God the Father

January 31, 2016 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Doctrine

Topic: English

Opening Reading: Isaiah 44:6–8

The book of Exodus tells us that some time after the events of Genesis, new Pharaoh came who did not know anything about Joseph. He was afraid of what a large number of foreigners might do to his nation. So he enslaved them. He ordered them to kill their sons. And he burdened them with exhausting work.

Until, as many of you know, God raised up a man named Moses. And through Moses, God demonstrated His power to rescue His people. There came upon Egypt 10 devastating plagues. Israel escaped with gold and silver. God amazingly parted the Red Sea and drowned the army of Pharaoh. And God miraculously provided water and food for the multitude while they were in the desert.

 All this after 430 years of being chained to a foreign land. And all this from a God they had never physically seen. And then they arrived at the wilderness of Sinai. And God gave Moses a message for the people: Read Exodus 19:4-6a

So people prepared themselves. They cleansed themselves and set up limits around the mountain. They got ready to meet the God who had saved them from their oppressors. And on the third day, God showed up. Exodus 19:16-20.

And then, after one more warning, the voice of God declared The Ten Commandments. What happened next may surprise you. Israel got to meet her God, her Savior. And what was their response? Exodus 20:18-20.

This was not a casual meeting. This was not a friendly visit. This was, for Israel, a terrifying encounter with God. And God gave Moses the reason for it. (v. 20) “God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” God Himself makes a clear connection between fearing Him and avoiding sin.

All of us sin. All of us go against God’s law of love and purity. And people have all kinds of strategies to avoid sinning. Some are helpful. Some are misguided or dangerous. But God’s strategies for keeping away from sin are simple.

Psalm 119:11 says: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” So staying close to God’s Word keeps us from sin.

The final request in the Lord’s Prayer is: Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. This shows us that prayer is also a God-given means of avoiding sin.

But why do prayer and the word help us in our battle against sin? A good answer to that is this verse in Exodus. God links the fear of him with the avoidance of sin. Knowing God keeps us from straying from His paths. And both the Word and prayer are ways to connect us to God. The word and our prayers are only effective in fighting against sin to the degree that we are being connected to know the true and living God.

Do you know the living God? Were you surprised that Israel’s meeting with God was one of terror rather than one of joy? Our struggle with sin is connected to how little we fear God. And our lack of fear comes from our lack of knowledge.

We’re continuing our study through the great doctrines of the Christian faith, and this morning we come to the doctrine of God. This is, in one sense, pure theology. It is called Theology Proper. It’s a focus specifically on God Himself. And I’ll warn you, it’s just an introduction. Obviously, we’re not going to cover who God is in 40 minutes.

In the weeks to come, we’re going to talk about the Trinity, about Christ and the Holy Spirit, but today our primary focus is on the Father. Our culture loves the human Jesus, and they like to forget that He is God, with all the same characteristics as the Father. And it is God the Father who helps remind us of who God really is. The Father is the One to whom Jesus and the Holy Spirit point us to.

Can we know God? Psalm 145:3 says: His greatness is unsearchable. No one can fathom it. It’s a depth we cannot reach.

But to say that we cannot understand God fully is not the same as saying that we cannot understand Him at all. If we’re going to spend the rest of our time talking about God, we have to start with the idea that God is, to some extent, knowable. And that is because God has revealed Himself.

There are two general categories of how God has revealed Himself. The first is called General Revelation. The second is called Special Revelation.

General Revelation is what God teaches us about Himself through creation and conscience. Turn with me for a second to Romans 1. If you ever have a conversation with someone who says they don’t believe in God, these are great verses to keep in mind. Romans 1:18-21.

Through creation, we can know that God is powerful. No one can say there is no evidence for a God. In fact, it is the sinful heart that rejects the truth.

 We also know something about God through conscience, through our sense of morality. Go over to Romans 2. Paul is addressing the issue of whether a non-Jew will be held accountable before God, since he never received the law of God. Romans 2:14-15.

Everybody has some sense of right and wrong, even if it’s not perfect. Everybody has a sense of justice. How did that get there? God put it in our hearts.

So in a general sense, we know God exists. We know He is powerful enough to create and order a world. And we know He has a sense of justice or morality. This is enough information to make us all accountable to God. It’s an introduction to God.

But if we are going to find salvation, if we are going to actually know something more, something deeper about God, we need special revelation. God has to personally make Himself known.

Has God done that? Of course! God’s clearest revelation of Himself to mankind has come through Jesus Christ (the Living Word) and the Bible (the written word). These are authoritative. These are clear. These come with an explanation. And for us today, since Christ has ascended to heaven, our only authoritative source of the knowledge of God is the Bible. And so, with Bible in hand, we turn our attention to the question: What is God?

Obviously, we won’t be able to answer that completely with the time we have left, but what I hope happens is that we all elevate our understanding of God with the result of moving toward holiness.

Because of technology and media, many of us are no longer genuinely impressed. We are no longer genuinely awed by something. In fact, the word “awesome” has lost almost all of its original meaning. Awesome today means refers to something you really like. So we say pizza is awesome or a new song is awesome.

But the original meaning of awesome is closer to words like impressive, daunting, and even terrifying. Would you use those words for God? Would you use those words in describing God to someone else? If not, do you have the right God? What makes God so impressive?

As we work through some of God’s attributes this morning, you need to know that there is no recognized order of His attributes. Theologians through the centuries have tried to put these kinds of things into some clear categories, but it’s really just a matter of preference. So out time today is really just going to sound like a long list. Because God hasn’t given us a clear list of what He’s like. We have to put it together for ourselves.

So let’s just jump right in and see how much we can cover in our time today.

First, we need to recognize that God is a person. He is not an impersonal force. He has knowledge. He has wisdom. He makes plans. He has a purpose. And He enters into relationships with others. This is foundational, even though I don’t think it’s something we struggle to accept. God is a person. And He acts toward His creation. But even though God is a person, that doesn’t mean he has a body.

Though God is a person, we also need to know that God is Spirit. This is what Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:24: “God is Spirit.” What does that mean? It means God doesn’t need a body. He is an infinite Spirit. He doesn’t require flesh to exist. He doesn’t take up space. It also means that God is invisible. He can show Himself in some way, but He doesn’t have to, and He isn’t confined to that. First Timothy 6:16 says He is the God whom no man has seen or can see. John 5:37 says we have not seen His form. John 6:46 tells us no one has seen the Father. Why is this significant?

Well God clearly links it with our worship. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 4. Moses is calling the Israelites to obedience. He’s warning them about idolatry. Deuteronomy 4:12, 15-18.

What is God getting at? It’s not just that He is invisible. It’s that there is nothing like God. Even if we wanted to worship the true God, we cannot confine Him to something that is visible. This is a reminder about the separateness of God. He is more UNLIKE you, that He is LIKE you. He is other. He is different.

Sadly, many churches today start with the idea that God is just like you and me. He might be stronger or older, but essentially, He’s like us. And if that’s your view of God, you’ve got the wrong God.

Another attribute of God is that He is self-existent. That means He is independent of all things. He doesn’t need food. He doesn’t need water. He doesn’t need sleep. He doesn’t need oxygen. He depends on nothing. John 5:26 says God has life in Himself. No one gave God life. No one gives God anything. That means God is independent.

God’s independence means that everything He does flows from His own will. He can’t be coerced. You can’t put a guilt trip on Him. You can’t act on God with some outside force. Every emotion God feels is a result of His own decision to feel that way. He’s never overcome with an obsession or with greed or with a fit of anger. He’s never in despair. God is independent. He doesn’t need anything else. He doesn’t rely on anything else. His life isn’t tied up with anything outside of Himself.

Our next attribute is that God has existed forever. This means God is eternal. Everything else has an origin, a starting point. Everything else was created by God. But God has no beginning. Colossians 1:17 says: He is before all things. He has existed prior to all things.

But there’s even more to this idea of being eternal. It doesn’t just mean that God is really old. It means that God is not limited by time. He can function within time, like He does with us, but He Himself is everlasting. Maybe the most significant idea behind “eternal” is that God is unaffected by time. He doesn’t age. He doesn’t get old. He doesn’t forget. Time has no effect on him. Go with me to 2 Peter 3. Peter is describing the end of the world and he is what he says. 2 Peter 3:8.

This doesn’t mean that there’s some kind of mathematical formula for God days and human days. It means that to God, time doesn’t make a difference. If you went to the drive through and ordered a hamburger, would it make a big difference to you whether the burger took 25 seconds or 28 seconds? I hope not. But what about the difference between 2 minutes and 12 minutes. Would that matter? As the gap increases so does your response.

But that’s not the case with God. All time is the same. He’s unaffected by the difference between a day or a thousand years. He doesn’t get impatient. He isn’t staring at the clock. Because He is eternal.

And throughout all eternity, God has never matured. He’s never changed his character. This is called the Immutability of God. It means that God is unchangeable in who He is—in his essence or in His character.

Psalm 102 says it like this: Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.

Desde el principio tú fundaste la tierra, Y los cielos son obra de tus manos. Ellos perecerán, mas tú permanecerás; Y todos ellos como una vestidura se envejecerán; Como un vestido los mudarás, y serán mudados; Pero tú eres el mismo, Y tus años no se acabarán.

The practical side of this is that God is dependable. Your old high school friends might change drastically. You meet up with them at a reunion, and you ask: “What happened to you? You’re a different person now.” But that will never happen with God. He is Eternal. He is Unchangeable.

What else do we know about God? Well, we also know that God is omnipresent. All this means is that God is completely and personally present no matter where you are. You can’t limit God to one physical space. And you can’t get away from Him. He can be present to bless, or He can be present to judge. But he is always near.

Go with me to Psalm 139. This is the classic passage for this. Here David is praising God for His power and love. Look at verse 7. Psalm 139:7-12.

David’s whole point is: I can’t get away from God. He is always there to guide me, to protect me. That is talking about God’s presence to bless. And it should be for us a great comfort.

But God can also be present to judge. Turn with me to Amos 9. The prophet is describing God’s judgment and He uses God’s omnipresence as a warning. Amos 9:1-4.

Amos’ point is: You can’t get away from God. He will find you. You cannot escape. Don’t you think that would have some effect on how you live your life?

Proverbs 5:21, in the context of sexual purity says: For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths. You might think nobody can see you, but God does. God sees everything.

Not only does God see everything. He’s not just always with you. God knows everything too. This is called God’s omniscience. He is all-knowing. He knows the past, the present, and the future. Matthew 10 says he knows when a bird hops. He knows how many hairs you have on your head. Psalm 33:15 says He understand all your works. 1 Chronicles 28:9 – The Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. God knows everything about you and anything else.

So, God is always present. He is all-knowing. And He is also All-powerful. He is omnipotent. That means He has absolute power to do whatever He decides to do. Job 42:2 says it like this: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Psalm 115:3—Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Jesus said: with God all things are possible.

So we serve an eternal God, a God unaffected by time, a God who is all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing, and He is also all-wise. In the last verse of Romans, Paul calls him the only wise God. The psalms speak of God’s wisdom in creation. The epistles speak of His wisdom in redemption. Any true wisdom only comes from God.

And what does it mean that God is wise? It means that God uses His perfect knowledge in a perfect way in order to accomplish His plan. There is no debating with God about the best way to do something. He is perfectly wise.

And the word we use to describe the fact that God has an eternal plan that He is working out is called Sovereignty. God is sovereign. He is King. He is Ruler. Go with me for a moment to Ephesians 1. We’re not going to study the passage. I just want you to take note of how Paul describes the way God works. Look at Ephesians 1:11.

Whom did God consult when he laid out a plan for your life? No one! Just himself. This isn’t random. This isn’t arbitrary. This is the plan of an eternal, wise, powerful God, working all things for His glory and our good. God knows the end result. This is going somewhere. And that should comfort you.

Psalm 103:19 says: “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all.” He’s sovereign over the physical world. He’s sovereign over the animal kingdom. He’s in charge of the nations. He’s in charge of your life. He is in control of everything.

Where does all this lead us? What happens if you put all this together? God is a personal Spirit. He is independent of all things. He’s eternal, unchanging in character. Always present. All-knowing. All-powerful. All-wise. Completely sovereign. Where does that put Him?

It puts Him into a category all by Himself. Everything else can be put into some kind of category. But not God. He sits in a category all by Himself. The theology word for this is Trancendence. He is distinct from all things. He is above it all. There is God. And there is not-God. There is Creator. And there is creation. That’s the strongest division you could ever make between anything.

One pastor said it like this, and I’m paraphrasing: There is a greater divide between God and the most exalted angel, than there is between that angel and a maggot. Because God stands alone.

So what does that mean when you start to teach your kid about God? It means, at times you have to say: I don’t know, son. We may never know. God is too different. He’s not just like us.

Do you know what the Bible word for that is? … Holy. To say that God is holy implies that He is different. He’s set apart from everything else.

This is why it’s so important to believe that there is only one God. This is why God said to Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is ONE.

God is separate from and greater that anyone or anything in all creation. According to Isaiah 57:15, He is the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy.

And everything God does, He does for the sake of His holy name. He does it for His own glory. That’s what Romans 11:36 summarizes: For from him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever.

Is this a practical doctrine? Absolutely. It affects every single thing you do. It means that everything you do must be for the glory of God. Whether you’re singing in a worship service, or eating a slice of pizza. That’s why Paul says in 1 Cor 10:31—Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

God is glorious. That means that He has a greatness that requires a response. And our best response to the glory of God is a response of holiness.

You see, God’s holiness is not just about His power or his being. It’s also refers to His purity. His righteousness. God is morally perfect.

We’re not going to go into these today because of time, but God is perfectly compassionate. He shows mercy to those who are suffering.

God is perfectly gracious. He is good even to those who do not deserve it.

God is perfectly patient. He withholds His righteous wrath.

God is perfectly faithful. He shows kindness to those He has made a covenant with.

God is True. He will never lie.

God is Love.

What does this all mean? There are two important things I want you to understand. Number 1, God IS the standard. God is not living up to some standard here. Whatever God does is righteous because righteousness is defined by who God IS. God is the standard. Exodus 32:4 says it like this: “His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”

Number 2. He will hold you to it. He will hold you to it. Jesus said it like this (Mt 5:48): You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

God said it like this to His people (1 Pet 1:16; Lev 11:44): you shall be holy, for I am holy. Is that what your life looks like?

God will eternally punish all who do not meet His standard. And He will eternally bless all who do. Do you meet God’s standard or righteousness?

Turn with me to Romans 3. This is God’s answer. Romans 3:21-26.

God cannot ignore sin. He must punish it. But for everyone who repents of their sin and trusts in Jesus Christ, the penalty of their sin is credited to Jesus. And perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to them. So God fulfills His justice. God punishes sin. And sinners receive mercy.

God is Just, and the Justifier of those who believe. Don’t ever forget that. When you come to faith in Christ, God doesn’t change. He is still holy. He still hates sin. But when you come as a sinner, He sees you covered in the perfection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t die to give you a free pass to see God however you want. Jesus came so that through Him, you would have access to the Holy Father. And in His grace, by the work of Christ, God receives us.

Let me just close with one final verse. A verse the concisely reminds us about the holiness of God and His compassion toward those who are His. Isaiah 57:15.

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