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“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.'” Revelation 15:2-3
Human minds will never more fully understand God’s justice than when we stand before Him in heaven. Then we will see Him face to face, even as He has always seen us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. Then we will know how all of His essence is one, even as He is also one [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29]. Then we will see our finite existence from the perspective of a holy eternity.
God is just because all truth is His truth. And justice cannot operate without truth.
God is just because He is also good and loving and all-knowing and unchanging. He is just because He is also holy and sovereign and wise and all-powerful. He is just because He is also transcendent and everywhere-present and faithful and gracious and merciful. He is just because He is also self-existent and self-sufficient and eternal and infinite.
All of His character works together as one unit, rather than as separate entities. He is never more or less any of these qualities, just as none of these traits exists outside of His person. God is just, because that is who He is.
He is self-existent and self-sufficient, so His justice is not counseled by any created being.
He is unchanging and He is holy, so His justice never wavers to the left or to the right [Proverbs 4:27].
He is all-knowing and wise, so His justice has always faithfully extended grace.
He is all-powerful and sovereign, so His justice is precisely exacted.
But He is also good and merciful and loving and gracious, so He provided a substitution for the wages of our sins [Romans 5:8 & 6:23; 1 John 2:2]. A substitute to accept our condemnation so that, by His grace, we could be considered righteous [Romans 3:20-24, 5:9-11 & 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8].
He is transcendent and yet everywhere present, so His justice is always objective while His grace and mercy are always faithfully at hand.
He is infinite, so His justice is not limited in any way. He is eternal, so His justice contains all of our finite existence, but will endure for all eternity.
God is just.
Have you ever found yourself questioning this truth? Do you know others who question God’s justice? Often this is because we don’t like that God’s justice means there is a right way and a wrong way. But as God said to Cain nearly 6,000 years ago, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]?
“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5
A copy is never identical to the original. But it is clearer and more accurate than subsequent copies. Meaning, if someone were to make a photocopy, then make a photocopy from that copy and so on, each copy becomes hazier and less accurate than the first.
It’s the same way with our understanding of and patterning after God. We are called to be like Christ [1 John 3:2]. If we are in Christ, our hearts are being built into a living tabernacle, acceptable to God [1 Peter 2:5]. We ourselves are to be a copy of the original.
God made us in His image at the Creation. Christ makes us anew and the Holy Spirit reforms the Father’s image in us, but only if we pattern ourselves after Him.
God is good. While our goodness can never save us, in Christ by faith we do the good works God intended us to do from the Creation [Ephesians 2:10]. Without God, how would even know what good is?
Many, however, accept hand-me-down faith. They attend church from childhood and become a copy of the people in the church. Maybe the pastor is a great man of God. Maybe the choir leader has a great heart for worshiping God. Maybe our teachers genuinely know and love God. Maybe our parents and grandparents are people of true faith. These are all good things. And these people are all good role models.
However, their lives–like ours–ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. They themselves are still in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds [Romans 12:2]. Patterning ourselves after any one of them will make us an untrue version of another person rather than a genuine copy of Christ.
God is good and we are the light of His goodness to the world around us. Are you patterning your life after the original through prayer and Bible study? Or are you living as a copy of a copy?
“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31
God is good.
Many automatically respond to this truth with the pithy chorus, *All the time!* And while there is some truth therein, it is a limited truth turned into a reflexive, religious chant. How many reply in vain, having forgotten or never fully known what God’s goodness truly means?
And why don’t we realize the fullness of His goodness? Could it be because we don’t live it forward as we were created to do?
We were created in God’s image [Genesis 1:26-27]. So then each of His attributes were meant to be an integral part of our own character. But sin deposed God from the throne of our hearts so that humankind is not born basically good, as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau surmised. Nor even basically evil, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued. Rather, we are born sinful–which means that we are separated from God because of our fallen human nature which itself desires to be its own god.
When self is god, then self gets to decide what is good. And self is only interested in what is good for self. God’s goodness, though, is panoptic and it is all-encompassing. God’s goodness flows from His infinite wisdom and omniscience. He sees all, hears all, knows all about all for all of created time, and He works toward the overarching good of everyone in all of human history.
That is quite the difference from our self-limiting goodness. Because when everyone does what is right in their own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25], the result is that everyone visits evil on everyone else. Not always maliciously and intentionally, but even unintentional and accidental effects of our choices can bring great harm to others.
That is why scriptures implore us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Not that we can actually, in this life, attain to perfect goodness at all times–we can’t. But we can become more like Christ everyday through the Holy Spirit working in us [Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23; John 14:26; Romans 12:2; Galatians 3:26-28].
And just as God breathed life into the first man Adam [Genesis 2:7] and proclaimed that His Creation was very good, so also Jesus’ last breath on the cross created us anew to do the good works we abandoned after the advent of sin [Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30; Ephesians 2:10]. But only if we choose to accept God’s grace by faith. And only if we then choose to surrender our lives to His Lordship so that we may be His instrument of goodness in a lost and dying world.
Are you allowing yourself daily to be made into the image of Christ? Does God’s goodness flow freely through your life?
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17
God is omnipresent, that is, He is everywhere present. There is nowhere that we can go out of His presence, nowhere we can hide from Him.
Many other cultures, having the seed of eternity in their heart [Ecclesiastes 3:11], vaguely remembered this truth about God, but re-presented the idea through pantheism.
Pantheism comes from Greek word roots that translate everything is a god. The trees are each a god, or at least a manifestation of His physical presence. The rocks are gods. The water is god. The air we breathe. The ground we trod. Sun and moon and stars. All is god. And god is all.
Except that it isn’t so.
As we have already seen, God is distinct from His Creation. While He is omnipresent–ever here with all of us–He is also transcendent, or equally separate from everything His hands have made. Created things are not God, and God is not in any way created. While all things hold together in Him, He Himself has no need of sustenance from His creation.
Not only so, but the Creation is meant to draw our understanding back to God the Creator [Romans 1:20]. It groans under the strain of sin, longing for the return of our Savior just as we ought [Romans 8:19-23]. And if we refuse to acknowledge God and praise Him, then the Creation will do it for us [Luke 19:40].
Here it is so important to remember that God loves the pantheist, just as He loves you and me. And that the pantheist has a heart seeking after eternity, a heart waiting for the good news of Jesus Christ, but lost in a half-truth. Satan is happy to keep them spinning in their partial-understanding, but God is not willing that any should perish [2 Peter 3:9].
Are you ready to give an answer for the hope that you have within you [1 Peter 3:15]? Can you be a light to the pantheists of this world?
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
God is transcendent. He is equally above the highest earthly authority and the basest of criminals. He is equally above the ordinary good guy and the saintliest of saints.
Just as we grade levels of badness, rank acts of evil and sort them from minor wrongdoings, so too we rate our own goodness. How do I measure up when compared to another human being? I’m not as good as Mother Theresa, but I’m not as bad as my drunken neighbor who beats his family.
But that’s all human perception, and actually, human misperception. Sure our faith should spur us on to good works [James 2:17-26], but those good works do not save us [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Rather, by God’s infinite grace, it is our finite faith that saves us. And while we will each have to give an account of ourselves to God [Romans 14:12], it is only the Christ in us that will justify us before our heavenly Father [Romans 5:1-2].
Consider walking across a beach. Each grain of sand is so small underfoot that we don’t register which ones are larger and which ones are smaller. We are equally larger than the minute variations in each of the millions of grains of sand that make up a single beach.
Or consider the stars. The distance to each one from the earth varies considerably. Yet to the naked human eye, the night sky paints them all as if they were hung side by side.
It’s not a perfect analogy–nothing is when we try to fit our infinite God into our finite understanding–but it gives us a very basic idea of all this transcendence business.
When we stand before God, it’s all going to come down to the same thing–faith in Christ. God loves each of us the same. God sees each of our sinful natures the same. And God’s goodness is equally above any and every good work that we find to do. He has no favorites [Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25]!
Do you think of yourself more highly than you ought [Romans 12:3]? Are you resting on your own merit? Or, through faith, are you resting on God’s grace–Christ?
“And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;” Exodus 34:6-7a
God is faithful. That is, He is constant, steadfast and resolute. He sticks unwavering to His purposes and promises.
Faithful is a good trait. Yet in this day and age, where bad is called good and good is called bad [Isaiah 5:20], God’s faithfulness is exactly why many choose to turn their back on Him. In general, people want God to be faithful in His love, goodness, kindness, mercy and grace–as long as it applies the way they expect it to, satisfying each of their desires. But they don’t want Him to be faithful when it comes to His sovereignty, justice and holiness, for example. Because justice means that there is a moral law that we each must adhere to, and that there are consequences if we don’t.
In our self-as-god mentalities, we want to be our own sovereign and determine what is just for our situation–especially if it means opposing God’s holy precepts to fit our perceived needs. In this way, we are not being faithful–steadfast and constant–as God must be.
With God, who is transcendent, moral compliance is black and white–no shades of grey. Either we have forgiveness of sins or we don’t. Either we behave in godly ways or godless ways. Either we glorify Him with our lives, or we dishonor Him. Either we obey or we disobey. It’s like building a house with a rubber band for a ruler, stretching the measuring stick to make it say that the boards are the right length even when they’re truly not. And if every board is slightly off from the true measure, the house will never stand!
Consider that the opposite of a faithful God is one who is careless, cold and corrupt. One who is dishonest, fraudulent and negligent. One who is undependable, unscrupulous and untrustworthy. But these are all words that describe unfaithful human beings. These are the marks of sin in our world, not the hand of God.
God is faithful, we can depend that He will always forgive the repentant sinner. We can trust that He will maintain the seasons, days and years until He renews and restores His Creation [Genesis 8:22]. We can rest assured that He will keep His promise never to destroy the earth again in a worldwide flood [Genesis 9:11]. He was faithful to send His Son, Jesus, to carry out the plan of redemption instituted from the advent of sin [Genesis 3:15] despite the rampant unfaithfulness of human kind in every generation since. And He will be faithful, when the time has reached its fullness, to send Jesus to gather us home [Matthew 13:32 & 24:36].
God is infinitely and eternally faithful. And we are made in His image. We were made to return His faithfulness–to be steadfast in our love for and faith in Him. Do you?
We were made to reflect His constant love and forgiveness to others in our lives. Do you?
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
God is omnipresent. He is everywhere here with us, His Creation. When the mantle of leadership passed from Moses to Joshua, God promised His presence to remain with His people and His chosen leader [Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8].
Yet He knew the day would come when the generations would deny Him.
When His people turned their face to worthless wood and rock carved by human hands [Deuteronomy 31:16-18], His presence would faithfully remain. When He Himself averted His eyes from their shame, allowing them the very life and dead gods they insisted on, still, by His nature, He remained everywhere present with them. When He Himself could not take up the defense of His chosen people because they denied Him with all their heart, still God’s presence did not forsake His Creation, the apple of His eye. He did not then refuse to carry out His plan of redemption.
But you see, when we live as our own gods, we cannot then demand that God continue to work on our behalf.
Either we are our own gods and capable of commanding all the sovereign might and justice on our own behalf or we are not. We cannot live both lives. We cannot have all of the goodness and love of God, if we deny His existence. If we refuse to carry His cross and bear His name to our generation. We cannot be our own sovereign, and expect God’s sovereignty to control everyone and everything else around us to our specifications.
We cannot live our whole lives running away from God, turning our back on His presence, and then also expect His presence–though it is always everywhere here with us–to go before us like a bubble-wrap fairy godmother, keeping every other human’s choices from interfering with our self-as-god plans and desires.
Sin is an abomination for a reason. It separates us spiritually from God, though not physically from His omnipresence [Isaiah 59:2]. It’s the most awkward of awkward situations that can ever be. To be unable to hide from God, so that we continually and flagrantly deny Him to His face. So that we continually defy Him right before His very eyes. So that we stand everywhere here in His presence and proclaim that He’s not really there. Proclaim that we ourselves are better suited to be god than the one who lovingly created us. The one who set and keeps the universe in motion on our behalf.
But yeah, we keep doing us. Awkward as it is, and awkward as it will be when we see God face to face and have to explain all they whys that He already knows.
He is everywhere present with each of us. Will you, today, reach out your hand and take His? Will you, today, acknowledge His presence not only in the larger Creation but in your individual life? Will you, today, be the light of His presence to everyone around you?