What we think God is like, affects not only our theology, but our relationship with him and the quality of our life. In the Middle Ages, he was pictured as an old man sitting on a cloud. According to how we interpret the Old Testament, we could see God as being jealous, angry and vengeful. Some picture God setting up the universe, creating the laws of morality and physics, and leaving us alone to face the consequences of our actions. None of us can fully grasp the nature of God, but if we are to have a more accurate view we must look at the life and teachings of Jesus.
Many theological terms are used to ‘define’ the nature of God. These may help us to improve our ‘head knowledge’ but do very little to improve our relationship with God, our Creator. Amongst them are terms words like:
- SUPREME. He is not just a different type of being, or a superior being, but THE Supreme Being.
- SOVEREIGN. He rules over everything, and controls everything – or at least everything he chooses to control.
- UNIQUE. God is unique.
- OMNIPOTENT. He is all powerful.
- OMNISCIENT. He knows all things.
- OMNIPRESENT. He is everywhere at the same time.
- SELF-EXISTENT God is the only thing that was not created by something else.
- ETERNAL. He always has existed and always will exist.
- HOLY. Pure and undefiled.
Show us the Father
Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth he had a discussion with his disciples:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves”. (John 14 6-11 NIV)
Jesus is quite clear: if we want to see, understand and experience God our Father, we must look to Jesus. There is no other way we can really know what God is like. So let’s look at the life and teachings of Jesus to understand more fully what God is like.
God is relational. He actively seeks a relationship with men and women like you and me. Jesus had a relationship with his Father, God. That relationship meant that he only did things which he saw his Father doing (John 12:49). He went into the wilderness to spend time with his Father. We too are sons of God, and can have that same relationship with God, our Father.
God is Love
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3 16:17 NIV)
He cares for all
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45 NIV)
Jesus showed us that God cares for the whole human race regardless.
Individuals are important to him
Jesus spent a lot of his time talking to individual people. Even on the cross he spoke to the dying thief and to his mother and the disciple, John. Some of his teaching was to the ‘multitudes’ but I think he preferred pouring his life into his disciples or to individuals like Nicodemus. So how do I know, that in a world of 7 billion people. that God knows and cares for me as an individual. I cannot explain it but I know that it is true.
He cares for those who suffer
Jesus showed compassion to those who were suffering from illnesses and diseases. Compassion turned into action as he healed many people. Because Jesus had said that he only did what he saw his father doing we know that it is God’s heart to relieve suffering.
We could discuss long and hard the sovereignty of God and whether or not he plans every minute detail of our lives or just plans the broad strokes of history. We can try to get our heads round the concepts of God being omnipotent and omnipresent but our finite minds cannot understand infinity. It is difficult, if not impossible, to understand eternity, and the fact that God has always existed, and always will. If we try to understand God with our minds and put him in a box we are doomed to failure.
But we can know God, in a personal and relational way, by looking at Jesus. Although we cannot really understand all, we can know God in an intimate way by faith in Jesus and having the life of God actually within us.