“May the force be with you!” This now-familiar “benediction” of the Star Wars series has emerged as one of our cultural icons, characterizing an accompanying (albeit impersonal) power that is able to provide strength and comfort for lifes challenges. Unfortunately, this is also how many Christians view the Holy Spirit. For them, the Holy Spirit is a mysterious “force” who somehow influences and impacts their lives. Admittedly, explaining the Person and work of the Holy Spirit can be daunting. But the rewards of understanding God through the Person of His Spirit far outweigh the difficulties.

Who is the Holy Spirit? Is this only another name for God? A force? An impersonal “it”? A separate personality? The Holy Spirit, like the idea of the Trinity, can be a difficult concept to understand. (In fact, almost all the cults stumble over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, denying the existence of the Holy Spirit as God.)

Fortunately, we have the light of Scripture to show us God’s will and reveal His truth. This is particularly valuable in our understanding of the Holy Spirit. At this point in history, God is invisible to our human perception. But though invisible, He is still there, and He is active in the affairs of our lives. Even though the wind is invisible we can describe it and see its effects. In a similar way we cannot see the Holy Spirit, but we can see Him in the Bible and witness His effects in the lives of believers. (John 3: 5-8) By studying how the Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit, we can know God more fully .

The Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit

It is important to recognize that Scripture does not always give lengthy explanations or formal lessons about God and His Kingdom. The Bible is not an entire account or testimony of the acts of God toward His creation and His people. As such, we find that Scripture clearly teaches us about the Holy Spirit but does not set out to prove the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. Instead, the Bible writers assume and teach the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.

The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity

In many cultures, it is common when first meeting others to inquire about their family relations. By knowing someone’s family name, it is possible to gain insights into the community roles and context of the new acquaintance. In a similar way, knowing how the Holy Spirit relates to the other persons of the Trinity gives us a better understanding of who He is.

As we read through the Bible, we can observe that God the Father’s role is primarily that of planning and initiating. Jesus, God the Son, executes God the Father’s plans. His Messianic role as suffering servant and delivering king is central to who He is. Finally, the Holy Spirit’s role is to apply the plan to believers.

We can see these roles of the Trinity in the work of salvation. The Father plans and sends the Son. Jesus the Son executes the plan by dying on the cross for our sins and being raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His dwelling in their lives.

The Ministries of the Holy Spirit

Sometimes the best way to relate to people is to learn what they do. Actions, as the saying goes, speak louder than words. The Holy Spirit takes many actions on behalf of believers, and it can help us understand God the Holy Spirit by considering these ministries.

The Holy Spirit automatically gives certain benefits to us when we first repent and believe in God’s salvation. Titus 3:5 tells us, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” John 3:3-8 and Ephesians 2:4-5 also speak of this regenerative ministry. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about Christ’s sacrifice and sets us apart for God’s purposes when we are first saved. (Hebrew 10:13-14). He indwells us, seals us, intercedes on our behalf and gives us spiritual gifts. (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:26-27; I Corinthians 12:7-11) The Holy Spirit accomplishes each of these acts on our behalf at the moment of our salvation.

Other ministries of the Holy Spirit, however, are applied to the believer only as we cooperate with Him. John tells us that the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and teach us truth as we yield to His influence and power. (John 16: 8- 11, 13-26) He guides us, empowers us and fills us, manifesting His grace in our lives as we seek God’s will. (Galatians 5:16-18; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 5:18) In essence, the Holy Spirit walks with us, affecting us throughout our lives by an ongoing process of making us holy. (Hebrews 10:13-14)

The Holy Spirit not only works in the lives of believers, but He also convicts “the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” making people ready to hear our Gospel message. (John 16:8-11). Finally, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, literally “breathing” God into the writers. He is the ultimate source and authority of the Bible. (II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21).

Therefore, we should be humble and grateful because of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. He is a personal God who is at work in our lives, helping us as we strive to obey and follow Him. We must seek Him in the Scripture and in prayer, continuing a lifelong process of cooperating with Him.

Summary

We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself as God the Holy Spirit.

  • Scripture assumes and teaches the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit incidentally.
  • The role of the Holy Spirit is better understood in relation to the roles of the other persons of the Trinity.
  • The Holy Spirit draws people to Christ and applies the benefits of salvation to them through His indwelling.
  • Some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit are automatically applied to the believer at salvation.
  • Other ministries of the Holy Spirit are applied only with the believer’s cooperation.
  • We should humbly and gratefully cooperate with the Holy Spirit throughout our lives.

Application Suggestions:

• Study the handout (pdf) entitled “The Personality of the Holy Spirit” and “The Deity of the Holy Spirit”.

• Meditate on the ministries of the Holy Spirit in your life.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

universe picture

universe picture

Are we alone in the universe?  For centuries people have wondered about the place of mankind in the vastness of space.  Ancient astronomers calculated the movement of the constellations, wondering if there was some connection between the stars and people on earth.  Now, with the development of long-range telescopes, the observable universe has expanded significantly.  Some now believe there is a high probability that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe.  (Supermarket tabloids certainly agree: reportings of UFO sightings and alien abductions are on the rise.)  But this curiosity is more than a fringe movement, the scientific community routinely explores the possibility of life beyond our planet.

But not everyone is certain we’ll make contact with other cosmic civilizations.  Ever the cynic, the young protagonist of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” quips that the only compelling evidence that there might actually be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, is that “no one has ever tried to contact US!”   But despite the various points-of-view, the question remains.

In 2003, Australian astronomers tried to calculate how many stars exist in the universe.  (Every star could be the center of a system of potentially life-supporting planets.)  Using two of the world’s most powerful telescopes, these scientists observed 10,000 visible galaxies.  By extrapolating this data to the limits of the known universe, they estimated the existence of an astonishing 70 sextillion stars!  (For the mathematically challenged among us, that’s a “7” followed by twenty-two zeroes!) (1)  To begin to understand the immensity of this number, try to visualize all the grains of sand along every single beach, and in every single desert on the planet Earth. (2)  Then multiply that amount by ten!  This certainly suggests the possibility that, by comparison, we solar-system earth-dwellers are pretty insignificant.

But the Scriptures maintain another perspective.  Instead of the myriad of stars pointing to humanity’s insignificance in the universe, the Bible says that the vast number of stars actually affirms mankind’s great worth and value.  The psalmist considers the question: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have set in place, (I ask), ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’ “  The passage goes on to explain that God has placed man (not the rest of the cosmos!) at the apex of His creation, and “crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)

These verses (and others) remind us that God gave man great worth amid all He created.  In addition to placing man at the pinnacle of His created order, He did two other important things to underscore our value to Him:  He created man in His own image; and He honored man by sending Jesus, God’s own Son, to earth as a man.  We are not alone in the universe!  God has chosen to live among us as one of us, not exactly like us, but significantly like us as a friend and brother!  This ‘living among us’ has three encouraging implications.

God Initiates Toward Us.

God came to earth as Jesus to reconnect with us, initiating the restoration of a relationship that had been broken by sin (John 1:14).  He searched for those who were willing to receive His love.  (And though He returned to heaven, He continues to search through His Holy Spirit!)  The Bible describes this search as like a man who has lost something of great value and who leaves everything to find what was lost (Parable of the Lost Sheep:  Luke 15:1-7).  The parable affirms that once the man finds what he lost, he experiences great joy (vv. 3-7)!

We are not alone.  Though we have been separated from our Creator, He has not forgotten us!  On the contrary, He is actively, diligently, looking for and seeking to rescue us, His lost sheep.  We are the people He created in His image, for His glory.  And once the relationship with any of us is restored, God rejoices and the angels join Him!

This longing for a restored relationship has always been God’s agenda, even when the relational distance seemed impossible to span.  When God dwelt among His people in the Old Testament (Exodus 40:34-38) many of His words and actions made Him seem unapproachable (e.g. Exodus 19:1-25, 20:15-21).  He often appeared to people in His awesome power, reminding Israel of His holy nature with repeated warnings that sinful men were forbidden to come near to Him.  To further underscore this separation, there was an immense veil installed in the Hebrew Temple as a reminder that God could not be approached without an acceptable sacrifice.

But here’s the Good News:  Jesus WAS God’s acceptable sacrifice!  After His death on the Cross, the veil-barrier was removed!  Anticipating this reconciliation, Jesus initiated toward people while He was on earth, embodying the love and grace of God the Father (John 1:16-18).  Jesus put people at ease.  Even the worst sinners felt that they could come to Him and He would befriend them.  God’s nature didn’t change, He was still holy; but the relationship was restored at His initiative.  Jesus was the embodiment of God the Father, showing God’s love, grace, and approachability.

God Identifies With Us.

Not only does God initiate toward us, He identifies with us completely.  Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was like us in his humanity (Philippians 2:7; Romans 8:3).  It’s incredible, but true: God was fully human in the person of Jesus, The Son!  He functioned just like we do: He got hungry and ate, got tired and slept, worked, moved around, thought and had ideas, made decisions, experienced frustration, was limited by time and space, etc.  But one way in which He was NOT like us, is that He never sinned.  He was tempted, but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).  (This sinlessness allowed Him to be the acceptable sacrifice we mentioned earlier and which we’ll talk more about later.)

Because He was so much like us, we can know and have confidence that He understands us.  He is totally empathetic.  Jesus experienced the ups and downs of life just as we do.  He experienced the joys and challenges of childhood, the teen years, and adulthood.  He experienced good times and disappointments.  He was wronged, suffering unjust persecution at the hands of people with selfish agendas.  He was even betrayed by a friend.  Because Jesus is able to empathize with us and our weaknesses, (without sinning), Scripture encourages us to approach His throne of grace in our times of need with hope, courage, boldness, and confidence (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16).  He’s like a best friend.

We all know what friendship is like, because we’ve all had a friend.  I’ll never forget my best friend from high school.  We did everything together.  We played sports (and rooted for the same teams), we went on double-dates, we took the same classes, we liked the same music, we ate the same fast-food; we could even finish each other’s sentences.  There were few secrets we didn’t share, and he never betrayed a confidence.  Don was more than a friend, he was like my own brother, (but without sibling rivalry).

It’s hard to imagine Jesus being someone like that; but He is!  In fact, He’s better than any friend or brother we’ve ever had, or could ever imagine having.  Because He was like us during His time on earth, we can call on Jesus as our brother and friend (Hebrews 2:11-12; John 15:13-15), and He will be there for us.

Because He was like us, we can also look to Him as a model for living the Christian life.  But He’s not some insufferable bore who’s always correcting us or pointing out our mistakes.  He’s like the buddy who’s always ‘got our back,’ the friend who can teach us how to throw a curve-ball, but who’ll also fight for us and keep us out-of-trouble (if we’ll let him) because He loves us.  We can look to Jesus as this kind of friend, as we seek to emulate His righteous life because it’s the best life, observing how He dealt with rejection and suffering, seeing how He related to God the Father, etc.  And, as we follow His example, we find encouragement and camaraderie.

God Substitutes For Us.

But He’s more than a good companion.  He’s a friend who’ll die for us.  Here’s the Bad News: because all people have sinned, all of us are awaiting God’s judgment and wrath (Romans 3:23, 2:5).  There is nothing anyone of us can do to work our way back into God’s good graces.  All of mankind’s religious systems (attempts to placate God) ultimately fail.  We spoke earlier of God’s holiness and justice.  We can’t approach Him on the basis of our very best merits and deeds, because He is holy, totally unlike us.  Apart from God’s initiative and intervention, mankind has no hope, only the frightful prospect of God’s judgment.

But don’t forget the Good News!  God intervened by sending His Son as a sacrifice and payment.  (John the Baptist referred to Jesus as God’s sacrificial lamb.)  Because Jesus willingly became a man and lived a sinless life, He was an acceptable substitute for us (I Peter 3:18).  When Jesus died a humiliating death on the cross, God poured out His wrath against our sins on His Son, rather than on us (Isaiah 53:6; I John 2:2).

The magnitude of this sacrifice shows the value God places on mankind (Mark 10:45).  (The value of something is seen in the price a wise buyer is willing to pay for it.)  God, who appointed us as the apex of His creation and made us in His Image, also died for us. God has done everything He could do to acknowledge the high worth of mankind and to make it possible for man to come back into a relationship with Him.  Since this was not deserved in any way, all men ought to be humbled and in awe of what He has done in the Atonement.

Though humbled by the majesty and mercy of God, we are not alone in His vast universe, but comforted by His Presence!  He has a cosmic plan and purpose for each of us that spans time and even creation itself.  But at the heart of His plan is a relationship with Jesus, our friend and brother.  It’s impossible for us to fully comprehend all of this, but we aren’t asked to completely comprehend it; God simply asks us to believe it and trust Him.  But it’s a belief that invites action: the decision to follow Jesus!

  Application:

• Choose a passage from a Gospel and read it, paying particular attention to how Jesus relates to people.  Suggested passages:  Luke 7:36-50; John 4:7-30; John 11:1- 44; John 20:19-29

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

End Notes:

(1)Josh Gough, http://www.helium.com/items/128325-ascertain-answer-question-absolute

2)Josh Gough, ibid.

 

names of JesusWho is Jesus? This is the crucial question every person on earth must answer. Was He a great religious teacher or a madman? Was He God or just a man? There is much debate and controversy regarding His identity and His authority. Most people would like to believe that He was only a man who offered polite moralisms, making Him a role model for any civil society. But a careful study of His life and teachings eliminate this option.

C.S. Lewis, the famous English writer and philosopher, once said about Jesus: “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that (option) open to us. He did not intend to.”

In truth, Jesus is God. One effective test of false doctrines and cults is to determine what they say about the person of Jesus Christ. As a rule, cults (groups generally considered to be misleading and harmful) and false churches deny the Biblical truth that Jesus is God the Son. For Christians, what we believe about Jesus is foundational to our salvation. Our knowledge of Him defines our understanding of God’s character, purpose and relationship with us.

Jesus Himself acknowledged that, although people can be deluded or confused about His identity , His true followers know Him and He knows them. (Matthew 7: 21-23; 16:13-17) It is therefore essential to understand Jesus as He truly is. In Scripture, God has revealed Himself to us, and this is our primary source of understanding who Jesus is. The Biblical testimony about Jesus gives us a many-sided picture of Him. By looking at what Jesus says about Himself and what other Biblical writers report about Him, we can know God more fully.

His Deity

Few people today question Jesus’ humanity; many deny His deity. Yet from the early records of God’s revelation, Jesus has been announced as God Himself. For example, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed Jesus’ deity, foretelling His birth and reign as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

What we believe about Jesus is foundational to our salvation.

Jesus Himself claimed to be God by declaring, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Modern scholars and skeptics may argue what Jesus meant by this statement, but His contemporary audience understood it perfectly. The text says His enemies wanted to kill Him “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).

Later, when His closest disciples were anxious during a time of intense opposition and uncertainty, Jesus reassured them by saying, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14: 9-13) In this situation, Jesus came to reveal the Father (John 1:18) and clearly proclaimed His identity as God and unity with God the Father so His followers would understand and be comforted by this truth.

In addition to the Old Testament evidence of Jesus’ deity and His own claims to be God the Son, the New Testament writers also attest to His divine nature. Testifying to the supremacy of Christ and echoing the creation account of Genesis, the Apostle Paul writes, “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:16) Clearly, the authority to create rests in God alone, and this authority Paul attributed to Jesus.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews, sets forth an astounding profession of Jesus’ deity, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1:3) In this passage, as well as many others throughout the New Testament, Jesus’ claim to deity is central to His mission and ministry. Whether people reject or accept this claim, they cannot truly deny it.

His Humanity

Unlike His claim to deity, the fact of Jesus’ humanity is not often opposed due to well-attested historical evidence. Nevertheless, the Bible records that Jesus is not merely a man, but uniquely God-Man. John 1:1-14 introduces this amazing and mysterious truth, referring to Jesus as the very expression, or Word, of God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” To put it another way, Jesus is 100 percent God and 100 percent man, one person with two natures: human and divine.

According to Philippians 2:6-7, Jesus laid aside His divine attributes and majesty, not using them while He was on earth in human form. He lived a human life just like we do, with its pain, sorrows, joys and burdens; with its temptations, concerns and pleasures. His human experience has great significance for us.

Jesus laid aside His divine attributes and majesty, not using them while He was on earth in human form.

He identifies with us like a brother, a family member with whom we share the closest experiences. The Bible points out that this family bond with Jesus is central to His ministry in our lives and His joy in us. “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11)

Like a true friend, (the closest friend, John writes) Jesus understands us and shares everything with us. (John 15:13- 15) Like a perfect leader, He can sympathize with our weaknesses because He also was tempted, yet did not sin. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Like the greatest friend, He sacrificed Himself for us, becoming our substitute in a way that only the holy God-Man could.
(II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18)

Finally, Jesus is our model of human godliness, of victorious suffering, and of obedient service. “Your attitude,” the Apostle Paul tells the Philippian church, “should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5; see also I Peter 2:21)

His Messiahship

As we have seen from Biblical accounts of Jesus’ deity and humanity, Jesus came to the world for a reason. Throughout the Old Testament, God promised to send a Messiah, or King, who would deliver His people. Two different, and apparently opposite, pictures of what this Messiah would be emerged from the prophets and the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:1-6 describes a “man of sorrows”, a servant who suffers for the sins of God’s people. But Isaiah also speaks of a kingly deliverer who will defeat God’s enemies and establish an unending rule of peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

The seemingly contradictory natures of these Messianic descriptions proved to be very troublesome for Jews who were primarily expecting a king who would provide political and cultural deliverance. In the struggle to reconcile these prophesies and promises, many failed to recognize the Messiah when He did appear. He did not “fit” their expectations because He first came as a suffering servant.

Jesus claimed to be that Messiah, the Christ (or Anointed One). As the holy God-Man who laid down His life and rose again to glory, He alone has perfectly fulfilled the Biblical promise of the Messiah. He came first as a suffering servant, dying for our sins and reconciling mankind to God. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45; see also John 3: 14-15; I Peter 3:18; I John 2:2)

Through the Scriptures, God reveals that Jesus is fully God and fully man, the Messiah who came and is coming again.

Jesus also promised to come again as a conquering King who will deliver His people from the sin and ruin of this world. The Apostle Paul proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom in these terms: “Then the end will come, when He hands over the Kingdom to God the Father after He has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” (I Corinthians 15:24-25; see also John 14:1-3; Revelation 9:11-16, esp. v.16)

Who is Jesus? Through the Scriptures, God reveals that Jesus is fully God and fully man, the Messiah who came and is coming again. In Him, everything that is fully God is expressed in human form. (Colossians 2:10) Therefore, we should worship Christ as God, look to Him as our model and trust in Him as our Savior.

Summary

We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself as God the Son.
• The Old and New Testaments proclaim the deity of Jesus.
• Jesus Himself claimed to be God.
• Jesus is fully God and fully man.
• Because of His humanity, Jesus is
able to identify with us, understand us, substitute for us, and be an example for us.
• Jesus claimed to be the promised Messiah who is both a suffering servant and a delivering king.

Application Suggestions:


Study “Proofs for the Deity of Jesus Christ”.
Take some time to meditate on the significance of Jesus’ humanity.
• He identifies with us—as a brother (Hebrews 2:11-12, 4:15)
• He understands us—as a friend (John 15:13-15)
• He substitutes for us—became able to be our substitute (II Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 3:18)
• He models for us—becomes our example. (I Peter 2:21, Philippians 2:5)

 

Proofs for the Deity of Jesus Christ

I. He is called God.
John 1:1,14,18; 10:30; 20:28 Romans 9:5 Colossians 2:9 II Thessalonians 1:12 Titus 2:13 Hebrews 1:3
II. He called God His Father, “making Himself equal with God”. John 5:18
III. He was proclaimed to be the Son of God from heaven.

  • At His baptism: Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34
  • At His transfiguration: Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35; II Peter 1:17

IV. Jesus is the same as Yahweh in the Old Testament.

  • Compare Luke 1:76 with Malachi 3:1
  • Compare Romans 10:13 with Joel 2:32
  • Compare Romans 14:9-11 with Isaiah 45:23-25

V. Jesus has the attributes of Deity. These attributes are those which are only true of God.

  • Eternal: Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-2, 8:58; 17:5; Hebrews 1:8; Revelation 1:8
  • Omnipresent: Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13, Ephesians 1:23
  • Omniscient: Matthew 9:4; John 2:24-25, 6:64, 16:30, 21:17; Colossians 2:3
  • Omnipotent: Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 3:21; Revelation 1:8
  • Immutable: Hebrews 1:10-12; 13:8

VI. Jesus performs the activities of Deity.

  • Creates: John 1:3, 10: Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2,3,10
  • Providence: Luke 10:22; John 3:35, 17:2; Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:17
  • Forgives sins: Matthew 9:27; Mark 2:5-10; Colossians 3:13
  • Raises the dead and judges them: Matthew 25:31-32; John 5:19-30;
  • Acts 10:42, 17:31; Philippians 3:21; II Timothy 4:1
  • Is the object of prayer and worship: Luke 24: 51-52; John 5:23, 14:14;
  • Acts 7:59, 16:31; Philippians 2:10,11; Hebrews 1:6

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

 

The Trinity and God the Father

Most of us can’t remember being a baby. But we all were, even if there is no hard evidence, (such as those embarrassing photos parents often bring out at holidays.) As babies, we formed critical ideas about ourselves and the world around us. Sociologists and psychologists tell us that one of the most basic ideas that we developed was the understanding that we were distinct, separate from the world around us. We are different from everyone else, even our parents. Our hands were our hands, not somebody else’s. There was an “us” and there was a “not us.”

This concept of being distinct and separate is also true of God. He is different from His creation.  He is different from us and all the universe. Nothing can quite compare to Him nor entirely explain Him. In order to develop a true relationship with God we need to understand this. We must realize that “God Is Who He Is”. To understand Who God is, we must understand what He has said about Himself.

God reveals aspects of His character and rule through the natural world. The amazing complexity, order, beauty and grandeur of the physical world tell us something of God’s majesty. But He especially tells us about Himself through Scripture. One unique way that God has revealed Himself in the Bible involves His three-in-one nature. The Church calls this three-person aspect of God: “the Trinity.” Admittedly this is a difficult concept to grasp, but it is central to understanding Him. We can know God more fully by studying how He has revealed Himself through each Person of the Trinity.

The Trinity

Deuteronomy 6:4 declares, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” The Scriptures are very clear, there is only one God. Yet He exists in three eternal and equal persons who are the same in essence, but uniquely distinct from one another. The Scriptures place the three persons of the Trinity together as equals: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; I Peter 1:2, I Corinthians 12:4-6; II Corinthians 13:14).

The Trinity is a great mystery to us. We cannot fully understand how God can be one God and three persons, because we have no complete and exact comparison for this concept. Many things about our infinite God are hard to understand from our finite, human vantage point. (cf. Isaiah 55: 8-9) Yet we can define and believe this because the Bible teaches it. Just as we do not have to understand electricity in order to believe it exists and to use it, so the Trinity exists despite our inability to fully comprehend this truth.

The persons of the Trinity relate to each other in a living and vital way.

 Consider water. It is one substance (H20), but exists in three forms: liquid (water), gas (steam) and solid (ice). Perhaps it is helpful to note that in a similar way God is one being who is expressed in the three persons of the Trinity. Unlike H2O, however, the persons of the Trinity relate to each other in a living and vital way. Generally speaking, within the Trinity, God exhibits three roles: God the Father initiates and plans, God the Son executes the plans, and God the Holy Spirit applies the plans to believers. Within the Trinity, unity is brought about by the Son submitting to the Father and the Holy Spirit submitting to the Son and the Father. God the Father has, in turn, given all authority to the Son to carry out the divine plans.

God the Father

As the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, shows His fatherly relationship toward both believers and non-believers through Creation and His common goodness to all the world. The Scriptures say that God the Father causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. He provides for the animals and the fields, for the people of His Kingdom and even the people who oppose Him. (Matthew 5:45, 6:25-33, 7:9- 11; Luke 6:35; Hebrews 12).

Furthermore, God the Father demonstrates that He has a unique relationship with believers. God draws us to Himself, graciously bringing us into His family as children (John 6:44, 1:12; I John 3:1). Indeed, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, so that we may truly call Him, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6- 7). It is a great and humbling mystery to be called children of the Living God and to be made co-heirs with Jesus Christ the Son (Romans 8:17).

This adoption by God the Father leads to special privileges and responsibilities for His children. In Ephesians 1:3- 14, we see that God the Father freely forgives us and provides every good thing we need. He has special intentions for us—to be holy and blameless—and has revealed His plan to us in Scripture. As a perfect Father, He has assured us of our place in His love by giving us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance as His children. With all the joy and security of beloved children, we have free access to God the Father through faith (Ephesians 3:12).

Likewise, God the Father has endowed His children with responsibilities such as obeying His Word (John 14:21) and representing Him as messengers of reconciliation to the world (II Corinthians 5:20). As members of His family, we are to be a part of His church and to respond to Him in praise and worship (Hebrews 10:24-25; I Peter 2:9).

 This adoption by God the Father leads to special privileges and responsibilities for His children.

As we study who God is, we come to understand more of His character and His nature. Through the Scripture, we learn that God is both transcendent (beyond our understanding) in the mystery of His Trinity, and He is immanent (totally accessible) as our heavenly Father. With whole hearts we can call on Him as Lord and Father!

Summary

It is important to understand what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.

• God is a Trinity, existing in three eternal and equal persons who are one God.

• Although the Trinity cannot be fully understood, the Bible teaches us to believe.

• God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit fulfill different roles.

• God the Father is the first person of the Trinity.

• As His children, we have special privileges and responsibilities.

Application Suggestions:

  • Meditate on and appreciate the transcendence and immanence of God.
  • Meditate on Ephesians 1 and 2 in order to appreciate the privileges God has given to you.
  • Meditate on I Peter 2:9-10 and appreciate the high calling God has given to you by entrusting you with significant responsibilities.

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

 

glasses

Introduction

glasses

God’s character is described in detail throughout His Word. Sometimes when we read Scripture, we have a difficult time reconciling the words that describe God with our own understanding of God. This may happen because our knowledge of God has been influenced by factors which caused us to develop a false view of Him. For us to grow in relationship with God, we must correct our false views.

Luke, age 30, grew up in an average middle class family. They attended church and Sunday school together every week. Luke has memorized Scripture verses which he quotes regularly and can name, in order, every book of the Bible.

Each of us is specially created by God with our own personality, temperament, gifts and abilities. We each live in our own unique environment. Our inherent traits combined with our environmental influences will determine how we interpret our experiences.  This is how we make sense of our world. However, we do have natural limits; not enough brain power to know everything or enough time to experience everything.  Our desire to protect ourselves emotionally conspires with our own sinfulness to slant our perception of reality. Past experiences will have an effect on our present point of view.  With different variables providing input, we do not always interpret our experiences correctly.

Luke has a very likeable personality, is outgoing and charming, and relates to women better than men. He is also very gifted musically. He sings and plays several instruments well. He is the minister of music at his church.

Unfortunately, our human tendency to misinterpret our experiences can affect our view of God as well. It is common to project the strengths and weaknesses of our parents onto God. It is also common to project other human characteristics onto God.  False views of God can make it very difficult to relate to Him. Because of these false views, many people are struggling to establish and maintain a healthy, Biblical view of God.

Luke’s father was distant and detached when Luke was growing up. He was a quiet, solemn man who rarely smiled.

Some of the common false views of God are a God who is impossible to please; a God who is emotionally distant; a God who is condemning; a God who is unreliable and a God who abandons.

Although Luke appears to have an excellent Christian walk, he views God as emotionally distant and impossible to please. He constantly feels as though he is letting God down and that God is not particularly interested in him. He secretly believes that he has failed God.  He has trouble referring to God as “Father.”

The situation is not hopeless. Once we are aware that our views of God are false, we can take some concrete steps towards correcting them.

Luke recently joined a small men’s Bible study with several men from outside his church.  As the group progressed, the men began to bond emotionally and share with each other more deeply. Luke became aware that many of the men in the group had a different view of God than he did. They were convinced God loved them and they seemed to have an intimate relationship with Him. Luke was surprised by this and gradually began to share his views of God in the group.

Identify False Views

The first step is to identify our false views of God. Exactly what false character traits are we assigning to Him? We must consider ideas that we wrestle with or ideas that we have trouble believing are true. It can be helpful to look at a list of false views that people typically have about God. Some of those are mentioned in the paragraph above, but this list is by no means exhaustive. It frequently happens that we have two competing views of God; the view presented in Scripture and the view based on how we have interpreted our experiences with God. It is as though we have a God we know with our thoughts and a different God we know with our emotions.

One of the older men in the group, Richard, helped Luke realize that his views of God did not line up with Scripture. He encouraged Luke to explore more fully his views of God.

The next step in correction is to identify the sources of our false views of God. How did these false views arise? It is helpful to realize that most of our false views are based on our early life experiences, mainly involving our families. After listing our false views of God, we must spend some time identifying and describing the feelings that these views cause. For some of us this will take some time, but for others the feelings will quickly surface. We must then ask ourselves some questions. “Have I ever felt these same feelings earlier in life? When and in what circumstances did I feel them?”  These experiences and the feelings they cause will often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.

As Luke talked more about his views of God with Richard and the group, he began to feel sadness over the lack of connection in his relationship with God.  In a fairly short time, Luke was also able to connect those feelings of sadness to his relationship with his father. He realized that he had assumed God was just like his earthly father, cold and distant.

Reinterpret Our Experiences

The third step in correction is to reinterpret our experiences. We must look back at the experiences that contributed to the development of our false views of God and ask Him to show us what He was trying to accomplish in those times. We must also ask Him to reveal His heart towards us. We should try to use our head (scriptural) knowledge of God when asking Him for these revelations. Feelings can be unreliable and we need to be objective, so we may also need someone else to help us to see God’s perspective. It is important to be honest with God about our emotions during this process. If we are angry with God we should express that anger to Him. He knows our hearts anyway, and if we are honest with Him, He can heal our hearts.

As Luke continued to process his feelings, he leaned on Richard a lot for feedback and guidance. He realized that he was angry at God for the lack of connection he had with his father. He felt God had deprived him. Richard helped Luke express his anger to God. He helped Luke explore his past openly and pointed out instances where it had appeared God was there and caring deeply for Luke in the midst of his need. They prayed together for insight, grieved at Luke’s loss and talked for hours about God’s characteristics.

Determine And Reinforce A Right View Of God

The fourth step in correction is to determine and reinforce a right view of God. One important way to accomplish this is to meditate on the truth of who God is. We must read and study Scripture, think about it, ponder it and absorb it into our hearts and minds. We must ask others to help us recognize when we begin to rely on our feelings; feelings that are contrary to what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. We must create new experiences to help us internalize God’s truth. This means that in spite of what our feelings may be telling us, we will make faith-choices based on the truth of God’s Word.

Richard became a substitute father for Luke during this time. Luke began to experience the way a connected father would interact with his son. Richard helped Luke learn for the first time how to read Scripture with his heart. He directed Luke to Bible passages that would tell him of God the Father’s love for his children.  Gradually, Luke began to let go of his false views of God and to develop a relationship with God that stunned him with its intimacy.

For some of us, correcting false views of God will be a relatively easy process. For others, the process may take longer and be a more difficult journey. Developing and reinforcing right views of God can make a tremendous difference in our relationship with Him. Right views of God will allow us to be more obedient to Him and more compassionate and loving to others. They will deepen and expand our adventure of living with God.

Luke is now able to say with absolute certainty, “God the Father loves me.”

 

Application:

• Looking at the Exhibit “Correcting False Views of God,” work through a false  view of God that you struggle with.

CORRECTING FALSE VIEWS OF GOD

Correcting false views involves several steps:

1) Identify false views of God that you have:

a. We often have two competing views of God.

b. One view is the one presented in Scripture.  The other is the one based on how we interpret our experiences with God.  (Note David’s change of perspective when he took his struggles to God in Psalm 73.)

2) Identify the sources of these false views:

a. Most false views are based on early life experiences, primarily involving our   families.

b. These experiences often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.

3) Reinterpret your experiences:

a. As you look at the experiences that contributed to the development of your false view of God, ask Him to show you what He was trying to accomplish in those times and what His heart is toward you (Romans 8:28).

b. You may need help being objective since it is easy to just react to your feelings, which may be unreliable.  Ask someone else to help you see God’s greater purposes in your life.

4) Determine and reinforce right views of God:

a. Meditate on the truth of who God is.

b. With the help of others, recognize when you begin relying on your feelings   instead of what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.

c. Create a new experience to help you internalize truth.  This involves making a faith-choice based on the truth of God’s Word, in spite of what your feelings say.

Get this Pocket Principle in Knowing God, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.