Monday, April 14, 2008

Theology Four - Soul Food for the Hungry Heart

Now that we have defined "theology", it is time to actually study it. We begin with "theology proper" - that is the study of God's attributes. I pray you will be encouraged as you consider our awesome God.

Theology Proper - The Personality of God
Since theology is about knowing God, we must, first of all, ask ourselves, “Who is God?” It is interesting that we ask “who” and not “what”. 

The apostle Paul in Romans 1:18 affirms that mankind knows certain things about God, namely that He is a person who has certain attributes or characteristics. Man knows by creation that God is eternal, divine and all-powerful. Jesus said in John. 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” 

In other words, we can know Him because He is a person with personality and He reveals Himself to man. Of this A. W. Tozer writes, "We have almost forgotten that God is a person and...can be cultivated as any person can. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence, the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God."

"We have almost forgotten that God is a person and…can be cultivated as any person can. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is, in essence, the response of created personalities to the creating personality, God."

Tozer continues, "God is a person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. (Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God, Camp Hill, Christian Publications, 1982, p. 13).

God is not a force, contrary to popular opinion. He is personal and we can know Him. He has all of the elements which together form personality – intellect, will and emotions.

God has intellect

He has intellect with which He thinks and directs: David said, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand” (139:17-18a). David found it astounding that of all the lofty things God can think on, He chooses to think on man in personal ways.

God has emotions

God also has emotions that express His desires: “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.” (Ps. 145:8). And God has a will by which He determines all things in and of Himself: “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?" (Dan. 4:35)

God has a will - He decides
From the beginning of creation, we see God deciding to do certain acts and not do others. He has a will. He decides. And no one can stop Him when He determines what will be, other than Himself. 

He decided to create and then decided what to create - light, the sun, moon and stars, animals of all kinds, air, rocks, earth, earthworms, vegetation, the sea with all its creatures, many of which are yet to be discovered, having never been seen by the human eye, the heavens with its uncharted expanse and so much more. 

Last of all, God created man in His own image with the same ability to decide as He has, but with limitations that cannot undermine His own will. Man is the creature. God is the Creator and God alone. Genesis 1:26 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' ". And He did.

God also has the freedom to change His mind. Exodus 32:14 says, "And the Lord relented from the disaster that He had spoken of bringing on His people." 

But no one can change God's will for what He has planned, From Isaiah we read, "For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" Isaiah 14:27

God refers to Himself as "I" 
Also, God refers to Himself by personal pronouns, the way you and I talk about ourselves and other persons. In Exodus 3:14, when commissioning Moses to free His people from slavery, He said in describing Himself, “I AM WHO I AM”. Thus, in the text He ascribes to Himself personality as well as many other attributes: self-existence, self-sufficiency, immutability, inscrutability, truth, and everything else that the I AM is. But He uses the personal pronoun “I” and establishes with Moses the unchanging wonder that He can be known as a person, divine though He is. God, from the first moment He revealed Himself to Moses, began a dialogue with him that has never ceased, for he is now in God's very presence communing with Him, face to face.

God, from the first moment He revealed Himself to Moses, began a dialogue with him that has never ceased, for he is now in God’s very presence communing with Him, face to face.

When God created man, He created him in His own image, with personality because God has personality. In the Garden God communed with Adam and Eve, person to person, instructing them about creation and their stewardship over it, about their relationship with each other and with Him. When we trace our roots back to the Garden we find that from the first breath man took, God was breathing out words of life and communicating with us in personal ways. This was His desire (emotion), His design (intellect) and His determination (will).

As a person, God is good
In exploring God’s personality we find that He tells us in His word that He is eternal, immutable, incomprehensible, love, good, infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, perfection, self-existent, self-sufficient, creator, invisible, holy, gracious, wise, sovereign, omnipotent and infinitely more. But getting back to Moses, God tells him in 
Exodus 33:17 that he has found favor in His sight and that He knows him (Moses) by name. We then hear Moses say, “Please, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18). God responds, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you.” (Exodus 33:19) Of all God’s glorious attributes, He chose to show Moses His goodness.

Keeping in mind that God is a person, in the next post, we will look upon what Moses saw, hidden as he was in the cleft of the rock, viewing only God’s backside. But God is desirous (emotions) that we partake from His determined revelation (will), the thoughts He has given us concerning His goodness (intellect). This so that we might know Him more fully, empowering us to live godly lives that bring glory to this One we can know intimately.

"...seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust." II Pet. 1:3-4.
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