Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Attributes of God: God is Light

God is Spirit. God is Light. And God is Love. This is the insight we gain from John into the person of God. This post deviates from grace, to talk about the phrase “God is Light”.

We don’t understand the significance of this phrase because light has become mundane for us. It is not only mundane, it is now subject to our command. We can flip a switch at will. And in doing so, we sometimes jokingly refer to the first words of God in the Bible:

Let there be light.

These first words are packed with so much power and truth, yet we so easily glance over it. It has become familiar to us – mundane was the word I used.

We need to look afresh at these very words. God is Light. And the first words we know He said were “Let there be light.”

Or, “Let there be God.”

I do not take this to mean God created Himself. No, the very existence of God lies outside of our understanding. What is the Clay to say to the Potter, “Why have you made me like this?” What more can the Clay say to the Potter, “Who made you?”

Instead, I take it to be the truest expression of God. God revealed Himself. It is who He is. He reveals Himself. Genesis was the revelation of God in creation. Without light we do not see. By light, we see everything. All of creation, we see by light. Therefore, is it not unsurprising that His first words were as such? For all things reveal God, and God reveals Himself through all things.

Yet we take this for granted as well. Creation has become mundane to us. We are no longer awed by it. Perhaps we’re surrounded by familiar sights. The same wall that lies beyond the screen of my laptop. The table cluttered with books on which my laptop rests. These are familiar sights. So familiar that I give them no second thought.

This is a testament of man in his utter rebellion. He does not treasure light. He does not treasure all that it reveals. He is merely interested in subjecting it to his will. As such, how can he even begin to treasure its source?

But once again, we can treasure light, as it was, and as it truly is. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is the marvelous light of redemption by which we can perceive everything anew!

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shined

This is the ‘true light’ as John calls it. The marvelous light of redemption. For a people condemned to eternal wrath by their rebellion against God, God has said once again, “Let there be light.” This light is Jesus Christ. The Jesus who died for our sin, taking upon Himself the wrath of God, and was raised for our righteousness, a righteousness we cannot earn; rather His righteousness is now credited to us if we accept Jesus as Lord. The good news of what Jesus did on the cross – this is the marvelous light of redemption.

Those who live in Jesus, the one who died for our sins and was raised for our justification, live in the light. And those living in the light, do not live in darkness. Yes they are surrounded by a land of deep darkness. But on them a light has shined. A light that overcomes the darkness. It is everything bright and true. It is everything good. By this light we see things as they were, good. We see man as he was. Very good. We see things as they are now. Subject to futility. We see man as he is now. Utterly sinful and deserving of the wrath of God. And by this light, we see clearly who we are now. Saved. By grace. I guess we can never stray too far from grace.

Because we can never stray too far from the cross. The marvelous light of redemption. And it is by this light that we live. Despite the greatest of temptations, this light has overcome all darkness. Sin has lost its power. Keep bearing in mind this is the light that has given us this life. Keep bearing in mind this is the light in whom we live. Keep bearing in mind the power of this light in whom we live.

Dare we treat light so mundanely? Perhaps you might think differently next time you switch on your lights.

The Attributes of God: The mystery of grace, Part 1

I’ve felt prompted for quite some time now to write a post on the grace of God. But I’ve been cracking my head trying to think up a metaphor that beautifully illustrates the grace of God, and haven’t been able to find one. Which is why I never got round to writing this.

So now that I’m writing this, does that mean I’ve thought of an illustration?

The answer is no. And yes. I have not found an illustration, but I’ve stumbled on an even bigger illustration in the process itself. The reason why I cannot find an appropriate illustration may be because I’m just not a very creative person. But deep down, I also believe it’s because nothing comes close to illustrating the grace of God, unique and incomprehensible in its very nature.

How do you define grace? There are several definitions I’ve found. The common one is that grace is unmerited favour. I think this does not define grace fully. Another one I’ve read is that grace is unmerited favour bestowed by God on His elect. This brings in the idea of grace being sovereign as well, that God chooses who He is gracious to. Again it is accurate, yet I feel it is incomplete.

To me the best definition of grace is this: Grace is God’s favour through Christ to people who deserve his disfavour. I’ve talked much about undeserved favour, but do we ever consider how undeserved it is?

I’m reading a book called “Living the Cross Centered Life” by C.J. Mahaney right now. In it, I was struck by the enormity of the grace of God at the cross. I’ve often mentioned how we deserve the wrath of God for our rebellion to His authority, and I’ve compared it as infinitely worse to the fear and punishment we receive from angry parents as a small child, but I have never seen it in the light portrayed in this book.

The light here is Gethsemane. I had to play the role of Jesus in Gethsemane this Easter for the Sunday School kids, and even there I realised I could barely comprehend the agony Jesus suffered during this time. Mahaney says this of Gethsemane, along with a quote taken from William Lane’s commentary on the gospel of Mark:

Jesus entered the garden ‘to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found Hell rather than Heaven open before him.’ Knowing the hour for His death is fast approaching, Jesus has come here in need as never before of His Father’s comfort and strength. instead, hell – utter separation from God – is thrust in His face.

We hear Him cry out: Father – is there an alternative? Is there any way to avoid this? If there’s a way this cup could pass from Me, would you please provide that to Me?

Silence. We can see it in His face – Jesus receives no answer to this desperate entreaty.

A second time He pleads for an alternative to that horror of abandonment by His Father. If such an alternative existed, the Father would most surely provide it. But the obedient Son’s plea to His loving Father is met with silence. Why?

Listen to this verse again for the very first time: For God so loved the world…that He is silent to His Son’s agonising appeal.

This is what bearing our sin means to Him – utter distress of soul as He confronts total abandonment and absolute wrath from His father on the cross, a distress and an abandonment and a rejection we cannot begin to grasp.

In this, our Saviour’s darkest hour…do you recognise His love for you?

The wrath of God is the thrust of Hell upon us. Eternal separation from God. Pain that Jesus chose to endure on our behalf. That is grace. We deserved everything Jesus endured, but He willingly drank of the cup of wrath so that we could drink from the cup of salvation. You cannot cherish the grace of God without truly understanding the depths of our depravity and the magnitude of the holy wrath directed at us. Mahaney ends the chapter with the following insight:

We can drink from this cup [of salvation] only because Jesus spoke those words about the other cup [of wrath]: “yet not what I will, but what you will.”

I will drink it all.

As we watch Jesus pray in agony in Gethsemane, He has every right to turn His tearful eyes toward you and me and shout, “This is your cup. You’re responsible for this. It’s your sin! You drink it.” This cup should rightfully be thrust into my hand and yours.

Instead, Jesus freely takes it Himself…so that from the cross He can look down at you and me, whisper our names, and say, “I drain this cup for you – for you who have lived in defiance of me, who have hated Me, who have opposed Me. I drink it all…for you.”

This is what our sin makes necessary. This is what’s required by your pride and my pride, by your selfishness and my selfishness, by your disobedience and my disobedience. Behold Him…behold His suffering…and recognise His love.

The love of God is a gracious love. It is a love that took our cup and drained it for us at great cost, so that we could drink from the other cup. Look no further than the cross for the illustration of grace.

And let us not spit on it.

The Attributes of God: Thunderstorms

With the recent spate of afternoon thunderstorms, it seemed fitting to use this image to illustrate my first point.

God chose to answer Job out of a storm. Why?

It took me several afternoons to appreciate the magnificence of a thunderstorm. The sheer deluge of water sweeping across the sky, the howling wind, the deafening thunder, the brilliant flashes of lightning that leave a tingle in your spine – there are massive forces at work in a thunderstorm. And for God to speak out of a storm seems most appropriate to me, that God would choose to demonstrate His power and sovereignty in such a befitting manner.

Befitting?

“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water?”

“Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”

The answer is no. No, if we are only human. But what is impossible with man is possible with God. Man attempts to predict the weather. They even try to create it. But only God can create something as magnificent as a thunderstorm.

And not only does He create it, He is in control of it! He sends the lightning bolts on their way. Who says lightning cannot strike twice? If God chooses to strike a 100 times, He can strike a 100 times.

This is the God whose power we can barely comprehend. And through Jesus Christ, He is in us.

Contemplate the sheer power we possess.