Christmas just passed, so this is a good time to reflect on the question, “What is God really like?”
Last week we addressed the question “What is real/true, and how can I know?” And we noted that the ultimate reality/truth is the existence of God who revealed Himself publicly and miraculously in biblical times. The Lord validated that revelation through Israel’s prophets, the Son of God, and Jesus’ apostles as inspired their record in the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:21) This week we consider the next logical question, “What is God like?” For God’s mere existence can’t inspire confidence if He is detached, a bully, a sentimental wimp, or one of many gods fighting among themselves. Yet, many people believe that is the divine. But if God has given us trustworthy revelation, we need not worry about speculations – only what He’s said about Himself. And He’s revealed some specific themes.
In the video below, I provide many Scriptures throughout the Bible describing God as One in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I urge you to see those for yourself for your confidence in God, not in my description of God’s Word. And there is one theme that describes God’s overarching character: love (Deuteronomy 6:4-15, Matthew 22:36-40, 1 John 4:8). But even that needs defining.
I suspect you’ll agree that “love” is one of the most over-used words in the English language. A person might may say they “love” thin crust supreme pizza, sunsets, rollercoasters, their family, and action movies – maybe even in order. But that probably just means those things help that person to feel better, which explains why the same person stops pursuing those things when they’re satisfied. They leave the buffet, theme park, or even their spouse when they’re no longer hungry. Such “love” is just lust: satisfying self. (Psalm 78:29-30, Proverbs 27:20, Romans 1:22-32, Philippians 3:19, etc.)
One-sided passions destroy relationships and any confidence in them. A less obvious problem is that many of us tend to project our understanding of such “love” onto God. Even in biblical times, people who relied on their conjecture (rather than trust God’s revelation of Himself) saw God as 1) brazenly self-serving or 2) pitifully needy. We can see the former in Israel’s depiction of God as a golden calf (young bull) in Exodus 32. Many commentators see Israel’s “play” in verse 6 as sexual aggressions that a young bull would have approved to satisfy himself. And we can see Him correcting the latter in 2 Samuel 7:1-15, Psalm 50:12-15, Acts 7:44-50, Romans 11:33-36, etc. Note in each that He gives love because He is love. This self-sufficiency of the Triune God’s love can inspire real confidence.
Think of someone who’s earned your strong confidence over time and a second person who’s lost some of your confidence in them. I suspect the first helped you in powerful ways and asked little-to-nothing in return. They continued to show a selfless care for you. The second may have seemed so initially but later revealed themselves to be too self-serving or needy to inspire your confidence.
Here are a few discussion questions to go with the article and video this week.
* Ezekiel uses the phrase “then they will know that I am the Lord” over 20 times.
What were some of Israel’s issues of confidence? What were God’s answers?
* Hebrews deals with other issues of confidence? How did the writer point to Christ to answer them?
You can see other articles and the embedded videos in this series here.
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