This is the fourth opportunity I’ve been given by my pastor to speak at my church. I hope you enjoy and that it blesses you.
“Good evening. A month ago my pastor asked me to speak and I agreed. I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to this church full of people who taught me so much wisdom and showered so much love on me growing up.
I have been busy with papers in grad school so I decided to adopt this sermon from one of my essays. When I told my pastor what my sermon was going to be about he of course recommended a book for me. The book he gave me, Your God is too Small by J.B. Phillips was very helpful as was another book I read called The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. If you haven’t already guessed, my topic tonight is about who God is and who God is not. When I went to Summit (an apologetic camp) 2 summers ago as a student we recited this Tozer quote every morning during Bible study, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our understanding of God is important because it guides how we live life. Likewise, it is important to know what God is not so we do not fall into the trap of acting out of a false belief of God. During this Christmas holiday I think it is important to remind ourselves of the characteristics of God in order to foster thankfulness and worship toward God.
God is not-
God does not expect perfection from man. Though we fall short of his glory, he still loves us and encourages us. He does not want perfection from us, but only for us to try our hardest and strive to grow in him.
God is not a God of escapism. God does not hide us away from reality so we can cope, but instead he is our anchor that we rely on, so we can be content and confident in life no matter what happens.
God is not a simple God, He cannot be put in a box – God is not a denominational God, or a God that only works in the church. He does not fit our finite human idea of him. He’s bigger than us.
God is –
1 John 4:16 “God is love.” In The knowledge of the Holy Tozer is quick to point out that this does not mean literally that God IS love, but that love is an essential attribute of God’s character (98).
God’s other characteristics tells us more about his love. For instance, God is self-existent so his love has 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 spotless purity; because he is immense, his love is incomprehensibly vast. The very nature of love is active, creative, and benign. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 says. So therefore, love must give of itself, whatever the cost may be (agape Love). “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17).
God is a just God. God defines justice because he is perfect and sets the standard of morality. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus came to die for our sins because He wanted a relationship with us. Because of His holiness and justice we could not have a relationship with Him without atonement for our sins being made. God is compassionate because he is good.
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
God is also merciful,
“Both the Old and the New Testaments proclaim the mercy of God, but the Old has more than four times as much to say about it as the New. We should banish from our minds forever the common but erroneous notion that justice and judgment characterize the God of Israel, while mercy and grace belong to the Lord of the Church (Tozer 90-91).”
According to Tozer, God’s character is constant so he never changes from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Tozer claims that in order to receive mercy we must first know that God is merciful. We must believe that God’s mercy is “boundless, free and….available to us now in our present situation (92).”
God’s nature does not change. God remains consistent throughout the scriptures. God has no need to change because He is completely mature and perfect in every way. Man, because of his imperfection, is ever changing. Yet he desires the unchanging and mourns the decay of the changing in the world. But, God does use change to work toward a process of perfection. Tozer concludes,
God is Holy. Isaiah understood holiness and his lack of it. In Isaiah 6:5 he said, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah understood how holy God is and how he views his people. Tozer points out that,
“We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends. That we may continue to exist we make such laws as are necessary to protect us from our fellow men and let it go at that (103-104).”
Tozer believes that man, even while fearing God’s power and admiring his wisdom, cannot imagine his holiness. It is possible to have truth in the mind, but not the heart. Man can only learn about Holiness through the power of the Holy Spirit.
God is mysterious. God is hard to know because we as humans understand what we already know, what is in this world. However, God is not from this world, he is both spiritual and physical. He is greater than us and he is divine. People only know God by what he has revealed in this world. Humanity cannot understand or comprehend what he has not revealed. The writers’ of the Bible use many comparisons (God is like…) to describe him, but these are not descriptions of him. Language cannot describe or comprehend him, for he is beyond words.
“…high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown… (Ezekiel 1:26-28).”
Tozer explains why humans struggle with the concept of God,
“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 entertained (Tozer 8).”
The desire to know God comes from something he put deep inside of man, “deep calls unto deep (Psalm 42:7).” This desire can only be satisfied by looking at God’s son Jesus and through the revealing of the Holy Spirit. Tozer contends that God does not reveal his nature through reason, but through faith and love. While man has no answer to the question “what is God like in himself,” there is an answer to “what has God disclosed about himself that reason can comprehend.” These things are what God has revealed to the world, his attributes.
The Bible declares the wisdom of God: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. … He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him (Daniel 2:20-22).” ‘His understanding is infinite,’ says the psalms (147:5). God gave man wisdom, but it is secondary to God’s and that is the reason that Romans 16:27 refers to God as “only wise.” The Bible defines the wisdom of God as being pure, loving, and good.
“All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined. An infinitely wise God must work in a manner not to be improved upon by finite creatures (60-61).”
In Deuteronomy 6:14 God warns the Israelites not to follow false gods or he will destroy the Israelites because he is a jealous God. Jealousy seems like a purely negative emotion, but it actually can be used for good. God’s jealousy is a form of his love for his creation. He wants a loving relationship with everyone and will pursue that wholeheartedly. Anything that becomes an idol or more loved by an individual will be a source of jealousy to God. This is good for man because man will only truly thrive and experience life within a relationship with God. God’s punishment of war to the Israelites wasn’t solely because he was angry and vengeful, but because he wanted the Israelites to wake up. God wanted to remind the Israelites how much they needed him and how important a relationship with him is. God also wanted to remind the Israelites that true life is only found in him and that the temporary pleasures they were pursuing ended in death. God would rather have a short term, punishment here on earth for his creation, than an eternal punishment in the next life.
So in review God is full of grace, guidance, love, justice, mercy, holiness. He is constant, wise, jealous for us, and mysterious. Knowing these things about God gives us confidence that we can weather the trials of life and help others in need as well. Reviewing the attributes of God fosters a spirit of thankfulness and love toward God. Keeping in mind the character of God helps us prioritize life and grow closer to God. I am thankful that we serve a powerful, forgiving, and graceful God. Thank you!”