God’s Nature and Personality

God Is Love, God Is Light. III. Walking in the Light

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

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As mentioned in the last two posts, the Bible uses the term “God is” before several attributes. While “God is love” is an important one to remember, the Word of God also says things like “God is holy,” “God is perfect,” “our God is a consuming fire,” and “God is light.” All are aspects of His nature. None tells the complete story. However, the apostle John links love, life, and light as interconnected divine qualities. He writes that Christians must walk in the light.

We walk in the light by walking in love:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

If our lifestyle manifests hatred or self-centeredness—if we are not seeking “the best interests of another person regardless of reward to oneself”—we are not walking in love, nor are we walking in the light. According to John, this means we do not have “fellowship with Him” (or “a personal relationship with Jesus,” to use the popular modern evangelical teaching).

We also walk in the light by being honest with ourselves and God. Immediately after introducing the idea of walking in the light, John wrote:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

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If we say that we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar. We commit blasphemy, insulting the Lord. Elsewhere Scripture says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us fail sometimes. Even worse, sometimes it is not really failure. We intentionally did something that violated God’s will and succeeded in rebellion. We need forgiveness. We must acknowledge our need for forgiveness.

Many Christians accept the idea of “confessing that you are a sinner.” I still have not found that taught in the Bible. The Bible frequently urges us to confess our sins (the ones we have actually committed), not the abstract notion that we are sinners. If we want to walk in the light of God’s love, we have to be honest: We have to acknowledge to Him how we have failed to live up to His word and will. Twelve-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous urge their members to take a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves and then “admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.” Whether we make this confession to a pastor (as in some traditional churches) or to a trusted mature brother or sister in Christ who will protect our secrets, this is a powerful step in finding deliverance, experiencing the power of forgiveness, and walking in the light. To walk in the light, we need to identify and dispel the darkness.

Walking in the light keeps us in fellowship with other believers. If we are walking in God’s light, we are walking in love. We are connected to the Body of Christ, sharing our victories and defeats, joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, so that we may grow in faith, love, and light.

Let us walk in love. Let us walk in the light as He is in the light. Light, love, and life are essential qualities of God, and He is eager to impart them into our lives if we are willing to receive them.

I would like to hear from you. What are some ways you can walk in the light? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. II. Creation and Christ

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Porfirio Domingues, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The previous post introduced some of the thoughts of William Law (1686-1761), a British theologian who shared some interesting insights into the idea that “God is Light.” While many modern Christians emphasize the idea that “God is love,” Scripture identifies several other divine attributes: God is light, God is holy, our God is a consuming fire, etc.

Light plays a significant role in the Word of God. According to Genesis, God created light before anything else:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

Law has an interesting perspective on this verse:

“When God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’ no change happened to eternal light itself, nor did any light then begin to be. But the darkness of this world then only began to receive a power or operation of the eternal light upon it, which it had not before; or eternity then began to open some resemblance of its own glory in the dark elements and shadows of time. And thus it is that I assert the priority and glory of light, and put all darkness under its feet as impossible to be anything else but its footstool” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).

From the moment that God said “Let there be light,” creation manifested His glory.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalms 19:1).

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Many of the divine attributes are associated with light. John’s Gospel begins by drawing a connection between light and life. The interconnectedness of light, life, and love permeates John’s writings.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).

Throughout his Gospel and letters, John frequently associates light with love, life, and goodness. Likewise, he ties darkness to evil, sin, suffering, and death. When he told his readers that they should “walk in the light as He Himself is in the light,” he was calling them and us to live in a way that radiates God’s glory, as the sun declares the glory of God by beaming its life-giving rays upon our planet.

The next post in this series will offer some thoughts about how we can walk in the light.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Love, God Is Light. I. Light as an Attribute of God

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Photo by Porfirio Domingues, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some Christians think love is God’s only or primary attribute. For them, “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is a definition: “God equals love; love equals God,” and this excludes all other attributes or definitions. However, the Bible uses the phrase “God is” with other adjectives: God is holy, God is merciful, etc. The statement that “God is love” must be balanced with other definitions like “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).

Eighteenth-century theologian William Law (1686-1761) was fond of the image that “God is light” and described it as one of His essential attributes, if not the most essential one. His writings are often mystical and complex, so one should read the following quote with that in mind. Also, it is part of an extended discussion of the nature of God. Before reading false teachings into this passage, I would urge you to read The Spirit of Love in its entirety:

“Light as it is in itself is only in the supernatural Deity; and that is the reason why no man or any created being can approach to it, or have any sensibility to it, as it is in itself. And yet no light can come into this world but that in which God dwelt before any world was created. No light can be in time but that which was the light of eternity. If, therefore, the supernatural light is to manifest something of its incomprehensible glory, and make itself, in some degree, sensible and visible to the creature, this supernatural light must enter into nature, it must put on materiality” (William Law, The Spirit of Love).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

The following two quotes, from some of Law’s other books, expand on this idea about light:

“This is the state of all creatures, whether men or angels; as they make not themselves, so they enjoy nothing from themselves; if they are great, it must be only as great receivers of the gifts of God; their power can only be so much of the divine power acting in them; their wisdom can be only so much of the divine wisdom shining within them; and their light and glory, only so much of the light and glory of God shining upon them” (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).

“All that is sweet, delightful, and amiable in this world, in the serenity of the air, the fineness of seasons, the joy of light, the melody of sounds, the beauty of colors, the fragrancy of smells, the splendor of precious stones, is nothing else but Heaven breaking through the veil of this world” (William Law, An Appeal to All That Doubt, or Disbelieve the Truths of the Gospel).

God is love. God is holy. God is light. These are all attributes of God, along with other qualities we have discussed over the last couple of years. While no one quality is a complete definition of God, Scripture shows us that each of these qualities finds its fullest definition in Him. God is more than love, but to truly understand love, we must know what His love is like. God is more than holy, but we only understand holiness by knowing Him. Likewise, God is more than light, yet perhaps we need to understand God to truly understand light. There may be a spiritual reality about light that physics, with its discussion of waves and photons, cannot explain. At the very least, any spiritual or symbolic description of light must in some way draw its meaning from God Himself.

The next post will look at the light of God in creation and the life of Christ.

I would like to hear from you. What do you think the Bible means when it says that “God is light”? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Love of God | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Faith, Righteousness, Rights, and Hard Times

“For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:37–38; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

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When faith is genuine, it governs our lives. When we have true faith, God’s righteousness will grow in us. We will live by God’s standards of righteousness and justice.

While Christians should be eager to see God’s justice manifested, we cannot afford to make our rights our top priority. Americans stand up for our rights. However, God calls us to do what is right, no matter what. Sometimes, we may need to place God’s glory ahead of our rights.

This is one of the main themes of the letter to the Hebrews. The original readers were presumably Jewish converts to Christianity. When persecution hit, some were tempted to return to Judaism. Returning to their former, more “acceptable,” faith offered a better chance of keeping their homes, jobs, possessions, etc., instead of suffering persecution. The author (probably not Paul, but one of his ministry partners or companions) urged them to remain faithful to Jesus. The rewards of everlasting life are far greater than any earthly possessions or privileges.

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (Hebrews 10:32–34).

The early Christians did not expect “your best life now.” While Jesus had promised innumerable blessings to His followers, He said they would not come cheaply. The Christian life begins with repentance. It leads to self-sacrifice. Suffering frequently follows.

“Peter began to say to Him, ‘Behold, we have left everything and followed You.’ Jesus said, Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last, first’” (Mark 10:28–31, emphasis added).

How do we measure up? The COVID pandemic has shown how weak we are. People thought some of the restrictions—including mask requirements—were the mark of the beast. Many ranted that we are approaching the Great Tribulation because officials urged us to wear masks in public for the past year and to get a vaccine. Jesus told us that there would be great tribulation in the end times, “such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21). COVID-related restrictions are minor compared to the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany, Black slaves in the pre-Civil-War south, or countless other oppressed people throughout history. The restrictions of the past 15 months do not qualify as signs of the end times.

The original readers of Hebrews showed us how to respond to difficult times. They joyfully accepted the loss of their property. If they were not the direct victims of reproaches and tribulations, they stood by their brothers and sisters who were. Instead of cowering in fear, they stood with their brethren. When trials came, they accepted them.

Christians today must learn again how to sacrifice. We must learn how to endure trials and tribulations and how to identify and sympathize with those who are suffering persecution or injustice. We should be ready to speak out for justice for all, but we must also be courageous enough to face persecution without a spirit of self-righteousness, rebellion, bitterness, or revenge.

We do not prove our faith by twisting Scriptures to explain why we should be comfortable. Faith is validated when we persevere during trials, tribulations, and persecution. We do not prove our faith when life is easy, claim our blessings, attend church, post Bible verses online, or celebrate our comforts. We show our faith when we remain faithful to God despite hardship.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If we grow discouraged or turn our backs on Him when things get tough, we do not have faith. The readers of Hebrews were tempted to give up—they had not done so yet—under pressures that would have destroyed most American Christians.

Are we strong enough to stand firm in Christ? Can we follow the example the writer of Hebrews sets before us? If not, what can we do to grow in true faith that can withstand hardship?

I would like to hear from you. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith and the Trinity

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated).

A 16th century attempt to depict the Trinity by Guillaume Le Rouge. Image from the Cleveland Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons, under a Creative Commons license.

The Sunday following Pentecost is Trinity Sunday in Roman Catholic, Episcopal/Anglican, and many other Western liturgical churches.

The Trinity is a mystery. In a sense, it is also a paradox. The Father is God; the Son also is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. They are distinct, separate entities, so they are three Persons. Yet, there is only one God. Attempts to explain how one God can be three Persons are usually unsatisfactory. Most people who think they can explain the Trinity usually end up describing either modalistic monarchianism (the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all the same person who merely manifests Himself in different ways at different times) or full-blown polytheism. Both are false teachings.

Illustrations and examples usually seem flawed. One illustration is the egg (shell, white, and yolk are all different parts, but they make one egg). My seminary systematic theology professor tried to use coffee as an example (water, sugar, and the juice of the coffee beans). Every such example falls a little short. Another professor, Stanley Horton, explained it best: God is the only real Trinity in existence; we will not understand it fully until we see Him in the fullness of His glory.

That is all we need to know. We are saved by faith, not by knowledge. Even when our understanding falls short, we merely have to trust God.

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).

All three Persons in the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are intimately involved in our salvation and spiritual growth. 1 John 2:23-24 tells us that “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.” A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is identical to a relationship with God the Father; they are intertwined. The person who has a relationship with Jesus has the Holy Spirit dwelling within.

If we do not understand it, we merely have to trust Jesus, and He will guide us—with the help of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen (Book of Common Prayer).

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, God's Majestic Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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