The most important question
For A. W. Tozer, no question is more important than, "What is God like?" The desire to know God consumed his entire life and ministry.
That's why those who read him come to know God more intimately.
Originally preached as sermons at Southside Alliance Church in Chicago, this first volume of The Attributes of God examines ten attributes of God. It also includes a study guide for an in-depth look at each attribute:
Steeped in Scripture and filled with the Spirit, Tozer preached with striking clarity and power. The sense of his sermons comes through on every page, bringing the Word of God to bear upon you.
"If a sermon can be compared to light, then A.W. Tozer released a laser beam from the pulpit, a beam that penetrated the heart." — Warren Wiersbe, former pastor of The Moody Church
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About the Author
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The Attributes of God Volume 1
A Journey Into the Father's Heart
By A.W. Tozer
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2003 David E. Fessenden
All rights reserved.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3)
The last eight words of this verse would make a good sermon for anybody: "Your life is hid with Christ in God." I want to go to a book written six hundred years ago and quote a few things, weaving it into this message about the journey into the heart of God: "with Christ in God."
The Journey to Infinity
This book was written by Lady Julian of Norwich, a very saintly woman.
I want to quote what this lady said about the Trinity: "Suddenly the Trinity filled my heart with joy. And I understood that so it shall be in heaven without end." This is a step up from the utilitarian heaven that most people want to go to, where they'll have everything right—a split-level home, two cars and a fountain, a swimming pool and golden streets. Lady Julian saw that heaven will be heaven because the Trinity will fill our hearts with "joy without end," for the Trinity is God and God is the Trinity. The Trinity is our Maker and Keeper, and the Trinity is our everlasting love and everlasting joy and bliss.
All these things marked Jesus Christ, and, as Julian said, "where Jesus appeareth the blessed Trinity is understood." We must get into our heads and hearts that Jesus Christ is the full, complete manifestation of the Trinity: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). He set forth the glory of the Triune God, all the God there is! Where Jesus appears, God is. And where Jesus is glorified, God is.
I wouldn't quote anybody unless there were Scripture to confirm it, and Scripture does indeed confirm that the Trinity will fill our hearts. "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit" (1 John 4:12-13). There you have the Father and the Spirit. "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (4:14-15). There you have the Father and the Son, or the Trinity.
"Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:20-21). Do you believe on Jesus Christ through the word of the apostles? If you do, then Jesus said distinctly here, "I'm praying for you that you all may be one as the Father is in me and I in him, that you may be one in us. I in you and the Father in me."
The other day I heard a man pray this prayer: "Oh God, who art the truth, make me one with Thee in everlasting love. It wearieth me often to read and hear many things, but in Thee is all that I would have and can desire." The Church will come out of her doldrums when we find out that salvation is not a lightbulb only, that it is not an insurance policy against hell only, but that it is a gateway into God and that God is all that we would have and can desire. Again I quote Julian: "I saw that God is to us everything that is good and comfortable. He is our clothing; His love wrappeth us and claspeth us and all encloseth us for His tender love, that He may never leave us, being to us all that is good."
Christianity is a gateway into God. And then when you get into God, "with Christ in God," then you're on a journey into infinity, into infinitude. There is no limit and no place to stop. There isn't just one work of grace, or a second work or a third work, and then that's it. There are numberless experiences and spiritual epochs and crises that can take place in your life while you are journeying out into the heart of God in Christ.
God is infinite! That's the hardest thought I will ask you to grasp. You cannot understand what infinite means, but don't let it bother you—I don't understand it and I'm trying to explain it! "Infinite" means so much that nobody can grasp it, but reason nevertheless kneels and acknowledges that God is infinite. We mean by infinite that God knows no limits, no bounds and no end. What God is, He is without boundaries. All that God is, He is without bounds or limits.
Infinity Cannot Be Measured
We've got to eliminate all careless speech here. You and I talk about unlimited wealth, but there's no such thing; you can count it. We talk about boundless energy—which I don't feel I have at the moment—but there's no such thing; you can measure a man's energy. We say an artist takes infinite pains with his picture. But he doesn't take infinite pains; he just does the best he can and then throws up his hands and says, "It isn't right yet, but I'll have to let it go." That's what we call infinite pains.
But that is a misuse of the words "boundless," "unlimited" and "infinite." These words describe God—they don't describe anything but God. They do not describe space or time or matter or motion or energy; these words do not apply to creatures or sand or stars or anything that can be measured.
Measurement is a way created things have of accounting for themselves. Weight, for instance, is one way we account for ourselves --by the gravitational pull of the earth. And then we have distance—space between heavenly bodies. Then we have length—extension of the body into space.
We can always measure things. We know how big the sun is, how big the moon is, how much the earth weighs, how much the sun and other heavenly bodies weigh. We know approximately how much water is in the ocean. It seems boundless to us, but we know how deep it is and we can measure it, so it really isn't boundless at all. There is nothing boundless but God and nothing infinite but God. God is self-existent and absolute; everything else is contingent and relative. There is nothing very big and nothing very wise and nothing very wonderful. It's all relatively so. It is only God who knows no degrees.
The poet says, "One God, one Majesty. There is no God but Thee. Unbounded, unextended unity." For a long time I wondered why he said, "unbounded, unextended unity"; then I realized he meant that God doesn't extend into space; Godcontains space. C.S. Lewis said that if you could think of a sheet of paper infinitely extended in all directions, and if you took a pencil and made a line one inch long on it, that would be time. When you started to push your pencil it was the beginning of time and when you lifted it off the paper it was the end of time. And all around, infinitely extended in all directions, is God. That's a good illustration.
If there were a point where God stopped, then God wouldn't be perfect. For instance, if God knew almost everything, but not quite everything, then God wouldn't be perfect in knowledge. His understanding wouldn't be infinite, as it says in Psalm 147:5.
Let us take all that can be known—past, present and future, spiritual, psychic and physical—everywhere throughout the universe. And let us say God knows all of it except one percent—He knows ninety-nine percent of all that can be known. I'd be embarrassed to go to heaven and look into the face of a God that didn't know everything. He has to know it all or I can't worship Him. I can't worship that which is not perfect.
What about power? If God had all the power there is except a little bit, and if somebody else had a little bit of power hoarded that God couldn't get to, then we couldn't worship God. We couldn't say that this God is of infinite power because He wouldn't be of infinite power; He'd just be close to it. While He would be more powerful than any other being and perhaps even more powerful than all the beings in the universe lumped together, He still would have a defect, and therefore He couldn't be God. Our God is perfect—perfect in knowledge and power.
If God had goodness, but there was one spot in God that wasn't good, then He wouldn't be our God and Father. If God had love but didn't have all the love, just ninety-nine and nine-tenths percent of the love—or even a higher percentage—God still wouldn't be God. God, to be God, must be infinite in all that He is. He must have no bound and no limit, no stopping place, no point beyond which He can't go. When you think of God or anything about God you'll have to think infinitely about God.
You may have a charley horse in your head for two weeks after trying to follow this, but it's a mighty good cure for this little cheap god we have today. This little cheap god we've made up is one you can pal around with—"the Man upstairs," the fellow who helps you win baseball games. That god isn't the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He isn't the God who laid the foundations of the heaven and the earth; he's some other god.
We educated Americans can create gods just the same as the heathen can. You can make a god out of silver or wood or stone—or you can make it out of your own imagination. And the god that's being worshiped in many places is simply a god of imagination. He's not the true God. He's not the infinite, perfect, all-knowing, all-wise, all-loving, infinitely boundless, perfect God. He's something short of that. Christianity is decaying and going down into the gutter because the god of modern Christianity is not the God of the Bible. I don't mean to say that we do not pray to God; I mean to say that we pray to a god short of what he ought to be. We have got to think of God as being the perfect One.
God Takes Pleasure in Himself
The next thing I am about to say may give you a little shock: God takes pleasure in Himself and rejoices in His own perfection. I've prayed and thought and searched and read the Word too long to ever take that back. God takes pleasure in Himself and He rejoices in His own perfection. The divine Trinity is glad in Himself! God delights in His works.
When God created the heaven and the earth and all things that are upon the earth, He kept saying, "It was good" (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). Then when God created man in His own image He looked and said, "It was very good" (1:31). God rejoiced in His works. He was glad in what He had done.
Redemption is not a heavy work for God. God didn't find Himself in a fix and have to rush off somewhere and try to get "foreign policy" straightened out with the archangels. God did what He did joyfully. He made the heaven and the earth joyfully. That's why the flowers look up and smile, and the birds sing and the sun shines, and the sky is blue and rivers trickle down to the sea. God made the creation and He loved what He did!
He took pleasure in Himself, in His own perfection and in the perfection of His work. And when it comes to redemption, I repeat that this was not a heavy task laid upon God by moral necessity. God wanted to do this. There was no moral necessity upon God to redeem mankind. He didn't have to send His Son Jesus Christ to die for mankind. He sent Him, but at the same time Jesus did it voluntarily. If God was willing, it was the happy willingness of God.
A mother doesn't have to get up and feed her baby at 2 in the morning. There's no law compelling her to do it. The law probably would compel her to take some care of the little tyke, but she doesn't have to give him that loving care that she does. She wants to do it. I used to do it for our little fellows, and I enjoyed doing it. A mother and a father do what they do because they love to do it.
It is the same with this awesome, eternal, invisible, infinite, all-wise, omniscient God, the God of our fathers, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the God we call "our Father which art in heaven." He is boundless and infinite; He can't be weighed or measured; you can't apply distance or time or space to Him, for He made it all and contains it all in His own heart. While He rises above it all, at the same time this God is a friendly, congenial God, and He delights in Himself. The Father delights in the Son: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Son delighted in the Father: "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (Matthew 11:25). And certainly the Holy Ghost delights in the Father and the Son.
The incarnation, too, was not something that Jesus Christ did gritting His teeth and saying, "I hate this thing—I wish I could get out of it." One of the dear old hymn writers said, "He abhorred not the virgin's womb." The writer thought about this and said, "Wait a minute here. The womb of the creature? How could the everlasting, eternal, infinite God, whom space cannot contain, confine Himself inside one of His creatures? Wouldn't it be a humiliation?" Then he smiled and said, "No, He abhorred not the virgin's womb," and he wrote it and we've been singing it for centuries. The incarnation of Jesus Christ's immortal flesh was not a heavy thing. The second person of the Trinity, the everlasting Son, the eternal Word made Himself flesh—joyously! When the angels sang about the incarnation, they sang joyously about it.
God Takes Pleasure in His Work
And He also delights in salvation. Notice in Luke 15:5 that when Jesus Christ saves a man, He carries him on His shoulders. And what is the verb in that verse? It is rejoicing! God is not only pleased with Himself, delighted with His own perfection and happy in His work of creating and redeeming, but He is also enthusiastic. There is an enthusiasm in the Godhead, and there is enthusiasm in creation.
If there weren't enthusiasm in creation, it would soon run down. Everything is made of atoms, protons, neutrons and electrons, things you can't keep still—not for a second! They dash in all directions at tremendous speeds, and the heavenly bodies move the same way.
The old Greeks called the movement they made as they passed through space "the music of the spheres." I don't think they've missed it by very much at all. I believe that God sang when He created things. The motion and speed of the heavenly bodies, the working of little creatures in the earth to make the soil soft, the working of the sun on the earth—all this is God joyously working in His creation.
Enthusiasm is seen in creation; it's seen in light. Did you ever stop to think what it would be like if there were no light? If God Almighty were to put a lead sack around all the heavenly bodies and suddenly shut out all the light there is, I wouldn't want to be alive. I would want to turn myself off like a light bulb and ask God please to annihilate me—and I don't believe in annihilation. Imagine: no light, no speed, no color or sound!
Some people are afraid of color. They think that spirituality consists in being drab. But God made color! He made all shades of colors. Look at the sunset—what is it, just something scientific? Do you think that God splashed the lovely, beautiful sky with rose, cerise, blue and white and wasn't smiling when He did that? Is that just an accident of nature, scientifically explained? Then you've got too much learning for your own good! Go empty your head and get your heart filled and you'll be better off. The Holy Spirit wrote 150 psalms and in those psalms He celebrates the wonders of God's creation.
In my state of Pennsylvania the money-greedy scoundrels have bought the coal rights in certain sections of the state. There were beautiful hills there that I grew up to see and love, beautiful sun-kissed hills sometimes mystic blue in the setting of the sun. And the creeks ran below out to the rivers and down to the sea. It was all very beautiful.
Excerpted from The Attributes of God Volume 1 by A.W. Tozer. Copyright © 2003 David E. Fessenden. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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