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Attributes of God - Review

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.” [1]

Over the last several weeks we have looked at various attributes of God. Some of this might have seemed like purely academic exercises in which the pastors get to demonstrate that we have theological degrees and the majority of you do not. I assure you, that was not the intent. Instead, it came out of a deep desire that we would wrestle with the deep things of God. I agree with AW Tozer. What we think about God is paramount in our lives. But unfortunately, it is all too common today that we fail to grasp the majesty and wonder and grandeur of God.

A frequent approach to thinking about God is to think of him as the best form of ourselves plus a little more. He’s a heightened and enlightened and bigger form of us. And with this diminishment of God’s character (because that is what this is), we approach him more like our buddy, not as the supreme Potentate of the Universe. We often lose the holiness of God by making him common. A theologically robust view of God offers an appropriate antidote to this.

Another common defect in our theology is that we view God simply as an instrument to eternal blessings and not the object of our eternal blessings. We can tend to pine and long for the benefits of a new heavens and a new earth without really longing for the greatness and glory of God. Our eschatology (that is, our understanding of the end and goal of time) gets misaligned. The focus and goal of our eschatology begins to veer toward transformation of the culture, the meting out of justice in society, or the removal of all that is sad, wrong, and untrue.

To be clear, all of these things are good and will be a part of the new heavens and the new earth. But the end and goal of all history will be God himself. The first question of the Shorter Catechism points toward this. What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. This certainly does not negate the idea of culture care, redeeming the city, or fighting for social justice. God is not an instrument by which we attempt to perfect a fallen world.

If our theology is robust and biblically faithful, it will help answer some of these common defects. We need to think rightly and deeply about God. We need to wade into those difficult and sometimes confusing topics in order to see the beauty, grandeur, and majesty of God. But when we grasp something of his glory, when we see God as he really is, it transforms the goal and focus of our lives. We cease limiting God by our narrow views of divinity. We cease making good but secondary issues our primary focus.

Thinking rightly about God will reorient our lives toward that which is most important and glorious and true. It will also begin to unlock a true understanding of ourselves. John Calvin opens his Institutes of the Christian Religion by contemplating this very issue. There are two parts of wisdom, a knowledge of God and a knowledge of self. Our acknowledgment and realization that this world is broken, fallen, and sinful is answered only by looking up into the face of God. But this contemplation of the deeper things of God then provides the proper perspective by which we can scrutinize ourselves. “It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.”[2]

So, our careful thinking and deep pondering of the theology proper, that is wrestling through the right words to utilize to describe God, orients our understanding of the reason for man. Good theology should set the trajectory and priorities of our lives. It helps us keep the main thing the main thing. It prevents us, as the Church, from going on noble but ill-fated crusades. Right thinking about God turns our faces toward the glory and majesty of the Lord as our desire and hope. It reminds us that the greatest aspect of the new heavens and new earth will not be the absence of disease, decay, or death (though that will be great). The greatest aspect of the new heavens and new earth will be the very presence of God. The greatest aspect of the new heavens and new earth will be that we will behold his face.

[1] AW Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, 1.

[2] John Calvin, Institutes, I.i.2

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