Who Is God? (5/22/16)

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Colossians 1:15-20 gets right to the point about the identity of Jesus. It states: “15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Jesus is the image of God, the firstborn over all creation, creator, before all things, head of the church, the fullness of God, reconciler and peacemaker. It can be very difficult to understand all of these phrases and how they apply us – his followers. This, in turn, can lead to a lukewarm faith because we typically don’t give our whole hearts to anything which confuses us. Since our salvation is based on whether or not we’re right about Jesus being the Messiah, our uncertainly can lead to fear.

When I was nine years old, I received the opportunity to do something which really excited me. I was going to travel with my family to New Orleans. And we weren’t going to drive. We were going to fly.

I couldn’t wait to get in that airplane and have some questions answered. What would it feel like to take off? What would the earth look like from the plane window? Do clouds look the same from above as they do from the ground? The longer I waited, the more my excitement grew. Then the day I’d been waiting for arrived. We went to the airport to catch the plane. As we sat in the terminal waiting, something happened. An important point which I had forgotten suddenly stared me right in the face. I was afraid of heights and unless I was going into outer space, there’s no way to get higher than being in an airplane.Suddenly my excitement turned to fear. I began to panic but I had no choice other than to get on the plane. The flights went well but this experience began a decades long fear I had of flying. I continued to fly because I realized statistics showed it was a safe way to travel.

A few years ago I watched a cable show about flight and airplanes. One segment of this program explained how the shape of the wings forces air to create lift and allow the planes to fly. This took away my fear of flying. I no longer had to go on faith the plane would miraculously stay in the air. I now understood how aerodynamics keeps planes in the air.

There’s something in our human nature that wants to understand how the world around us works. If we understand it, we’ll trust it. If we don’t understand it, we’ll question it.

This is all well and good as long as we’re talking about flying. What about when it comes to walking with God? As Colossians 1:15-20 reveals, it’s impossible to completely and totally understand every passage in the Bible. Are we still willing to trust God to fly us to heaven even though we don’t understand everything about him? Some people aren’t. They try to convince themselves and others they understand everything there is to know about God. Anyone who disagrees with their theology is wrong. If you want clarification on something, all you have to do is ask them.

Sometimes these people do this because of arrogance. They simply think they know more than they do. Often they do this because they can’t handle the uncertainty of saying, “I don’t know,” when it comes to understanding some things about God. So they try and convince themselves they have God figured out.

However, as Rob Bell said in, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.” God is too big for us to understand  him completely. Our limited brains can’t fathom everything there is to know about him.

Another reason we can’t completely know him is because the Bible isn’t his autobiography. The Bible is a story of redemption. Sin cursed the world in Garden of Eden and God promised to send a Redeemer in Genesis 3:15. The rest of the Old Testament tells how God’s plan unfolded until the Redeemer arrived in the form of Jesus. The New Testament tells us about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how the church is called to carry on with his work. The Bible simply wasn’t written to tell us everything about God.

Even with these limitations, there are many things about God we can understand. He is the creator of the universe. He provides salvation for our sins through Jesus. Sometime in the future he will destroy sin and death. This will bring perfection back to the universe.

But, as I stated earlier, there are other things about God that can be very difficult to understand. For instance, today is Trinity Sunday. This is a day where we celebrate the triune nature of God. What does that even mean?

Trinity means “triunity” or “three-in-oneness.” Scholars explain it with the following three statements:

1) God is three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2) Each person is fully God.
3) There is one God.

Two passages in the New Testament where we see the trinity are:

Matthew 3:16-17 – “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

2 Corinthians 13:14 – “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Although these two scriptures show us the trinity, there are no passages in the Bible which clearly state that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal parts of the same being. The early church struggled for centuries to determine the exact nature of God. They debated, argued and even fought to answer, “Who is God?” Finally, in the 4th century A.D., they developed the doctrine of the trinity which we still embrace today.

What’s the big deal about the trinity? What does it have to do with us today? A close look at the Bible reveals we need the trinity for our salvation. Colossians 1:15-20 lesson teaches that God the Father is reconciling us to himself through God the Son.

When we expand our study of the trinity to the entire Bible, we see:

“God the Father planned redemption and sent his Son into the world (John 3:16; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:9-10). The Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for us (John 6:38; Heb. 10:5-7). God the Father did not come and die for our sins, nor did God the Holy Spirit. That was the particular work of the Son. Then, after Jesus ascended back into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son to apply redemption to us…It is especially the role of the Holy Spirit to give us regeneration, or new spiritual life (John 3:5-8), to sanctify us (Rom. 8:13; 15:16; 1 Peter 1:2), and to empower us for service (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11).”                                     – Wayne Grudem in Bible Doctrine

The persons of God work in harmony to create us, redeem us, guide us and, ultimately, save us.

The second important point the trinity shows us is we need to read the entire Bible to have an accurate understanding of God. The only way the early church came to their conclusions is by studying and debating the approved letters and books that now make up our Christian Bible. Ignoring any of them would have changed their understanding of God.

There are Christians today who disregard some parts of the Bible they don’t like. Some don’t pay any attention to the Old Testament because God seems too harsh at times. There are those who don’t like the book of John because it is so different from the other three gospels. Red Letter Christians focus too much on the teachings of Jesus and minimize other New Testament authors.

Taking away any part of the Bible changes our understanding of God. For example, imagine you want to make a ham and cheese sandwich. You’ll have to place a couple slices of ham and a piece of cheese between two slices of bread. Now take out the slice of cheese. You no longer have a ham and cheese sandwich. Yes, it’s still a sandwich but it’s now a different kind of sandwich.

Eliminating or ignoring certain parts of the Bible has the same effect on our understanding of God. Yes, he’s still God but now he’s a different God. Let’s be honest and admit the reason people do this is because they want to change God into an idol they can better understand or even control. This is easier than submitting to a God who’s impossible to completely understand.

The trinity isn’t easy to comprehend. That’s OK. This is how God wants things to be. But please know this. The trinity is working for our salvation because God is on our side. As you walk with God, allow him to be God. Don’t allow you fears to make him into an idol that you like better or into something you can completely understand.

Get on the plane of salvation and trust God to fly you to eternal glory.