Who Is God? (Part I)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the existence, location, nature, character, and point of God. The student ministry I lead is about to begin a series of messages called “Who Is God?” I hope that this question opens a dialogue that brings anyone involved into a deeper thinking about God; whether He even exists, what He is like, what He is doing, and why any of it matters.
And since my blog is a place where I sense a relative freedom of thought, and a place where I usually feel unfettered from the expectations of others, I decided to use this space as a virtual whiteboard of thought. So, buckle up for free-flowing craziness to ensue.
First of all, after stating the purpose of this series of messages I need to spell out what I am convicted must be conveyed. I have whittled it down to 4 main points, each with its own set of subpoints. I’ll try and get through as much as I can here because quite frankly, I’m sitting typing on a couch and I can literally feel my forearms screaming for more support.
The first thing that must be established is that God is knowable. Not entirely of course, but the fact remains that we can know God. He has revealed Himself far too clearly for that not to be true. (Romans 1:20) The knowledge that one can know God is intrinsically hopeful, I feel. But only if we are in a right understanding of who this God is. And that must be clearly defined; not from opinion, but from Scripture. What does Scripture say about God? Essentially, what does God say about God?
We must establish that God is eternal. That one fact is the foundation of all else that God is. Unless God is eternal, He can not truly maintain all of His other attributes. The problem is that eternality is one of the most comfounding concepts for the human mind to comprehend. The word “forever” rolls off our tongue, fills up love song lyrics, and fits nicely into our vocabulary, but eternity as a reality is one that eludes us. The simple reason for that is that everything we do, everything we see, everything we experience is all within the boundaries of time. There’s a watch on your wrist, a calendar on the wall, a day that begins and ends, a lifespan of weeks, months, and years. We are completely restricted by time and space. Therefore, we cannot truly fathom the scope of eternity. We can come close, but even our best efforts leave the most studied mind stretched and worn. In a word, God is “timeless.” He exists in the perpetual present. He said to Moses when Moses asked God’s identity: “I AM.”
In addition to being eternal, God is holy. The holiness of God can never and must never be overstated. God’s holiness is central to His character. His judgements, His actions, His decisions, His blessings, His will, and all He is and does flows from His holiness. Consider this: In the realm of eternity right now, there are heavenly creatures encircling the throne of God and we are told that they never stop saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” It is notable that they do not say, “Lovely, Lovely, Lovely”, “Good, Good, Good”, “Mighty, Mighty, Mighty”, or “Merciful, Merciful, Merciful”. While all those are also true of God, it is His holiness that is extolled for eternity. His holiness is literally the anthem of eternity.
We must quickly follow up “holy” with “all-powerful”. Psalm 33 tells us that God breathes out the stars of heaven. Have you looked up recently? And that’s just the stars you can see, not all the stars that exist. And if you think our sun is the biggest star there is, think again. I dare you to research some of the biggest stars in our galaxy. Then consider the fact that God breathed those out; simply spoken from His mouth. God is powerful. All power begins with Him and all power returns to Him. Despite the ego of the human race, it is a laughable thought to think that you and I come anywhere near the power of God.
Next, we need to understand that God is loving. Not merely loving, but the Bible says that God IS love. The love of God is so powerful that He allowed you and I to choose Him or reject Him. Think of it: if God had not given us a choice, then we would not be capable of love at all. By definition, love chooses. Love is not merely an emotion, but rather a decision and a commitment. And it is the love of God that drives His decisions toward His creation. The clearest message by far that God is loving is found in the gift of Jesus Christ. For a sinful, dying world that was rejecting Him, God sent Jesus to be born, to live sinlessly, and to die in our place. I find my mind locking up even now to even begin to think about how I can convey with a keyboard the depth of that kind of love. It simply isn’t possible. God’s love is revealed through the greatest offer possible: eternity with Him.
*I returned to this blog and complete it weeks later; in fact after the series “Who is God?”  It was a powerful time together in the Word, and not only were the above qualities covered, but more than that.  We wrapped up the series with “God is: Gracious”.  Awesome series.  Each message was recorded, so if you’d like a copy just contact me. 

It was I.

I was just cleaning out some stuff and came across a poem I wrote years ago, probably around Easter. It’s titled “It was I.”

It was I who waved the palm branch and shouted
It was I who welcomed Him to town.
It was I who laughed and celebrated.
It was I who led Him around.

It was I who believed the rumors,
It was I who bought the lie.
It was I who joined the others,
It was I who wanted Him to die.

It was I who went to the garden,
It was I who arrested Him there.
It was I who bound and beat Him,
It was I who pulled out His hair.

It was I who wanted Barabbas freed.
It was I who condemned Him to die.
It was I who washed my hands in innocence.
It was I who screamed “Crucify!”

It was I who put the blindfold on Him,
It was I who shouted, “Prophecy!”
It was I who laughed at His agony.
It was I who spit in His eye.

It was I who kicked and whipped Him,
It was I who poured on the pain.
It was I who put the cross on His shoulders.
It was I who laughed at His shame.

It was I who laid Him out on the cross.
It was I who tied Him down.
It was I who hammered the spikes in His wrists.
It was I who gave Him the thorny crown.

It was I who hoisted the cross toward the sky.
It was I who heard His flesh rip.
It was I who smiled at a job well done.
It was I who gave Him the last whip.

It was I who pierced His raw and bleeding side.
It was I who watched the blood flow.
It was I who saw His head fall in death.
It was I who didn’t know

That it was I would put the King on the cross,
It was I who caused His death.
But it wasn’t the whip, the spear, or the cross
That took away Jesus’ last breath.

It was the sin in my heart that put Him there,
It was the things I’ve done that are wrong.
It was the love of the Father and the life of the Son,
It was the love for me that’s so strong.

So now I see it, now I understand
That His death wasn’t about the tree.
It’s about bringing the children back to the Father,
It’s all about God’s love for me.

It is I who now stands forgiven and whole,
It is I who walks with the Lord.
But it is He who won my battle over sin,
With a cross, not with a sword.

It is I who stands at the gaping mouth
Of the tomb that once held Him there.
And now it is I who will serve my Risen Lord
Until I meet Him in the air!

–Jerry Varner

Early morning

It’s Easter Sunday morning at 6:04 a.m. Sunrise is about 45 minutes away. I’m up so early by mistake, but I’m glad to be up early by mistake on such a day as this. I suppose that the women who were going to Jesus’ tomb this morning would have been up by now, gathering their spices, wrapping their cloaks and blankets for warmth against the brisk morning air of Jerusalem, and wiping away the tears that are still forming in the corners of their eyes; eyes that have seen so much over the past 72 hours. Eyes that witnessed it all. Eyes that are wearing, swollen, and tender from weeping.

With their burial spices and other items they were taking along to the tomb, they walked and made their way in the dim early morning light. I imagine they spoke very little, if at all to each other as they walked.

What astounds me though it shouldn’t is that they were coming to the tomb to further prepare Jesus’ body for death, even while He was revealing to the world the way to life. That their mood and tone was somber, while the occasion called for anything but! That despite Jesus repeatedly telling them exactly what was going to happen, they were acting as if none of it was possible and that this visit would truly be a time for them to anoint His body with more spices and oils.

But when they arrived at the tomb, they were likely the first human eyes to take in the sight of an open tomb; no longer sealed, no longer guarded, and no longer occupied by a dead man’s body! What must their minds have been doing inside their skulls at that moment? How could their humanness absorb and make sense of this supernatural event? God was again prepared to meet humanity at its time of need (this time for explanation) and posted an angel at the tomb to tell the women the good news: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?!? Jesus is ALIVE! He’s not here! He has RISEN just as He said He would! Now go and tell His disciples!”

What ever happened to those burial spices and oils? I love to imagine the sound of them hitting the ground and being trampled underfoot by those running to see the empty tomb.

When the women returned to tell the men, they didn’t believe them at first. Can you believe that they didn’t believe?!? “Ladies, please don’t interrupt our grieving with your nonsense. We’re trying to hold a funeral here. I mean, have some respect for the dead.” But they persisted and finally Peter and John take off running toward the tomb. Have you ever noticed that in John’s gospel, he makes sure to mention who won the foot race to the tomb? Men and their egos, right?

So, John won the race to the tomb, but tenacious Peter actually entered the tomb first. And there they saw Jesus’ burial cloths lying there in a heap. I love that those were left there. What a symbol of power, of victory, of “I won’t be needing those any more!” And the cloth that wrapped Jesus’ head was folded neatly separate from the other cloths. As a workman lays a folded rag on a workpiece indicating its completion, so Jesus also sent yet another message with this gesture that announced, “I’m done with what I came to do. The work is complete!”

So, what did the disciples do from there? Did they run and tell anyone they could find? Did they call a meeting in the synagogue to spread the word? Did they even tell anybody? Nope. They went back to the room they were in, and locked the door out of fear. Are you kidding me?!? I mean, an angel visits, the tomb is empty, the cloths are there, the guards are gone, and they go back to their hiding place. As humans, we’re thick-headed aren’t we? And we’re no different today. In our “enlightened” 21st century state, we’re actually as stubborn and hard-headed as the 1st century disciples. Thankfully, we serve a God who is just as patient now as He was then.

So the men run off back to the upper room, but the women stay at the tomb. This was undoubtedly because as women, they weren’t satisfied just having the information they had. They wanted details! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared with my wife some conversation I had with someone and she begins to ask questions, probing for more information. And inevitably, she says those 3 words that men for ages have heard from their wives: “You didn’t ask?!?” Nope, but digging for the dirt just isn’t the guys’ thing. But true to form, these women wanted answers!

And they were rewarded for their persistence. After the men had gone, Mary stooped to look into the same tomb they had just been in and now there were 2 angels sitting in there. They asked her why she was crying and she told them, “They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they put him.” At that moment, we have the first recorded details of a human being (Mary) setting eyes on the risen Jesus. She turns to look at Him, perhaps with the morning sunrise brightening the scene so that she can see the face of Jesus her Lord!

And she mistakes Him for the gardener.

Not only that, but she talks to “the gardener” and asks Him where Jesus is! Does it get any better than this? Doesn’t Jesus ever roll His eyes even once, and mutter under His breath, “Come ON–what is wrong with you people!?! I’m standing right here!” No, He consistently, faithfully, and undeniably revealed Himself as exactly who He had stated for years that He was–the Messiah! The Lord! The Son of God! The Redeemer! The Lamb of God! The Promised One! The Alpha and Omega! The Way, the Truth, and the LIFE!

While there are many through the ages that have claimed deity, only Jesus backed it up by countless recorded and unrecorded miracles. Only Jesus backed it up by fulfilling hundreds of prophecies that were spoken hundreds of years before His birth. Only Jesus backed it up by willingly laying down His life as the ultimate and final sacrifice for my sins and yours. And only Jesus backed it up by emerging from the tomb victorious over death, hell, and the grave!

Praise the Risen Jesus! He’s ALIVE!!!

*As I close this post, it is now sunrise–time to begin the official celebration of the greatest day in history–the day that all of creation was bought back by its Creator!