Saturday, January 18, 2020
   
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Getting to Know God, Part Three

What if we never read the Bible, and never paid close attention if someone else read it to us? What would our knowledge of God and the Scriptures be like if the only source of our knowledge came from what we heard or saw on T.V., at the movies, from friends or our own imagination? Sadly, most Americans are in this situation! In order to have a proper understanding of God—not a mixture of rumor, films, a projection of our own humanness, half truths and a muddle of ancient history—we are involved in a study of the attributes of God. This isn't an in-depth study, but an introduction to a few of the characteristics of God, so that you might know Him better.

Thus far, we have studied, three attributes.

God is omnipresent—He is present everywhere at once; "He is here."—Psalm 139:7-9; Jeremiah 23:23-24; 1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:48; Rom. 10:6-8.

God is omniscient—"He knows it"; God has knowledge of all things—i.e., actualities and possibilities—Is. 40:13-14; Ps. 139:1-6; Heb. 4:13; John 21:17b; Prov. 15:3; Is. 46:10; Matt. 10:30; Matt. 11:20-24; 1 Sam. 23:11; Isa. 48:18.

God is omnipotent—He’s all-powerful; He can do it—Hab. 1:13; 2 Tim. 2:13; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; James 1:13; Jeremiah 32:17; Matt. 19:26; Is.. 40:6-7; Gen. 17:1; Rev. 4:8; 19:6.

 

We may not be able to pronounce the word immutable, but do we know what it means? He never changes. He’s always the same. To say God is immutable is to say, "He never differs from Himself." So the concept of God growing or developing is not found in Scripture. He has never changed and He never will change. His power cannot diminish nor His glory fade. All that God is He has always been; all that He has ever been, He will ever be.

I love the way Spurgeon captures the thought.

"He remains everlastingly the same. There are no furrows on His eternal brow. No age has palsied Him; no years have marked Him with the mementos of their flight... The Godhead was the same when He was a babe in the manger, as it was when He stretched the curtains of heaven; it was the same God that hung on the cross, and whose blood flowed down... the same God that holds the world upon His everlasting shoulders, and bears in His hands the keys of death and hell. He never has been changed in His essence, not even by His incarnation; he remains everlasting, eternally, the one unchanging God"—C.H. Spurgeon, The Attributes of God, Tyndale Bible Society.

God is unchangeable in His essence, attributes and will.

In some ways the concept of change is easier to understand than other attributes, but to grasp it we must sort out our customary thoughts about created things. When we talk about humans, we assume that all change must be for the better or for the worse; but God cannot change for the better, since He is absolutely perfect. Neither can He change for the worse, for the same reason. He is exalted above all causes and above even the possibility of change.

James Boice affirms the changelessness of God.

For a moral being to change, it would be necessary to change in one of two directions. Either the change is from something worse to something better, or it is from something better to something worse. It should be evident that God cannot move in either of these directions"—James M. Boice, The Sovereign God, Intervarsity Press, 1978.

The moment we begin to think of God as changing, the object about which we are thinking is no longer God, but something else and someone less than God is. One who suffers the slightest degree of change is neither self-existent, self-sufficient, nor eternal, and so is not God. The cults just don’t understand this! Their god is always changing; their god is confused.

A.W. Tozer says:

"Only a being composed of parts may change, for change is basically a shift in the relation of the parts of a whole or the admission of some foreign element into the composition. Since God is self-existent, He is not composed. There are in Him no parts to be altered. And since He is self-sufficient, nothing can enter his being from without."

Where do we get Scriptural verification for the concept of immutability?

Mal. 3:6a—"I the Lord do not change."

Heb. 1:8-12—". . .you remain the same."

Heb. 13:8—"Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever."

Ps. 46:1-3—"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in time of trouble. 2] Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. 3] though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."

The implication is that God will not change in terms of being our help in time of trouble. Even though the earth, its mountains and seas might change, God will still be there to help us.

Ps. 102:25-27—"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26] They will perish but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. 27] But you remain the same and your years will never end."

This passage clearly tells us that although the material creation will perish, God Himself will continue to endure. His unchangeableness is a guarantee to us of His dependability and reliability.

The Application

It encourages me to pray, because I know He is always receptive to my prayer. He’s said He will, so He will always be receptive.

If everyday my God was changing, I’d be a little hesitant to come to Him in prayer, e.g., I’d wonder, "What kind of mood is God in today?" Because I know He doesn’t change, I can come to Him and know He’s in a receptive mood. In difficult times He is always faithful, and He will never leave us nor forsake us, so we can run to Him in prayer. Tozer writes:

"...He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours, nor set aside periods when He will see no one. Neither does he change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only begotten Son into the world to die for mankind. God never changes His moods, or cools off His affections, or lose His enthusiasm"—A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 59.

It helps me to have the security of His stability.

There is great peace and security in knowing you can always count on someone being the same. What other person is like that? The truth of this helps to build confidence and trust in Him.

Third, it also keeps me from trying to talk God into a compromise, or to alter the absolute standard He has established.

God cannot be coaxed, or persuaded to alter His Word, nor talked into answering a selfish prayer. In my approach to God, I must remember all change is to be on my part.

I’m amazed at the people I know who have tried to somehow believe God has changed His mind about one sin or another. The justification for sin is enormous. People will say, "God is on my side. The Bible is not what it appears to say. People are legalistic; God doesn’t care about my sin. He wants my happiness more than anything." Forget it! Sin is sin! God hasn’t changed His mind about it. He does not change the absolutes because society does. God doesn't try to be hip by changing His view of morality, ethics, etc.

"Immutability is not to be confused with immobility. God is active and enters into relationships with changing men. In these relationships it is necessary for an unchangeable God to change in his dealings with changing men in order to remain unchangeable in his character and purpose. For instance, God deals differently with men before salvation than after (Prov. 11:20; 12:12; 1 Pet. 3:12). The God who cannot repent (Num. 23:19), repents, i.e., his dealings with man change when man changes from evil to good, or good to evil (Gen. 6:6; Ex. 32:14; Jer. 18:7-11; Joel 2:13; Jonah 3:10). [God changes in his dealing with men.]

God’s immutability consists in his always doing what is right and in adapting the treatment of his creatures to the variations in their character and conduct. His threats are sometimes conditional in nature, as when he threatened to destroy Israel (Ex. 32:9-13) and Ninevah (Jonah 1:2; 3:4,10)"—Henry T. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1979, pp. 81-83.


"When we say God does not change, that doesn’t mean he does not change things. God’s response to man’s performance is always consistent with what He said and who He is"—The Nature of God in Plain Language, David Hocking, Word, 1984, p. 156.

 

The prayer. "Lord, I praise you for Your immutability—You never change. I can count on You always being the same with me. I know You will never change Your love for me. I praise You that You are unchanging, because I get my stability from You. Lord, because You do not change, then change me. Forgive me for trying to explain away my sin. Help me to remember, You never compromise or sin!

 

Holiness is not something that is a part of God, separate from the other attributes. Holiness is something that is always true of God. He is in every action and relationship, holy. What does the word mean, then?

Holiness in the negative sense means the absence of sin.

"God —alone —is God; the creature is —only —a creature. Hence, the holiness of God invokes from man an incomparable sense of distance from him. God in his nature is inaccessible. He dwells ‘in light unapproachable’"—Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of God—Dogmatics, vol. 1, London, Lutterworth Press, 1949.

Many religions are built on the negative side of holiness, the dread of God.

Holiness in the positive sense means every kind of goodness.

We need both sides of the coin! Our understanding of God must be more than "One who is absent from sin." Sadly, many people know only one side, so they have a dread of His presence. Therefore, our understanding of God must carry with it His self-revelation. We must see that this awe-filled presence has personality. We must see God as a moral being with all the warm qualities of genuine personality—i.e., with a child, at a funeral, a dinner, eating with disciples.

Our understanding then must have both the view of God’s absolute moral excellence, His purity and righteousness; and the One who is filled with every kind of goodness. That is what holiness is!

Tozer writes:

"Today our heart may leap up with the happy cry, ‘Abba, father, my Lord and my God.’ Tomorrow we may kneel with delighted trembling to admire and adores the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity."

To be holy means that God does not conform to any standard, He is the standard. God is different—1 Sam. 2:2—in fact, the root meaning is differentness. God is absolutely distinct from everything and everyone He has made, totally different in quality. There is no one else and nothing else like Him. In relation to His other attributes, He is holy, and therefore, all His attributes are holy. If you want to describe the Godhead in three words, it’s holy, holy, holy.

Holiness therefore occupies the highest rank among the attributes of God. (Many theologians say holiness is the chief and summary attribute.) Henry C. Thiessen writes:

"Because of the fundamental character of this attribute, the holiness of God, rather than love, the power or the will of God should be given first place. Holiness is the regulative principle of all three of them, for His throne is established on the basis of His holiness"—Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans Revised Ed., 1979, p. 84.

In general, holiness is the attribute by which God wanted to be especially known in the Old and New Testaments. "I am the Lord your God, consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy" (Lev. 11:44a). It is emphasized in the Old Testament in:

  1. The boundaries set before Mt. Sinai—Ex. 19:12-25

  2. The division of the tabernacle and temple into the holy and most holy places—Ex. 26:33; 1 Kings 6:16-19

  3. The prescribed offering an Israelite would bring if he wanted to approach God—Lev. 17

  4. The special priesthood to mediate between God and the people—Lev. 8-10

  5. The many laws about impurity—Lev. 11-15

  6. the feasts of Israel—Lev. 23

  7. The book of Isaiah, for there the Lord is called "the holy one" some 30 times

It is also ascribed to God in the New Testament—John 17:11; Heb. 12:10; 1 Pet. 1:15. Rev. 4:8—"The angels around the throne call out holy, holy, holy..." Why three holies? The Trinity! The Father is holy, the Son is holy, and the Spirit is holy. Holiness, then, is the attribute emphasized by God in the Old Testament and New Testament. It is the attribute by which God wanted to be especially known.

What are the implications of holiness? There are three important things we should learn from the fact that God is holy (adapted from Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C. Thiessen, p. 84.) This is a summary of what we’ve already seen.

There is a chasm between God and the sinner—Is. 59:1f; Hab. 1:13—"Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong."

Not only is the sinner estranged from God, but God is estranged from him. Before sin came, man and God had fellowship with each other; now that fellowship is broken and impossible. Not everyone believes this! We live in a world that doesn’t take sin—the gap between God and sin—seriously and therefore, if we are not careful, their attitude begins to rub off on us.

"Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life.

We have learned to live with the unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians, or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends.

... Quite literally, a new channel must be cut through the desert of our minds to allow the truth... to flow in. We cannot grasp the meaning of divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered.
We know nothing like divine holiness, it stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness He cannot even imagine"—A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 110.

Man must approach God through the merits of another if He is to approach Him at all.

Man does not possess, nor is he able to acquire the sinlessness which is necessary for access to God. This is one of the basic premises of salvation.Man, however, had such access made available to him through Christ—Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 10:19. Man can see, then, that in God’s holiness lies the reason for the atonement. What God’s holiness demanded, His love provided—Rom. 5:6-8; Eph. 2:1-9; 1 Pet. 3:18.

We must approach Him with "reverence and awe..." Heb. 12:18—"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (See also, vv. 14-28.) A correct view of the holiness of God leads to a proper view of our sins—Ps. 66:18; 1 John 1:5-7. Henry Thiessen writes: "Humiliation and contrition and confession flow from a Scriptural view of God’s holiness"—Ibid, p. 85. A correct view of sin also leads us to a proper view of ourselves. Three striking examples are:

  • John 40:3-5;

  • Is 6:5-7;

  • Peter—Luke 5:8.

In other words, you won’t understand yourself until you understand God.

Do you struggle with honesty, pride, and humility? The primary solution is not to work on each one, it’s to get to know a holy God. The only reason we are arrogant is because we don't know God. All of us could pray, "Let me see your holiness, God, so that I might see my sin and understand myself."

The Application

Holiness shows me that God hates sin. God is holy and therefore cannot have sin in His presence—Hab. 1:13.

  • He takes sin seriously because He knows what sin will do in a Christian’s life. Sin may not wipe out a person’s salvation (initially), but it will affect his/her whole body—Ps. 32. Sin brings forth a deadly fruit. (James 1:15—"....sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death...") One sin cast Mr. and Mrs. Adam out of the Garden of Eden. One sin kept Moses from Canaan—the promised land. We live under grace now, but understand that sin still has a negative effect upon a believer, especially his joy—Ps. 51:12; Matt. 26:74.

  • He hates sin so much in my life, because He loves me (and you) so much—Rom. 5:6-8.

  • God hates sin in my life because it cost Him so much—Rom. 5:6-8; John 3:16; 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

Holiness shows me I can approach God, because in the positive sense, He is filled with every kind of goodness. I have the joy of sharing in the goodness of God. We laugh together; we share joys together because I have been provided access to His goodness made for me by God’s Son and through His blood (Heb. 10:19-23 sums up the new relationship).

The tragedy is that when man sees his guilt before God, He often mistakes religious ceremony for the proper response to God. The human mind searches for rituals to perform that will win approval in God’s sight. Through the ages He has devised all kinds of formalities and activities to hopefully satisfy the demands of God’s holiness. We shake our heads at those who, in other cultures and religions, inflict themselves with pain in order to appease their god. But how about us? What activities and formalities are we devising to make ourselves acceptable?

  • Show up to church

  • Start praying again.

  • Talk like we have faith

  • A good deed

I must stop striving to be good in order that I might be acceptable to God, and recognize that God wants to satisfy the demands of His holiness through a relationship with His Son. He is the One filled with every kind of goodness. I must also learn to draw upon His goodness, so I can share His goodness (just as I share His love, acceptance and forgiveness) with others.

God’s holiness calls me to holiness—Heb. 12:10; Lev. 11:45; James 1:27.

How do we become holy? God’s absolute holiness cannot be imparted to His creatures, but there is "a relative and contingent holiness which He shares with His angels and seraphim in heaven, and with redeemed men here on earth"—A.W. Tozer. I don’t strive to be holy; I learn to walk by faith in the holiness of another—Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. God imparts that holiness to His children, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, but we must walk by faith in that holiness. My holiness calls for a removal of sin from my life on a daily basis (1 John 1:9) and an extension of God’s goodness whenever possible (Gal. 6:9-10).

How does that holiness affect what I do?

  1. It affects how I worship. Ps. 29:2—"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness." (See also Ps. 95:6; Heb. 12:28.)

  2. It affects my actions and speech. I Pet. 1:15,16—"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’" (See KJV) In practical terms it means that the Christian's conduct and speech should always be distinctive (James 1:27).

  3. It affects how I use my body. Rom. 12:1—"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual worship." I Cor. 3:17—"If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

The Prayer

"Lord, I praise you for your holiness, which means to me there is an absence of sin in you and you are filled with every kind of goodness. You are a holy God and that’s why you hate sin. I praise you for that, because I know you love me so much. Your holiness calls me to holiness in my worship, speech, actions and body. It causes me to approach you with respect, reverence, humility and honor...for who is like unto you"?—Is. 6:36; Ex. 15:11.




 

  1. As far as the culture is concerned, how should God change to be more acceptable—i.e., politically correct, more current, less dogmatic? (Explain with examples.)

  2. How does the fact that God does not change affect your prayers? (Give examples.)

  3. Describe a situation where you really hoped God would change His mind about a particular sin. How did you finally change to accept His will?

  4. How will holiness affect our honesty, pride and humility?

  5. Using the following Scriptures, describe how holiness will alter, change, transform your worship, actions, speech, and the use of your body. Ps. 29:2; 95:6; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; James 1:27; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 3:17.

  6. Formulate prayers/praise for each of these attributes.