Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Well Do I Know God?

Below are the opening pages to my book. I wrote this after teaching through the book of Job in 2003. None of my works on this blog are edited, but this one is in the process and will eventually be published.

The entire book comes to 350 pages as a paperback, so needless to say we will only post a portion of it here. This is not a casual read so be warned. I trust it will be as much of a blessing to you as it was for me to write it and get my thoughts on paper.

God speed

How Well Do I Really Know God? (Subtitle: Knowing God, the only foundation and fountain of lasting fulfillment).
  

WHAT IS GOD LIKE AND
HOW AM I LIKE HIM
  
The following an excerpt from part 1 of a 5 part series from the complete work, “HOW WELL DO I KNOW GOD? Knowing God: The only Foundation and Fountain of Lasting Fulfillment.” In the complete book the below sections have a slightly different title, but I have renamed them for the purpose of publishing them as separate e-books as follows:

Part 1 - “WHAT IS GOD LIKE AND HOW AM I LIKE HIM”
Part 2 - “THE ANATOMY OF PAIN”,
Part 3 - “FAITH. WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T”
Part 4 - “OBEDIENCE. WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T”
Part 5 - “DEAD TO SIN. WHAT IT IS AND ISN’T; A commentary on Romans 6-8.”

I am offering these separately for several reasons. Some may have interest only in one of the 5 topics and not the others. Also to read a 350 page paperback of this kind can be a daunting task and too time consuming for some. Lastly, purchasing an e-book for $1.99 as opposed to $5.99 for the complete work may be a little easier for some to handle.

If you read the entire work you will see how each part is connected, however the topics covered are distinct enough to be offered separately.

If after acquiring one or more of these separate e-books, you decide to acquire the entire book, simply provide proof of purchase of the part or parts you have already acquired and we will credit those purchases towards the $5.99 purchase price for the entire book. For example, if you acquire two parts separately for a total of $3.98 you can acquire the rest of the book for $2.00.  If you purchase any 3 parts separately, provide proof of purchase and the last two parts will be offered at no additional cost.

The below preface is for the complete book “HOW WELL DO I KNOW GOD?” which is given in each part. I did not rewrite a separate preface to this or the others parts because there is a unifying theme throughout all 5 parts.

Preface

In writing this, I do not come to you as someone who has all the answers but as someone who has always had a lot of questions. What I have written in the following pages are simply some conclusions I have made based on my own struggles to understand the truth about God and man that have benefited me over the forty-one years of my Christian life. Some things in particular regarding our everyday experience of God, I have experienced only enough to know they are true. In no way have I come close to placing them consistently into practice. It is my hope and prayer that if you too have struggled with any of these same questions; you may find in what I discuss answers to some of your doubts and struggles as well. In the mean time let us pray for each other that God will bring us more and more to that place where we know the fullness of joy that comes from Him alone.

Some of what I discuss on these pages is more commonly addressed in technical theological works in the first section of this book. I have attempted to put these matters into the most practical and understandable of terms. Theology often scares people and is viewed as being esoteric and not at all practical. This is not God’s intent or desire. His truth is for all of us, not just the theologians of the church. The word theology actually comes from two separate words. Broken down, “ology” comes from the root word “logos” meaning word or knowledge and “theo” comes from the root word “Theos”, which means God. So we could say theology is nothing more than a word about God, which we all need.

Last of all I wish to mention I have learned that no amount of explanation or discussion of God’s truth is helpful in and of itself, no matter how well or poorly expressed unless it is illumined by God’s Spirit. As Christ admonished us, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear…” Therefore it is my prayer, and I hope yours, that God will enlighten your heart and mind as you read this. Without His Spirit working to reveal the Father and Jesus His Son to us, we can neither see nor hear anything from Him. I also pray that only that which is of Him in the following pages will be implanted in your heart and bear fruit and that which is not true to His word will fall by the wayside. May God richly bless you in your reading. God speed.

Introduction

Most people today believe that in order to understand humanity we must study mankind exclusively. But do we have it backwards? To fully learn about and understand ourselves, perhaps we need to understand God more fully, in whose image we are made. Could this be even more important than the study of human behavior? With all the understanding modern psychology offers about humanity there still remains extensive confusion, questions, restlessness and disillusionment about who we are, why we are here and why we are the way we are. This is certainly true of the "unbelieving" in this world that view God as insignificant. But this is also surprisingly true among many within the "faith community” who say God is significant. The world's confusion is understandable but why the confusion within the Christian community? Isn’t the Christian community supposed to have answers to these questions? Could it be that the Christian community as a whole is also confused and spiritually impotent due to a shallow and weak understanding of God? Or, is it possible that some within the faith community don't even know Him at all but have a distorted characterization of Him and only think they know Him?

I have found that in a large part of today's Christian community there is very little discussion or wrestling with who God is as a person and how that impacts our lives on an everyday level. Because of these things one of the main focuses of my life has been: How can I know God to the fullest extent possible? What exactly does knowing God entail?

Related to knowing God is the question, “What makes you and I tick?" Why do we human beings have an incredible capacity for great good as well as great destruction? Knowing who God is and who we are and in what ways each impacts the other is a central theme I attempt to address in the following pages.

I believe the Bible teaches we were made by God for God. Everything else flows from this foundational truth. But what does this mean exactly? If God created all things for Himself, which the Bible clearly seems to teach, where do you and I fit in? If our understanding of God (as well as ourselves) falls short of who He actually is (and therefore indirectly who we are as well) what affect does that have on our daily lives? Does this insufficient understanding have an affect on our being as happy and productive as possible and whether life is truly fulfilling or not?  If it does, how does it?

I would suggest and hope to prove that understanding certain aspects of God's person are vital to our knowing and experiencing Him to the fullest extent possible and therefore our being fulfilled and experiencing life to the fullest extent possible. Without knowing God truly and clearly, I don't believe we can experience life in the way He has designed and intends for us. It is good to be reminded that Christ said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). We must ask ourselves what this means and whether this characterizes our lives now. If not, why not?

Aren't we all interested in living life to the fullest? Don't we want the best life possible? Of course! But there are several related issues. How is that achieved? What does this mean? What does a truly fulfilled life look and feel like? Compared to others we may feel we are in pretty good shape but how do we know there isn’t more to life than what we are experiencing, possibly, far more? The non-believing world certainly offers many possible options and solutions to this question of happiness and fulfillment. Just watch virtually any commercial and listen for the offer of a better life. It is the subtle if not blatant appeal of almost every advertisement. But do any of these options really satisfy our true longings and match up with who we are? More importantly, do they agree with what the Bible says about us and why we are here?

Now if these alternate solutions offered by the world do not fit who we really are or what the Bible says about us, how does that impact us, as well as those we come in contact with? Could it be that all poor choices in life are a direct result of not knowing who God is truly and clearly? (By knowing I mean in the personal sense, not merely cognitively.)  If that is true wouldn't this in turn result in our operating in a manner contrary to God's design and even be the primary reason for much of our personal pain and suffering. Leading to much of the pain and suffering in the world as well? However God usually "gets the rap" for all the pain and suffering in the world, doesn't He? We have heard of the book, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But maybe we are looking in the wrong place for why there is so much pain in the world or our lives. Maybe there are answers that really do make a difference that we are either not aware of or simply not hearing, causing us to fall far short of what we were designed to experience. I have learned when we do listen and hear, having a clear understanding of God presented in the Bible makes the difference between despair and hope, disillusionment and strength, giving up and moving forward, merely surviving or thriving and flourishing.

The world, more than ever, questions whether God is relevant, especially in light of the seemingly randomness and hardships of life. Many, maybe most, (at least in the Western world) have stopped asking all together and have simply concluded God is not relevant. They have either concluded He doesn’t get involved in their lives because He isn’t there or He doesn’t care, so neither do we care about Him. If the unbelieving world can not see by the lives of His followers the reality of how God cares and makes a significant difference in their life, it isn't hard to see why they would think He is not relevant to them either. As believers who claim to know God, we must ask ourselves if we really know Him or just a characterization of Him. If our knowing God does not impact our day to day lives in such a way that others notice, maybe we don't know Him as well as we think we do or at least as well as we could.

What about those of us who do know God? Even if what we do know about God is sound, is there more we can and need to know about Him? I believe there are certain aspects of God's person that are not very well understood by many of us within the faith community, much less by those in the world. These are aspects that are vital to our experiencing all He desires to be for us and thereby resulting in our being all we were designed to be for Him and for each other; both of which have a direct bearing on our fulfillment and happiness. I will attempt to address in this book these certain characteristics of God. There is no doubt I will only scratch the surface since the finite cannot fully communicate or plumb the depths of the infinite. For that same reason I think we will come short of what God intends if we do not continually wrestle with who this infinite God is and search diligently into His revelation of Himself within the Bible as well as in creation to see what He is seeking to tell us about Himself. I am not saying we should necessarily be uncertain about what we already understand about God but we need to at least not be complacent or satisfied with what we already know or think we know. To think that we can know a few things about the infinite God and that there is no need to ever be learning more may result in our missing out on more than we could ever imagine. Not just in this present life but maybe even more importantly in our eternal existence to come. In his book God’s Passion for His Glory John Piper says it this way “…we have scarcely begun to see all of God that the Scriptures give us to see, and what we have not yet seen is exceedingly glorious.”

We could compare knowing some things about God to briefly glancing at an intricately woven tapestry and than walking away saying, "yes I saw the tapestry" believing we know all we need to know and being satisfied with that.  We may feel we know all there is to know about the tapestry without ever studying it, exploring all the details and learning what it took to make it etc. Our understanding of God could also be like entering a sprawling mansion with hundreds of rooms only to look at a display of a layout of the house in the entrance hall, then leave feeling we have seen the mansion. We may think, “Why bother going to the extra trouble.” But wouldn’t knowing these things first hand give us a truer picture and appreciation for the value of the tapestry or the mansion? Without doing so how can we fully appreciate these in all their richness?

Of course knowing God is infinitely more vast and important than exploring mansions or studying tapestries. The mere fact that God is infinite suggests our understanding of Him can never be exhausted in this life or the next. If He is in fact infinite in every way, our knowing Him can have no end, because He has no end; which is all the more reason we should never stop pressing to know Him more fully.

Certainly whatever our understanding of God is, it must be within the boundaries of scripture as well as through observing his creation/creatures within those same boundaries, (through which we can also learn of Him. [Romans 1:20]). But can we ever exhaust what lies within those boundaries? As already suggested, I don’t think we can. We should pursue this however with all the strength we have because knowing God, I would suggest, is the most important endeavor we can ever undertake. If our understanding or view of God (and ourselves, since they are tied together) is lacking or skewed, than I suggest every aspect of how we look at and conduct our life will also be lacking and skewed. This is not just a great dishonor to God but a great loss for us as well.

It has been said the key to great faith is more about the object of our faith than faith itself. Believing this to be true, we will initially focus on God, the object of our faith, who He is, what He is like, then what knowing Him means for us individually and collectively, how this directly effects who we are, i.e. why we were created and exist, etc. If our understanding of God (which I hope to show has direct bearing on our understanding of ourselves) is not accurate or clear our faith will be misplaced and therefore weak at best, i.e. based on something that does not match reality. Misplaced faith is living in a dream world at best, a myth, not reality.  But, even worse resulting in our not seeing and displaying God to the fullest extent possible. This results in present and eternal loss for us as well as others, not to mention the loss of God by being inadequately displayed to a world created for and by Him.

The initial groundwork covered will be a bit more theological but as we progress I hope to show the significance and importance of how a sound understanding of God is essential to laying a strong foundation for living life itself.

Even though there is a progression of thought through the book, those of you with a more practical and less technical orientation may wish to skip down to the middle three sections on pain, faith and obedience first, and then return to the first section. I encourage you to come back if you do, as the first section is foundational to the rest.

I should add that I will not be discussing in depth every aspect of God’s character but primarily those relevant to the points I seek to address in this book. This book is not an attempt to be an extensive discussion of all the attributes of God. I only hope in reading this you will discover a little more about God and, therefore, a lot more about yourself, your purpose and fulfillment and, in turn, your joy and contentment in this life.

I would also encourage you to skim through the table of contents listed before each section and if you find something that grabs you, read it. If that section doesn’t help, jump around. Even though everything is tied together, each section may be helpful on its own depending on where you are and what questions you have struggled with. Eventually I encourage you to read the book in its entirety to the get the full sense. But I suggest this as a possible approach because when I first read J.I. Packers book Knowing God from the start to end, I found it somewhat boring and hard to complete. Years later as a result of the encouragement of others I picked it up again and skimmed through it by jumping around and reading different sections. This brought the book to life for me. I have since read it several times over and now consider it among the top ten most important books I have read.

This brings me to another point. You may not find this book helpful at all at this point in our life. If not, just put it aside. Some day down the road when you are in a different place there may be things here that will be helpful. Many of the books I have found most helpful didn’t help me at all after my first reading as was the case with Packers book. It was only years later when I came back that God used them to minister to me in a powerful way. That has been true of many of the most influential books I have read.

One final comment before jumping in: I have noticed many of the truths of scripture are found in tension. By that I mean the truth usually lies somewhere between two extremes we are naturally inclined to gravitate toward. Not unlike balancing on a tight rope where we are inclined to fall to one side or the other but must stay in the middle in order to keep from falling to our destruction. I believe this is so because logic though a useful tool is often given precedence over faith and scripture. As a result certain elements within differing schools of theological thought take logic to such an end that they ignore clear teaching of scripture opposite of where that logic takes them. Logic and reason are like anything else however. They too must come under the rule of Christ for they like any other gift of God can be used or misused due to our propensity to be independent of God. Logic though a gift is still being used by our fallen and finite minds, no matter how gifted the one using it. And if unchecked can be used as a substitute for faith i.e. we can ultimately depend on it instead of God to “understand” the world we are in. We must be aware that in our fallen condition we are prone to want to control instead of trust. We reason that if we can figure out every aspect of God and His dealings then there can be no surprises; we can’t be “blindsided” by God; or so we think. It is this fear and desire to understand and control that can drive us to use logic in a way God never intended.

Should abandon logic and only live “by faith?” No, no more than we should stop working to buy food but instead trust God to fly a roasted chicken into our mouths. God gives us gifts to be used for His ends, including our ability to reason, so we should and must use them. We will address this very point more fully later on.

While a student at Columbia Bible College, Roberston McQuilken the former President once said, “the closest I get to the truth is swinging past it as I pass from one extreme to the other.” C.S. Lewis described this same principle by saying truth is like being on top of a plateau and we tend to fall off one side of the cliff while reacting and backing away from the other. What exactly did Rev. McQuilken and C.S. Lewis mean? A classic example would be the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Scripture clearly teaches both, but because of our finite understanding and desire to fit everything into nice neat logical packages we gravitate to one side to the detriment of the other. It is more comfortable to be settled than to be in tension, but tension is where we grow and most importantly where we have to depend on God. Certainly we must use reason and logic but ultimately in tension is where I believe God wants us to live and in part why He doesn’t always reconcile things the way we desire and are inclined to want them.

Therefore instead of seeking to reconcile what God has not, some of what I write leaves seemly competing truths in tension and does not bring them to complete closure. You may want to make a mental note of this as you read so you don’t react to what I have written and fall off one side of the cliff backing away from the other. I encourage you to eventually read the book in its entirety to see what is said about the other side before drawing any final conclusions.

Often our demand for “understanding” all the mysteries of scripture is nothing more than arrogance and ultimately comes out of a lack of trust in God. Even if some things are not clear in our own minds, it is important and helpful to know they are clear in Gods mind and that should be enough and sometimes must be enough and all we are given.

***

What you presently have in your possession is only the first part or section one of the complete work “How Well Do I Know God.” The introduction you have just read is to the entire book however, hence the reference to all five sections or parts immediately above. If after reading this first part, you wish to acquire the book in its entirety simple provide proof of purchase for this and other parts you may have acquired and we will credit those toward the $5.99 purchase price of the complete book. 

Thank you.

Section I
WHAT IS GOD LIKE AND
HOW AM I LIKE HIM
_________________________

Do we have a clear view of God?
(And therefore ourselves)
_______________________________________________

Points covered in this section are:
  • We seek life
  • We are creatures
  • Creatures unlike any other
  • God is Triune. The ground for many other attributes of God.
  • God is independent. An incommunicable attribute
  • God is also dependent
  • God is love, the ground of his being personal and relational. A communicable attribute
  • God loves himself; the basis and moral ground for this.
  • God is free
  • God’s motive behind creation.
  • How we are like God. A closer look.
  • God is relational
  • The basis of our value. Like God but different
  • The finite and the infinite
  • Was God’s original plan thwarted by man’s rebellion?
  • Has God changed?
  • God needs us?
  •  Which is God's end, His greatest glory or our highest good?
___________________________________________________________

Nothing can satisfy us at our deepest level but Jesus. Not recreation, sex, drugs, entertainment, vacations, houses, cars, boats, money, accomplishments, prestige, promotions, power, academic achievement, food, TV, loved ones, family, friends, anything or anyone else you wish to fill in the blank with, nothing! 1 So why are we so drawn, no, irresistibly pulled to these allurements and find ourselves seeking from them, often desperately, only what God tells us He alone can give us? To know the answer we must understand who we are 2, why we are this way and what it is we are really seeking.

Over the next several pages I will attempt to give an overview addressing what I believe is taught in Holy Scripture regarding these things. Then, I will take each point in this overview and elaborate on the implications more fully in subsequent chapters. I won't be spending a lot of time initially "proving" my points so much as simply stating them, how they are connected and what the implications are. I will be moving quickly through some foundational thoughts in this initial part, so hold on.

1.     We seek life.

What is man seeking? In short, to say it simply and straight out, we seek life. The bible confirms this directly and indirectly in several places by setting forth life as the greatest goal and reward.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

 John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

2 Corinthians 5:4b-5a “…so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 5a Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God…”


Not just life offered to us for those fleeting moments through the things or activities listed above but never ending life or to use the biblical phrase above, "eternal life".  Eternal life may not be a conscious pursuit for most but since we were designed for eternity, nothing less will do.

But what is it about life that is so important to us and how exactly do we define this life we are so driven to obtain? At its core I would suggest for us life is knowing and experiencing that I am valuable. You could also describe this as knowing I am important, significant, of great worth and so on. This core aspect of our being is tied directly to our being in God's image, which we will address later on. But this longing for life translates into seeking whatever gives me the greatest sense of value or to use a modern psychological description, a sense of worth. Usually this longing is expressed either passivelyI am loved and therefore important, valuable etc., or activelyI love and have brought value to another and therefore I am valuable. (It feels good to be wanted, appreciated and needed.) In fact this is so central to whom we are that if we ever come to the place we feel completely worthless or life is completely pointless (Nobody loves me. I am unimportant. Life is meaningless…etc) and we no longer have any hope of “life” the pain becomes so great we will seek to end “life” or rather the lack of it. The very experience of this kind of pain in itself says something very significant about who we are doesn’t it? It also raises the question of why are we this way.  In the second part of this book titled the "Anatomy of Pain" we will look at this question of pain in greater depth.

For the moment we need to dig deeper and look at why we are this way. Why do we crave for, indeed must have, a sense of value? Why do I need to know I am loved or I can love? We must go back to who we are and even more distant, back to what makes us this way.

2.     We are creatures

First of all the bible says we are creatures. The significance of this will be discussed in more detail later but for now the primary point is as creatures we are not self sufficient i.e. we did not come into existence by our own effort or power (to use an analogy, batteries are not included), nor do we continue to exist independently, but our existence is dependent at several levels on several things. For example in the physical realm we need food, air, water and shelter to name some of our basic needs. These resources, which are vital to our physical existence, come from outside of us. Though on a very significant level most of us ignore this and take our existence for granted. We are reminded of how fragile life truly is when these things are no longer available. When our life or the life of another is in jeopardy or on the edge of being extinguished we are jarred back to the reality of how fragile and dependent we are on resources outside of ourselves. This also helps explain why funerals are so unpopular even though well attended.

In the same train of thought, where do these resources such as food, air, water etc come from? As Christians we know God not only created all things but sustains them as well. We may have fooled ourselves into believing we keep our life going, but these very resources we depend on were not created by us but are simply used by us. We may gather them, rearrange them, combine them, grow them etc. but in fact we do not bring them into being or ultimately sustain their ongoing existence. But in our foolishness we take pride in our ability to obtain or manipulate anything we believe gives us life forgetting these are all truly gifts.3 Because of our aversion to dependence on God (which often feels more like a desire to be independent and not consciously an avoidance of God) we worship (ascribe worth to) the gifts apart from or instead of the Giver/Creator.4 Rom 1:25:

Romans 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

However God reminds us in Deuteronomy 8:17-19:

You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth … 19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods (anything you value and look to for life other than the true God) and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” (parentheses mine)

We are not only dependent on things outside ourselves physically but spiritually and emotionally as well. To address this let us take a closer look at our “creature hood”.

3.     Creatures unlike any other.

We are not just creatures but we are creatures of a unique kind. Unlike the rest of creation we are in the image of God, our Creator.

Genesis 1:25-27 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

But what is the significance of being in God's image? To understand this we must understand some things about God first. What is He like and in what ways we are like Him i.e. how we are in His image. For now, regarding our significance, we will simply say that we have the greatest capacity to reflect, display and honor God and His person above all the rest of creation and we are the only creatures who willfully and consciously do so. Only you and I can willfully and consciously recognize or refuse to recognize the great glory and consequential value of God. So now let's take a closer look at God and how knowing and understanding what He is like first, is vital to knowing and understanding ourselves.

4.     God is Triune. The ground for many other attributes of God.
         
       a. God is independent. An incommunicable attribute

To help us understand how we are like God we need to look at some ways we are not like God. The first and most fundamental characteristic about God we must understand is unlike His creatures, God is independent. There is nothing that God needs outside Himself in order for Him to be or remain God. Unlike us, His creatures, He lacks nothing and therefore needs nothing. In the book of Acts we are told,

Acts 17:24-25 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

The significance of this is that we, as creatures add nothing to God to make Him anymore than who He is already. From this we understand a key aspect about the person of God. He did not create us in order to fill something missing within Himself. This has huge significance on many levels. For one, it addresses how much and with what kind of love God loves us, because it raises the question of why He created. Why is this important? Because it gets at the heart of the issue of whether God truly loves us or is He simply using us for another end i.e. does He have a hidden agenda? We will address this more later. In contrast to us, His totally dependent creatures, God is the totally independent Creator. In fact God is the only truly independent and self-sufficient being in the universe. Everything else is sustained by Him and therefore dependent on Him. No one, or no thing sustains him.

Now let us take a closer look at why He is independent. One reason I would suggest is because He is inter-dependent. To say it another way, He derives from Himself everything He needs to be God and He is dependent on nothing other than Himself to be the all sufficient, all supreme being. He is self-sustained. You could say He is self-contained. So there is a sense in which God does not need anything or anyone outside of Himself because, unlike us, everything necessary for His existence, He also provides within His own person or being. 6

Now this is where the often minimized and misunderstood “doctrine” of the Trinity comes to play. While the Christian church as a whole agrees that God consists of three persons, for most believers this is simply a dry piece of theological information that is not often thought through, nor understood, but must be simply accepted by faith. Consequently, many leave it at that and never dig into the riches of which God is as it relates to this foundational and fundamental characteristic of His being. The truth of God being three distinct persons and yet one God has significant and far-reaching implications for us at a practical everyday level. What we understand about God and more specifically about His make up as three persons and yet one God is vital to us experiencing Him and knowing Him to the fullest extent possible. And knowing Him, not just intellectually but personally, is foundational to our experiencing the purpose for which we were created and therefore our own fulfillment as well. I will try to demonstrate this more as I go on. In short God being three persons and yet one God, is far more than just an obscure, incomprehensible, theological fact. It is a vital aspect of His very being and therefore also vital to our knowing/ and experiencing God to the fullest extent possible. (When I say, "Knowing God," I am not just speaking of a mere intellectual comprehension of God, but an intimate and personal knowledge such as a husband knowing his wife rather than a father knowing his son's coach or the teller at the bank.)

b. God is also dependent

But what about His dependence; how exactly can or is the Almighty, all sustaining God of the universe dependent? Or is He? We don’t usually think in terms of God being dependent, do we? In fact this may even sound a bit heretical at first. After all He is the all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, all loving God. How can God be dependent on anything? Well in fact He isn't just dependent on anything. God is certainly not dependent on anything in creation. Logic alone tells us this must be true. Since He created and sustains everything, the creation is dependent on Him and not the other way around.

What about God being dependent on Himself? Is this even possible? If so, what exactly does this mean or look like? As already suggested the grounds for God’s independence is His inter-dependence. This is a mystery but in a very real sense God is just as dependent on Himself as you or I are dependent on Him. So yes, God is absolutely dependent but only within His own being.

However, is this real dependence as you and I understand the word? If so, how? He is a being of three distinct entities within one God. Each entity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relates to each other as truly distinct beings while at the same time making up only one God. Therefore, dependence or inter-dependence is deeply rooted in God’s very make up. Just because it is dependence within Him, does not make it any less a dependence or less of a reality. We may not be able to make sense of this logically, but we certainly see the evidence of it in how God first relates to Himself than to us, and how we in turn relate to Him. As we progress, this will become more evident.

What is the practical significance of His being dependent? There are several things. Because God is inter-dependent, He is also an inter-relational and an inter-communicating being. Therefore, He truly understands what it means to need and can identify with the feeling of need. How is this so? With the incarnation of Christ, several unique things occurred. Did not the Son (God) experience the pain of the crucifixion and subsequent separation from His Father? And did not Christ also experience the consequences of sin during His crucifixion with the emotional, spiritual and physical impact of it as well as throughout his ministry? Even though these were not due to His own sin, the painful consequences he experienced were the same. We are told we have a high priest, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, do we not? Remember His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane as He faced the prospect of bearing your sin and mine, with its consequential judgment and separation from His Father? Did not God the Father also experience the loss and pain of separation from His only begotten Son, the Son of His eternal love? On account of the inter-relationship of the Father with His Son, it was not just the Son who experienced the suffering of the cross, but the Father, also. Moreover, on account of the varying degrees of separation the Father and Son experienced during Christ’s time on earth, God and His Son fully entered into all aspects of pain and suffering caused by separation as well as experiencing the sins committed against Christ while he was a man on earth.

Have you ever been estranged from someone you loved; one of your kids, a parent or a spouse due to some barrier between you? Of course you have. How did (or does) it feel? Whatever it is you felt, God the Father and the Son felt this very thing as well. Granted the separation the Son experienced was due to our sins and not His own, it was still separation nonetheless, with all its ramifications. God understands truly not only what relationship is but also what losing it feels like, possibly in a way even greater than we do. If the level of relationship, unity and dependence between the Father and Son is perfect and on an infinitely higher level than our own, wouldn’t the pain of its loss for Him also be infinitely greater?

God not only understands the joy of loving and being loved, of honoring and being honored but also the pain of losing that honor and the feeling of its loss. The fact that Christ’s heinous and reprehensible death was not due to anything He had done wrong made the pain even greater. To suffer for your own wrongdoing, though hard, is justified but to suffer for someone else’s is the worst kind of suffering and feels most unfair. We can relate on some level to someone being wrongfully accused, convicted and then sentenced for a crime they did not commit. Then years later having that decision reversed due to new evidence revealing they were not the perpetrator. The one who is incarcerated during those lost years spends his time, which can never be recovered, wondering if justice will ever be served. Much of our suffering is due to our own sin. His was due only as a result of someone else’s sin.

1.      A felt as well as real dependence

Christ emptying himself of His Divinity and becoming a man was a test of his trust of the Father in ways He never experienced before. He no longer had the advantage of full omniscience for His understanding. While on earth He couldn’t see the complete outcome of everything in the same manner as before.

Mat 24:36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.

Joh 8:28  So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.

Joh 5:19  So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

Joh 5:30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Instead of being able to rely on His omniscient deity to know things He now had to depend solely on His father’s direction and what He revealed to Him and told Him to do. Whatever manifestations of supernatural power Christ displayed was solely from His dependence on and enabling by His Father. This in itself was a kind of suffering for it was a loss of benefits He formally possessed i.e. omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience. He loved and trusted His Father from eternity past; the loss of these characteristics required Him to trust the Father in a way He never had experienced before. This helps us understand the statement in Hebrews that Christ learned obedience i.e. He learned how to faithfully follow His Father’s will and direction, through the struggles and suffering He endured. His lacking what was formally and fully His, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence, required him to depend on His Father in a new and different way.  He no longer knew things through His own first hand experience but knew them by faith, i.e. He had to trust what the Father revealing to Him as true and right because He could no longer confirm them from first hand knowledge.

Even though the Father and Son had a relationship of dependence prior to the incarnation, there was now a felt dependence between the Father and Son during the incarnation that did not exist prior to that event. 

In light of these things God did and can experience all aspects of being in a relationship, just like you and I, the bad as well as the good. If so, what does this mean for us? As far as this discussion goes, God and His Son truly and really feel our pain and weakness as well as our joys and pleasures, for they experienced them as well.

Heb 4:15  For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin..

The word “tempted” here is not the idea of being enticed to wrong but to endure the experience of a difficult event or its consequent struggle i.e. to be tested or disciplined by it.
Tempted: Πειράζω, peirazō, pi-rad'-zo; to test (objectively), that is, endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: - assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt (-er), try.

God truly and really enjoys our love and appreciates our gratitude and honor in the same way He does the honor and glory exchanged between the members of the Trinity. This is in part due to His being in relationship throughout eternity and our being able to enter into relationship with Him because we are in His image, i.e. we are relational like God. Since God is a relational being and we are like Him we can really and truly bring joy to His heart not unlike the joy His only begotten Son also brings to His heart. We can bring sadness to His heart when we are alienated from Him just as when His Son was alienated from Him at the cross for the same reason, i.e. our sin.

It is also worth mentioning that Christ is our elder brother and we too are considered sons of God. Though we are not the only begotten eternal Son we are adopted sons and daughters in Christ nevertheless, who will live with God our Father throughout eternity just as our elder brother Christ. As a result of all these things God really and truly feels the give-and-take of relationship with us in a manner similar to what He feels with his Son and similar to how you and I feel it with each other. If we stop to consider it, where does our ability to relate to other humans come from if not first from God?

The interaction of God as a triune being is key to what makes God a relational being instead of some stoic, unmoved, impersonal force. He not only understands and designs relationship, He is relationship. This is just another way of saying God is love. Relationship is at the very core of His Being and has been from eternity past. And not just any relationship but one of perfect giving and receiving of love, honor and glory throughout eternity past. All other relationships are a reflection of the primary relationship of God as a triune, inter-relational Being. Nothing He does is outside of relationship, whether that be within Himself or with you and I. Relationship, and therefore love, is rooted in the very essence of His being. God could not be a God of love if He were not a God of relationship first.

Where do you think we get the capacity to feel the various aspects, both good and bad, of being in a relationship? Does it come out of a vacuum or simply because we are fallen due to our rebellion? We were relational before the fall, were we not? Would it make sense that we as His creatures could feel and experience something more or completely different regarding relationship than God Himself could feel and experience? No, these qualities are in us because they were in God first and are all a part of God’s being and therefore ours who are created in His image.

This also explains how we can truly enter into a real relationship with God and Him with us. Relationship is not something new, strange or awkward to God but has been a part of His make up from eternity past, long before you and I even entered the picture. Dependence within a relationship is a deeply rooted quality within God’s very make up. Just because it is dependence within Himself does not make it any less of a dependence, a relationship, or a reality. So dependence is not just a reality of our existence but is also a reality of God’s as well. For us, it is dependence outside of our being. For God, it is dependence within Him, but still dependence nevertheless.

Therefore our independence from God, is in direct conflict with these realities of God’s dependence in a far more significant way than we may have realized. Our attempt at independence is contrary not just to who we are as dependent beings, but also to who God is as an inter-dependent being. It is a violation of every aspect of our being created in the image of God. God designed us for a relationship of dependence on Him so that we could participate in and experience this inter-dependence He has within Him. So for us to attempt to be independent of God violates not just our nature but God’s as well.

To pick up on where I first commented on this point of God being ONE God, let us take a closer look at the makeup of God's person. We will summarize by saying there is no one or nothing outside of God that He needs to be God. God is dependent on nothing and therefore requires nothing outside of Him. He is self-sufficient, self sustained and, in short, He is independent...

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Additional book excerpts: 


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Grace to you
Jim Deal