Maybe I overstated the case in the previous post. I titled it “The Downside to a Personal Relationship with God.” There is no doubt that some people may object to that title; they see absolutely no “downside” to having a personal relationship with God. Maybe I used that title to try to catch attention [which I often do with titles]. Maybe I was trying to make a point that in an effort to make God more approachable, we make God smaller than He really is. Indeed, if we try to do that, there is a “downside”.
My blog is dedicated to discussing other writers’ thoughts and in this case I am reflecting the writings of J.I. Packer, who has a real problem when contemporary Christians don’t hold God in utmost reverence.
Packer feels we should see God as “majestic”.
But how do we get to the point in our Christian lives when we begin to see God as majestic? What do we need to do to “form a right idea of God’s greatness?” Packer says “the Bible teaches us two steps that we must take.”
In this post, I will discuss the first of those steps: “remove from our thoughts of God limits that would make Him small.”
I have had the opportunity to read Psalm 139 as part of the worship service at my church so I am very familiar with it. It is an absolute statement of the presence, the knowledge and the power of God. Psalm 139 will help us remove from our thoughts all limits about God. It bears repeating here as a true testament to God’s greatness. “You hem me in—behind and before….Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens [the sky], you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [the underworld], you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, I still cannot escape from the presence of God: even there your hand will guide me…nor can darkness, which hides me from human sight shield me from God’s gaze.”
Do you read anything in the Psalm 139 that even hints at a diminished God? The way I read it, God’s power is infinite, His knowledge is unlimited. How could anyone think that God is not majestic as you read those words? I would add to the word majestic the word omnipresent. I would also admit as a sinner that Psalm 139 makes me uncomfortable; when I sin, I can try to run from God but I certainly cannot hide. God is everywhere.
As we ponder the idea that our great God is everywhere, we also need to recognize that God knows everything. There are no limits to His knowledge of us. Again from Psalm 139, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise [all my actions and movements]; you perceive my thoughts [all that goes on in my mind] from afar….You are familiar with all my ways [all my habits, plans, aims, desires as well as all my life to date]. Before a word is on my tongue [spoken, or meditated] you know it completely Lord” [Psalm 139, Packer, 85]. Most of us try to hide the feelings of our heart. Some of us try to hide our past. Many don’t divulge future plans but all of this is silly, for God knows everything about us. We cannot hide our thoughts from God. Packer writes “He sees through all my reserve and pretense; He knows me as I really am, better indeed than I know myself” .
Think about it. A god [note the small g] that we can hide from would indeed be a small god. Our God sees all and knows all. “The true God is great and terrible, just because He is always with me and His eye is always on me. Living becomes an awesome business when you realize that you spend every moment of your life in the sight and company of an omniscient, omnipresent God” .
Finally the Bible is full of scripture that points to God as “almighty.” “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; He suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in His clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading His clouds over it. He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at His rebuke. By His power He churned up the sea; by His wisdom He cut Rahab to pieces. By His breath the skies became fair; His hand pierced the gliding serpent. And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him! Who then can understand the thunder of His power?” [Job 26: 7-14]. Did you note the phrase “these are but the outer fringe of His works”, the outer fringe. God is capable of doing what He wants to; His resources are unlimited and His power is beyond human comprehension.
Packer is serious when he states that it should be our job as Christians to think thoughts of God’s greatness; banish all thoughts that would make Him small. He is worthy of praise. Maybe the title of my previous post is a bit dramatic. Maybe there is really no “downside” of a personal relationship with God.
The downside comes in our thoughts about our Maker. Packer turns to his own physical body as testament of the almighty power of God; maybe we should too. Again, the psalmist in Psalm 139 says it best: “praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
His wonderful works include you and they include me. The least we can do as believers is to let our thoughts reflect that.
Remove all our thought that God is small; He is a great God, an all-powerful God, always present and all knowing.
Indeed He is majestic.