PART FIVE: Key Questions
‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 39. Q.1. What is God like?
Acts 17:27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
A Surprise: I thought we had finished this series but as I was praying early morning I sensed that we should, before we finish, confront some of the key questions that confront believers and seekers alike, questions about God, the Bible, Suffering, Unanswered Prayer, Identity and Death and what follows. These seem to be the subjects I find being laid on my heart for us to deal with before we complete the series. The purpose of these pages, I believe, should be so that we ourselves may be assured and that we may communicate that assurance to others. It is first an intellectual assurance and then an assurance backed by spiritual experience. We may have covered a few of these issues in small ways in the previous studies but I hope each of these will be a resource in itself. We start with God Himself.
What is God like? I have taken our starter verse from the apostle Paul’s message to the Greeks of Athens on Mars Hill. He was waiting for some of the other apostles to arrive (Acts 17:16a) and while he was there, apparently wandering round Athens, he was struck by the number of idols there were in the city (v.16b) and this grieved him. Now if we don’t rush past this, it is legitimate to wonder why Paul should be grieved over the fact that there were idols all over the place. Well it was a strange thing because this city was the centre of a nation that had been known for its intellectual culture, it’s big thinkers – e.g. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle – people who worked on reason and intellect, and yet despite all this, they are a superstitious people who have idols to the gods. But superstition is about believing in the supernatural or supernatural influences at work in the world so when Paul “stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus” he was able to say to them, “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” (v.22)
Many people today submit to the idea of ‘materialism’, the belief that nothing exists except physical matter, yet that does still not sit comfortably with very many of us for there seems to be something in each one of us that senses something more, as Solomon wrote of God, He has “also set eternity in the human heart.” (Eccles 3:11). Now I have written extensively on who God is according to the Bible in a previous series, “Getting to Know God”, and so this is very much a summary.
God the Communicator: Our starting point has to be the fact that the Bible reveals so much about God and indeed the claim is that it is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16), which we will consider in the next study. That claim in itself is enough to suggest that if God inspired this book then He must be a God who desires to communicate much to us about Himself. But there is more than that sense behind the very existence of the Bible, there is what we find in it. Again and again and again we find such words as, “God said.” So He communicates through specific words He speaks, either out loud or into the minds of various people, but He also appears to inspire men to speak out what they are sensing He is saying. These are the Prophets. But then there are things taking place that are attributed to Him which reveal Him, reveal His nature, reveal His power and reveal His emotions and ways of thinking. All of this is communication. This God is a communicator. The peak of this communication comes with the arrival of His Son, Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews was to write, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” (Heb 1:1,2). That “by his Son” may, in the light of what we find in the Gospels, be taken to mean what the Son said as well as what the Son did. Indeed everything he did was designed to reveal something about God. He was God’s purest means of communication, if we may put it like that.
Almighty God: The testimony of the whole Bible might be summed up in Paul’s words there to the Greeks: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24,25) i.e. this God is the Creator of all things, is greater than anyone or anything else we know of. He is the provider of all life. The attributes of God you will find in that previous series, “Getting to Know God” include the fact that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, eternal, loving, goodness and so much more. The Bible tells us so much.
Relational God: But this all-powerful, Creator, Sustainer of the world, is not an impersonal ‘force’ but a Being with personality, a being who communicates, a God who desires relationship with mankind. Paul, speaking of this and His work in establishing the world as it is, continued, “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” (v.27). In our goals at the beginning of this study we said it is that we have first an intellectual assurance and then an assurance backed by spiritual experience. We can read the Bible, study it in depth, find out all about its origins etc., and become completely assured as to it veracity, its authenticity and accuracy, but that merely remains an intellectual exercise. The Bible reveals that God’s desire is that we respond to His overtures and enter into a living, two-way relationship with Him through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
But Me? The question that many people find they have is expressed as, “Me? I understand all you are saying but can that apply to me? Can I be good enough to encounter this God? Why would He want to do that anyway?” and the answer is found in three little words that the apostle John wrote: “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:8,16) with everything that the word ‘love’ means. The apostle Paul was so overwhelmed by this concept that he wrote, “I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love.” (Rom 8:38,39 Message paraphrase version) i.e. nothing but nothing but nothing can keep God’s love from you, to which we might add – except you yourself.
This series has been all about uncertainty and, yes, many people are uncertain about God Himself, but that is because they have never taken on board the wonderful things we find in the Bible, and especially the New Testament, and responded to it. Yes, you can read it, but for it to ‘go live’ it needs responding to. In fact, every time we want the Bible to ‘go live’ for us, we need to pray and after we’ve read it, to pray again. This is us making contact with the author of the Bible, the One behind all things. The Book is not there merely to be read, it is there to open a door for us into God’s presence. That is what these studies have all been about. But that leads us into the next study which is the answer to the question, “Can I trust the Bible?”