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Christianity 101

The Nature of God

Introduction

It comes as a great surprise to those who have spent their entire lives in a city. The first time they are in the desert at night—really in the desert, far from any other sources of light—they see stars. Not just the puny dozen or so you can see through the city lights. Not even the ones on the astronomy charts they saw in ninth grade science. Stars; thousands of them. It brings a sense of awe, followed by a sense of wonder. Where did all this vast universe (of which our eyes can see very little) come from?

From the beginning of mankind we have reached for an explanation of how the universe came about. One explanation has stood the test of time: God created it. In this lesson we will be examining the God of creation—and we will discover that we already know quite a bit about him.

God as revealed in nature

What can we learn from nature about this God? Those who have pursued this in the philosophic sense have been able to come up with a fairly good list.

Let’s start with a rather obvious observation: nothing in this universe ever caused its own existence. But the universe is clearly here. What do we conclude?

·         God is the creating God—the one who made all things which have been made.

·         But since he is not a created thing, his existence must be somewhat different from ours. He is not made of matter—because if He were, He’d be a part of the universe (and how then could he have created it?) Therefore God is not material; therefore He must be spirit.

Another observation is this: the universe obeys fixed laws. Those laws are not fully within man’s comprehension (which keeps physicists gainfully employed), but it is clear that the universe is a well designed and well ordered thing. From the art you will know the artist. Not only is God the creator; He is the one who knows all things. It could not be otherwise. This is called omniscience.

Consider one other observation of the universe—let’s get personal here. If your mother had told your father she had a headache that night, you wouldn’t be here. There is nothing in the universe which requires you to exist. Indeed, for each of us, we are “contingent” beings—we depend upon someone else to cause our existence. Your grandfathers and grandmothers take it back one more step. But it’s easy to see that this chain has to stop somewhere. Somewhere back there, trace it how you will, the first link in the chain is someone who is not contingent. That someone is God—and now we now that his existence is required. He is said, therefore, to be Self-Existent.

We can take things a bit further by noting that the universe is in motion. You don’t need too much in the way of physics to know that nothing ever set itself in motion—there is always a cause. Trace that back through the history of the universe. Somebody had to give things the initial shove. That’s God; the prime mover—and that implies that he has all power over the universe. He is omnipotent.

Finally, we notice that the universe had a start date. If the universe was eternal, we know from the laws of physics that it would be completely run down, nothing moving. But we see that this is not so; therefore the universe had a time of beginning. But we also note that “time” does not apply to the one who created the universe; he is beyond its control. He is, therefore, eternal. He is spirit, we know—and therefore he is everywhere present in the universe which is his creation.

So—what do we know from nature? God is

·         Self existent—eternal, uncreated.

·         Creator—omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent.

·         The uncaused cause; the only necessary being.

That would be good enough for some. Indeed, many would prefer to stop here—after all, this God might want something from me. But we have another source of information. It’s the Bible. In a very real sense the Bible is nothing less than the record of God’s intervention in human affairs. Over the course of about 1500 years He sent messengers to tell the world just what He is like—and what He wants from us.

Learning from the Bible

It is fascinating to note that the Bible nowhere attempts to prove the existence of God. It’s as if the authors did not wish to waste ink on what was an obvious point. Why is it obvious? Well, the first five books of the Bible were written down by a fellow named Moses. His experience in dealing with God showed so much miraculous power that it would never have occurred to him to ask if it was all a hallucination.

What else, then, has been revealed about God in the Bible? It’s a pretty long list.

The list of attributes of God revealed in the Bible is rather extensive. It is convenient to divide them into two categories: those dealing with his compassion and mercy, and those dealing with his righteousness.

Love

We are explicitly told in the New Testament that God is love. This is the culmination of the picture of the Old Testament, where over and over again God is described in two words:

·         He is compassionate. Once you see this, you can see that God is not a “force” - but a person. He is in great sympathy with our weaknesses and desires to aid us in our misfortunes.

·         He is merciful. When the time comes for judgment, His desire is to be merciful to those He loves. But “merciful” implies a God who judges us, doesn’t it?

Righteousness

From your earliest days you have believed that there is such a thing as “right and wrong.” We may not all agree on what is right in a particular situation, but we do agree (at least most of us) that right and wrong exist. The Bible reveals to us righteousness in God’s character. We find three aspects of that character:

·         He is righteous—in the sense that He cannot do anything morally wrong. We also call this being sinless.

·         He is truth—everything He reveals to us is trustworthy; He is not capable of lying to us.

·         He is wisdom—not only sinless and trustworthy, but He has “the right answer” every time.

The Hebrew people had a word for this: emeth. It can be translated “truth” or “wisdom” - but the closest English language phrase just might be “holds water.” Whatever God tells us, therefore, we should be wise enough to hear.

That’s why Christians read the Bible so much. It is the record of God speaking to man—and every word of His is flawless.

We will cover this more in detail later, but for right now we can say that this applies to God the Father most explicitly. We’ll deal with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in future lessons.

What’s that got to do with me?

Good question.

Did you ever wonder why we begin our worship service with praise songs about God? It’s not just to warm up the crowd. It’s because the character and actions of God deserve our praise.

“Deserve” our praise? Yes. His character is so far superior to ours that nothing less than praise is the right reaction to God. The reasons we have seen here; the actions are recorded for us in the Bible.

If God simply wanted us to read His press clippings this would be rather dull stuff. He has another purpose, however. It is his desire that man would know Him and enjoy Him forever. If you’ve ever wondered why some Christians seem lost in ecstasy when singing God’s praises, there is a reason. Only in song can the Christian actively love God with all heart, soul, mind and strength.

This is what Christians know about God. God’s righteousness carries with it a bitter implication. God is love. He is completely righteous—not in alternate moments, but always.. We’re not. So we should expect a God who is angry with us—and not because it’s His fault. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy—and he is us!”

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