08-04-06 The Immensity of God
The Immensity of God
Ezekiel 1:1-28; Colossians 3:1-3
- Review – Why it we must think rightly about God: all enjoyment and fulfillment in life depends upon a clear understanding of Who God is.
- There are three kinds of Christians that I have encountered. Those who are cultural Christians have inherited a title and perhaps even an affinity for the Church. But they do not know the Savior that the Church teaches. They are “Christian” because their parents were “Christian” but it is not based on any conviction just culture.
- Nominal. A nominal Christian is one who knows Bible verses like they know baseball statistics. They can quote chapter and verse including punctuation. But their relationship with Christ is all logic and in the head. Their heart is not moved nor is there any outward evidence of an inner working of God affecting the life. They may attend church but it is to please someone else – a husband or wife or mother or child.
- The real Christian has taken a giant step and united logic with faith and thereby enters into a living relationship with the living God. We call that being born again. To him, attending a church is not a requirement but a privilege. Prayer is not a ritual but a driving desire. God is not distant but near. Their heart dreads the possibility of any distance between them and God, not because they are insecure but precisely because they are secure – in Christ. That is why Paul wrote to the church in a city named Colossae:
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3 ESV
What I want to say: Since God has no limit, when we attempt to understand who He is we are far out of our league as finite created beings. Attempting understand that which has no limits places us on the ground of wonder. But discovering and holding on to God’s attributes brings hope and rock-solid confidence in living.
I. Attempting to Comprehend the Incomprehensible takes us out of our league
e.g. when our high school team played Power Memorial – Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabar)
A. We do not have the tools to describe God
As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Christian History, no. 29.
1. Our words and descriptions always come up as frustratingly inadequate
2. Our depictions are weak
E.g. Niagara Falls video comes so far short of the real thing
Rd. Ezekiel 1:4-28
3. How many times did the words “as it were”- 4x “like, likeness” – 23x, “appearance” – 16x.
a) Human thought is limited by human limitations and experience. We who are bound by limits can only approach the edges of what is limitless.
B. God has no counterpart
1. God is like no other – comparison fails us because there is nothing to which to compare Him.
To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. Deuteronomy 4:35 ESV
2. Since He is without limits there cannot be another like Him.
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god. Isaiah 44:6 ESV
3. We consider that the Universe is everything – but that is wrong. Even the Universe has limits. Science has proven that the Universe is expanding. If it is everything, how can it get bigger? The answer can only be found in an understanding of Who God is. If He is all there is, then everything material, as we understand it is less than Him. There is no room for anything else otherwise He could not be all there is. King Solomon was forced to face this realization when he dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem:
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 1 Kings 8:27 ESV
C. We can only know a small part of the fullness of God
In the fourth century, Gregory of Nyssa, tried to describe what discovering the attributes of God is like: Imagine a sheer, steep crag with a projecting edge at the top. Now imagine what a person would probably feel if he put his foot on the edge of this precipice and, looking down into the chasm below, saw no solid footing nor anything to hold on to.
Gregory of Nyssa (d. about 395), "Eastern Orthodoxy," Christian History, no. 54.
1. God responded to Job with a challenge:
“Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? Job 11:7 ESV
a) Of course the answer is: “No, I cannot”
2. Only what is revealed about Him is known:
a) The intricacy of Creation reveals the reality of a Creator
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV
b) God reveals Himself through the Bible
c) Jesus is the revelation of God on earth (Hebrews 1; 1 John)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. Hebrews 1:3 ESV
II. God’s attributes tell us how He will respond to us
A. Knowing God’s attributes lets us know what to expect of Him
1. E.g. Have you ever worked for an employer that was unpredictable? I have. With him it was always uncertain how he would respond. It was the way he maintained control – sometimes he was nice, other times he was harsh, even cruel. The uncertainty was deliberate in order to keep everyone off balance. We never knew what to expect.
2. In order for us to know something of God, Jesus came (Hebrews 1:3)
ILLUS> There are some things I will only do for love. When Jan and I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory, I had to admit that it was beautiful and the intricacies of the plants were astounding. But there was, as the saying goes, a fly in the ointment. Mixed in among all the glory of nature were displays designed to divert visitor’s attention from considering that all this might be created. They proclaimed the doctrine of evolution. It is noteworthy that the directors of museums in Chicago and other have felt compelled to increase their evolutionary teaching because surveys show that after nearly 150 years of teaching evolution, more people believe that Creationism is definitely or probably true than believe that Evolution is definitely or probably true! (Chi. Tribune, 6/13/07)
Science has attempted to discover the source of all things. It has used reason to ask the probing questions in seeking the origin of everything. It has applied logic to sort through the data. In the last 150 years, though, an influential body of scientists has attempted to use this knowledge to push aside God – and it almost succeeded except for one problem. All the research of astronomy and physics has uncovered evidence that has taken us back further and further, closer to the source of all that the Universe is. Reluctantly some scientists who reject God have been forced by the evidence to concede that all there is began at a certain point before which there was nothing of what we know as the Universe. It is called the Big Bang. The reason the Big Bang is a problem for those favoring evolution is that if everything began at once, something which existed before that moment must have caused it. Also, a coordinated moment implies design – a Creator. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Dealing with the question of the book of Genesis and science, Robert Jastrow, a scientist with extraordinary credentials and a one-time director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said:
“The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same... This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time... At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.'”
Zacharias, Ravi, The Real Face of Atheism, p. 124
3. An attribute, according to Tozer, is “whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself” (p. 20)
4. The number of attributes of God revealed is not settled. I have seen lists of from seven to 29 attributes.
B. God is one (p. 23)
1. You and I are sometimes loving and sometimes not; sometimes patient and sometimes not.
2. It does not say God is like love – it says He IS love
3. It does not say God is like light – it says He IS light
4. These attributes are not what He has but what He IS!
5. God is all of His attributes all of the time. His attributes are not parts. He is not sometimes love and sometimes omniscient. Nor is He ever a combination of these. He is always all Love, always all Good, always all Merciful…
III. First things release all things
A. First things are prerequisite for all things (Matthew 6:33)
1. A “pre-requisite” is something you must do before doing the next thing.
a) In education you must pass the foundational classes before taking more advanced classes.
2. The Bible reveals a numbers of things that must be first before other blessings follow:
a) God’s kingdom first
b) Set your heart on things above (Colossians 3:1)
B. If there is a reversal of first things, all is lost
1. Blaise Pascal – the God-shaped vacuum within every person.
2. If you put anything first and add God to it, you will always long for more
a) Bob Dylan once sang of a man who “eats but is not satisfied”
3. If you put God first and then He gives you money, etc. you will always be full – even if you lose it all
a) E.g. Paul – he said that he considered everything else to be as valuable as manure compared to knowing Christ.
Do you see it that way? Or do your life goals show that you put everything else first and consider knowing Christ to be as valuable as manure?
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26 ESV
What kind of Christian are you: cultural, nominal or real?