Monday, October 23, 2006

5. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

I hope you all had a good weekend. It is supposed to be getting cooler here in Hong Kong, I can’t say I have noticed. Temperatures are still in the mid to high 20s. I find it hard to function above 20! I do apologize for not posting over the weekend. I needed more time to think than the weekend provided, but I will try not to let it happen too often – not posting, that is, hopefully I will at least go on trying to think!

Today I post the last in the series on God which was prompted by the survey into religious beliefs in America. Since I originally started this series, I have been trying to write more fully about how far I think many of us have wandered from a balanced understanding of God. I have begun to ask how we can find God again. I am sure the key does lie in seeing God as exclusively and explicitly revealed in Jesus Christ so I want to round off the original series with a few thoughts which I will write about more extensively in future posts.

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

We have been examining the four Gods that researchers identified as being believed in by Americans today: an authoritarian God who metes out punishment; a benevolent God who is less willing to condemn people; a critical God who does not interact with the world, but deals out punishment in the after-life; and a distant God who set the laws of nature in motion, but is no longer involved in events of the world. My assumption has been that it is not only Americans who have these four Gods.

I have argued that in fact there is truth in all four, but that each misses out on part of the truth or is in danger of distorting it. So, for example, while it is true, as those who believe in the Benevolent God assert, that God welcomes us and accepts us as we are, he doesn’t stop there, but has expectations of us. He accepts us as we are, but expects us to change and be changed into what we should be.

We need a bigger God than any of these different Gods. What we need is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For in the Bible, God is not defined in abstract terms as the researchers attempt to do with these views of God. This is not a criticism for the categories they use are helpful to understand contemporary religion and not just American religion. They help us to analyze our own view of God and see where it is inadequate and needs changing.

Christianity, however, is more than belief in a God, important though that is. It is first and foremost a relationship with God. This relationship is only possible through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Jesus that we meet God and come to know him for ourselves. The God we meet is our Creator, who not only created the world, but upholds it and sustains it every second of every day. He is the Creator, who is utterly transcendent, but who has condescended to know us and love us. He is the One who has made us moral beings and who shows us how we should live. If we ignore his commands, there will inevitably be consequences, because what he has shown us is for the best because he is God and knows best.

Yet even though we go wrong and let down him, ourselves, and others, he never gives up on us, but keeps loving us and reaching out to us. Supremely, he has reached out to us in the death of his Son who by his death has made forgiveness possible for us no matter how bad we are or how bad what we have done has been. The life we live now matters and one day we will have to give an account of it. There will be a day of reckoning that none can escape. However, Christians believe that Christ is on their side and will see them through, but they accept this humbly as a gift and not as a right.

As long as we are here, we work for the good of all creation and all who are part of it. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. We are more than simply passing through, and we long for the day when God will recreate the heavens and earth and bring his work of creation to completion. In the meantime, we worship him as our God and trust him as our Father. We know there is more that we do not know than we do, and long for the day when we will no longer see through a glass darkly, but see face to face, when we will know even as we are fully known.

We will inevitably stumble and fall. We will make mistakes, take wrong turnings, misunderstand, get it wrong, and sin. But we believe in a God who is greater than all our failings, a God who is capable of helping us to stand and who will one day perfect his work in us.

The Christian view of God is of great God: a God whom we can never fully understand. There will always be more to know and more to discover about him. But we do believe that we can know something of Him and that what we do know is true. This truth we find in the One who said: I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one can come to the father but by me.

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