Sunday, June 7, 2015

Knowing God

Today, we begin, in earnest, the series on Genesis. And the question that today's sermon will deal with is this: who is this God whom we worship? Now, I pose that question because the simple fact is that you were made to know God, and I am convinced that you are able know Him better. Knowing God is the source of all the good that you will experience. Making progress here will have a tremendous impact on every other part of your life. I have prayed that today's sermon will be a help to you in coming to know God better.

Now, listen as I read from Genesis.


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.  

There are two things about God that I want you to see. Here's the first. He is nothing like you. Consider how Genesis starts.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

That tells us what happened once there was a beginning. But what was happening before there was a beginning? Nothing was happening. And that's because there was no thing, no place and no time. So, there was nothing - except God. It is commonly said that God created all things out of nothing - and that is true. But it helps to also say it this way. God created all things into nothing. There was nothing there. Actually, there was no 'there'. Only God. But how is it possible to exist without being a thing, in a place and at a time?

In light of all of that, we can say that this God whom we worship has no need of anything. That sounds neat and clean - and empty. So, let me say it this way. God doesn't need to eat or drink or even breathe. He doesn't need sleep. And He doesn't need anyone else. He doesn’t even need time. So, you see why I say that God is nothing like you.
       
Let's consider what He did. Once God decided to make a beginning, He created. We talk about people who are creative, and they are. But no one is creative like God. We mold things from what already is. But God creates. There was nothing, and then there was something. How do you do that? How is it possible to create with nothing at hand? And this God creates simply by talking. 'Let there be light.'

But it's not as if He created and then stepped away. All of this does not keep itself going all by itself. How could it do that? God not only creates, He also sustains what He has created. If God stopped doing that for even a split second everything would go back to being no thing, no place and no time. 

Now, take all of that, and answer this question. Why did God create all of this? Why did He bother? There is no good answer for that question.

So, who is this God whom we worship? One very good answer is, 'I really don't know'.

Here's the second thing that I would like you to know about God. He is so very much like you.

So, He talks. He does stuff. He sees what He has done and evaluates it. He decides that it's good.

This God is a person just like you are a person. So, He loves. And He hates. He yearns and finds His yearnings frustrated. He gets angry. And He rejoices. He's a person just like you are. And that means something very important. That means that He is someone you could understand. He is someone you could develop a friendship with.

Does this give an answer to that question about why God created all of this? Not an ultimate answer. But you could say that God created all of this so that He might enjoy you and so that you might enjoy Him.

What we have here are two sides of a coin.

God is so very different from you that you might say that He and you have absolutely nothing in common. But then, on the other hand, He and you are so very alike. He is a person like you are a person.

This is the God whom you worship, the God whom you were created to know. And you are to know Him not just in the way that He is like you, but also in the way that He is not. Being aware of the profound mystery of God, a mystery that we will never figure out, is part of knowing God.

Now, there is a problem. Sin is the problem. We have sinned. As a result, we are unable to get to know God. So, people opt for a counterfeit. There are those who stress the mystery and make a god who is this distant and cold something-or-other. Then, there are those who stress how god is just like us and who therefore make him into this big buddy, Best Friends Forever. There is a third group. This group doesn't think about any of this. They just follow the crowd and the prevailing notion of what a god must be like.

In all of this, God, the true God, remains unknown to His creatures. And one very important goal of God's work of creation is frustrated.

Jesus has come to deal with that problem and to overcome that frustration. Jesus has come so that you can get to know God, both in the mystery of who He is and in His warm personality. Jesus has come so that the goal of your being created can be achieved: to know God. 

And so, from all of that comes this question. How are you doing at getting to know God? Bear in mind that that means getting to know Him in the way He is totally unlike you as well as in His being someone who is just like you. Now, let's be realistic. No one here has achieved the goal of knowing God. But that wasn't the question. The question is about making progress toward the goal. So, how are you doing at that?

Now, why do I ask that question? Well, for one thing, to know God is important. How could anyone say that it’s not?  It's the reason for your existence.

Also, I ask that question because working at knowing God has some important consequences. For one thing, making progress in knowing God means that you will make progress in fearing God. The fear of God is something that the Scriptures praise and encourage. And there are lots of reasons for that. Here's just one. Fearing God is tied to a sense of wonder at God. The God of way too many American Christians is a tame god. His approachability is so stressed that what results is not the real Him but a fake. Because of this, there is no sense of wonder. That god is not at all impressive. How can someone give himself to worship an unimpressive god? And a tame god is no help when life goes off the rails. He is so like us that he's as helpless as we are. But coming to know the real God results in a fear of this God which expresses itself as wonder. It is this sense of wonder that creates the kind of worship that results in knowing God even better.

Knowing the true God, the God who impresses, results in other personal qualities. I will mention two more. The first is humility. Modern man is so impressed with himself. He is sure that there is nothing that he cannot accomplish. All that is needed to conquer whatever stands in his way is just a little more time. What disgusting hubris! It is a lie that our culture believes wholeheartedly. And when the lie is exposed there will be such despair. That's what always happens when what you hope in fails you. Humility understands that we are but creatures, very limited and very dependent creatures. Only God is God.

The other personal quality may sound odd in light of what I just said. It's bold confidence. The person who knows God, the real God, is not afraid of anything or anyone. Ours is an era of fear. Christians who know God will stand out because they will not be undone by fear. And they will need to stand out because the culture is against us, and it will try to control us through fear. Sadly, there will be many Christians who will yield to the culture's use of fear. They will compromise. Many already have. They do this because they do not know God at all well.

There is a more significant reason why I stress all of this. It is necessary for you to be working at knowing God because failure here is fatal. As I have said before, it is not possible for you to just stand still. Either you are growing in your knowledge of God or what you may know of Him is fading away. And the result of that is death forever.

So, what do you do? How do you grow in your knowledge of God? You all know what needs to happen: things like being here on Sundays to meet with God together, meditating on the Scriptures, prayer. But there is doing those things just to do them, and there is doing those things and making progress. What makes the difference is doing those things with a yearning to get to know your God better. That is where the battle is. That is where you need to focus your prayers: that you may yearn to know Him. But have that desire and you will come to know Him well.

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