So What Is God Like?…
Can We Know God Personally? If So, What Is He Like?
If God exists, the next questions becoms: What is God like? What are God’s qualities, characteristics, likes, dislikes, etc.?
Question: Do you think God can be known? Why? How?
Many people, and many religions, believe that God is so high, so great, and so mysterious that people will never be able to actually know Him. We can only hope to serve Him and to do enough good deeds so that He doesn’t zap us and destroy us in anger. Some religions also teach that God is like electricity—He is powerful, can amaze us, can hurt us, and can bless us, but we can’t be friends with God anymore than you can be friends with the electrical outlet in your bedroom.
Yet this is not what the Bible teaches about God…
Video: Team Hoyt: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/33/Together–Team-Hoyt
Look at Jesus’ words in John 15:9-16 (NIV)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you…”
Jesus calls us friends!!! We can be friends with God!!! And what do true friends know about each other? Everything!!! We get to know God like a best friend!!!
Question: So what is it like to be loved by God and to be His friend?
What is God like? Here are a few stories…
Hosea 11:1-8 (New Living Translation):
God’s Love for Israel
“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and I called my son out of Egypt.
But the more I called to him,
the farther he moved from me,
offering sacrifices to the images of Baal
and burning incense to idols.
I myself taught Israel how to walk,
leading him along by the hand.
But he doesn’t know or even care
that it was I who took care of him.
I led Israel along
with my ropes of kindness and love.
I lifted the yoke from his neck,
and I myself stooped to feed him.
But since my people refuse to return to me,
they will return to Egypt
and will be forced to serve Assyria.
War will swirl through their cities;
their enemies will crash through their gates.
They will destroy them,
trapping them in their own evil plans.
For my people are determined to desert me.
They call me the Most High,
but they don’t truly honor me.
Oh, how can I give you up, Israel?
How can I let you go?
How can I destroy you like Admah
or demolish you like Zeboiim?
My heart is torn within me,
and my compassion overflows.”
Deuteronomy 32:9-14 (The Message)
“But God himself took charge of his people, took Jacob on as his personal concern.
He found him out in the wilderness, in an empty, windswept wasteland. He threw his arms around him, lavished attention on him, guarding him as the apple of his eye. He was like an eagle hovering over its nest, overshadowing its young, Then spreading its wings, lifting them into the air, teaching them to fly.”
Luke 15:20-24 (NIV)
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.[b]‘
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
This is what God is like, this is what Jesus is like. And He wants to be your friend. Will you choose to believe in Him, even though you can’t see Him right now? Will you choose to trust in Jesus as your Savior, asking for His forgiveness? Will you choose to get to know Him better by reading the Bible and continuing to attend church? I hope so…you’ll never regret it!
God Pursues Us
God has been with us every day of our lives, whether we:
-Believe in Him or not
-Love Him or not
-Spend time with Him or ignore Him
-Listen to Him or don’t care about His opinion on your life
-Follow only our own cleverly invented ideas of who WE THINK God is, as opposed to Who He actually is…
He has been wooing us,
taking care of us,
drawing us close to Him,
inviting us to connect with Him every day of our lives…
…and He has been doing this by taking “very much care of you” (as my three year old daughter Autumn says), even though we don’t deserve it.
Question: Has anyone ever successfully comforted you when you were sad, disappointed, frustrated, angry, hurt, scared, etc.?
What a blessing.
Think back to what that person(s) did to help you feel better. Think back also to how the experience of them comforting you in your pain helped the two of you to grow closer as friends, family members, etc.
Luke 11:11-13 NIV: Jesus said,
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
What is Jesus saying here?
If we know how to take care of those we love,
If sinners like us know how to successfully comfort someone who is hurting,
Doesn’t the perfect God of the universe–whose very nature IS love—know how to take good care of us?
If we give our lives—
dreams, hurts, sins, wishes, desires, fears, talents, money, time, attention—
over to Him,
won’t He take “very much care” of our lives, much better than we could do with our lives on our own?
Here’s my point: Every time we have ever been sad, disappointed, frustrated, angry, hurt, scared–GOD HIMSELF has comforted us.
Now someone might say: No way. God didn’t comfort me. I simply “got over” my sadness “over time.”
Fair enough. Let’s talk about that.
No one ever just “gets over” something on their own.
I am teaching my son 21 month old son Elijah how to walk up the stairs, and I will hold his hand so that he doesn’t fall.
But sometimes I’m in a hurry, and I will literally pick his whole body up by his one hand and carry him up the entire flight of stairs in around 4 seconds (even though this is probably wildly unhealthy for his poor wrist ligaments!).
In his mind, he probably thinks he just “got over” the stairs nicely, did a great job climbing, huh?
But we all know that he didn’t just “get over” the stairs on his own;
I carried him; I did the hard work; he was just along for the ride.
And some say “time heals all wounds.” Wrong. Scientifically–AND THEOLOGICALLY–this statement is wrong. A rusty car in your driveway, if left there, will still be rusty in a week, month, year, decade. It will not “unrust” by itself over time. This is the law of entropy. Over time, if left alone, everything gets worst, starts to break down, etc. Now the car can get cleaned up, buffed, waxed, repainted, repaired, etc. But only if a skilled technician puts his/her attention, effort, skill, and resources toward it.
The same is true with us.
Whenever we have ever “gotten over” a disappointment, GOD is the reason we have gotten over it, GOD is the reason that, in those moments when our pain starts to fade a bit and we start to laugh again with tears still damp on our faces, we begin to feel life and joy again. God has been comforting us the whole time, and He has done so because He loves us UNCONDITIONALLY, whether we love Him back or not.
I bring this all up because this helps me want God, this helps me pursue God when I want to do anything else but pursue Him.
And so here we are on this retreat, trying to get to know God better; we might think God is all about RULES, or that GOD is an emotionless cosmic robot who punishes and rewards people in ways that are beyond our understanding.
But God is not that way; that is not how He reveals Himself through the Bible.
He is loving,
He is kind, and
He has been (and will be!) with us everyday,
whether we ever believe in Him or not.
Doesn’t that fact make you want to love God back, want to get to know Him better, want to maybe even surrender your entire life to Him?
‘Cuz if He blesses us so much when we clutch our life and keep it from Him,
when we cover up our shame
and take all the credit for our victories,
imagine what He can do when we freely and willingly give ourselves completely over to Him through faith in His Son Jesus…
Jeremiah 29:11-14 (The Message): God Himself says,
“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home.
I know what I’m doing.
I have it all planned out—
plans to take care of you,
not abandon you,
plans to give you the future you hope for.
When you call on me,
when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else,
I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. God’s Decree.”
God pursues you everyday…
…won’t you start pursuing Him back?
Closing: Let me close with a story that shows us what God is like…
A Story of a Father’s Unconditional Love
This is a story about a girl and her father. The girl grew up on a cherry orchard in Traverse City, Michigan. Her parents, in her mind, were a bit old-fashioned. They tended to criticize her music, her makeup, and the length of her skirts. They grounded her a few times, and she seethed inside. “I hate you!” she screamed at her father after an argument, and that night she acted on a plan she had mentally rehearsed scores of times. She ran away. She wanted to live life her way—she was old enough and knew enough about life now. She didn’t need her parents. Because her parents knew about the gangs, the drugs, and the violence in downtown Detroit, she concluded that it would be the last place they would look for her. California, maybe, or Florida, but not Detroit. So she packed her bags and left home.
The girl decided to go her own way. Her second day in Detroit she met a man (the Boss) who drove an expensive car. He offered her a ride, bought her lunch, arranged a place for her to stay. He gave her some pills that make her feel better than she’d ever felt before. The pampered life continued for a month, two months, a year. After a year the first signs of illness appeared, and it amazed her how fast the boss turned mean, and before she knew it she was out on the street without a penny to her name. When winter came she found herself sleeping on metal grates outside the big department stores but she only half-slept because a teenage girl at night in downtown Detroit can never relax her guard. Dark bands circled her eyes. Her cough worsened. One night as she lay awake listening for footsteps, she no longer felt like a woman of the world. She felt like a little girl, lost in a cold and frightening city. She began to whimper. Her pockets were empty and she was hungry. She wanted a fix. She pulled her legs tight underneath her and shivered under the newspapers she used for covers. Something jolted a spark of memory and a single image filled her mind: of May in Traverse City, when a million cherry trees bloom at once, with her golden retriever dashing through the rows and rows of blossomy trees in chase of a tennis ball. “God, why did I leave?” she said to herself, and pain stabbed at her heart. “My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She sobbed, and she knew in a flash that more than anything else in the world she wanted to go home.
The young girl learned that the life of her dreams was a living nightmare. She phoned to see if the doors of home were open to her. Three straight phone calls, three straight connections with the answering machine. She hung up without leaving a message the first two times, but the third time she said, “Dad, Mom, it’s me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, well, I guess I’ll just stay on the bus until it hits Canada.” It takes about seven hours for a bus to make all the stops between Detroit and Traverse City, and during that time she realized the flaws in her plan. What if her parents were out of town and missed the message? Shouldn’t she have waited another day or so until she could talk to them? And even if they were home, they probably wrote her off as dead long ago. Her thoughts bounced back and forth between those worries and the speech she was preparing for her father. “Dad, I’m sorry. I know I was wrong. It’s not your fault; it’s all mine. Dad, can you forgive me?” She said the words over and over, her throat tightening even as she rehearsed them. But she had made her choice.
The girl had a choice to make, so she got on the bus and headed home. Every so often she spied a sign posting the mileage to Traverse City. When the bus finally rolled into the station, the driver announced “Fifteen minutes, folks.” Fifteen minutes to decide her life. She checked herself in a compact mirror, smoothed her hair, and licked the lipstick off her teeth. She looked at the tobacco stains on her fingertips, and wondered if her parents would notice. If they were even there. She had come a long way from Traverse City to Detroit and full circle back.
The girl tentatively walked into the terminal not knowing what to expect. Not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind could have prepared her for what she saw. There, in that bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stood a group of forty: brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and great-grandmother. They were all wearing party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal was a banner that read “Welcome home!” Out of the crowd of well-wishers broke her Mom and Dad. She stared out through the tears quivering in her eyes and began the memorized speech, “Dad, I’m sorry. I know….” He interrupted her. “Hush, child. We know. We’ll have plenty of time to talk later. But we don’t want to be late for the party. There’s even more people waiting for you at home.”
This is what God is like, students—and He invites you to know Him, love Him, be His son/daughter, enjoy Him, serve Him, trust Him, and be filled with HIM! What will you choose?
Closing Song: “Will You Take Me As I Am?” by Lecrae
Discussion Group Questions:
1. Why does it matter that we can know God, that He wants to be our friend? Is this better or worse than other religions that state that we cannot know God because He is too big, too holy, too awesome, too perfect, etc.?
2. What are some of the views about what God is like that keep people away from/scared of God?
3. Based on the Bible, what is God really like?
4. After hearing this lesson, what is God like to you?
5. So will you run toward God or run away from Him? How will you do this?
6. Will you choose to be Jesus’ friend, to believe in Him, trust in Him, love and obey Him, and seek Him, even if you can’t see Him? If so, how will you put that choice into action?