Yesterday I referred to one perception people have of God as the Mad Scientist who is running experiments on us His test subjects. That perception of God is false, but it is true that many people think of God that way. Another way people think about God, popularized by the movie Bruce Almighty is that “God is a mean kid on an ant hill with a magnifying glass, and I’m the ant. He could fix my life in five minutes if He wanted to, but he’d rather tear off my feelers and watch me squirm.” 

People have a lot of perceptions about God. Because God demands that we worship Him alone and have no other gods or idols, a lot of people have drawn the conclusion that God is insecure. After all, God does say that He’s a jealous God, and aren’t people who are jealous also insecure? Others think of God as being selfish, vindictive, demanding and just not worthy of our devotion. 

Richard Dawkins has said:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” 

I would be lying if I said I haven’t had some of those feelings about God myself in my lifetime. I’ve wrestled the the idea of God being a jealous God. I’ve wondered why God seems to bless some who don’t appear to deserve it and not bless others who, by my judgement, deserve so much. I’ve wrestled with the concept we are talking about this week for years. I’m uneasy with the idea of Hell. I don’t like to talk about it or teach about it. The thought of someone suffering for all of eternity is a big pill to swallow, and it’s a pill that many have choked on over the years. 

But, one of the reasons the question of Hell is difficult for us is because of our false notions of who we think God is. We don’t let God define Himself or His motives in doing these things. Instead we let the skeptics, doubters and unbelievers define God, His characteristics and His motives. 

So today, what I am going to attempt to do is give a brief (ha!) overview of some of the attributes of God. An attribute is a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something. Though no one can fully know God, God has chosen to reveal certain parts of his nature and character to us as His most precious creation. Just like you might describe yourself as flexible, kind, thoughtful, pragmatic, detail-oriented, exuberant or melancholy, these attributes help to create a paradigm for God that help us make sense of some of these difficult topics. Before we condemn God as Dawkins has done, we should at least let Him speak for himself. 

Any list of the attributes of God is incomplete. There are many attributes that have been defined, but since God is eternal and we are finite, our understanding of who God is will be limited. The more you learn about God the more you begin to understand who He is and why He does the things He does, but you also understand that your understanding is restricted. 

So, let’s drill down on a few of these attributes, especially the ones that should help us get a more godly perspective on Hell. 

  1. God is eternal, infinite. 
    1. Key verses:
      1. Ex 3:14 – “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’”. 
      2. Ps 102:12 – “But You, O Lord, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your Name to all generations.” 
      3. Col 1:17 – And He is before all things, an in Him all things hold together.”
    2. God has always been. There has never been moment when God didn’t exist. Before time itself existed, God existed. God is the only being that, when asked to define themselves can say, I AM. That’s because God always is. In our “Like Christ” series we did last summer and the book I am working on at this moment, I shared about intuition. The reason we don’t make good decisions when we are younger is because we don’t have good intuition and intuition develops over time, usually by making bad decisions and learning from them. This is one of the reasons, as Andy Stanley says, “Human beings make terrible gods.” The timeline of even the oldest and wisest among us isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to God. This is why James says: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14). We aren’t drops in the bucket, we’re a mist, a tiny vapor molecule that exists for barely a second. 
  2. God Never Changes. 
    1. Key Verses: 
      1. Mal 3:6 – “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” 
      2. Num 23:19 – “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has He said, and will he not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” 
      3. Ps 102:27 – “But you are the same, and your years have no end.” 
      4. Heb 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” 
    2. God never changes. The theological word is immutable. God is not evolving. God is not a work in progress. There are no imperfections about God. There is nothing that needs to be improved or fixed. Who God has always been is who God will always be. We on the other hand are constantly growing and changing. We are constantly learning and adapting to what we know today that we didn’t know yesterday. 
  3. God is All powerful 
    1. Key verses: 
      1. Jer 32:17 – “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.”
      2. Rom 11:36 – “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
      3. Ps 33:6 – “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth.” 
      4. Mat 19:26 — “With God all things are possible.”
    2. As kids we think our dads are the strongest man on earth. Maybe not all of us, but most. I can remember some times when I saw my dad do something, pick something up and I tried to do the same but failed. As we grow up and grow stronger, we realize there is a limit to our dad’s strength as well as our own. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the most a human has ever lifted is 6,720lbs in 1985 by Paul Anderson. Our Suburban weighs roughly 5,900 lbs. So, Paul should be able to pick up our suburban with our family inside. But, when you start looking at the world God created, you quickly see how less powerful we are than something else God created. You can be the strongest man on the planet but that will mean nothing when the earth shakes beneath your feet, a tornado plows through your home or flood waters fill your town. The 2004 Tsunami reached a height of 167 feet, nearly 17 stories tall. And as powerful and horrific as that event was, the power of that event was nothing compared to God. God is all powerful (Omnipotent) and the source of all power, life and light. 
  4. God is all knowing
    1. Key Verses
      1. Isa 46:9-10 – ““Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please”
      2. Ps 147:5 – “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
      3. 1 Jn 3:20 – “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 
      4. Eze 11:5 – “Then the Spirit of the Lord came on me, and he told me to say: “This is what the Lord says: That is what you are saying, you leaders in Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.”
      5. Rom 11:33-36 – “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
    2. My whole life I have felt like it’s hard for me to learn things. Well, before the 2nd grade, I thought I was pretty smart, but then when I didn’t get put in the upper reading level group, I started thinking I might not be that smart. I feel like I process things slower than others, and sometimes it takes quite a bit of study to learn a concept. I’ve ready many books in my life, but I don’t know how much I remember. Maybe it’s there somewhere. While I have learned a lot and do know a lot of things, there are a lot of things I don’t know. And it seems that there is an infinite amount of information that I will never know. Not so with God. There is nothing that God doesn’t know. God does not have to learn like we do. A. W. Tozer writes: “God perfectly knows Himself and, being the source and author of all things, it follows that He knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn.” 
  5. God is all wise, completely good and perfectly just. 
    1. Key Verses:
      1. Deut. 32:4  “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.”
      2. Ps 34:8 – “O taste and see the the Lord is Good.” 
      3. Ps 25:8 – “Good and upright is the Lord.” 
      4. Job 12:13 – “With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding.” 
      5. 1 Tim 1:17 – “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 
      6. James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 
    2. These are three separate attributes, but I’m running out of space and time, unlike God. Wisdom is knowing the difference between good and evil as well as being able to see how a decision will take us in one direction or another. Justice is doing what’s right and making things right. And God is good. It is who He is. He is the source of everything good, like we talked about yesterday. 
  6. God is love. 
    1. Key Verses:
      1. Deut. 7:7-9 – “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
      2. 1 Jn 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows GOd. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

This is who God is. As the psalmist said, “O taste and see that the Lord is Good.” This is a taste, but it is only a small taste. Even of all that we do know about God, this is a small taste. I have chosen these few because they help us understand the idea of Hell, but in reality it would be hugely helpful to study all the attributes of God, which we don’t have time for right now. If you want a good starting point I would recommend Knowing God by J.I. Packer. But for today, just taste of the goodness of God. Some of His other attributes are merciful, grace, holiness, omnipresence, sovereign, transcendent, faithful, loyal, self-sufficient, and so on. This is a taste of who God is. This is who God says He is. It’s not what the doubters and skeptics say. This is who He REALLY is. 

What we’re going to talk about tomorrow is how all of the attributes come together and work together to help us have an understanding of some of the more difficult things God does. I don’t think we will ever come to a full understanding of it all on this side of heaven. In fact, Paul says as much in 1 Cor 13:11-12 – “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

In the meantime, it’s all about trusting God. Which is what it’s always been about. 

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