“Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3
If you do not believe in God, the exercise of defining him is useless, at least to an unbeliever’s mind; possibly, if only to defend unbelief. Although I still think it a worthwhile use of their time, if they pursue it with some degree of thoughtful endeavor. After all, tens of millions of people from every tribe, nation, and language for well over 40 centuries have professed belief in God. This fact in itself invites intellectual curiosity and a consideration of how so many could be so wrong for so long. Considering those massive numbers through the centuries with most giving testimony of how their lives were dramatically transformed by the God they believed in, and that their accomplishments were inspired and guided by Him, complete indifference to this irrefutable history is certainly as irrational as atheists claim believers are.
Defining God with some earnest attempt is not a useless endeavor, even for atheists. And it certainly is not a useless activity for believers, to be continued until you see him face to face. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Capturing a definitive definition of the one true God has been difficult for a diverse church through the centuries, and that is still very true today. If you compare the consistent revelation of Scripture to the definition of God arising from people’s minds and opinions, you get a varying idea of who He is, like the old game show “Would the real God please stand up?”
Jesus asked twelve men, his disciples, who were with him most every day, close friends and confidants, men who could see, hear, touch, and observe him daily, “Who do people say that I am?” And He followed with the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Even they needed help defining who this man was who actually walked with them, spoke to them, spoke in their presence to many others, performed miracles they could see, and was their friend. They observed him daily, a man who claimed to them to be God and the son of God.
Can this same approach be taken with God in defining who he is, this one Jesus called his Father? When the Bible tells us that God is a spirit and does not have a body like us, how do you then determine who he is? And if an invisible spirit as he tells us, how does one evaluate the invisible? How important is it to you now and for your future to define him with accuracy? Or, on the other hand, for atheists or agnostics to know positively he doesn’t exist? Is it possible that God is just a figment of imagination to millions of followers for over 40 centuries? Does it even ring a bell in your mind if I say this: It is more important to define God than anything else in your life. For those who struggle with whether God really exists and whether there is any necessity to find out if he does, their problem surely begins with a failure to see the importance and relevance of God to their own well-being; to define him to some degree of reality will determine what you are going to do with him, and also have some understanding of what he is going to do with you. I can promise you that there is no one who can say with absolute certainty that God isn’t; if they do, they are denying the thread of doubt running through their innermost created being. However, if God is, as the creation literally shouts his intelligent handprint on everything visible, then who he is and what he has to do with you is something you really want to know.
Jesus, God in the flesh, cuts through this dilemma of defining the invisible. No one can define God apart from Jesus. It is why he said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I and the Father are one.” How do we today know and define Jesus, one to whom the disciples were eyewitnesses? We know him because Jesus ensured they would write their eyewitness testimony down without deviation from what actually took place or what Jesus spoke. Jesus trusted explicitly the Word already written, and he promised the same trustworthiness of what would be written by these eyewitnesses. You can define God through the life and teaching of Jesus.
The problem in us, however, is the same as the first human beings, Adam and Eve; we have our own minds, and we have a desire to make God in our image. We want to decide if what he tells us is really true. As the Apostle Paul said about this conflict in all of our thinking, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” In other words, our tendency is just the opposite, to accept ourselves as true and make God the liar when our instinct and his revelation clash. As Satan suggested to Eve, “Has God really said?” This is what is happening today in judging and justifying the behavior of man. “Has God really said …?” The bent of our mind is to put ourselves in the place of God and say to ourselves, “I must be right, and God must be wrong because all my instincts tell me I’m right, and what is in his Word in this instance must be outdated, or misinterpreted, or for some reason wrong.” We do this both consciously and unconsciously, thinking God is my consultant and I can take or leave his “advice.” You are, in all practical terms, in the driver’s seat and God is along for the ride when and if he is needed. In other words, he isn’t really God; you are. In your behavior and defense of it or of others, your definition of God is inconsistent with his revelation, if indeed you trust your instincts over his Word.
In our present culture this is the dilemma for the believer. Our culture is largely defined by unbelief; No God? Well, then, no written commandment from God to obey. The construct of laws are severed from God when there is no belief in him, and hence no authoritative revelation from a non-existent God. The believer lives in a culture and under laws which spring out of an absence of the knowledge of God. If your definition of God does not rely upon the authority of his Word, you are floating in the relativity of flawed instinct and opinion. Much of the conversation concerning the rapid changes in our current culture concerns believers wrestling with the advice of Paul when our instinct within the culture is confounded by the neighbors with whom we rub shoulders. Why would Paul say, “Let God be true and every man a liar” if it were not true that our cultural instinct would be to question God’s commands?
God is there, and he is not silent! Many aren’t listening, or not accepting what they hear. There is a great necessity to define him as the God revealed in the Scriptures because there is no authority in any other quarter and certainly not according to instinct. I am dismayed, but not surprised, that so many believers are relying on their own instincts in the face of rampant social change. Do your due diligence in defining the one true God for yourself, the God revealed and defined by his own Word. Trust it and Him even as your instincts send you elsewhere.
“Jesus loves me–this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
(Anna Warner-written in 1860)
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