What is God like?
How do we even begin to answer that question? Well that's what we're going to try to do in the next 20 minutes or so. It will be overwhelming, it will be fast, and my hope this morning is that all of us will leave here both knowing God a little bit better, and realizing how much more there is to learn.
Imagine you are walking down the street and you bump into an old friend who used t come to HTG. You get chatting and at some point in the conversation you mention that there's a new assistant minister at church, and he's got a funny name. He's called Dim Alldridge. And to your surprise your friend says, 'Oh I know Dim…he's tall right, blonde hair, blue eyes.' So you say, 'Oh no, you must be thinking of another Dimitri Alldridge! The one at HTG is kind of short, brown hair, brown eyes.' But your friend says, 'No, I know Dim, he's married to Gayles, comes from down south, he's been in America for the last three years. But I like to think that he's tall with blonde hair.'! It would be ridiculous wouldn't it?! Your friend can't decide what I'm like, can they. Because I exist!
And yet that is what people do with God all the time.
We talk to people who say, 'Well, I like to think of God as… a sort of heavenly grandfather.' Or…'I like to think to think that God loves us all and will forgive everyone.' But do you see, that is nonsense. We don't get to decide what God is like any more than you could decide that I've got blonde hair and blue eyes.
Why? Because God exists.
So, what is God like? And how do we get to know God? Well part of the answer should come from the world around us.
Look at what it says in Psalm 19 v.1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
All around us, the Psalmist says, creation is crying out! It is shouting out to us that there is a God who is glorious! Creation tells us that there is a creator. The problem is, we can't hear it. We should look at the hills and know that there is a God. We should see a sunrise and hear it telling us that God is amazing. But we can't hear it, and Romans 1 v.18-20 tells us why.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
God has made himself plain to us through creation. But we can't hear creation's song because we chose not to. In our wickedness we reject God. We look at creation and we pretend that there is no creator. So how are we going to get to know God, how can we find out what God is like?
And the answer is, we can only know what God is like...if God comes and introduces himself.
Imagine that you move into a block of flats. And as you're moving all your belongings in you notice at the front door that the person who lives above you is called Alex. It's not long before you hear Alex moving around in the flat above you. You hear him playing his electric guitar, listening to heavy metal. You notice his motorbike parked out front. And over time you build up a picture of what Alex must look like, tall guy, well-built, maybe a leather jacket, short hair. And one day you're at home and there's a knock at the door. You open it and there is a young lady, well dressed with books under her arm and glasses on her face, and she sticks out a thin hand and says , "Hi, my name's Alex, I live upstairs."
There are something that we should know about God from the world around us. But the only way we can really know what he is like is if he comes and introduces himself to us. And that is exactly what he has done.
Firstly in the Bible, and secondly and supremely in Jesus.
The Bible is the written word of God. It is God's revelation of himself. It is the record of God's revelation of himself, kept for us. That's what we were thinking about last week.
And just as the Bible is the written word of God, so it tells us that Jesus is the living Word of God. John 1 v 14, Jesus is the Word become flesh. He is the revelation of God as a man.
Do you see? We can know God because God has introduced himself to us in his Word.
I've met some people who say, "I don't believe in organised religion, I think God is too great for us to know, too vast for us to comprehend." Well that sound very spiritual but it is nonsense isn't it. We can know God because God has made himself known to us. But let me also say before we really begin, that whilst we can know God in part, we cannot know him fully.
God's word tells us everything we need to know not everything we want to know. And as we look into what God is like this morning we should expect not to understand everything either. He is God, of course we cannot understand everything. As we examine what God is like this morning, it will and it should raise a thousand questions, and we're just going to move right along! We can't know everything but we can know some things, because God has revealed himself to us. Here we go...
What is God like? Firstly
1) There is only one true God
Isaiah 45 v. 5-6
I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.
The first thing that God tells us about himself is that there is only one God. He is unlike anyone or anything else. He is in a category of 1.
Deuteronomy 6 v.4
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
1 Corinthians 8 v.4
we know that 'An idol is nothing at all in the world' and that 'There is no God but one.
Jeremiah 10 v.10
But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King.
1 Timothy 2 v.5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,
There is only one true God. And that may seem perfectly obvious to us today, in the ancient world this was radical theology. And if we truly believe that there is only one true God then it should radically shape our lives.
Let me suggest two ways this should change us.
Firstly if there is only one God, then he should receive all of our worship and all of our praise. If God is the one true God, then nothing else is. Our career won't give us meaning. Our family won't save us. Our money won't satisfy us. Nothing else is worthy of all of our time and effort and worship and praise. There is only one true God.
And if there is only one true God then secondly, he is the God of all people, and all people need to know him. If the God of the Bible is God, then Allah is not. If the God of the Bible is the one true God then Buddhism is wrong and Hinduism is wrong, and atheism is wrong. And if we love the people around us we won't let them continue in their ignorance.
We won't 'Well you're a Muslim and I'm a Christian, and you're an atheist and as long as we're all sincere that's ok.' No, it's not ok. The only loving thing to do is to tell everyone about the only God is exists.
2) God is invisible, eternal and unchanging.
What is God like?
Well part of the problem we have in answering that question, as it says in John 1 v 18 is that
No one has ever seen God.
Of course we know that at times God 'appeared' to people. In the burning bush before Moses, as a pillar of cloud and fire before the people of Israel, for example. But none of those people ever real saw God, as you are seeing me now.
Firstly because God is vast, look at Jeremiah 23 v.23-24
Am I only a God nearby,' declares the Lord, 'and not a God far away? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?' declares the Lord. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth?' declares the Lord.
When Isaiah 'saw' God in Isaiah 6 all he saw was the just the edge of his robe, which filled the temple! God is too big for us to see, he is too perfect for us to see and live, we're told in Exodus 33 v.20
But also Jesus tells us in John 4 v.24 that God is spirit. God is invisible, he doesn't have a body. Now again this is hard for us to grasp and the Bible often talks about God in human terms to try to help us. So in Gen 3 v.8 God 'walks in the garden in the cool of the day'. But God has no feet. God 'holds us in his hands' we're told in Psalm 31 v.15, but he has no arms. God sees everything it says in Psalm 33 v.13, but he has no eyes.
God is spirit, he is invisible, which also means he is everywhere. He is omni-present, Psalm 139 v.7-10
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
God is everywhere, he sees everything, which is both incredibly comforting and incredibly challenging, as we were thinking about just a few weeks ago in Luke 12.
Not only is God invisible, he is also eternal. The first four words of the Bible are…"In the beginning God…" There was never a time when God was not.
Psalm 90 v.2
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God
Do you remember what God says his name was when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Exodus 3 v.14?
I AM WHO I AM
Which brings us to the next thing we can know about God and that is that he is unchanging.
Malachi 3 v.6
God says "I the Lord do not change."
And why doesn't God change? Because he is perfect. He doesn't need to change. God never learns anything...he already knows everything. Circumstances never change to make God change his mind...he controls everything (as we'll see) God has planned everything. God is unchanging, and look at what that means...
Numbers 23 v.19
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfil?
Or 1 Samuel 15 v.29
He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Or Psalm 33 v.11
But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
God is invisible, eternal and unchanging. So think about this...God never has bad days. He never gets up on the wrong side of the bed. God doesn't have good moods and bad moods. We never have to fear how he might respond and wonder how he might react. And if we want to know what God is like today, and what his plans and purposes are today, then we just have to go to the Bible and find out what he was like back then. Because God never changes, he is the same yesterday, today and forever.
3) God is all-powerful, all-wise and all-good
Daniel 4 v.35
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?
Psalm 115 v.3
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.
Jeremiah 32 v.17
Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
And not only is God all powerful so that he can do whatever he pleases, but everything is constantly under his control. Proverbs 16 v.33
The lot is cast in the lap. But its every decision is from the LORD.
Casting a lot was like rolling a dice, and even that, the Bible tells us is under God's direct control. God is all-powerful and He is all wise. 1 John 3 v.20
God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
Isaiah 40 v.28
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
Do you see how the categories start to overlap? If God is eternal and invisible, then he sees everything, so of course he knows everything. In fact God would not be God if he was not all-powerful and all-wise. If anything was beyond his control, or if anything was unknown to Him, then God wouldn't be God. He has to be those things by definition. But it is the next description of God that is so amazing.
Because God could have been all-powerful, but violent and vicious. He could still be God and all-wise, but also uncaring and selfish. But he is not. He is also all-good. Psalm 23 v.1-4
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
God is Love,
John tells us in 1 John 4 v.8 and 16
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
Deuteronomy 32 v.4
Psalm 48 v.1
Great is the LORD, and most worthy of praise.
2 Thessalonians 1 v.6
God is just
The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness...
Exodus 34 v.6, and Numbers 14 v.18 and Joel 2 v.13.
God is perfect,
Matthew 5 v.48.
Have you ever stopped to consider how incredible it is that the God who is in control of all things and who knows all things, is also perfect in his goodness? And I know that raises questions, some of which the Bible helps us to answer, and some of which it does not. But what it does tell us again and again is that God is perfect. We never have to doubt his power or his wisdom or his love or his care. We have nothing to fear and every reason to rejoice and to praise him.
4) God made all things and sustains all things
In the beginning...God made the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1 v.1
God saw all that he had made..,and it was very good.
What sets God apart from everything else is that he is the creator, and everything else, seen and unseen, was created. Hebrew 11 v.3
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
But it was not as if God made everything and then stepped back to see how things would work out, no God also sustains all things. Colossians 1 is talking about Jesus, God in human form, when it says
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Hebrew 1 v.3 tell us that
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
As the children's song reminds us, and as the Bible clearly teaches us, "He's got the whole world, in his hands." Job 12 v.10
in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
God not only made you and knit you together in your mother's womb, Ps 139 v 13, he also sustains you every moment of every day. That breath you just took…came from God. The sun rises only when God tells it to, Matthew 5 v.45, and it sets only at his command.
Do you see what that means? God is always with you. If he were ever to leave you, even for a moment, you would simply cease to exist. Do you ever wonder if God is with you, or if he cares? Just breathe in.
But it means more than that. Revelation 4 v.11
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.
God is your creator and sustainer. You owe everything you have to Him. In fact you owe him everything you have. He deserves your love and he demands your worship. He is the one true God, there is no other. He is invisible, eternal and unchanging. Not only is he all-powerful and all-wise, but he is all-good. He created all things and he sustains all things.
What is God like? God tells us what he is like in the Bible. And we summarize what God has told us like this in the first half of the first of the 39 Articles, our statement of faith. "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, pr passions; of infinite power, wisdom and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible."
He is your God and He is my God
He made you and he owns you.
And there is only one right way to respond to him this morning and every day.
And that is to worship him.