The nature of God;
What kind of God do we have? We know that He is beyond this universe that He created, but what is He like? What kind of "person" is God?
Some people prefer to imagine God as some sort of abstract idea, as a cloud or fog of conceptual goo with no real substance or characteristics. But how can an abstract ideal create material stuff?
I think the reason people prefer to conceptualize God in the abstract is because God's nature and essence is far beyond what we can comprehend with our minds. But this abstraction of God results in an inability to enter in to a deep and meaningful relationship with the One who created us for His plan and purpose.
How can we enter in to a relationship with an intangible conceptual ideal? God is more that this. He is a person with thoughts, feelings and self-awareness. His range of perception is not limited to that of us humans — He has unlimited conscious awareness of all things, past, present and future.
Yet He loves us and desires the best for us. And He chose to create us with free will so that our love for Him would be a real, true, genuine and deep love, for it takes free will to love like this. We have to love willingly or it is not love.
But we also have the free will to reject Him and to go on with our lives as if He doesn't even exist, focusing instead on our needs and our problems and our careers and our lives. Love without sacrifice is no love at all.
Many people would say, "I do love God. He is my guide and He helps me." I don't doubt the sincerity of such people. Yet there are two additional ingredients which must be a part of a genuine love of God — submission and sacrifice.
Untested love is no love at all. Every parent who loves their children knows about being tested and about sacrifice. These children were very inconvenient. They cost a lot of money. They cried a lot and made messes. They took up valuable time that we could have spent doing other things. Yet because we loved them we did it joyfully. And it was well worth the effort.
This is tested love.
Some people's love for God is untested because their particular kind of love relationship with God requires no commitment on their part. It is not inconvenient for them to love God, it doesn't require them to change their habits, it doesn't take time away from doing things they would rather do, and it requires no submission to His will, plan and purpose. Love without these aspects is not true love.
God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. In order to truly love God we must first discover what His plan and purpose for us is, and then we must conform our lives to this plan and purpose.
Many people think they know God's plan and purpose, but what they really know is their own plan and purpose. Invariably this is a quest for self-satisfaction. Their motto would be "God's plan and purpose for my life is to achieve the maximum level of satisfaction for me."
Someone who truly loves God would prefer to satisfy God than themselves. But in order to satisfy God we must first discover what He wants and needs.
Since God is a moral God who created us with a keen sense of moral right and wrong, He is certainly pleased when we refrain from sinning. And, He is equally displeased when we do sin. However, merely "not sinning" is insufficient to please God.
God is a just God. Just as we humans have the concept of justice, so God has a concept of justice, for it is He who created us. His justice is true and perfect.
In a human court of law we come face to face with justice. The rioters who were angry when policemen were acquitted on charges of brutality were well aware that justice had not been done. Justice demands punishment.
God is a just God. When God judges, the guilty will be punished.He will be merciful to those whom He chooses, and He will be merciful in the way He chooses to be merciful. If He chooses not to be merciful in a particular situation, that is His choice.
Many people confuse justice and mercy when it comes to God. They think that God is obligated to be merciful in every situation, or that God is a bad guy when He punishes the guilty. Many people have rejected God because they don't want Him to judge their sin. Yet sin is, by definition, that which goes against God's law. And God, as a just God, a God of true justice, must and will punish sin. And the punishment will match the crime. Since sin is rebellion and disobedience to His plan and purpose, the punishment for sin is separation from God. The Bible calls this death — just as physical death is separation between the body and soul, spiritual death is the separation of man and God.
Notice that everything revolves around God. God's punishment for disobedience to God's plan and purpose is separation from God — death. And God has the power to enforce His judgments.
This is the point at which many people reject God. But this seems to me to be an irresponsible response. Why can we accept that God is love, but not that He is just? If we accept the one we must accept the other as well as all the ramifications of that truth. We must accept God as He is, not as we wish He would be. We must submit to God.
It is easy to observe that all humans are sinners, which is to say, that all humans engage in activities, speech, and thinking which they know to be contrary to God's law. And God's law reflects God's plan and purpose. Yet we seem to be habitual sinners. But yet God, because He is a just God, must judge sin. The punishment for sin is separation from God.
But here is the good news. God is merciful. He has provided a way to punish the sin, but to save the sinner. He offers this salvation to all, but many would rather reject God's mercy and bear the full punishment for their sin upon themselves. I suppose they do this out of stubborn pride and disbelief. Unfortunately, God's mercy will not work for these.
God determined that if another person who was innocent of all sin would willingly agree to receive our punishment upon himself on our behalf, that our crime of sin against God would be paid for. This person would have to be free from sin himself in order to qualify, otherwise he would have to pay for his own sin, and his sacrifice on our behalf would, therefore, be unavailable to apply to others. And he would have to be someone that God loves very much. And this person would have to be a real, historical person, not just some sort of abstract sin propitiation.
Needless to say, there was no one who could qualify, because the human sin nature kept getting in the way, so God elected to create a special person who was free from the sin nature. This person could be tempted, but he would not sin.
At this point many people who sort of went along with the idea that God is just, will be unwilling to go any further. Because they wish to keep God at arms length, because they really don't wish to submit to Him, they relegate the justice and mercy to the realm of merely abstract ideas. But abstract justice requires no savior.
Accepting these claims about God's plan and purpose, and about God's justice and mercy requires belief and submission. Skeptics may ask, "Why should I believe these claims?" That is a reasonable question. I should know. I was once a skeptic myself.
It is reasonable to believe these claims because of the weighty evidence of the testimony of the historical Christian Church, which is recorded in the Bible and in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. This evidence concerns a man named Jesus, who was God and man, who came to earth to die in our place to redeem us. This is the gospel, the "good news" of Christianity.
I will briefly summarize the evidence, but I must first mention one point. Some skeptics will have already made up their minds before examining the evidence. But the evidence is real and convincing — your search for truth should likewise be real and convincing.
Evidence #1: The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies which were literally fulfilled in the life of Jesus. There can be no doubt that these prophecies were written before Jesus was born. Not only do these prophecies appear in the Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament into Greek in 250 B.C., but the Jewish Talmud makes references to some of these prophecies as Messianic.Jesus could not have fulfilled these prophecies merely by an act of his own human will.
Evidence #2: The Old Testament contains many detailed prophecies regarding the fate and future of many cities including Jerusalem, Babylon, Tyre and Damascus. These prophecies have all been fulfilled precisely.
Evidence #3: Not a single piece of archaeological evidence has been found which directly contradicts the Bible. To the contrary, any archaeological evidence which relates in any way to the biblical record has supported the Bible. Every other book with ancient history has errors in the history.
Evidence #5: Eleven of the 12 disciples were killed because they would not recant their claim that they witnessed that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Many of them were tortured.
Evidence #6: The Bible was written over a 1,500 year period by 40 authors yet reads with no contradictions as if it were written by one hand. This could not happen except if its writing were orchestrated and controlled by God.
Based on the testimony of the Bible and the historical Christian Church, Jesus claimed to be God. The Jews understood Him to make this claim and had Him killed for it. Jesus also claimed to be the savior of the world to all who would believe.
Many people say of Jesus that He was a great moral teacher. Yet they deny the very claims that Jesus made about Himself. Jesus claimed to be God, to be the only way to salvation, and to be the light of the world. He claimed that without faith in Him a person will be sent to hell for all of eternity.
What kind of moral teacher is this? Anyone who rejects these claims from Jesus' own mouth must certainly reject Him as a great moral teacher. He is, rather, a liar and a lunatic. The Jesus that these skeptics refer to is not the Jesus who actually walked this earth. Rather than accept His claims of being God and savior, these skeptics have fashioned their own Jesus — one that makes no demands on them, and whose teachings are not worthy of consideration.