names of God

The Attributes Of God

names of GodA.W. Tozer, a revered Pastor of the last century, wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He realized that how we think and feel about God affects how we relate to Him.  And as Christians, our relationship with God should be the most important relationship in our lives.  In order to think correct thoughts about God (which is taken up in Pocket Principle™ #4, Correcting False Views of God) we must first understand His attributes, His inherent characteristics.

Having said that, we must realize that we cannot know God perfectly.  The finite cannot know everything about the infinite.  In our attempts to describe God, to know Him, there is a natural temptation to limit Him; to try to make Him more like us and less than He truly is.  We must fight this tendency and meditate on what He has revealed about Himself.  We need a big picture of God if He is going to be worthy of our complete trust.  Although God reveals Himself through natural and special revelation, His fullest revelation of Himself is found in Scripture, and so this is our best source.  In it, God not only reveals Himself, He also tells us how we can know Him personally and grow in our relationship with Him.  By applying the following steps, we can gain a true knowledge of God.

Studying Biblical Images Of God

The Bible describes God in many different ways from Genesis to Revelation.  It presents His attributes (or characteristics) using descriptions of His nature and His activities primarily in the Old Testament, while the New Testament’s main additions are the triune nature of God (see Pocket Principle™ #5, Trinity and God, the Father) and the embodiment of Him in Jesus Christ (see Pocket Principle™ #6, Jesus, God the Son).

God also reveals Himself in His names.  There are several primary names for God used in the Bible.  In the Old Testament He is called El (translated “God”), Yehweh (translated “LORD”), and Adonai (translated “Lord”).  El seems to be used in contexts where God’s power and justice are in view, such as in creation or the great flood.  Yehweh is God’s covenant name by which He revealed Himself to Israel (His people in the Old Testament).  Yehweh is used primarily in contexts where God is acting graciously toward His people, such as in creating Eve for Adam or when He speaks to His people directly.  Comparable names are used in the New Testament:  Theos (“God”) for El and Kurios (“Lord”) for Yehweh.  Often more insight is gained when the names of  God are used in combination.  For example, El Shaddai means “God Almighty,” communicating the idea of God’s power and strength.   The attributes or descriptions of God in Scripture can be divided into two groups. The first group is composed of those attributes that we can share with God; attributes He calls us to emulate.  For instance, God is holy, and we are called to holiness.  “Be perfect [finished, complete, pure, holy], therefore, as your heavenly father is holy.” (Matthew 5:48)  Another of these attributes is love.  God is love, and we are to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).  There are many more of these attributes, such as truthfulness, faithfulness, goodness, patience, mercy, justice, righteousness, etc.

The other group of attributes is made up of those that we can never share with God.  In these ways, God will always be different and greater than we are.  For example, God is “Spirit.”  He does not have a body like we do.  He is “self-existent.” No one made Him and He is dependent on no one.  We, and the rest of the universe, are created by God and are dependent on Him to continue to exist.  Other attributes we can never share are His immutability, eternality, infinity, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence and sovereignty.  (See word definitions in Exhibit entitled “Attributes of God.”)

Balancing God’s Attributes

It is important to keep God’s attributes in balance in our thinking; not to emphasize one attribute over another or to omit an attribute. For example, a person asks, “How can a loving God condemn people to hell?”  Another person asks, “How can a holy God have anything to do with sinners?”  Each of these questions isolates one attribute of God from the others.  The truth is that God is both loving and holy, and He has demonstrated both His love and His holiness by sending His Son to die for us.  If we focus on only one attribute, we will have a distorted view of God’s character.  The warning here is that we need to be careful not to ignore any of God’s attributes, and they must be kept in balance.

In addition to keeping God’s attributes in balance, it is helpful to have a general principle to use as we organize the attributes.  The concept of God as our Father has been suggested as an organizing idea that properly blends His attributes.  In Scripture God has revealed Himself as a father figure and believers as His children.  Jesus taught His followers to address God as “Father” when praying (Matthew 6:9), and Paul says we have received the Spirit who prompts us to cry out to God, saying, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

God’s attributes can also be organized around His three primary attributes:  love, holiness and truth.  For instance, God’s grace, mercy and goodness can be thought of as parts of God’s love.  His justice, righteousness and wrath proceed from His holiness, and His faithfulness and veracity from His truth.

All of God’s other attributes and all that He does must be consistent with each of these primary attributes.  As an example, the salvation that God offers to man must be consistent with His love, holiness and truth.  God’s holiness is shown when He pours out His wrath against our sins on Christ, who is our substitute.  His love is demonstrated by the fact that He pours out His wrath against our sins on Christ, instead of on us.  His truth is revealed when He consistently does what He says He will do.  In Isaiah 53:5-6 God said He would send a Messiah (Jesus) whom He would punish for our sins.  All aspects of salvation are consistent with who God is.

Living Consistently With the Truth About God

There is more to gaining a true knowledge of God than can come from intellectual studies.  It is also necessary to experience God, i.e. to interact with Him in the everyday affairs of life.  In a similar way, can we truly know a person by just reading about him in a book?  We might learn many good, bad and interesting things about him from the book, but can we really be sure we know him if we have never met or spent time with him?  The answer is obvious.  Personal experience is necessary to truly know a person.  The same is true about knowing God.  We have to have a real relationship with Him for that to happen.

And He invites us to experience Him.  James 4:8 says that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  What an incredible offer!  One way we can draw near to Him is through prayer.  By setting aside time in each day to talk with and listen to God, our relationship with Him grows as we learn how to be still before Him, how to pray requests that are consistent with His will and how to distinguish His thoughts from our own.  In John 14:21 Jesus gives another invitation to experience God.  This Scripture tells us that if we obey Jesus’ commands, it shows that we love Him.  Jesus goes on to say that He will show His love for us in return by revealing Himself to us.  Another great offer:  Out of your love for Me, obey Me and I will manifest Myself to you!  Now He doesn’t say how He will show Himself to us.  It could be a direct revelation of Himself or an indirect meeting of our needs in some unexpected way.  God is not limited in how He might reveal Himself, but He has promised that we will come to know Him better and better, and His promise is trustworthy.

As we experience God, we also need to choose to live in a way that is consistent with what He has revealed about Himself.  Jesus says in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  The message of this passage is that to really know the truth and be set free by it, we must first hold to or obey the truth that God has already shown us.  In other words, when we obey what we know of God’s Word, He is faithful to affirm it as true and teach us even more truth and change our lives for the better (set us free) through it.  Once again, He has given us a great promise.

An Old Testament example of God’s people being challenged to live consistent with the truth God has revealed to them is found in Joshua 24:14-21.  God had revealed  that He was the only true God to Israel in many miraculous ways.  Therefore, when Joshua challenged the Israelites to serve God wholeheartedly and throw away the idols they brought with them from Egypt, their response (at least initially) was to discard the idols and serve God only.

A more current example of living consistent with truth is the challenge for us to live the truth that God is sovereign.  For example, when a Christian gives thanks (in all things) even in the midst of difficulty (I Thessalonians 5:18; Romans 8:28) he is affirming that he knows God and believes that He is sovereign and able to care for His own.  The Christian’s life is reflecting the truth about God!

Conclusion

Because of the critical importance of how we think and feel about God, we need to make every effort to do the things that lead to a true knowledge of God.  We should study biblical images of God, balance the attributes of God and live consistently with what God has revealed about Himself.

Application:

• Choose one attribute of God from the list in the Exhibit “The Attributes of God.”   Read and meditate on the Scriptures listed on the Exhibit.

• Make a list of “pressure points” in your life; where your life experience conflicts with the truth.  Describe how recognizing this conflict can be beneficial to you.

 

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

God’s Attributes We Can Share  

The characteristic of God whereby He is:

TRUTHFUL:  God is completely honest, genuine.  John 1:14, 14:6

FAITHFUL:  God is completely trustworthy and loyal to His children.  II Thessalonians 3:3; Isaiah 49:7; I Peter 4:19

LOVING:  God is unconditionally compassionate, caring and devoted toward us.  His ultimate love was demonstrated by Jesus on the cross. I John 3:16, 4:9-10

GOOD:  God is complete, right, excellent.  Luke 18:19; Exodus 33:19

PATIENT:  God demonstrates forbearance and endurance towards mankind.  II Peter 3:9

MERCIFUL:  God is actively good toward those in distress.  He does not treat them as they deserve because of their sin.  Romans 9:15-16; Exodus 33:19

HOLY:  God is totally pure, perfect and complete.  He is set apart and above all His creation.  Exodus 15:11; Isaiah 6:1-4

JUST:  God always acts in a right and fair manner.  John 5:30; Psalms 89:14, 97:2

RIGHTEOUS:  God is morally perfect.  Psalms 89:14, 97:2

 

God’s Attributes We Can Never Share  

The characteristic of God whereby He is:

SPIRIT:  God is invisible, immaterial, does not have a body. Genesis 1:2; John 4:24; I Timothy 1:17; Colossians 1:15

SELF-EXISTENT:  God is everlasting; has no beginning and no end.  Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2

IMMUTABLE:  God is unchanging in His character and in His purposes.  Numbers 23:19; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8

ETERNAL:  God is everlasting and immortal.  Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 40:28; I Timothy 1:17

INFINITE:  God is unlimited.  He is above time and space, unlike His creation. I Kings 8:27; Psalm 147:5; Jeremiah 23:24

OMNISCIENT:  God is all-knowing.  He knows Himself and all things perfectly (and exhaustively).  He knows all the possibilities and probabilities.  Psalm 139:1-4, 147:5; Isaiah 40:13,14

OMNIPOTENT:  God is all-powerful and almighty.  Isaiah 40:21-26; Jeremiah 32:17; Job 42:2; Matthew 19:26

OMNIPRESENT:  God is present everywhere at once. Psalm 139:7-12; Acts 17:24,27,28

SOVEREIGN:  God has supreme authority, reign and control over His created order.  Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 46:9-11

 

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What is the truth about where we came from, what life is about, and where we’re going? Think about how vast the mysterious universe is, and how impossible it would be to know all about it. Now consider that we have brains that just weigh about three pounds trying to figure it all out! You may begin to wonder what we can really know about nature, life and death.

In the movie Cast Away ̧ a character played by Tom Hanks is marooned on an island somewhere in the Pacific. In some scenes, there are long sections of near-silence as he sits and stares out into the ocean; the waves pound, pound, pound, pound, and pound again. The viewer experiences something of the forsakenness, the forlornness, the relational emptiness of a situation like this. Is the cosmos just an unthinking mass of matter that rolls on and doesn’t care? Being marooned on such an island would bring into sharp focus the limits of what nature can teach you.

Ancient philosophers reflected the same lostness and futility. Plato, through a character named Simmias, lamented that all our human knowledge was like a raft floating over the waters of life.

“Natural” (or general) revelation, which was discussed in a previous Pocket Principle, is revelation that is generally available to all people through nature” and does not answer the issues mentioned above. If we went through life only knowing what natural revelation could deliver, we wouldn’t have answers for many important questions:

What is behind the power of nature? Is it an impersonal force? Is it God?

Is there a reason why we are here? Why is there something ( i.e. the universe) rather than nothing? Does God have a plan for the world?

What is God like? Does He like me, or is He mad at me because of my sins? Is He going to destroy me?

Is He a God that I can know and with whom I can have a relationship? Can I talk to God? Can He hear me? Does God have a plan for me?

How should I live on this earth? Are some things really right or wrong? How should I relate to other people? What is the best way to live my life?

Is there life after death? If so, is it in heaven? Am I going there?

As you can see, these are crucial questions that are central to much of our lives. Although these questions cannot be answered through natural revelation, the good news is that God also reveals Himself through special revelation. Special revelation can be defined as “revelation given especially to a particular individual or group(s).”

God reveals Himself through special revelation in two main ways: the Bible and specific revelation to individuals and/or communities. Let’s take a look at these two categories in greater depth.

The Bible

The Bible is a very precious revelation from God. The origin of the Bible is God Himself. (II Timothy 3:16) He used various human authors and inspired what they wrote, working through their personal gifts, styles and cultures. Although the Bible is available to many people it is called special revelation because it is not available universally to everyone in the same way that natural revelation is.

The types of things that the Bible can teach you are incredible. Some of the important truths you can learn from the Bible include:

• The character and nature of God – many things about who God is and what He is like

• God’s existence as a Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

• Prophecies about key events – especially about the Messiah coming

• Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior of the world

• The significance of Jesus’ life, teachings, sacrificial death, resurrection, and His coming again

• How to live the Christian life • How to know God’s will

Of course, there is much, much more. Now, an interesting thing about the Bible is that, well, it’s alive! (See Hebrews 4:12). As you read and study the Bible, you will find that it is “searching you”, telling you things about yourself that you know are true. So, reading the Bible can be an encounter with the Holy Spirit as He reveals truth, uncovers sin, and brings you comfort. Think of it … an actual encounter with God!

One of the best things about the Bible is that it tells us about Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:15-20:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Do you see that it tells you that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and that God was pleased to have the fullness of deity
dwelling in Him? In the book of John it tells us that, in Jesus, God came and dwelt among us. (John 1:1,14) In other words, if you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. (John 1:18) Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity in human form; He is the most full expression of God that finite human beings can understand. (Hebrews 1:1-4)

The Bible tell us more about Jesus’ life and teachings than any other historical source. If you want to get to know who Jesus is, you need to spend a lot of time in the Bible, especially in the four Gospels.

However strange it may seem, you can read the Bible all day and not get much out of it. In order to understand Scripture, the Holy Spirit must take the truths of God’s Word and reveal them to you. (John 15:26, 16:13-14) Not only does the Holy Spirit have a part in you genuinely understanding the Bible; so do you. You need to approach the Scriptures with a humble attitude (an openness to obey what God shows you) if you want Him to reveal Himself to you. (John 14:21)

There are many things that you can understand in the Bible by yourself, with God’s help. But an important part of understanding the Bible is recognizing how God uses other people to help us interpret it as well. He has made us in such a way that we really do need each other … we need to read the Bible individually and in community with other followers of Jesus. Now we are ready to look at our next category of special revelation:

Special Revelation to Individuals and/or Communities

God sometimes brings special revelation to individuals or communities.

One way the Bible mentions is dreams and visions. Of course, dreams and visions are not always (or even usually) from God; nonetheless, the Bible cites numerous occasions where God revealed something to someone in a dream and/or vision. You can read about some of the most famous of these in: Genesis 37, Matthew 1:18-24 and Acts 10.

You need to approach the Scriptures with a humble attitude if you want Him to reveal Himself to you.

Another type of special revelation is miracles. The Bible talks about how God uses miracles to show something to people. Luke 11:14-20 is one place among many where a miracle is used in this way. Of course, this does not mean that people will always attribute the miracle to God. For example, some people in the Luke 11 passage said that Jesus’ power was from the devil. Sadly, they missed the significance of the miracle: to show them that the “the Kingdom of God has come to you”. The Bible is unashamedly full of miracles. And of course, that makes sense … if the God of the Bible exists, then miracles are automatically possible.

Another type of special revelation can be called “promptings of the Holy Spirit”. We see an example of this in John 10. It seems to describe how God talks to us at times through a kind of “inner voice”, or “inner sense”. Not only does the Holy Spirit do this, but the Bible also tells us that Jesus is always with us and that the Father’s presence is continually close by, to be with us and guide us.

Jesus said in John 10 that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. An important part of the Christian life is cultivating a relationship with God to the extent that you can recognize His voice when He is talking to you. God is alive, and He is personal (that is, He has emotions, will and rationality). He doesn’t want us to just know about Him, He wants us to know Him. You can expect Him to give you personal insights, comfort, admonishment, and guidance. He gave His Son on the cross so that sin wouldn’t separate you from Him … He loves you and wants to know you. He is, The God You Can Know (title of book by Dan DeHaan).

Not only will God give individuals specific inner guidance, He at times will guide communities in a similar manner. In Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council), the disciples who were the leaders of the Jerusalem church were guided by a “group-sensing”, a community reception of God’s will for them, when they were in a difficult situation.

Many times you may find that God is guiding your church, your small group, your family, etc. in a similar way. Sometimes you will not know what to do individually, but you will find that God’s will becomes clear through a group. This is a good reminder, once again, that God has made us in such a way that we need one another. He is not only concerned with how we are doing with Him, but also how we are doing with each other.

Summary

We hope that you will be encouraged to seek God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Since God has revealed so much of His amazing nature through the Bible, we hope that you will make it a priority to read and study the Bible, individually and with others.

He doesn’t want us to just know about Him. He wants us to know Him.

Remember how important it is to approach the Bible with humility and an obedient heart, and in community with other followers of Jesus. And also keep in mind how near God’s actual presence is to you, and how you can experience Him relationally. Additionally, be aware of how God might be revealing Himself to you in the other ways that were mentioned. May God disclose Himself to you more and more. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Application Suggestions:

  • Keep a daily journal of personal insights God is giving to you.
  • Read the book of John and record what is revealed about God through Jesus.

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

For more information visit the WDA Store.

One of the most wonderful things about God is that He wants everyone to know Him. Everyone! But there are many people in the world (over 6 billion), and most of them live in places where there is limited or no access to the Bible. Does that mean that most of these people can never know anything about God?

The answer to that important question is “No”.  Although the Bible is precious and tells us many things that we could not otherwise know about God, He also communicates truths about Himself through general revelation. It is called general revelation because it is revelation about God made generally to all people, whether they have a Bible or not. Sometimes general revelation is referred to as “natural revelation”, because it is revelation given through the natural world. When God communicates truths about Himself to a particular person or persons (like the Bible, dreams, visions, etc.) it is called special revelation. This truth is not available to all people but is sent specifically to a certain person or group.

heavens declare God's GloryExternal Witness: Creation

How do we know that God communicates to people through natural revelation? If you didn’t have a Bible, could you know that God is trying to tell you something? In all of history we see mankind preoccupied with questions about whether God or gods exist, and if so, what He or they are like. Where do people get these questions? Why does the subject come up in practically every culture in all of history? The answer is that the human situation forces these questions to arise. The world is made in such a way that it provokes the questions. In other words, the creation itself is revealing something to people about God.

Another way we know that God reveals Himself through nature is that the Bible tells us that He does. Romans 1:19-20 and Psalm 19:1-6 affirm that God is revealed through what has been created by Him. The Romans passage tells us that people know that there is a God because of what He has made. Perhaps Paul, the author of Romans, had in mind the following observations: Just as a watch needs a watch-maker, a house needs a house-maker, and a computer needs a computer-maker, the complexities and order of the universe point toward a universe- Maker. This Maker must not Himself be created, because then He would need a Maker, too (and that Maker would need a Maker, and so on). So, some Force outside of creation must have been responsible for creation. You might be thinking, “All right; so nature points to some Force that has created it … but that doesn’t necessarily point to the God of the Bible.” That’s true, but keep reading!

Creation itself is revealing something to people about God.

Creation doesn’t only tell us that the complexity and order in the universe need a cause. The wonder and beauty of the natural world tell us that the cause is personal and good. Think of some of the most beautiful places you know of — the Grand Canyon, or an island in Hawaii, a sunset over the ocean, or a grand waterfall in the mountains. What do you feel when you experience scenes like these? You’re searching for words, aren’t you? Glorious, gorgeous, magnificent, proud, resplendent, or maybe superb? It’s hard to find just the right words to portray the indescribable beauty that we sometimes encounter in nature, isn’t it? This beauty points to a God that is imaginative, personal, beautiful, and artistic.

Internal Witness: Image of God in Man

Not only do we see evidence of God in nature around us, we also see it in ourselves! The Bible says in Genesis chapter 3 that God made men and women in His image. (Think about that! God’s image!) In other words, there is something about us that is somehow like God. But what?

The “image of God” in people has to do with the following things:

  • God is a thinking Being … we are thinking beings. We both (God and us) think!
  • God is an emotional Being … we are emotional beings. We both feel!
  • God is a Being that makes choices … we are beings that make choices. We both choose!
  • God is a creative Being … we are creative beings. We both make things!
  • God is a moral Being … we are moral beings. We live in a universe where there is right and wrong.

Just because we are like God in some ways doesn’t mean we are like Him in all ways. For instance, God always does what is right! We don’t. And, God is an all powerful Creator. But we are much more limited, aren’t we?

The point about morality is especially important. The moral natures of all people point toward the image of God in mankind. All people, in all cultures, have a sense of right and wrong, although different cultures work this out somewhat differently. However, there are some standards of goodness that are the same everywhere. For example, can you imagine a culture where the idea of a friend was someone that you do terrible things to and try to destroy? Can you imagine a culture where most people think that it is good to torture babies merely for the pleasure of it?

In Romans chapters 2 and 3 Paul talks about the moral law that is on the hearts of all people. This is a type of natural revelation. He is saying that, even without a Bible, people have a basic knowledge of right and wrong. They may be mixed up about it all, but they still have remnants of moral knowledge. This doesn’t mean that people all think exactly the same about issues of right and wrong, but it does mean that people all act as though there is real right and wrong … and they know some things are right. They may say that they don’t believe in right or wrong until you steal something from them, or hurt them, or lie to them! They may suppress this knowledge in unrighteousness, but they still have some knowledge of it through natural revelation.

Another way to see natural revelation at work is to notice the instinctive need to worship that people have. All people in all civilizations worship something. Of course, you have your atheists, too, but even they are “worshipping” something (e.g., Themselves, “Humanity”, Careers, Money, etc.). We are creatures of vast needs, and we have an instinctive knowledge that we need more than we can provide for ourselves.

And, we also know that we’re not what we “ought” to be. You’ve heard the saying, “Nobody’s perfect”? That is a moral truth gleaned from natural revelation. We all have our frailties and imperfections … but what sense would it make to talk about imperfection if there was not an idea of a Perfect Being somewhere? If we didn’t have an idea of something perfect, how would we ever know we were not perfect?

Summary

Summing up, natural revelation has shown us some things about God: that He is the Creator, He is powerful, He is personal, He is beautiful, and He is wise. But, it doesn’t tell us how to be right with Him. Somehow God has to tell us His thoughts and His plan about our imperfections and sins. And that, among other things, is what we find in the special revelation of the Bible. See how they work together (natural revelation and special revelation)?

If we didn’t have an idea of something perfect, how would we ever know we were not perfect?

The Bible seems to indicate (e.g., Acts 10) that as people respond positively to the natural revelation that God gives them, He will send them the special revelation that they need to know Him and be reconciled with Him. This is because He wants all people to know Him, just as we started out saying! If many people end up NOT knowing God, in spite of all that He has revealed, ultimately it is not His fault. God is such a good God— everybody ought to know Him! May He increasingly help us to know Him as He reveals Himself in natural and special revelation.

Application Suggestions:

  • Meditate on Psalm 19: 1-6
  • Enjoy the change in seasons, natural
    wonders in the world
  • Marvel at the complexity of the
    human body (e.g. the eye, the brain,
    the ear)
  • Marvel at the balance of the
    processes of nature (e.g. the oxygen- carbon dioxide cycle; the rainfall, etc.).

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

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Are you stuck in a rut?  Having trouble dealing with that one person at work that knows just the right button to push, and does it just for sport?  Do you have trouble letting go of the small things that happen throughout your day, so they pile up and stress you out?

I think we have all been in one or all of these situations.  How we handle ourselves and deal with these issues show those around us a lot about who we are.  We all have a bad day; but is every day a bad day?

I worked in the medical field for about 20 years.  People are at their worst when they are sick, and some days you question why you do what you do because it just doesn’t seem to be worth it.  For the past six months I have been working at a school for middle and high school children with learning disabilities.  This has a whole different set of challenges to face on a daily basis.

Many years ago, when I first truly began my walk with God, I came across a Bible verse that has helped me through many difficult days.

Colossians 3 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.                                   Colossians 3:23

In situations when I had a difficult patient or family member, co-worker or supervisor, I would remember this verse.  God gave me the gifts and abilities to remain calm under pressure, to be compassionate and understanding, to be patient and kind.  It is my responsibility to use those gifts to glorify him.  He is always there for me to draw strength from and sometimes the best way to draw that strength is through his word.

So, the next time that co-worker trods across that sensitive spot, remember that God made you who you are and it doesn’t matter what that co-worker thinks.  As long as you are doing your job to the absolute best of your ability and doing it as though you are doing it for God, that is what is important.

Sometimes the solution to the problem is just an adjustment in our perspective.  Whether it is your job, coaching your son’s little league team, being the troop leader for your daughter’s Girl Scout troop, do it as if you are working for the Lord and not for man.  I sure felt more fulfilled and my job was more rewarding when I adjusted my perspective.

All you have to do to change your perspective is decide who you are working for, God or man.

Laying Foundations for Spiritual Growth

When my two sons were young we went to Atlanta for the groundbreaking of one of the more famous skyscrapers. We had been reading about the project for months in the local papers and were excited to watch the construction of the “tallest building in the South”. As we arrived on the scene, the bulldozers were already clearing the site, but there was a viewing area for spectators with an architectural rendering of the completed structure emblazoned on the side of the construction fencing. “Wow!” my oldest exclaimed, “It’s humongous!” And indeed it was, soaring nearly seventy stories above Peachtree Street, it certainly promised to be a focal point of the city skyline. We faithfully trekked to the site and watched trucks haul away dirt and debris while other trucks delivered steel girders and other building materials. After several weeks of this vigil, one of the boys exclaimed in frustration, “Dad, when are they going to start working on the building?” (It was a question that I had pondered myself, because all that existed was a large hole and lots of mud.) Approaching a worker with a set of plans under his arm, I inquired, “Can you give us some idea when the building is going to begin?” His chuckle made it obvious the question had come up before.

“It’s hard to believe it,” he said, “but this hole is the most important part of the building. We have to dig down several hundred feet and build a solid foundation to support a structure that’s over seventy stories tall. It will take several months to pour the concrete and sink the steel pillars, but then we’ll start going up. Once we start, it will rise pretty fast!”

The Bible compares living the Christian life with constructing a building. Just as there are phases in building a building, there are phases in the growth of a Christian, and the first phase is: “laying a foundation”. Our initial salvation experience is the beginning of a process of growth that lasts a lifetime. The success of our Christian walk is determined by the strength of our spiritual foundation. Matthew 7: 24-27 asserts that the Christian life built on a solid foundation will withstand the storms of life. The tallest building in the South is still standing today. Believers who lay solid foundations are more likely to stand tall than those who fail to establish a solid base for growth.
This foundations phase actually consists of four interconnecting parts:

  1. relating to God,
  2. relating to other Christians,
  3. understanding truth, and
  4. applying truth so that it transforms us.

Let’s explore these together!

The success of our Christian walk is determined by the strength of our spiritual foundation.

Relating to God

Unlike other religions, the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, not a set of rules. In John 17: 3 the Scripture affirms that eternal life is all about knowing God. It is thrilling to remember that God desires a relationship with us that will never end. The great news is that believers don’t have to wait for heaven to experience this. It begins the moment we accept Christ!

Having a relationship with God is not all that different from having a relationship with anyone else. As we relate to others, we get to know them better and the relationship deepens over time. There are specific situations that will help believers better experience a relationship with God. The first of these involves setting aside time for personal devotions, a quiet time each day devoted to prayer, Bible reading, and personal meditation. The Scripture promises in James 4: 8 that as we “come near to God, He will come near to us”. This “coming near to God” is not a religious duty, but a time for relational development. Of course just as good disciplines and habits can be beneficial in other areas of life, the more we remain faithfully committed to our quiet time, the more benefit we derive from it.

Another aspect of developing a relationship with God is attending public worship in a church that exalts Him. Although we can worship God any place, any time, worshipping with other Christians deepens and develops our ability to relate to God. There are many different public worship experiences and not all churches structure them in the same way.

Worship that focuses on the greatness of God and includes times of singing praise, prayerful meditation, and Biblical preaching should be a priority. Ask God to help you find a church in your community and become a part of the fellowship. This leads to another important part of laying a good foundation: relating to other Christians.

Relating to Other Christians

God has placed us in His spiritual family, the Church, to encourage us, protect us, correct us, direct us, and provide for us. Again there are specific situations that help believers experience relationships with other Christians. Each of these plays a unique role in helping to form a spiritual foundation and each will require some effort. But they all are incredibly beneficial. Christians who do not have connections with other Christians tend to stop growing. (cf. Hebrews 10: 24-25)

Unlike other religions, the essence of Christianity is a relationship with God, not a set of rules.

In the first century there were very few church buildings. Mostly the believers met together in private homes for Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship. There are benefits to meeting with large groups in public worship, but there is also an advantage gained from being part of a small group. The intimacy of the setting provides a place for relationships to flourish. Many modern believers have learned that meeting together in small groups helps to forge close relationships as members discuss Scripture, pray for each other, and share personal matters.

The term “mentoring” was coined by the modern business community to describe a relationship where a seasoned executive tutors a younger colleague in commercial practices. But long before mentoring was introduced to the world of commerce, it had already existed in the spiritual community as “one-to-one discipleship”.

In this case it describes an intentional relationship between a young believer and a more mature Christian who models the Christian life, answers questions, gives counsel, and helps the younger Christian stay focused on the priorities of growth.

Understanding Truth

One important priority for growth (and the third part of laying good foundations) involves developing an increasing understanding of God’s truth. The Bible is the Book of Truth for Christians, but it can appear overwhelming to a new learner. It was Jesus who proclaimed that knowing truth sets people free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, it is helpful to have a basic plan of study for learning the truths that we need to build upon, a plan that focuses on specific themes and principles of foundational development. A good beginning series of studies for young believers should include the themes mentioned earlier: truth that helps someone to know more about God, truth that helps people understand other people, and truth that helps someone to grow spiritually.

There are specific approaches to gaining an understanding of these foundational truths. The first is a curriculum of systematic instruction. This is the first of a series of “Pocket Principles” that are designed specifically for helping new believers lay solid spiritual foundations. If you received this “Pocket Principle” from a mentor or small group leader, continue to work closely with that person to discover and apply the other truths in this series.

Another way of gaining insights into living the Christian life is by reading. There are many excellent materials and resources available in Christian bookstores, libraries, and on the Internet. Your own informal reading will supplement your growth. But be sure to focus on the foundational themes mentioned above as a starting point.

Christians who do not have connections with other Christians tend to stop growing. (Hebrews 10: 24-25)

Your local church is also an excellent source of content. Besides the weekly sermon delivered by the pastor or other teacher, many churches offer small groups devoted to helping new believers get established in the faith. Consult the churches in your area for opportunities to learn foundational truths.

Applying Truth

But as important as truth is in the growth process, it is not the information alone that transforms us. In fact other parts of Scripture warn us that knowledge by itself can be dangerous, leading to spiritual pride and the deadening of our hearts to God. This particular sin characterized the Pharisees who were enemies of Christ. It is only truth that is obeyed or applied to our lives that changes us and causes growth. Romans 12: 2 reminds us that it is a life consecrated to obeying God that is impacted by truth. When our minds are transformed in this way we help establish the will of God on earth. This is more than just knowing the truth, it is actually doing truth.

A skyscraper is an engineering marvel, but soaring high means digging deep and laying solid foundations. A maxim of the Christian life asserts that “you can only grow as tall as you grow deep”. Laying good foundations takes time and effort, but the benefits are worth it. The new believer needs to embrace experientially the truths related to knowing and understanding God and other believers.

Conclusion

Applying truth will require becoming involved in specific situations that facilitate foundational growth. Establishing a time for personal devotions, joining a small group, locating an older believer who can come alongside you as an encouraging mentor, setting up a systematic plan of study , and participating in public worship are layers of spiritual brick and mortar that form this foundation. But these situations without a heart commitment to obey the truth will not suffice. Blessings to you as you grow!

It is only truth that is obeyed or applied to our lives that changes us and causes growth.

  • So where are you laying foundations?
  • Where do you find is the best place to find a mentor?
  • Have you made time for studying God’s word?
  • What are some of the things you have done to help lay foundations for growing in your faith as a Christian?

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

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