God’s Character and Plan
People without a relationship with their personal Creator are hungering for love, happiness, meaning and fulfillment, but nothing that this planet offers can fully satisfy these longings. In theory, Christians acknowledge that God alone can meet these needs, but in practice many believers hardly differ from unbelievers in the ways they try to get them met. This is because they have missed one of the most important principles of Scripture: love, joy, and peace cannot be obtained by pursuing these things as ends in themselves; they are the overflow and the byproduct of the pursuit of God.
Moses prayed in the wilderness, “Let me know Your ways, that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight” and God responded, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:13-14). Like Moses, our prayer should be to know God and His ways. By putting Him first, everything else falls into place.
In our quest for greater knowledge and spiritual growth, we sometimes overlook or forget the foundational truths of the faith. Unless we remember to return and build upon the basic biblical doctrines, our spiritual progress will be stifled. The most basic of all these truths is the character of God, and it is in this holy ground that the Christian life is rooted.
God’s character is fundamental to everything else. In Scripture He has revealed His person, powers, and perfections. In His person, He is the self-existent, infinite, eternal, and unchanging Creator of all things. In His powers, He alone is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. In His perfections, His attributes include holiness, justice, truthfulness, love, and goodness. We cannot hope to understand the spiritual life unless we lay hold of and cling to the truth of God’s character, especially His love and goodness.
God’s love is manifested in the fact that He is a giver. From the very beginning, He has given in spite of the fact that people have rejected His gifts more than received them. The essence of love is to give and to seek the highest good of the recipient:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).
If we want to understand what God has done for us, we must believe that all His actions are borne out of love. When God loves, He is simply being Himself (1 John 4:8).
God’s goodness is manifested in His plan of bringing salvation upon the earth and in His ultimate intention for humanity. It is His desire in the ages to come to “show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).
He wants to be kind to us forever and He is committed to our joy. God always acts for our benefit—He is the initiator of redemption, blessings, beauty, and purpose in life. Scripture portrays the relationship He wants with us in terms of a shepherd and his sheep, a father and his children, and a husband and his wife.
However, sheep can go astray, children can rebel, and a wife can be unfaithful. It is this rebellion and rejection of God’s love and goodness that has led to the problem of evil and suffering. All of us live in a world of pain, injustice, disease, and death, and in the midst of this it is easy to blame God for our problems. But our environment has been distorted by sin, and sin is that which is contrary to the character of God. Christ entered into our environment of natural and moral evil in order to overcome sin and death. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him” (John 3:17).
If we want to understand God and His goodness, we must cling to His character in the face of life’s pain:
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
slow to anger and great in loving kindness.
The Lord is good to all,
and His mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:8-9).
The better we grasp the love and goodness of God’s character, the less we will be tempted to think that He is carrying out His plans at our expense. It is always to our advantage to conform to His will, because it leads to our highest good. Obedience to God produces joy and fulfillment; disobedience produces sorrow and frustration. There is greater pain in disobedience than in faithfulness. Everything God asks of us is for our good; everything He asks us to avoid is harmful. This is what Evelyn Underhill calls “the sanity of holiness.”
Because of who He is, God can be trusted. His plan reflects His character. This plan involved innocent creatures created in His image who would continue to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually in such a way that they would glorify God by becoming more like Him and displaying to the entire universe the beauty of His handiwork. The physical and the spiritual were perfectly integrated, and God’s people were to enjoy unimpeded fellowship with Him and each other.
But love always involves a choice, and God’s loving and good purpose was distorted by human rebellion. Faced with the decision of whether to abide in God’s life or try to create life of their own, the man and the woman sought to establish themselves as the base for their own meaning. Thus they became sinners by nature and antithetical to the character of God. Beauty was replaced by ugliness, holiness with evil, kindness with cruelty, generosity with greed, love with hate, peace with violence, security with fear, and joy with anger. The Adamic inheritance of physical and spiritual death has been passed from generation to generation, and no one is untainted by sin.
Left to ourselves, we are completely unable to fulfill the purpose for which we have been created. But God has not left us to ourselves—with the fall He immediately began to put a plan into effect which would restore humanity to His ultimate intention. God is not only our Creator but He is also our Redeemer; in Christ He has made it possible for us to be given a completely new heredity. By removing us out of the line of Adam and placing us in the line of Christ, He has once again placed us in a position where we will ultimately show forth His glory in our spirits, souls, and bodies. In this way, He will demonstrate through us to all creation that He is who He says He is.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth
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