“We try to promote religion, forgetting that it rests upon the character of God. If I have a low concept of God, my religion can only be a cheap, watery affair. But if my concept of God is worthy of God then it can be noble and dignified; it can be reverent, profound, beautiful. This is what I want to see once more among men. Pray that way, won’t you?”
The Attributes of God, volume 1, by A.W. Tozer, p. 195
So, what is the character of God?
According to Tozer, it’s infinity and immensity, grace and mercy, justice and goodness, everywhere and inside us, holy and perfect.
All of those things together, beyond measure, full and complete, the very definition of each of those attributes.
How can we comprehend that?
We can’t. Not with our finite minds.
This should be our concept of God.
God is …
God is not measured by time or space. He cannot be measured by anything at all. He is outside of space. God is as intimate with the farthest galaxy as he is with you and me, and our deepest thoughts, here on Earth.
When the apostles wrote in the New Testament that they were living in the last hour (1 John 2:18), they weren’t exaggerating. We are living in the last hour too. So were Adam and Eve. Time, from beginning to end, is a blip on God’s radar screen. A thousand years are like a day to God, the Psalmist says (Psalm 90:4).
God is grace. God is mercy. God is justice. All the time. God has never been more full of grace than He is now, and He will never have more grace in the future than He does now. He does not have more grace now than he did when He created Adam and Eve.
To say God is full of grace is to miss the point. “Full” is a measurement; it assumes that at one point, God was not full. Which isn’t true. That’s why God is grace. He’s never not been full of grace.
Or mercy. Or justice. Or holiness. Or perfection.
We are sinners, which is why grace, mercy and justice are needed. God has done the work to provide them to us. If we accept His gift (Jesus’ death and resurrection), we are forgiven and can look forward to an eternal home in heaven. If we reject His gift, God honors that too. With a home in hell.
If you reject God, you wouldn’t be happy in heaven living in God’s presence all the time, would you? So you won’t be.
Unless you change your mind.
We cannot attain the attributes of God on our own. Not the way God has them, or is them.
We are …
In contrast, God gives us Solomon as an example. We Americans could learn a lot from him, by reading the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.
Solomon, considered by many to be the wisest man who ever lived, wrote this as his life’s goal: I said to myself: “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. (Ecclesiastes 1:16-17)
If Solomon had been satisfied with wisdom, he’d have been all right, I think, in his pursuit of God. But he also wanted to know madness and folly.
God granted him both wishes. He had great wealth, wives and slaves, great cities under his control, any pleasure he wanted … and none of it satisfied him.
Is this not what the United States is all about? Life, liberty and the pursuit of (my) happiness – exactly the things Solomon sought. Wisdom and madness.
We pursue a fast-food hamburger that leaves us hungry a short time later and miss the rainbow that reveals God’s timeless beauty and love.
At the end of his life, Solomon had a revelation: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
All his life, Solomon took his eyes off of the great, eternal God, and focused on cheap, imitation earthly things. That’s why he was never satisfied. He kept searching for what was with him all the time: God’s presence. And he missed it.
God does …
While God is outside of time and space, He also is intimately involved with us. He knows our every thought and deed, whether good or evil. He even knows how many hairs are on our heads (Luke 12:7).
God is not three parts. He is one, in different forms: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I can try to explain this, but I can’t do it. Neither could Tozer.
God knew before he created Adam and Eve that we all would need redemption. Jesus didn’t come to this earth kicking and screaming like an angry parent scolding a wayward child. He came because He wanted to redeem us, to draw us into fellowship with Him. He came because He loves us, with an unconditional love that we cannot understand.
Why does God love us like that? There’s no point even asking that question, Tozer writes. We cannot know. God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension. Why the God of the universe, who has always existed outside of time and who lives outside of space, wants to invite us into His realm is unfathomable.
But He does.
And God did the work to do that when He entered a woman’s body, then lived, died and was resurrected to pay the price for my sins, which otherwise would leave me guilty when God judges the world.
To what end?
Not just salvation. If salvation was the end goal, each redeemed sinner would immediately get transported to heaven.
We do …
No, we are to live redeemed lives, that others may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven.
We are to pursue God. We are to become more like Him, take on His character traits – goodness, mercy, grace, justice.
Holiness and perfection we cannot ever attain.
We can, to a limited degree, understand goodness, mercy, grace and justice – not as God understands them, but in a now-we-see-in-a-mirror-dimly kind of way.
God holds many mysteries, traits we will never understand about Him. That’s a good thing. His justice, for example, is not clouded by our version of truth, but by the whole truth – which only He knows. As a human, I can hide my motives from you, prevent you from ever seeing my secret heart. But the living God sees it. And judges accordingly, rightly, as only He can.
Which is why grace is so powerful, and so beyond our ability to comprehend.
This is the character of God.
“Oh God, send us out not only to make converts, but to glorify the Father and to hold up the beauty of Jesus Christ to men.”
The Attributes of God, volume 1, by A.W. Tozer, p. 196