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Our God Is Awesome
Encountering the Greatness of Our God
By Tony Evans
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1994 Anthony T. Evans
All rights reserved.
THE STUDY OF GOD
It's hard to know where to begin when your subject is God Himself, a subject more important than anything else we could ever study. Everything else in life emanates from the knowledge of God.
Even coming up with a title for this book was difficult, because nothing can fully express the subject, especially since God is more than the sum total of His attributes. David said, "Such knowledge [of God] is too wonderful for me" (Psalm 139:6). But God invites us to know Him. He wants us to contemplate all that He is, because nothing else matters without Him.
In order for life to be meaningful something must be big enough to warrant our commitment and our affections. The only thing that fits this qualification is God Himself, not only because of who He is, but because knowing who He is defines who we are. Much of the confusion about day-to-day living comes because we only see the trees and miss the forest of the great God whom we serve.
I like what the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon told his church one Sunday:
I believe ... that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.
I pray that by the time you put down this book, you will agree with Spurgeon—and more important, you will know a little bit more about our great God.
My purpose in this opening section is to set the stage, so to speak, by considering some important and foundational truths about God. In Part Two, I want to deal with the perfections of God, known as His attributes or His characteristics; that is, Who is God and what is He like? Knowing this is critical: If you misdefine God you've misdefined everything else, because everything emanates from God. You can literally make sense of nothing if you have not first made sense of God.
No study of God can be said to be comprehensive for three reasons: The first has to do with the sheer limitation of the human mind. A finite mind cannot fully grasp an infinite being. Second is the moral problem. The presence of sin even in our converted state has limited our capacity for understanding spiritual truth. Third, we have a resource problem. God has simply not told us everything about Himself. What He has told us we can know, but He has not revealed everything.
Because of the greatness of our subject, I will be taking you to many portions of Scripture. But due to the limitations of space and my own finiteness, we will neither exhaust the subject nor be able to give equal attention to all of these Scriptures. I hope that this study will be sufficient to help you taste and see that the Lord is good. I will not be spending time trying to convince atheists of the existence of God. This book is not the setting for that.
As I begin I feel a little bit like the late Art Linkletter, who saw a little boy drawing a picture and asked, "What are you doing?"
The boy replied, "I'm drawing a picture of God."
Mr. Linkletter said, "Well, I thought that no one knew what God looked like."
The boy looked up confidently and said, "They will when I get through."
THE STUDY OF GOD
It's true that we don't know what God looks like, but I hope by the time we finish I will have painted a picture of God both definable and defensible. My thesis in this introductory chapter can be stated simply: The study of the knowledge of God is the most important pursuit in life. Absolutely nothing is more important.
Of all the things that matter in your life and mine, to know God through a purposeful study of His nature, His character, and His perfections should be our driving force. Only then will we be able to define everything else accurately. But let me make three clarifications right now before we get into the heart of this chapter and the book.
More than Awareness
First of all, when I talk about the study of the knowledge of God, I am not referring to an awareness of God. Simply to say there is a God doesn't say a whole lot about Him, because it would be hard to miss Him entirely when you understand that He is an all-encompassing Being. So when I talk about knowing God, I mean more than that you are aware He exists.
More than Information
Second, when I talk about knowing God, I mean more than that you have information about God; that is, knowing that He is the Creator or powerful or big or grand or majestic. Those are all true, but they're not sufficient when we talk about knowing God.
More than Religion
Knowing God also means more than having a religious experience with God or saying that we feel Him. It is valid to have an emotional and religious experience with God, but to know Him involves more than that.
Knowing God involves more than awareness, more than information, more than a religious experience. To know God is to have Him rub off on you, to enter into relationship with God so that who He is influences who you are. One of the great tragedies today is that you can go to church and be aware of God; you can go to church and have information about God; and if your church has a great choir, you can even go to church and "feel" God; but you can leave church with Him never having rubbed off on you.
So when I talk about knowing God, I am talking about having the awareness, the information, and the "religious experience" rub off on you and become part of who you are. With this in mind, I want to communicate four things about the study of the knowledge of God.
LIFE'S MOST MEANINGFUL PURSUIT
The study of God is the most meaningful pursuit in life. Jeremiah 9:23–24 expresses the importance of knowing God better than I ever could:
Thus says the Lord, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me."
The Right Kind of Bragging
It's amazing how many things we brag about. Some of us can brag about our educational achievements. We've gone through school and we've done well. We've got a bachelor's degree. We've earned a master's degree. Perhaps we even graduated magna cum laude. We get recognition for that achievement. People call us by name, they give us titles, and, if we are not careful, we might boast about that.
Perhaps you started on the bottom rung of the ladder at your company. You've grown up through the company and now you've become a supervisor, you've "graduated" to become a manager. You own your own business, your own success. Now extra money is in the account. The home looks nice. The cars are modern. The suits are authentic. All the data necessary to indicate that you are successful might tempt you to brag.
But God says, "If you are going to brag, if you really want something to shout about, can you brag that you know Me? Because if you can't talk about that, then it doesn't matter how much money sits in your account, what degree hangs on your wall, or what position you hold in the company. You don't have much to brag about."
A lot of us have pride about the wrong thing. Pride is like growing a beard. It just keeps growing and needs to be shaved daily. Every day, you and I need to get up and look at our degrees, our careers, our money, and then say, "If it were not for the grace of God ..."
The fact that we don't do this means we don't really know God, because if we knew God we would understand that we have the ability to get up in the morning, go to work, and spend money only because God is God. The knowledge of God affects your self-interpretation.
Hitting the Right Target
A man once went to visit a farmer and noticed something very odd. On the side of the farmer's barn were a number of targets with holes dead center in each bull's-eye. Evidently, his farmer friend was an excellent shot, a tremendous marksman. The visitor said, "My goodness! Every single hole is right in the center of every single bull's-eye! I didn't know you were that good."
His farmer friend said, "I'm really not."
"Wait a minute. I see a hole in the center of every single bull's eye. How could you not be that good and shoot that well?"
The farmer replied, "It's like this. I shoot the hole into the barn first, then I draw me a bull's-eye."
That's the way a lot of us live our lives. We shoot for riches and then draw the meaning of life around it. We shoot for power and draw the meaning of life around it. We shoot for education and draw the meaning of life around it. Then we go around saying, "I hit a bull's-eye!" We give the impression that we know how to shoot, making our friends think we know what we are doing, making the people we come in contact with think we have been successful, when in actuality we don't know what in the world we are doing. We are as confused as those around us. Why? Because we hit a bull's-eye shooting at the wrong target.
Having the Right Focus
But God says, "If you are going to brag, can you brag on the fact that I have rubbed off on you; that My thinking has become your thinking; that My way of living and walking and moving and functioning has become your way? Only when that happens can you say that you know Me."
So the question is simple. Can you brag that you know God? Can you brag that not only have you come into a relationship with God, but that you know Him, that you have entered into intimacy with Him, that He has rubbed off on you? That's the question, and I want you and me to experience God in such a way that He rubs off on us. Then we'll have something to brag about.
I like the story of the woodpecker who was pecking on a tree. Just as he flew away, lightning hit the tree and split it right down the middle. The woodpecker heard the noise, turned back, and said, "Look what I did!"
A lot of us are spiritual woodpeckers. We are like King Nebuchadnezzar, a man we'll run into in a later chapter. We say, "Look at this Babylon I have built. Look at this home I've built. Look at this car I drive. Look at this school I went to. Look at this job I have. Look at what I have done." But the only reason we have anything is that God let lightning strike. So God says, "Brag that you know Me, the God of lovingkindness."
The Hebrew word translated lovingkindness in Jeremiah 9:24 is hesed. It means "loyal love." It means, "I have hung in there with you. You didn't hang in there with Me. I stuck with you. I am a God of justice, I rule in fairness, and I am righteous. I have a standard on earth and I delight in these things."
You see, the knowledge of God always rubs off in history. He delights in displaying His lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth. Therefore, you cannot say you know God unless it's rubbed off in your history; unless it has affected how you treat your husband or your wife, how you raise your kids, how you spend your money, and how you relate to people. Unless the knowledge of God has changed you, you don't know Him.
LIFE'S MOST AUTHENTIC PURSUIT
The study of God is not only the most meaningful pursuit in life; it is also the most authentic pursuit. I want to look at John 17, Jesus' high priestly prayer in which He prays on behalf of His disciples, including you and me:
These things Jesus spoke; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee, even as Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He may give eternal life. And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (vv. 1–3)
According to Jesus, authentic life is eternal life. Please do not misread me here. Jesus is not referring to everlasting life; that is, He is not talking about how long you are going to live. He's talking about a quality of life in verse 3. Eternal life means knowing God. Life can never be what it was intended to be for you or me unless that life consists of God's life being lived out in us.
Jesus says in verse 3 that the only way you will get eternal life experience in this life is in the knowledge of God. Do you see that to know God is to live life authentically? To know God is to live life as it was meant to be lived. That's why Jesus said He came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly. Life can never be lived like it was meant to be lived without the knowledge of God.
Yet many of us attempt to live our lives our way, using our puny brains to figure things out. We want a quality life without a quality God dictating it. We can't have it. Our brains are too small, our knowledge too limited, ourselves too finite to live life the way it was meant to be lived apart from the knowledge of God.
When my daughter was growing up, she liked to work puzzles. So one day, I gave her a thousand-piece puzzle. But she came back sometime later, very frustrated. I asked her, "What's wrong?"
She said, "Dad, this puzzle has too many pieces. I can't put it together."
Life, like that puzzle, has too many pieces. It looks too difficult. Well, I can tell you someone who can put the puzzle together: the Puzzle-Maker. God is the Puzzle-Maker who knows what protrusion matches with what indentation so as to connect the parts of the puzzle.
To understand this, you have to understand a very simple principle: Eternal life, or the quality of life that God has intended for us, equals the knowledge of Him. Jesus makes a comparative statement in John 17:3. If you want to live, He says, don't go looking for life. Look for the knowledge of God, because authentic life means knowing Him. If you are not succeeding in life, it is because you are not succeeding in the knowledge of God. What you need is not to look for life, but to look for Him who can locate life for you.
Many of us who are alive have never yet learned how to live. We think living is wrapped up in the things I've already mentioned—money, education, prestige, or power—when living really should be about the knowledge of God. That's why studying the Scriptures is so important. In John 17:17 Jesus prays, "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth."
Telling the Truth
Only one standard of information clarifies what life is all about, and that standard is the Word of God. If we are going to live life authentically, we need someone who will tell us the truth. We don't do that with each other. We don't tell people the truth because we don't want to offend them. We don't tell them the truth because we don't want them mad at us. We don't tell them the truth because people like being lied to. No woman wants to ask, "How do you like my new dress?" and get this response:
"Worst thing I ever saw in my life."
Even though we may think a piece of clothing or a hairstyle must be the worst we have ever seen, we aren't about to say so, because people don't want the truth. Therefore, our relationships are often shallow and never get to where they are supposed to be.
You don't have that problem with God. God calls it as He sees it. He will not tell you, "I'm OK, you're OK." He tells you, "You were dead in your trespasses and in your sins, and you lived according to the flesh, according to the lust of this age." He's not going to make it comfortable or convenient for you. He doesn't even worry about damaging the "self-esteem" you've built apart from Him. He will tell you the truth, like a good doctor. He's going to tell you that you are sick so you will know what treatment you need.
The Real You
That's the downside of our study. When God unveils who He is, the knowledge will also unveil who we are. We're faced with the problem Peter had when he ran into Jesus Christ and found out who he was. The revelation of Jesus Christ made Peter fall on his face and say, "I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).
The prophet Isaiah saw the Lord and cried out, "Woe isme!" (Isaiah 6:5). Why? Because if you want the real deal, if you really want the truth, God will give you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and some of it will not be pleasant.
That's why not all church services and sermons are designed to make you shout. Shouting has its place, but some sermons should make you cry, gnash your teeth, and fall prostrate on your face before God. Because when you see God as He is, when He unveils Himself, when the true knowledge of God is revealed, it shows you for who you are.
The Real World
The knowledge of God also shows the world for what it is. People spend much time analyzing our world. Philosophers analyze society because people want answers to the fundamental questions of life such as, Who is man? Where did man come from? Where is he going? People dissect the thought of great philosophers like Schleiermacher, Hegel, Kant, and the philosophical thinkers of our age, as they study the development of man and how he relates to the universe in which he finds himself.
Excerpted from Our God Is Awesome by Tony Evans. Copyright © 1994 Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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