to the universe in which you find yourself. This great central truth gives meaning to all truths and imparts supreme value to all of your little life. God is present, near you, next to you, and this God sees you and knows you through and thorough.

 

At this point faith begins, and while it may go on to include a thousand other wonderful truths, these all refer back to the truth that God is and God is here. “He that comes to God”, says the Book of Hebrews, “must believe that he is” And Christ Himself said, “You believe in God, Believe also…” Whatever “also. . . ” may be added to the elementary belief in God is infrastructure, and regardless of the heights to which it may rise, it continues to rest solidly upon the original foundation.

 

The teachings of the New Testament is that God created the world by the Logos, the Word, and the Word is identified with the second person of the Godhead who was present in the world even before He became incarnate in human nature, Jesus. The Word made all things and remained in His creation to uphold and sustain it and be at the same time a moral light enabling every man to see good from evil. The universe operates as an orderly system, not by impersonal laws but by the creative voice of the immanent and universal Presence, the Logos.

 

Canon W. G. Holmes of India told of seeing Hindu worshipers tapping on trees and stones and whispering ”Are you there? Are you there?” to the god they hoped might live in them. In complete humility the Christian has the answer to that question. God is indeed there. He is there as He is here and everywhere, not confined to tree or stone, but free in the universe, near to everything, next to everyone, and through Jesus Christ immediately accessible to every loving heart. The doctrine of the divine omnipresence decides this forever.

 

This truth should be a source of deep comfort in sorrow and of total assurance in all the experiences of your life. Your “practice of the presence of God” isn’t about you protecting an imaginary object from within your own mind and then trying to realize its presence; but it is to recognize the real presence of the One whom all sound theology declares to be already there, an objective entity, existing apart from any understanding of Him on the part of His creatures. The resulting experience is not imaginiary but real.

 

The certainty that God is always near you, present in all parts of His world, closer to you than your thoughts, should keep you in a state of happiness most of the time. But not all the time. It would be less than honest to promise every believer continual happiness and less than realistic to expect it. As a child might cry out in pain even when wrapped up in its mother’s arms, so a Christian may sometimes know what it is to suffer even in the conscious presence of God. Though “always rejoicing,” Paul admitted that he was sometimes sorrowful, and for our sakes Christ experienced great sorrow and tears though He never left the bosom of the Father (John 1:18).

 

But all will be well. In a world like this tears have their therapeutic effects. The healing balm distilled from the garments of the enfolding Presence cures our ills before they become fatal. The knowledge that we are never alone calms the troubled sea of our lives and speaks peace to our souls.  Both Scripture and reason declare that God is here. All that’s left is for you to learn to realize this in conscious experience.

 

Q and A

According to the New Testament how did God create the world?

What does the omnipresence of God mean to you? To your fear, and your worry?

Is there anything that happens that God doesn’t see or allow?

Read Lamentations 3:36-37. Does this help you answer that question?

Does anything get past God?

What does this mean to your private life? And how can this idea help people who doubt God?

 

Writing:

This week, use this concept of omnipresence, to encourage people who doubt God. Write an article that gives hope, strength and truth to your readers. If you can’t be the encourager, be transparent in your weakness and talk about why you need help or want help from others.

 

 

CHAPTER 15 The Faithfulness of God

 

As I said earlier, God’s attributes are not isolated traits of His character but facets of His very being. They are not things-in-themselves; but they are the thoughts we use to think of God, aspects of a perfect whole, names given to whatever we know to be true of the Godhead.

 

To have a correct understanding of the attributes you have to see them all, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as one. You can think of them separately but they can’t be separated. All attributes assigned to God do not differ or conflict, even though we can use all kinds of words to describe him. . So, although we attribute to God sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, sense, reason and intellect, and so forth, according to the divers significations of each word, in Him sight isn’t different than hearing, or tasting, or smelling, or touching, or feeling, or understanding. And so all theology is said to be established in a circle, because any one of His attributes is affirmed of another.

 

In studying any attribute, the essential oneness of all the attributes soon becomes apparent. You can see, for example, that if God is self-existent He has to be self- sufficient also; and if He has power, since He is infinite, he must have all power. If He has knowledge, His infinitude assures us that He has allknowledge. Likewise, His unchangeableness requires His faithfulness. If He is unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require Him to change. See the interconnectedness, the circle?

 

Any failure within the divine character would mean imperfection and, since God is perfect, that could never happen. So the attributes explain each other and prove that they are just glimpses of the absolutely perfect Godhead.

 

All of God’s acts are consistent with all of His attributes. No attribute contradicts the other, but all harmonize and blend into each other in the infinite abyss of the Godhead. All that God does agrees with all that God is, and being and doing are one in Him.

 

The familiar picture of God as often torn between His justice and His mercy is altogether contrary to the facts. To think of God as going first toward one and then toward another of His attributes is to imagine a God who is unsure of Himself, frustrated and emotionally unstable, which of course is to say that the one of whom we are thinking is not the true God at all but a weak, mental reflection of Him badly out of focus.

 

God being who He is, cannot stop being what He is, and being what He is, He cannot act out of character with Himself. He is at once faithful and unchangeable, so all His words and acts have to be and remain faithful. Men become unfaithful because of desires, fears, weaknesses, loss of interest, or because of some strong influence from outside of them. Obviously none of these forces can affect God in any way. He is His own reason for all He is and does. He cannot be compelled from outside of himself, but always speaks and acts from within Himself by His own sovereign will, as it pleases Him.

 

Almost every heresy in the church has come out of people believing things about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things as far superior to other things that are equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; but we are all constantly tempted to do just that. For instance, the Bible says that God is love, and some have interpreted this in such a way that virtually denies He is just, which the Bible also teaches. Others push the Biblical doctrine of God’s goodness so far that it contradicts his holiness. Or they make His compassion cancel out His truth. Still others understand the sovereignty of God in a way that destroys or at least greatly diminishes His goodness and love.

 

You can hold a correct view of God only by daring to believe everythingHe has said about Himself. It is a huge mistake to edit out of God’s characters those features you think are objectionable. Spiritual blindness is bound to fall upon anyone presumptuous enough to try such a thing. And it is totally uncalled for. You don’t need to fear letting the truth stand as it is written. There is no conflict between any of the divine attributes. God’s being is unitary, meaning he cannot divide Himself and act inconsistent with one of His attributes while the rest remain inactive. All that God is must agree with all that God does. Justice must be present in mercy, and love in judgment. And that’s the way it is with all the divine attributes.

 

The faithfulness of God is essential for sound theology but to the believer it becomes far more than that: it passes through the processes of the understanding and goes on to become nourishing food for the soul. For Scripture not only teaches truth, it also shows its uses for mankind.

 

The inspired writers were men who had a passion for God just like you, dwelling in the midst of life on earth. What they learned about God became to them a sword, a shield, a hammer; it became their life motivation, their good hope, and their confident expectation. From the objective facts of theology their hearts made a thousand joyous deductions and personal applications! The Book of Psalms rings with thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God. The New Testament takes up the theme and celebrates the loyalty of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ; and in the Apocalypse Christ is seen riding a white horse towards His triumph, and the names He bears are Faithfuland True.

 

Christian songs celebrates the attributes of God, and among them is divine faithfulness. “Great is thy faithfulness.”  In a lot of songs we sing of  “God’s glorious perfections celebrated.” “Wisdom, Majesty and goodness.” “Omniscience.” “Omnipotence and unchangeableness.” “Glory, mercy and grace.” These are a few samples taken from a hymnbook published 1849, but everyone familiar with worship music  knows that the stream of sacred songs starts far back in the early years of the Church’s existence. From the beginning, belief in the perfection of God brought sweet assurance to believers and taught the ages to sing.

 

Upon God’s faithfulness rests our whole hope of future blessedness. Only as He is faithful will His covenants stand and His promises be honored. Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful can we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come.

 

Every heart can make its own application of this and draw from it the conclusions as the truth suggests and its own needs bring into focus. The tempted, the anxious, the fearful, the discouraged may all find new hope and good cheer in the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is faithful. He will ever be true to His pledged word. The hard-pressed children of the covenant may be sure that He will never remove His loving-kindness from them or allow His faithfulness to fail.

 

Q and A

 

What does it mean to your thoughts on God to realize the interconnectedness of all of his attributes?

What is the definition of faithful? Look it up a couple of places and write it down.

Do you believe God is truly faithful? Why or why not?

 

Bible Study:

Do a word study on faithful. See how many times it is used to describe God just in the Psalms alone.

Make a verse list for yourself on the subject.

Pick your favorite verse on God’s faithfulness and memorize it this week.

 

Writing:

Write about what you learned this week.

CHAPTER 16 The Goodness of God

 

Good, the word good means so many things to so many people that any study of the divine goodness has to start with a definition. And the best way to do that it is by using some synonyms, going out from and returning by different paths to the same place.

 

When Christian theology says that God is good, it is not the same as saying that He is righteous or holy. The holiness of God is trumpeted from the heavens and re-echoed on earth by saints and sages wherever God has revealed Himself to men; but, we are not at this time considering His holiness but His goodness, that is another thing.

 

The goodness of God is what makes Him kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. It is His nature to bless and He takes holy pleasure in the happiness of His people.

 

That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and has to be received as an article of faith as indestructible as the throne of God. It is a foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral sanity. If God is not good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven can be hell and hell, heaven.

 

The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily gives you. God created you because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed you for the same reason. Julian of Norwich, who lived six hundred years ago, saw clearly that the ground of all blessedness is the goodness of God. Chapter six of her incredibly beautiful and perceptive little classic, Revelations of Divine Love, begins, “This showing was made to teach our souls to hold wisely to the goodness of God.” Then she goes on to lists some of the mighty deeds God has brought in our behalf, and after each one she adds “of His goodness.” She saw that all our religious activities and every means of grace, however right and useful they may be, are nothing until we understand that the unmerited, spontaneous goodness of God is behind all of His acts.

 

Divine goodness, as one of God’s attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal.Since God is unchangeable He never varies in the intensity of His loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be less kind. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust. The cause of His goodness is in Himself, the recipients of His goodness are all His beneficiaries without merit and without recompense.

 

Reason agrees with this, and the moral wisdom that knows itself runs to acknowledge that there can be no merit in human conduct, not even in the purest and the best. Always God’s goodness is the ground of our expectation. Your repentance, though necessary, is not reward worthy but a condition for receiving the gracious gift of pardon that God gives out of His goodness.

 

Your prayer is not itself  reward worthy. It lays God under no obligation and doesn’t put Him in debt to anyone. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason. Nor is your faith reward worthy; it’s simply confidence in the goodness of God, and the lack of it is a reflection of your thoughts on God’s holy character.

 

The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty is eager to be friends with us. But sin has made us timid and self-conscious. Years of rebellion against God have bred in us a fear that cannot be overcome in a day. The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may come, trusting only in the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be held against him. Meister Eckhart encourages you to remember that, when you return to God, even if your sins were as great in number as all mankind’s put together, still God would not count them against you, but would have as much confidence in you as if you had never sinned.

 

If you honestly want to become reconciled to God you might cautiously ask, “If I come to God, how will He act toward me? What kind of disposition does he have? What will I find Him to be like?” The answer is that He will be found to be exactly like Jesus. “He that has seen me,” said Jesus, “has seen the Father.” Christ walked with men on earth so that He could show them what God is like and make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him. This was only one of the things He did while here in the flesh, but this He did with beautiful perfection. From Him we learn how God acts toward people. The hypocritical and insincere, will find Him cold and aloof, as they once found Jesus; but the penitent will find Him merciful; the self-condemned will find Him generous and kind. To the frightened He is friendly, to the poor in spirit He is forgiving, to the ignorant, considerate; to the weak, gentle; to the stranger, hospitable.

 

By your own attitude you can see how he will receive you. Though the kindness of God is an infinite, overflowing fountain of graciousness, God will not force His attention on you. If you want to be welcomed as the Prodigal was, you have to come as the Prodigal came; and when you come, even though the Pharisees and the legalists sulk about it, there will be a feast of welcome for you and music and dancing, as the Father takes His child again to His heart. The greatness of God can scare you, but His goodness should encourage you not to be afraid of Him. To both fear and not be afraid – that is the paradox of faith.

 

Q and A

What do you think about the goodness of God? Do you believe it? Have you seen it?

Is there anything in nature that proves it? Anything in your life that proves it?

Anything in God’s Word that proves it?

Make a list of the good things that God has done or given.

Sometimes we think that God isn’t always good. Sometimes he’s mean, or hurtful, angry or bitter, we think, and so we can think of him in not so good of a light. Think about the ways you think about God, are there any times when you are scared of him. Scared he won’t come through on something? Scared he won’t protect you? Scared he isn’t listening? Think about those times and how they compare to what you just read.

 

Bible Study:

Do a word study on good, and goodness. Look up all the verses on God’s goodness. Add these to a verse list. It is important that you are convinced that he is truly good, and always stays that way.

 

Writing

Write about God’s goodness in your life, maybe even confess how you haven’t always seen him as good, but are starting to see the error of your ways. As you confess others who think like you may just join in the awakening of their mind to the true nature of God.

 

CHAPTER 19 The Grace of God

 

In God mercy and grace are one; but as they reach us they are seen as two, related but not identical.  As mercy is God’s being good when he confronts our human misery and guilt, so grace is His goodness when he controls our sin and faults. It is by His grace that God gives innocence where none previously existed and declares no debt to be where one had been before.

 

Grace is the good pleasure of God that inclines Him to give benefits to the undeserving. It is a self-existent principle inherent in the divine nature and is a self-caused tendency to pity the wretched, spare the guilty, welcome the outcast, and bring into favor those who were before under disapproval. The use of it is that it saves us and makes us sit together in heavenly places to show to the ages the exceeding riches of God’s kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

 

You benefit eternally by God’s being just what He is. Because He is what He is, He lifts up your head out of the prison house, exchanges your prison garments for royal robes, and makes you eat abundantly before Him all the days of your life.

 

Grace finds birth in the heart of God, in the awful and incomprehensible abyss of His holy being; but the channel it flows out to people is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The apostle Paul never separates God’s grace from God’s crucified Son. In his teachings there is always the two found together, organically one and inseparable. A full and fair summation of Paul’s teaching on this subject is found in his the book of Ephesians,

 

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,” (Ephesians 1:4–7, ESV)

 

 

The Gospel of John identifies Christ as the medium through which grace reaches mankind:“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV) But right here it is easy to miss the path and go far astray from the truth; and some have done this. They have made this stand by itself, unrelated to other Scriptures bearing on the doctrine of grace, and have made it to mean that Moses knew only law and Christ knows only grace. So the Old Testament becomes a book of law and the New Testament a book of grace. But that’s not the truth The law was given to men through Moses, but it did not originate with Moses. It had existed in the heart of God from before the foundation of the world. On Mount Sinai it became the legal code for the nation of Israel; but the moral principles it embodies are eternal. There never was a time when the law did not represent the will of God for mankind or a time when the violation of it didn’t bring its own penalty, though God was patient and sometimes “winked” at wrongdoing because of the ignorance of the people. Paul’s close-knit arguments in Romans 3 and 5 make this very clear.

 

The heart of Christian morality is the love of Christ, not the law of Moses; still the principles of morality contained in the law have not been removed. There is no privileged class exempt from the righteousness that the law prescribes.  The Old Testament is actually a book of law, but not just of law. Before the great flood Noah “found grace in the eyes of the Lord,” (Gen. 6:8) and after the law was given to Moses God said, “You have found grace in my sight.” (Ex. 33:12) And how could it be otherwise? God will always be Himself, and grace is an attribute of His holy being. He can no more hide His grace than the sun can hide its brightness. Men run away from the sunlight to dark and musty caves of the earth, but they can’t put out the sun. So men could at any time in history despise the grace of God, but they can’t extinguish it.

 

Had the Old Testament times been times of stern, unbending law alone the whole complexion of the early world would have been vastly less cheerful than we see it to be in the ancient writings. There could have been no Abraham, friend of God; no David, man after God’s own heart; no Samuel, no Isaiah, no Daniel. Hebrews 11, the Hall of Fame of the spiritually great of the Old Testament, would stand dark and tenantless. Grace made sainthood possible in Old Testament days just like it does today.

 

No one was ever saved other than by grace,from Abel to the present moment. Since mankind was banished from the Garden, none have ever returned to the divine favor except through the sheer goodness of God. And wherever grace found any man it was always by Jesus Christ. Grace came by Jesus Christ, but it did not wait for His birth in the manger or His death on the cross before it became operative.Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The first man in human history to be reinstated in the fellowship of God came through faith in Christ. In olden times men looked forward to Christ’s redeeming work; in later times they look back upon it, but they always came and they come by grace, through faith.

 

We have to keep in mind also that the grace of God is infinite and eternal. As it had no beginning, so it can have no end, and being an attribute of God, it is as endless as infinitude. Instead of straining to comprehend this as a theological truth, it would be better and simpler to compare God’s grace with your need. You can never know the enormity of your sin, nor should you. What you can know is that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Rom. 5:20) To “abound” in sin: that is the worst and the most you can do. The word abound defines the limit of your finite abilities; and although you feel your sin rise over you like a mountain, the mountain, nevertheless, has definable boundaries: it is so large, so high, it weighs only this certain amount and no more. But what about the limitless grace of God? Its “much more” plunges your thoughts into infinitude and confounds them there. Thanks be to God for grace abounding.

 

If you feel yourself alienated from the fellowship of God you can now raise your discouraged head and look up. Through the virtues of Christ’s atoning death the cause of your banishment has been removed. You can now return as the Prodigal returned, and be welcomed. As you approach the Garden, your home before the Fall, the flaming sword is taken down. The keepers of the tree of life stand aside when they see a daughter of grace approaching.

 

Q and A

What are two things you can say about God’s attributes?

Have you ever considered grace to be one of His attributes?

What does his inexhaustible grace mean to you?

 

Bible Study:

This word is the most important word to understand. Do a word study on Grace and put all the verses you can find in your verse list.

Pick one verse that describes grace and write it on a 3X5 card for memorizing it. Put it where you will see it everyday. Try to write it into a song to remember it, whatever you can in order to get it into your heart and mind.

 

Writing:

Write about what God’s grace has done for you.

 

CHAPTER 20 The Love of God

 

The apostle John, by the Spirit, wrote, “God is love,” and some have taken his words to be a definitive statement concerning the essential nature of God. This is a mistake. John was stating a fact, but he wasn’t offering a definition.

 

Equating love with God is a major mistake which has produced a lot of unsound religious philosophy and has led to a ton of useless poetry completely out of agreement with Scriptures and altogether of another climate from that of historic Christianity.

 

Had the apostle declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to infer that God is what love is. If literally God is love, then literally love is God, and we are in all duty bound to worship love as the only God there is. If love is equal to God then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. So we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes except one, and that one we substitute for God.

 

The God we have left is not the God of Israel; He is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; He is not the God of the prophets and the apostles; He is not the God of the saints and reformers and martyrs, or the God of the theologians and hymnists of the church.

 

For our souls’ sake we have to learn to understand the Scriptures. We have to get away from the slavery of words and believe the actual meanings instead. Words should express ideas, not originate them. We say that God is love; we say that God is light; we say that Christ is truth; and we mean the words to be understood in much the same way that words are understood when we say of a man, “He is the salt of the earth.” By so saying we are not stating that salt and the man are identical, and no one would think that’s what we mean.

 

The words “God is love” mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God but it is not God.It expresses the way God is in His unitary being, just like holiness, justice, faithfulness and truth. Because God is unchangeable He always acts like Himself, and because He is a whole He never stops one of His attributes in order to exercise another.

 

From God’s other known attributes we can learn a lot about His love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, His love had no beginning; because He is eternal, His love can have no end; because He is infinite, it has no limit; because He is holy, it is the perfect example of all spotless purity; because He is immense, His love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea.

 

But if we want others to know God we have to try to speak of His love. All Christians have tried, but none has ever done it very well. I can no more do justice to that awesome and wonderful theme than a child can grasp a star. Still, by reaching toward the star the child might call attention to it and even indicate the direction you have to look to see it. So, as I stretch my heart toward the high love of God and someone who has not known about it might be encouraged to look up and have hope.

 

We do not know, and we may never know, what love is, but we can know how it shows itself, and that is enough for us here.First it shows itself as good will. Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to anyone. This explains the words of the apostle John: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18) Fear is the painful emotion that comes at the thought that you might be harmed or made to suffer. This fear sticks around as long as you are subject to the will of someone who does not want the best for you. The moment you come under the protection of the one who cares the most for you, fear is gone. A child lost in a crowded store is full of fear because she sees the strangers around her as enemies. In her mother’s arms a moment later all the terror subsides. The known love of the mother casts out fear.

 

The world is full of enemies, and as long as you are subject to the possibility of harm from these enemies, fear is inevitable. The effort to conquer fear without removing the causes is a waste of time. As long as you are in the hands of chance, as long as you look for hope in the law of averages, as long as your survival depends on your ability to outthink or outmaneuver the enemy, you have every good reason to be afraid. And fear is torment.

 

To know that love is of God and to enter into the secret place leaning upon the arm of the Beloved – this and only this can cast out fear. Let a girl become convinced that nothing can harm her and instantly for her all fear goes out of the universe. The nervous reflex, the natural aversion to physical pain might be felt sometimes, but the deep torment of fear is gone forever.

 

“God is love and God is sovereign. His love motivates Him to want your everlasting welfare and His sovereignty enables Him to secure it. Then nothing can hurt a you. They might kill your body. But God’s truth abides and His kingdom is forever,” Said Martin Luther. God’s love says that He is friendly and His Word promises that He is your friend and wants you to be His friends. The idea of friendship did not originate with men. Abraham would never have said, “I am God’s friend,” but God Himself said that Abraham was His friend. The disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ, but Christ said to them, “You are my friends.”

 

Modesty might cringe at so rash a thought, but audacious faith dares to believe the Word and claim friendship with God.We do God more honor by believing what He has said about Himself and having the courage to come boldly to the throne of grace than by hiding in self-conscious humility among the trees of the garden.

 

Love is also an emotional identification. It considers nothing its own but gives all freely to the object of its affection. We see this constantly in our world. A young mother, thin and tired, nurses at her breast a plump and healthy baby, and far from complaining, the mother looks down at her child with eyes shining with happiness and pride. Acts of self-sacrifice are common to love. Christ said of Himself, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

 

It is a strange and beautiful eccentricity of the free God that He has allowed His heart to be emotionally identified with us. Self-sufficient as He is, He wants your love and will not be satisfied till He gets it. Free as He is, He has let His heart be bound to us forever. This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for your sins.

 

Another characteristic of love is that it takes pleasure in its object. God enjoys His creation. The apostle John says frankly thatGod’s purpose in creation was His own pleasure.God is happy in His love for all that He has made. We cannot miss the feeling of pleasure in God’s delighted references to His handiwork. Psalm 104 is a divinely inspired nature poem about the delight of God, “The glory of the Lord will endure forever: the Lord will rejoice in his works.”

 

The Lord takes peculiar pleasure in His saints. A lot of people think of God as far removed, gloomy and displeased with everything, gazing down apathetically on a world that He has long ago lost interest in, but this is wrong. It is true that God hates sin and can never look with pleasure on iniquity, but when people want to do God’s will He responds in genuine affection.

 

Christ in His atonement has removed the barrier to fellowship with God. Now in Christ all believing souls are objects of God’s delight. “The Lord Your God in the midst of You is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over You with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over You with singing.” (Zeph 3:17)

 

According to the Book of Job, God’s work of creation was done to musical accompaniment. “Where were you,” God asks, “when I laid the foundations of the earth. When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Music is both an expression and a source of pleasure, and the pleasure that is purest and nearest to God is the pleasure of love.

 

Hell is a place of no pleasure because there is no love there. Heaven is full of music because it is the place where the pleasures of holy love abound. Earth is the place where the pleasures of love are mixed with pain, because sin is here, and hate and hostility. In such a world as ours, love must sometimes suffer, as Christ suffered in giving Himself for His own. But we have the certain promise that the causes of sorrow will finally be abolished and the new face enjoy forever a world of selfless, perfect love.

 

It is of the nature of love that it cannot lie dormant.It is active, creative, and good-natured. “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5:8) “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16)  So it must be where love is; love must always give to its own, whatever the cost. John, the love Apostle, rebuked the young churches because a few of their members had forgotten this and had let their love be spent in personal enjoyment while their brothers were in need. “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”  (1 John 3:17)

 

The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God doesn’t love populations, He loves people. He doesn’t love masses, but individuals. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.

 

In Christian experience love distinguishes it from all other religions and elevates it to heights far beyond even the purest and noblest philosophy. This love content is more than a thing; it is God Himself in the midst of His Church singing over His people. True Christian joy is the heart’s harmonious response to the Lord’s song of love.

 

Q and A:

 

Tozer said, “Love wills the good of all and never wills harm or evil to anyone.”

What do you think of these words? Has love ever hurt you? If so, can you still call it love? What does Tozer say about the pain of love?

 

When you read the words, “Let a girl become convinced that nothing can harm her and instantly for her all fear goes out of the universe,” did you breath a sigh of relief like I did? Have you become convinced that nothing can harm you? If not, then why do you fear?

 

Tozer also said this, “The idea of friendship did not originate with men. Abraham would never have said, “I am God’s friend,” but God Himself said that Abraham was His friend. The disciples might well have hesitated to claim friendship with Christ, but Christ said to them, “You are my friends.” Have you ever thought of what friendship with God means?

 

Love is an action, not just a feeling. Tozer said, “Love is also an emotional identification. It considers nothing its own but gives all freely to the object of its affection.” Knowing this definition of love, can you trust that God loves you? Is so why? If not, then why not?

 

Bible Study:

Love. This has to be a word for your verse list. Understanding love is mega important. Look for all the uses of love, especially in the New Testament, and make a list. Study this list. Love might not be what you think it is.

 

Bible Memory: “The Lord Your God in the midst of You is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over You with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over You with singing.” (Zeph 3:17).

 

Write:

Write about what you’ve learned about love that you didn’t know before. Maybe use a verse you collected, or something from this chapter, but there is something that you’ve never considered about love before that you can write about here.