God’s Nature and Personality

God’s Holiness. II: Holy People for a Holy God

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

The previous post in this series introduced the concept of God’s holiness. It is an important attribute of God. The term refers to something that is different, set apart, or consecrated, as opposed to something common or ordinary. We then saw that God calls His children to share in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

How do we do this? How can we participate in God’s holiness? What does this look like? The discussion in this post and the two that follows it assumes that you are a Christian, who has received forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Christ.

First, we must admit that we cannot make ourselves holy. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988) has this note regarding 1 Peter 1:15–16:

“God alone is holy. Objects or persons can be classed as holy only by participation in His holiness.”

We cannot make ourselves holy. The best we can do is receive and participate in God’s holiness.

To do this, we must recognize that we are already holy through faith in Christ. Holiness is not something we seek or earn as much as it is something we live out and practice. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already holy. He has already purchased you with His blood and made you His own. 1 Peter 1:18 says that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. He has already set you apart. God has given us His Holy Spirit living within us.

Most of us have moments when we do not feel holy, though. We know we are not acting holy. Sometimes, our behavior borders on diabolical. To change this behavior, we have to remove the obstacles that are hiding God’s holiness in our lives and let it flow out of us.

The exhortations in the next two posts are not a complete list. Numerous authors have written entire books on holiness in the Christian’s life. Three brief blog posts will not be able to cover everything. This is also not a step-by-step guide to holiness. Finally, I must emphasize that this is not a guarantee of instantaneous sanctification. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash; persistence and long-term obedience to God and fellowship with Him are necessary. Spiritual growth always takes time. Every Christian struggles with his or her own obstacles to holiness. Thus, we may each have to take different steps to grow. However, God has the same purpose in mind for each of us: That we may be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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

Knowing God to Be Like Him

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Over the last few months, this blog has discussed what some theologians refer to as God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. These include His omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), omnipresence (being present everywhere), and His eternal nature (everything besides God has a beginning; He has no beginning and no end).

black cross on top of mountain
Image courtesy of Pexels.

Theologians will refer to some of God’s other qualities as His moral attributes, including His holiness, love, justice, goodness, mercy, etc. These qualities make God truly worthy of our worship. Omnipotence without justice or love would produce the worst tyrant imaginable. Omnipresence without love and mercy would give us no hope of escape; because of God’s love, His permanent presence makes Him a refuge to which we can flee. His majestic attributes set Him above everything He created. His moral attributes allow us to worship Him and take comfort in His presence, power, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the distinction between God’s majestic and moral attributes is somewhat arbitrary. Each of God’s qualities is an essential part of who He is. He does not slip between His majestic and moral attributes as different circumstances arise. He is always all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, holy, loving, and righteous. God does not fragment Himself and exercise only one or two of His attributes at one time, then switch to a few others as the circumstances dictate.

One clear distinction exists between God’s majestic and moral attributes. God urges His children to share in His moral attributes. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus told His disciples to be perfect, even as the Father is perfect. (If you think “perfect” here means sinless, or if you are prone to perfectionism, please read this post. God will love you even if you sin.) We should love others because God is love. We should forgive as we have been forgiven. The child of God should desire to be like his heavenly Father.

Several forthcoming posts will look at some of God’s moral attributes. As we consider them, we must remember that a proper definition of His qualities is necessary. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We will get some bizarre ideas if we define love the wrong way; the love of God should not be confused with the ideas of “tolerance” that are popular nowadays, or with the distorted “love” of a child molester, or with my undying love for cream-filled doughnuts. Nor, when we think of God’s holiness, should we mistake it for the self-righteousness arrogance of some religious people who claim to be holy. God is the ultimate example of love, justice, holiness, and goodness; we should not expect Him to submit to our culture’s expectations and standards.

As we reflect on who God is and what He is like, may we be drawn to become more like Him and be the people He made us to be.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Which of God’s attributes inspire your life and worship most? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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

The Unchanging Good God

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:16–17; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created with the YouVersion Bible app.

Do we believe this statement? Do we really believe that whatever God gives us is good? Do we really believe that every good thing we have comes from Him?

This passage appears in the midst of teaching on temptation and sin. That is not an accident. Elsewhere, Scripture tells us that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). Unbelief and sin walk hand in hand. Believers are often tempted and fall into sin when they think the pleasure of sin is somehow better than the blessings of God. People commit adultery, fornication, or other sexual sins because they feel that God is depriving them of something good. Some steal because they do not believe God will provide or think He is not giving them all that they deserve.

We do not trust God when we do not believe He is Who He says He is. In recent months, articles on this blog have reminded us that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, eternal, always present with His people, etc. Do we really believe that?

Do we believe that God is unchanging? Malachi 3:6 says, “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” We can place our faith in Him because He is the same God who sent His Son to die for our sins. If He was willing to give His Son for us, and His Son was willing to give His life for us, we can trust Him to give good things to us. He has not changed.

Do we believe that God is incorruptible? Not only is He unchanging, He is devoid of impurity or evil. He will always be holy and loving.

Do we believe that God is unlimited? Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. He is not going to run out of blessings anytime soon.

James 1:17 tells us that God is the Father of lights. In Him there is no variation or shifting shadow. He does not change course. He does not distort. We can design prisms to diffract light into its various component wavelengths. This even happens in nature, giving us rainbows. However, God Himself is never distorted.

Think of every good thing you have ever received. James 1:17 tells us that it comes from God. Receive it with gratitude. Accept it as a gift from Him. Consecrate it to Him. Accept it as something that you can use to bring Him glory.

The good things that come into our lives should remind us to look to God with gratitude. Bad things, or things that seem bad to us, should also draw our attention to God. Has our commitment to Him waned so that we sought joy and happiness outside His will? Have we started to doubt His love and thought we could grab better things than He gives? Perhaps He gave us something good, but we do not see the good in it yet.

Perhaps something bad even came into your life. Maybe you have experienced illness or some other major life crisis that turned your world upside down. God can bring good out of that:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Even if something has been horrible, God can find a way to bring good out of it. My wife recently read an autobiography by Joni Eareckson Tada, a Christian artist/author who was paralyzed in an accident as a teenager. Due to her injuries, she had to learn how to paint while holding the brush in her mouth! Her ability to create art in this way gained recognition for her, and she has been able to share the Gospel with thousands of people who would probably have paid no attention to her if she had normal mobility. She has been an inspiration to many who suffer from disabilities or debilitating diseases. Was her accident a good thing? Not really: Perhaps one could blame it on the devil. Would it be easy for someone in her circumstances to lose faith and hope? Absolutely. It may have been evil or a tragedy, but God empowered her to use her circumstances for good. Few people can serve God in her capacity.

No matter what happens, let us look to God. If good things come, let us give thank to the Father of lights, from whom we receive all good things and every perfect give. If tragedy or trials come our way, we can seek God to bring good out of our circumstances. God is good all the time.

Can you share times when God has brought good into your life, or has even brought good out of bad things that have happened to you? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Things Are Possible: Saying Yes to God When That Is Impossible

If “nothing will be impossible with God,” then it is true that “all things are possible” for Him. Jesus declared that all things are possible on two occasions: The first was immediately after the transfiguration, when He healed a boy with an unclean spirit in Mark 9:14–29. After the father has asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus saw how the demon afflicted him, we read the following exchange:

Image by “Tookapic,” via pexels.com.

“And Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘“If you can!” All things are possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:21–24, emphasis added; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version).

Some time later, Jesus would make a similar statement after meeting a rich young man who could not bring himself to accept Jesus’ terms of discipleship: to sell all he had, give the money to the poor, and follow Him.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:23–26, emphasis added).

Salvation is impossible without God. We cannot save ourselves. Only God can do that. However, for God it is possible.

Deliverance from the power of the devil is impossible for the natural man. Only God can win that battle. However, when His Spirit and strength dwells within us, victory is possible.

The Christian life is itself impossible for normal human nature. It goes against all that dwells within us. Several months before I surrendered my life to Christ, I was reading the Sermon on the Mount and was stunned by how much Jesus called His disciples to live above basic human nature. Love your enemies? Turn the other cheek? Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink; instead, seek first the kingdom of God? Such commands go against human nature. It would seem to make as much sense to tell us to flap our arms and fly away.

The ability to repent and surrender to God’s will are gifts that He alone can give. They are not possible without His assistance and empowerment. However, with Him, all things are possible. In His strength, you can do whatever you think is impossible.

Worldly pleasure, material goods, and comfort often hinder us from doing God’s will.

“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18–19).

Christians are often zealous to watch out for the so-called “big sins,” like sexual immorality or drug abuse. However, we can easily be led astray by things like materialism or commercialism, which most do not even consider sinful. These keep us from making sacrifices for the Kingdom of God. They discourage us from giving to the needy in hard times. They keep us from making time for others, since we may be using our time to accumulate more wealth. Perhaps, while many of us are in a state of self-quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak, we may be challenged to examine what is really important to us. Perhaps God has used this time to force many of us into a much-needed solitary spiritual retreat, so that we can gain His perspective on what really matters to Him and what should matter to us. The rich young ruler realized something was missing in his life and asked Jesus what he was lacking spiritually:

“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:21–22).

Watchman Nee. Photo via Wikimedia (public domain).

Giving up his wealth was too much. He knew he was missing something. He thought he would be willing to do whatever it takes to enter the kingdom of God. However, he did not expect this. He knew Jesus would give him something to do, but he did not expect Jesus to demand “the impossible.”
In his book The Normal Christian Life, Chinese pastor Watchman Nee tells the story of “Mr. Paul,” an American pastor who eagerly wanted to earn a Ph.D. He believed he could bring glory to God by being “Dr. Paul” instead of merely “Mr. Paul.” However, he could never gain the peace that God really approved of his plans. He continued to study—and to bargain with God, trying to convince Him that nothing was really wrong with an advanced degree and that he could do so much more for God’s kingdom with the prestige that came with the title “Dr.” He eventually surrendered to God’s will just before taking his final examination. Prestige, title, relationships, reputation, wealth: All of these things must be surrendered to God’s will.

Ask yourself: What do you think “I cannot live without?” That is the thing you most need to surrender to God’s will. In many cases, that is the thing you need to give up. Whatever seems to be impossible must be given to God.

Surrendering to God’s will is impossible for all people. It is especially impossible for those who have become accustomed to comfort and luxury, who do not know what it means to go without food, clothing, or shelter. It is impossible for us, but not with God. With Him, all things are possible. We need to rely on His strength when we face what seems impossible.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Majestic Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Omnipotence | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nothing Will Be Impossible: Trusting God With the Difficult

“For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

The angel Gabriel said these words after explaining to Mary how she could bear the Son of God, even though she was a virgin. I can imagine Mary’s perplexed look as Gabriel pronounced the news that she would bear the Son of God: “Okay. I know God sent angels to tell women in the Scriptures that they would have great sons, but they were all married. You’re making this sound like I’m going to get pregnant any time now. How can this possibly happen?” Thus, the angel replied:

“And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).

I still imagine Mary looking confused. “What do you mean, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’ and somehow that’s how I become pregnant? That’s not how Mom told me babies are made!”

It is easy for us, after 2000 years of hearing the Gospel and seeing Christmas pageants, to overlook how radical—how insane—how illogical—Gabriel’s announcement must have sounded. The Virgin birth and the truth of the Incarnation—that Jesus Christ is the immortal God who has become a mortal man—are so central to our faith that we can easily forget that they were at one time radical incomprehensible mysteries, and that ordinary people like Mary had to live those mysteries, not merely ponder them.

Omnipotence—that divine quality that means He is able to do all things—emphasizes this truth: that “nothing shall be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37) and its corollary, “All things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). Science and centuries of human experience tell us that virgins do not get pregnant. Mary recognized this. She could sense that Gabriel was leaving her fiance, Joseph, out of the equation. “How can this be?” “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary’s response was the purest statement of complete faith in God:

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:38).

Mary still had to tell her parents what was going on, but probably could not even begin to explain how it happened. Nevertheless, she trusted God, so she obeyed Him, even if she could not understand what was happening.

“The Annunciation,” by Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This is our responsibility as children of God, to trust and obey, even if we cannot understand what God is doing. Even when circumstances seem impossible, we trust and obey. When life forces us to believe in the impossible, the child of God must do so, because nothing shall be impossible with God.

As I write this article, residents of New York State are urged to stay at home to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The New York City metropolitan area has been called “ground zero” for the disease’s outbreak in America. Some people are afraid. “Will I get sick? Will I die? Will I run out of toilet paper? Can I pay my bills?”

New Yorkers and millions of other Americans are worried about the difficult. Life will be difficult. People will get sick. Some will die. Most of us will survive, but we will face difficult challenges over the next few weeks and months.

Even after the disease dissipates, difficulties will arise, just as they always have. People will continue to battle cancer and other life-threatening diseases, just like they did before and do now. People will face economic hardship. People will lose jobs. Families will endure conflict and chaos. These difficulties happened before, they are continuing alongside coronavirus, and they will remain after the disease has disappeared.

The difficulties are real, but they are not impossible to face or overcome. God has promised us that nothing will be impossible for Him. Can we trust Him with the difficult, when He has already told us that nothing will be impossible for Him? Can we trust Him with the difficult-but-apparently-possible, when He has told us that we can trust Him to accomplish what reason, science, and experience tells us is impossible?

Child of God, trust and obey Him. His Word promises that we can trust Him to do the impossible. Let us at least trust Him with the difficult.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, God's Majestic Attributes, God's Nature and Personality, Omnipotence | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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