There are two things that has been said that man ought to know. Man ought to know God and man ought to know himself. A couple of nights ago I thought about that. What does it mean to know God? Have you ever stopped to ask the question, “Who are you Lord?” Who is this one that we say our prayers to?
I thought about how we are to know God. God is just so far out and transcendent. He is the distant one. He has revealed himself I agree in creation and in Scripture and in the moral law, yet if God is so transcendent, how is it that we can get to know him personally? (Astute theologians who are thinking one thing, please wait as I will bring that point out.)
So I thought about knowing something local. What else but myself? Then I thought, if God is too far out for me to know, I’m too close for me to know. How can I look at myself and know what it means to be a human? So much of myself I don’t understand. I can understand why a lot of people do what they do, but I have the hardest time figuring out why I do what I do.
This then brings me to that great revelation of the Christian faith that I did not mention earlier. That revelation of Christ. In Christ, we do have deity as it is. Christ shows us who God is by his nature. If you want to know what God is like, you look to Christ and you will see no contradiction.
However, he also shows us humanity. If you want to know what humanity is like, you look to Christ. Christ is the unity that brings together the deity and the humanity. In Christ, we get to see what both are look. The deity comes close to us so we can see deity as it is and know it, and the humanity comes away from us so we can see how we are meant to be.
This strikes me as the miracle of the incarnation. Athanasius once said that God became man so that man might become God. God took on the human nature so that man could take on divine nature. Readers of my blog know that this means that I believe that we are to fully reflect the nature of God.
By the incarnation, God came near. Islam has always had the problem of a God who is fully other. The Greek philosophers were just grasping in the dark trying to find God, despite them saying a lot of awesome things. We can’t blame them. They didn’t really have the greater light.
Even the Hebrews did not want God to come near. They told Moses that they wanted him to speak to God. If God spoke to them, they would surely die. Is it any shock that when they saw God with skin on, they didn’t expect him to act like he did. We really should look at the shock that God came and did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Why would John tell us such unless it was to counter what we would naturally think? (We’ve become so familiar with the gospel that this seems outlandish to think otherwise.)
Look at the God they saw on the mountain and imagine their terror if they had heard, “That God will dwell among you one day.” It doesn’t change after Christ even in the NT? What does the writer of Hebrews say? Our God is a consuming fire. This view of God was still true despite the coming of Christ! That same Christ who came is a consuming fire who will shake the Heavens and the Earth.
Dare we not take this God lightly! This God does punish sin! Let’s not take this God in the exact opposite way though, for he does not punish sin because he enjoys punishing sin. He gets no pleasure out of the death of the wicked. He would rather heal us. We should take our sin seriously, but we should not take it more seriously than his grace.
And how do we know we can take that grace seriously? He showed us. He did what is not done in any other religion. He lived among us and suffered the most humiliating death of all on a cross. In doing so, he showed his love, but he also showed how humanity was to be in that we are meant to love one another. Of course, this does not deny the penal substitution of Christ for our sins.
Dear friend, when you pray, remember who you pray to. He may seem distant, but he is near. He is all around you. Not in a pantheistic sense, but in a sense of immanence. He is there all around you. This God came near. See him as he is.