“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?
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
God is faithful. He does not tempt us–which leads to sin and death, but rather our own desires do [James 1:13-15]. Yet through it all, no temptation is so great that we are incapable of resisting it [Genesis 4:7]. And especially when we see and know that God faithfully provides a way to escape the temptations that come.
What are these escapes? Well, the original Greek term here is ekbasin which literally translates issue. Moreover, the Greek term commonly translated as endure it is actually hypenenkein or to carry on under it. I don’t know about you, but this renders a different image in my mind.
When we are tempted–which, remember, comes by our own sinful desires [James 1:13-15]–God will bring the issue to light so that we can carry on under the pressure of the temptation. You see, in a way, it’s like the Garden of Eden all over again for each us. Not that we each usher sin anew into the world, but we each face the choice to love God or love self.
Why is that Adam and Eve weren’t tempted to eat from the tree of life and live forever? That tree also stood in the center of the garden near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9]. Satan played on their desires, but also their ignorance. Since they didn’t know death, they didn’t understand that life could be taken from them. So they chose the love of self. Question God. Ignore God’s words. Satisfy self’s desires. Gain more for self.
God told Cain that he didn’t have to choose sin as his parents had done [Genesis 4:7]. Though we are all sinners [Isaiah 53:6-8; Romans 3:23], willful sin is a choice. Willful sin can be mastered. Including the willful sin to deny God’s existence and refuse to understand His Word so that we can plea ignorance of the law–except we can’t. Satan played Cain’s desires, but also his anger. In the end, Cain chose the love of self. Reject God’s words–both His law and His preventative admonitions. Indulge self’s desires by satiating self’s anger. Gain more for self.
In both accounts, the sinners had a choice. Yes, the temptation was there. But so too was the more excellent way [1 Corinthians 12:31].
You see, the biggest deception about temptation is that, while we temporary indulge and satisfy self, we do not gain the more that we desire. On the contrary, we lose the very thing we seek [Matthew 10:28 & 39 & 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24 & 17:33; John 12:25]–a full life [John 10:10]. All of the temporary riches and positions hold empty promises, but laying them aside to pursue the kingdom of heaven in this life brings eternally abundant life [Matthew 6:19-20 & 19:24; Mark 10:25; John 3:16].
Are you listening for God’s faithful voice in the midst of your temptations? Will you take His more excellent way so that you can carry on under the weight of them?
“For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.” Psalm 33:4
In the beginning, God said, Let there be–and all of Creation sprang forth. The Word of God spoke light and life into existence. More importantly, the Word of God has sustained, does sustain and will sustain all that He made–without question about whether He can or will.
God is faithful.
The work He began, He is and will see to the end, unswervingly [Philippians 1:6]. As the Psalmist says, God’s law is perfect and His statutes are trustworthy, His precepts are right and His decrees are firm [Psalm 19:7-9].
Law–that system of rules and regulations that govern word and deed. The world’s system is imperfect–it is flawed and lacking. But God’s law is flawless and complete. And He carries out His perfect law without fail.
Statutes–God’s laws in writing. Again, the world’s written laws are unreliable, even corrupt. People of prominence or those with connections in authority leverage their position to gain immunity. Lawmakers themselves often violate the very laws they write and expect their constituents to uphold, but find loopholes to escape the consequence. But God’s Word, His written decrees, are trustworthy. We can depend on God to always do what He said He would do–whether it be heavenly blessings for repentance and right-living or whether it be consequences for sin.
Precepts–thought and behavior regulators. The world’s patterns of thought and behavior don’t align with Our Creator’s design and are, therefore, incorrect. But God’s thoughts steadfastly transcend our own [Isaiah 55:8]. And He constantly desires to restore right thought and behavior patterns so that we may have life to the full [John 10:10; Romans 12:2].
Decrees–legal orders. The world’s authoritative orders are inconsistently meted out and enforced. As such, decrees can be whimsically reactive. They also tend to peter out over time. Not so with God. When He commands, the command faithfully stands. He is not wishy-washy that He should change His mind. He does not show favoritism that He should enforce the command with some and not others. He does not forget or lose interest or need to change His commands to accommodate for some new development in world history.
In all His ways and in all His words, God is faithful. He adheres, unwaveringly, to the truth of His nature in all things.
As we are made in His image–while we cannot ourselves make perfect laws, statutes, precepts and decrees–we can faithfully stand on the ones given to us in loving wisdom by our God who is right and true.
Are you faithfully standing on God’s Word?
“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?