Knowing the Character of God
Knowing the Character of God
If I were to ask you the question, what is being a Christian about, what would you say? For many years, I don’t think I could have answered that question. I might have said, ’It’s believing in Jesus Christ,’ which would technically be accurate, but I couldn’t have answered the question correctly. I don’t think I’m alone in that. So many people are not sure how to answer it.
In the book of Colossians 1: 10, Paul writes this:
So that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God.
The aim of the Christian life is to walk in a manner that is:
- Worthy of the Lord
- Fully pleasing to Him
- Bearing fruit in every good work
- Increasing in the accurate knowledge of God.
If you look at numbers one, two, and four, you see they are all about God. In other words, we need to know God. However, if you look at number three, it says that the aim of the Christian life is bearing fruit in every good work. But where do the good works that we are given come from? Ephesians 2:10 says God ‘has prepared beforehand’ the very works that we are meant to be engaged in. Everything points back to God. The whole point of our human existence and the Christian life is about God.
If it is all about God, then what is God like? As I said, for a long time, I wouldn’t have known how to answer that.
If we are not sure what someone is like, it is hard to relate to them fully and experience them personally, isn’t it? Occasionally, I get letters from people who say, ‘I don’t know what God is like. I don’t know what I’m praying to.’ So, if the aim of the Christian life is to walk in a manner worthy of God and walk in a manner fully pleasing to God, to bear fruit in every good work, and to walk in a manner increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, how do those things occur?
Today I want to tell you how knowing what God is like can help you.
How do we relate to God? We relate to God in prayer, but if we don’t know what God is like, it can be very hard to pray, which is what people have said. What is prayer? Prayer is talking to God. Prayer is listening to God, and prayer is being in the presence of God.
What do I mean by talking to God? Talking to God has two aspects to it. Firstly, it is the worship of God, the adoration of God, and secondly, talking to God is all about asking God for His help and intervention in our life. Talking to God in prayer is about listening to Him. It is asking God to guide us, through our conscience, where God speaks, where we’re prompted in how we should live and the decisions that we should make. We can listen to God through the Scriptures. We listen through the teaching of the Church. We listen to God within our conscience, and then we act. So, in prayer we talk to God, and we listen to God and then prayer is being in the presence of God. In other words, it’ is a posture of ‘Lord, here I am.’
If any of you are in a good relationship with someone, it’s just good to hang out together sometimes. So, it’s hard to pray, to listen, talk and be in the company of God if you don’t know who God is.
When I first met Rosemary at an event many years ago, I asked someone, “Who is that over there?” And a person said to me, “Oh, that’s Rosemary Nolan.” I eventually met her and immediately I noticed some things about her. I noticed that she was shy, and I love that about her. I love the fact that she was shy, and she’s always been shy, and I think that’s one of the sweetest things about her. When I was talking to her in those very early times what became very evident to me is that she was well educated and that she was smart. At the time she was studying to be a pharmacist. So, I met her, and she liked me and there are so many things I could say about that!
We started getting know to know each other, but for me to really know her and who she was, I had to go back and fill in the backstory of her life. I needed to know a little bit about her family and where they had come from. Over the years, I have come to love Rosemary, her mum and dad and I’ve come to love her whole family. I needed to know where Rosemary had lived and the various events that had occurred through her life. Some were good experiences and some not so good things like the time that and she fell off a horse when she was 15 and damaged her arm very badly and how that has affected so much of her life.
The more I understood the person who Rosemary was and her backstory, the more I was able to know who she was and is and I was more able to have a deeper relationship with her.
Other relationships are different, aren’t they? There are some relationships where we know about someone, their backstory, but we don’t know them. For example, President Vladimir Putin of Russia who has been in the media a lot recently. I know a lot about him, but I don’t know him. I know some of his backstory from the things I’ve read and heard through many years, and I’ve seen him on television, but I have no experience of him.
Now, I don’t regard as Putin as a friend whereas with Rosemary, I had an experience of her and then got to know her and then filled in the backstory. There are many people who know about God, but they don’t know God personally. There are many people who know about God like I know about Putin, but they don’t know God personally and so the relationship is very limited.
There are many people who have great encounters with God but then they must go back and fill in the backstory, because if they don’t know about God, they live purely just in the experience and they don’t really know the fullness of who God is.
I think there are a lot of Catholics who are like that. They know a lot about God, but they haven’t experienced God. They’ve received the sacraments. They maybe have even been to a Catholic school. They’ve learnt the rules. They know what they are meant to do but if you ask them who God is, they maybe couldn’t tell you. They might be able to give you a book answer, but they wouldn’t be able to speak from personal experience saying, ‘This is who God is in my life.’
Then there are others who have had a deep encounter with God. and they’ve had to fill in the backstory of what God is like. Knowing what God is like can help you in your life and faith journey.
When I was teenager, I got introduced to a relationship with God and as I’ve shared many times, I remember the Catholic priest who said to me, “If you give your life to God today, you could meet God and you could know God within your heart and you would be convinced.” That’s exactly what happened to me. But to be honest with you, I had to fill in the backstory. I had to go and learn some of things that made God different. When I got to know God by talking, listening and being in His presence, I realized there is a certain way that I’m meant to live because of who God is.
I could answer the question, “Is my life pleasing God?” because I’d got to know who God was and what pleased him. That made a difference in my life, and I slowly increased the knowledge of God in my life. Things we learn about God:
- God is infinite. God knows no limits.
- God was never made by anybody or anything.
- God will never die. God simply is.
- God is complete in Himself. Nothing can be added to God.
In the book of Jeremiah 10:6-7, it says:
There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For that is your due; among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is no one like you.
God is complete, unique and absolute in and of himself. God was complete even before time began. At the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 1:1, it says:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
In other words, God existed before heaven existed. Think about that. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. God was before anything existed.
You are being invited into a relationship with the God, that has always been. The God that was before all things, the God who is infinite, the God who knows all things, who has been in the past, present and will forever be. That is the God that we worship. It is mind blowing that we just pass over it so quickly. See before anything else was created, God needed no one.
God didn’t need to make the universe. He didn’t need to make the angels or people. God existed in eternity, beyond everything that we know and understand, and God existed before that, and God was self-sufficient. God is in need of no one. God is dependent on no one. God did not need anything else. God is complete, supreme absolute in himself. God did not need to create anything. Whether it be spiritual being such as angels or people, God didn’t need to do any of that. Why did God create people? The scriptures tell us that God created us out of his goodness, the fruitfulness of His magnificence. In other words, God created us because He could.
In Ephesians 1:5, it says:
He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
We can’t be in relationship with God until we pause on all these things and ask what does it mean? For many of us, we take God and we boil God down into being a better version of a person. Even though we are made in his image and likeness, He is not made in our image and likeness. When it comes to prayer, we can pause and see God, because unless we have an intimate understanding of who God is, our experience in prayer will be less.
You can know everything about someone and have no encounter with them. You can have an encounter with someone and yet still need to know so much more and that is why our prayer life, our experience of God is a lifelong journey. Knowing what God is like can help you because if we know what God is like, it can help us to go to a deeper place with Him.
Many of us don’t pause and think about God like that. God is not interested in us being a church attender. God is not interested in us having huge knowledge about Him. God wants us to encounter Him, but we do need knowledge, and we need to be attending with a group of people in faith, to praise and worship God in order that we could grow in our relationship with God.
Knowing what God is like changes everything about our existence. I pray that you would come with me and experience the presence of God in our lives. It is all about God.
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Bruce, I first started listening to you this past year–when, after starting to teach music in a local Catholic School (after retiring 12 years ago from public school teaching –34 years–growing up Christian/Baptist) I have been immensely blessed! I share your ministry with all I know believing God has begifted you to a very special calling. Be blessed for EVERYTHING you do!!!