How can I share with you what God has given me? It is a personal experience, but I think it has given me insight into how we can all come closer to Him. I don’t know that there is any direct prompting from the Holy Spirit for me to write this, but if I have chosen to express my thoughts and feelings in this way before how can I not share this? If ever this has been a platform for sharing the message of truth then how can I omit one so powerful? So I pray for Yahweh’s wisdom as I attempt to share something with you that should be new to no one who has had sound Biblical teaching. What makes it new is the personal revelation of what it really means. I pray that I can say it in a way that will make it as real to you as it is becoming to me. I have known the words most of my life. I have believed them with my mind. It has taken longer for them to work their way into my heart. I do not suppose what follows to be complete, though I pray there will be no error in it. I just want you to see what I am seeing and be set free thereby.
Have you ever thought about who God must be? If you are willing to acknowledge that He is, what do you think He is like? How did all of what we see around us come to be? Though I will not spend much effort here arguing for His existence, I think it is important to lay just a little foundation on that point. It is not possible to bring something from nothing. The problem with any theory of how the universe began that does not acknowledge intelligent design is that it must generate substance where there is none. No matter how far removed one imagines that instant of beginning, ultimately it must be faced. Nature and logic demand a creator.
If there is a creator, consider what sort of being He must be. He must be outside of space and time. He has the power to create all that we have ever known or seen. To say that He is big is a poor description at best, because He must exist beyond the physical realm where size has any meaning. He is so much greater than us and so much different than us it is a wonder that we can relate to Him at all. I’m using mail terminology because that is the way He has chosen to reveal himself to us, but the creator of procreation who has no equal cannot be said to have gender in any way that we would understand it.
How can such a being relate to us? Why would he? What would motivate Him to create in the first place? Even scientists who still refuse to acknowledge Him note that everything about the universe is fine tuned for life right here on earth. I do not doubt the power of God to have created the conditions for life anywhere of His choosing and not necessarily discernible to us, but what we have learned seems to show that we are the focus of all His creation. Can we suppose that He did all of that because he was bored? Can we imagine that he takes no interest in the life He designed the universe to support?
If I may resort again to the inadequate metaphor of size, we must be to God less than the sub-atomic particles observed by scientists only with the most sophisticated technology are to us. The difference is impossible to describe. What could His interest in us be? Certainly it is more than the scientist’s for said particle, which is at best an object of rewarding study and perhaps a living.
There is an answer that bridges the incomprehensible gap between man and his creator. That answer is love. I do not speak of the perversions we label as love, but that which is patient, kind, humble, respectful, unselfish, forgiving, truthful, and everlasting (1 Co 13.) Some of these may seem strange words to describe the love of the almighty creator. I did do some considerable paraphrasing, but when you understand what He did for us, they don’t seem quite so strange. Amazing, yes! The passage referenced above concerns the kind of love we ought to have for each other, but it uses the same Greek word we find associated with God’s love (1 John 4:7-8.)
I’m trying to keep the apologetic to a minimum, only using enough to illustrate who God is versus who we are, but as I hope to speak also to those who have not yet decided what they believe or who may be convinced of the truth, I will touch briefly on the written source of that truth. That is the collection of historical documents, poetry, prophecy, and letters of instruction that we call the Bible. There are those who say that it contradicts itself, but if the supposed contradictions are understood in context they disappear. I suppose one may say that about any religious writing, but what cannot be said about any other book is that the more we discover the more evidence we find of its accuracy. The cohesion of the disparate material written over thousands of years that comprises the Bible is unmatched. It is the revelation of God’s nature, purpose and relationship to man. It tells a story of love that has no equal. This is why you will see references to its text as substantiation for what I share with you.
The Bible also tells us who we are without Him, and that is not a pretty story. We rebelled from the very beginning (Gen 3.) We’ve been doing it ever since. Most of us are fine with the obvious stuff. We agree that it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal, or murder. Even adultery remains on the bad list for the majority of people. Now consider what Adam and Eve did. Most of us wouldn’t think that was so bad. So God said not to eat off of this one tree and they did it anyway. Surely this is worth a slap on the wrist at worst, right? Oh how tragically wrong!
Why did God create this tree in the first place? Why would he even give them the opportunity to disobey? It is because love is not evident until it is tested. Without this test, we could neither know the depth of our love for Him nor the depth of His love for us. It is this love that He desires. He knew what would come of this tree and of His commandment not to eat from it. Yet he created it anyway, knowing what He would have to do to make things right again.
God does not give us rules for the sake of rules. He is not a controlling despot with a sadistic streak waiting to catch us breaking a rule so that he can punish us. This is the nature of Satan, not of Yahweh. Though it must have broken His heart to do so, he gave them the opportunity to love something else more than they loved Him, so that one day His creation could love Him fully as He loves His creation. Even in this He showed His loving nature. He gave them the commandment to spare them from harm. That is the motivation behind God’s laws. They are meant to show us the way that leads to real life. When we do things that are contrary to his design for our lives, we bring upon ourselves all manner of evil. God does actively bring judgment on those who have spurned His love. Nothing happens that is beyond His control, but mostly consequences come because the world works according to His design. Beyond the fact that He is the one who sustains all of creation, most of what happens to us is a consequence of exercising natural laws, just as stepping off a cliff will result in a plummet to the bottom whether done so with intent or not.
In this first story we see his exacting standard. It was not the act itself which condemned them. It was the intent of their hearts. Jesus illustrates the same concept when he expands on the commandment not to commit adultery.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28 NASU)
Most of us think that we are good people. We may acknowledge a little sin, but we think it’s not so bad. We imagine that if the weight on the good side of the scale is heavier than that on the bad side, God will let us in. We forget with whom we are dealing. Our creator defines and demands perfection. He is only interested in our deeds in so far as they reflect our hearts. He is looking for perfect love. Because he is God, we cannot hide our true nature from Him. He says of us through Paul quoting David in Romans 3:10-18:
10 as it is written,”
THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,”
“THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”;
14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”;
15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.”
18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
How is it that our creator who knows us all intimately can say this of us and yet still love us? This is a mystery we may never fully comprehend. Yet He does love us. It is only at the point when we realize how depraved we really are that we begin to appreciate the mercy and grace of God. Raised in a pastor’s home and staying mostly out of trouble, I have lived what most would consider a good life, but I have seen the standard by which I must be judged, and I have been found greatly lacking. I look back over that so-called good life and see a series of terrible mistakes. I also see something else. I see God’s mercy. I see how just as he did throughout the Bible He has taken even my error and woven it into a pattern that will result in good. That does not mean He condoned the evil. He saw it coming and planned for it. That’s just what he did for all of us. Before we could know or love Him and while some of us even hated Him, He came as one of us to die for all of us (Rom 5:8-9.)
This is an amazing truth. We have already explored just how indescribably awesome God is. Would you become an ant to rescue all ants from extinction dying in the process? That doesn’t’ begin to illustrate the difference between us and God. We don’t have much love for ants, but what about dogs? Would you do it for dogs? Most of us regard our own lives more highly than that. The truly astounding fact is that even though we are so much less than God, He loves us with everything He has. He created us in His image to love and to be loved. In the physical realm there is no comparison between us, but in the spiritual realm we have been made like Him and are destined to be with Him forever.
Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:32).” It has certainly happened for me. I can’t earn the love He freely gave to me (Eph 2:8.) That means that when I pray, it is not because I must but because I can! When I read the Bible, it is because I want to know and love my creator, not because he expects it of me. When I sin it is not the fear of punishment that drives me to repentance. It is the knowledge that I have grieved the One I love who first loved me. I am learning to trust that he knows my failures past, present and future and will not abandon me. I can come to him not in the fear of my flaws, but in the assurance of His grace and mercy. I can do the things that He wants me to do in the assurance of that love.
I do not want to speak of judgment. I do not want to contemplate the end of His mercy. I am well aware that his patience does have an end and have often feared that I have surely reached it. However, I cannot leave off that part of the message. God will not force you to love Him, but you cannot be in His presence unless He through the sacrifice of his Perfect son has cleansed you from your sin. He is just as well as loving, and he cannot be so if he suspends justice for ever. I believe that all of us who take an honest look at our hearts know that we do not meet His standard of righteousness. The worst thing about Hell is not the fire and torment that the Bible describes. The worst thing about Hell is eternal separation from the best lover you could ever have. Hell is the end of all hope for that which God created you to know.
He made it so simple. He gave you all of creation to testify to who He is. He gave you the Bible to explain it. He gave you His son to redeem you from the curse of your sin. He allowed the misery in your life not to destroy you but to show you that the end of your way is death. Just as he presented Adam with the choice in the garden, he presents you with a choice now. Turn from that which destroys to Him to gives life. He has loved you with everything that He has. Why would you choose to break His heart by turning away? There is no pleasure on this earth that is worth the cost of that decision.
9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Rom 10:9-13 NASU)
If you don’t know Him yet, don’t wait. Give yourself to the one who gave Himself for you and learn what real love is.
(Originally published October 10, 2009)