God is Great
Many years ago I was listening to Christian radio. It was in the early 90s and there was a lot of talk about self-esteem. In fact, if you were raised in the 80s and 90s you probably remember the government, media, books and lingo associated with the self-esteem craze. Maybe you were small enough to have been read, The Lovables in the Kingdom of Self-Esteem! Maybe your mom read to you over and over again the inside cover, “I am lovable! I am lovable! I am Lovable! By using these magical words, the gates of the Kingdom of Self-Esteem swing open for readers of all ages.”
Yes, well, I remember listening to a radio program during those self absorbed years. A preacher was preaching, though I don’t remember who it was, and he said something I have never forgotten. He said if you want to improve self-esteem in a person, I think he used self-worth then you must teach them about the person and nature of God. He said that the only way a person will have any sort of self-worth to speak of is if they understand who God is. I agreed then and I agree now.
Every once in a while in my preaching I take my congregation to theology proper. I want them to look at God. I have even preached on the simplicity of God from the pulpit. Why? Because God is simple and my conviction is that people need to know Him. It is not enough to assume that people know about God nor will it do to throw out a few words like communicable and incommunicable every now and again. As believers we must delight in God. Actually, “must” doesn’t seem like an appropriate word. I should say that we have the privilege of delighting in God. We get to delight in Him! Personally, I love to preach on the doctrine of God. My heart literally thrills in the moment to proclaim God in all of His splendor.
So, the series of which this article is the first is meant to give you the privilege of basking in the person of God. But I need to establish a few parameters. First, I need to remind you that we are sinners. No great revelation to a reader of Place for Truth but it is a necessary reminder. Why? We all have a tendency, our worst tendency, to create God in our image and in our likeness. This is what the liberals did in the quest for the historical Jesus. They created a Jesus that looked an awful lot like 19th and 20th century liberalism. Go figure. Nevertheless, that tendency is not hidden in the heart of liberals alone, it is part of the worst part of us all.
But this leads to the second point, God is not like us. For instance, we all like to believe that God pines away concerned about how we are doing as we traverse the veil of tears. However, the truth is that emotional language ascribed to God is condescension. It is what theologians call anthropomorphic language or language which ascribes human characteristics to God who is not human. Now, we need to say immediately that anthropomorphic language is not false language about God. However, it is accommodated language. For example, what you say to your 8 year old about finances will be a little different than a college class on the subject. It’s not that what you say to the 8 year old is false but it is accommodated to his age. So too is language about God.
A third point we should make is that the doctrine of God is preeminently a Biblical doctrine. The Bible is our source for our knowledge of God. Yes, there are some things that we might learn about Him from general revelation. In fact, the Bible says as much in Romans 1:18ff. But man left to his own devices with regard to the doctrine of God will go south pretty quickly. And if God has supplied an infallible and inerrant word that speaks of Him clearly then why not use it?
It is my prayer that in reading this series on the doctrine of God your mind will enlarge and your heart will sing. I hope you are moved to praise and adore Him. My heart’s desire is that you will feel enlarged because He is so immense and He is your God. He is your father and in Christ you are kept for Him and by Him as an inheritance in which He delights.
Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA. He is also Professor of New Testament Studies at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Jeff is the Senior Editor of Place for Truth (placefortruth.org) an online magazine for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.