The Identification of a Personal God

The Identification Of a Personal God

Chapter Seven

The Identification Of a Personal God
The God With A Beautiful Face! 87 A Man Of Sorrows 92
Fully Man – Fully God 88 Out Of The Ivory Palaces 93
Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job 89 He Is Nearer Than You Think! 94
God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear! 90 Discussion Questions 95
"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People" 91    

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

The God With A Beautiful Face!

One little frightened girl in a dark room cried out to her mother to quickly come to her. The mother went to the dark room and reassured the daughter that God would take care of her. The little girl replied: "But God has no face!"

A small boy was gazing at a picture of his father who was away for several months. Exclaimed the boy: "I wish daddy would step out of that picture and be here in person with me just now!"

That is what God did! Christianity declares that God stepped out of His vast universe and became a real man with a real face. Jesus gave God a face! Jesus is the God with a beautiful face! Because Jesus is God, God is approachable, available, lovable!

One woman who was struggling to make a surrender to God was making little progress. The very thought of God terrified her! Finally a friend said, "If you were asked to make a surrender to Jesus, would that be difficult?" "Oh, no!" replied the woman. "Jesus is so beautiful. I could easily surrender!" She was told to surrender herself to Jesus. When you surrender to Jesus, you surrender to God! The beautiful face of Jesus is the very face of God! What Jesus was, God has always been!

John writes, "In the beginning was the Word." Jesus is called the 'Word' for, just as one's words express one's hidden thoughts, so Jesus communicates the hidden thoughts and plans of the Almighty God!

The writer of the book of Hebrews clearly states that Jesus, the Son, is the heir, agent, and preserver of the created universe! "But in the last of these days He has spoken to us in (the person of a) Son Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time–(that is) He made, produced, built, operated and arranged them in order. He is the sole expression of the glory of God–the Light-being, the outraying of the divine–and He is the perfect imprint and very image of (God's) nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power." (Hebrews 1:2-3) (Amplified version) The beautiful creation is the product of the beautiful Son. A little girl who had lived all her life in a large city, was taken for a day in the country. When she saw the beautiful bluebells in the woods, she asked, "Do you think God would mind if I plucked some of His flowers?" (Daily Study Bible; Barclay; John Vol. 1; pg. 201)

"God, how can I longer be terrified by you when I behold your face in the face of Jesus Christ! Such beauty, such love, such acceptance! Surrendering to Jesus, I surrender to you! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My struggle shall turn to surrender, my terror to confidence, when I look upon the beautiful face of Jesus!

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Colossians 2:9-10; John 1:9, John 1:14

Fully Man – Fully God

John declares that Jesus is not only the Eternal Word, but that Jesus is also the Incarnate Word. John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John 1:14)

'Coming' denotes continuous action. Gradually the constant eternal light of God's truth was being revealed in many ways and at various times.

'True light' means that all other lights are only partial rays or reflections, imperfect, incomplete, transitory.

'Lights every man' means that no person is without some degree of light. The light of truth which came in various ways at various times in history (Hebrews 1:1-4) was culminated in Jesus Christ!

God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man! "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman." (Galatians 4:4)

Jesus was fully God! Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9) Jesus' disciples who knew Him most intimately, declared Jesus as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2:22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless!

Jesus was fully Man! Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man." (Philippians 2:7) The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the fact of Jesus' humanity. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same;… For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham… that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." (See Hebrews 2:14-18.)

"Because Jesus was fully human, He identifies completely with the human race. Because Jesus was truly God, He provides a perfect sacrifice for the human race. Thank you, God, for giving the world the Perfect God-Man. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The lesser lights will lead me to the greatest Light. I will follow on until I find the 'Light of the World.'

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1 John 1:1-7

Jesus Is Not A Put-Up Job

Notes J. B. Phillips, "Now once you honestly reach this conclusion that Christ was God–God revealed as fully as is possible, in a human being–you certainly don't know all the answers, but you have a remarkable amount of light to live by. For one thing, it revolutionizes your conception of the character of God. You don't see him any longer as a remote and terrifying being insulated from human life. You see him as God who so loved Man that he became Man. It was not a put-up job. He did it properly, without supernatural advantages, and he lived and died in the sweat and pain of human life. This is not one of those pagan legends about one of the gods disguised as a human being: this is the real thing. And once you see what God really was and did and suffered, you begin to see what kind of a person he is, and you have a powerful clue to his long and patient purpose." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 72, 73)

The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants a more organized method to carry their heavy pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of the confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.

The naturalist who viewed the ants wished only to become an ant in order to help them. Christ only became a man in order to release man from his bondage of sin. But Christ "came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11)

Why does man reject the Son of God? John well knew the reason when he wrote, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:19-20)

God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced as self-fulfillment. Wrong concepts and attitudes must be surrendered if we are to experience the Light of God as self-fulfillment. Jesus calls us, as He called the Jews of His day, to surrender (a) false Messianic conceptions, (b) legalistic systems of self-salvation, (c) nationalistic pride.

"Jesus, I am beginning to realize that you are 'the real thing.' You are not a god simply disguised as a human being, but you are truly human and yet truly God! You revolutionize my concept of God, for you are God fully revealed in human form. What a mystery, and yet, what a revelation! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Self-surrender will lead me to self-fulfillment; walking in the light of truth will lead me to the Light of the world!

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John 3:16-21

God's Light Can Soothe Or Sear!

The Jews of Jesus' day needed to surrender certain things if they were to experience God's Light as self-fulfillment. And so must we.

First, false Messianic conceptions need to be surrendered. The Jews' physicalistic concept of the Messiah caused them to believe that God would always save them and always destroy their enemies. People still try to use God for selfish reasons. Some expect God to protect them and make them happy and prosperous, regardless of their lack of repentance, confession, restitution, discipleship, or involvement in human suffering. We must realize, even though the Jews failed to realize, that God's first concern is our holiness, and only secondarily our happiness and material prosperity.

Second, legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. The Jews believed that moral justification could be found through outward observance of written law. They failed to understand the law's purpose (to define sin; to magnify sin; to humble man and to drive him to Christ). Law was not given to save man but to show man that salvation can be found only in Christ. Their wrong conception of law led to hypocrisy and shallowness in spiritual understanding. Attempts at self-salvation led to religious pride. Religious evasion became an accomplished art. External respectability was used to cover up internal heart corruption. Modern man also often prides himself in law-keeping or in religious observances, rituals, moralism, ethics, and philosophy. Some seek to balance their moral account with God by good deeds. But, breaking one of the commandments makes one as guilty as the man who has broken many of the commandments (James 2:10)! The Light of God can only be known as self-fulfillment through surrender of pride and moral self-sufficiency.

Third, nationalistic pride must be surrendered. The Jews believed that God was unconditionally 'married' to Israel–to protect her, to prosper her. Israel believed all other people to be inferior, objects of God's judgment. Thus, Israel believed her salvation to be automatically guaranteed by virtue of racial descent from Abraham. Some modern Americans assume, sometimes subconsciously, that God favors America and that God is unconditionally obligated to advance America's interests, regardless of personal repentance and faith. Only when we realize that God's covenants are conditional, and then humble ourselves in repentance, can we know the Light of God as self-fulfillment. God's light can soothe or sear, save or condemn, depending upon man's response to it.

"God, give me courage to surrender my wrong concepts to you in order that I may receive your Truth. I confess that often I have tried to earn salvation through mere human effort or moral performance. I reject the false and accept the True! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's Light will heal me, not hurt me; save me, not condemn me; soothe me, not sear me!

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Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 5:7-10

"He Hath Visited And Redeemed His People"

The Bible says, "He (God) hath visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68) Says E. Stanley Jones: "The only way to redeem His people was to visit them. He couldn't sit on a cloud and utter commands or pick us up and take us to heaven with celestial tongs, not soiling His fingers with the messy business of human living. No, He dwelt among us–amid our poverty, amid our temptations, amid our problems and choices, amid our oppositions and disappointments. He lived among us and showed us how to live by living." (Word Became Flesh; pg. 34)

God, in the person of Jesus, knew what it was to pass through childhood, adolescence, and manhood–with all of the temptations unique to each stage. Jesus, like us, felt the pull of materialism, the pull to popularity at any cost, the pull to accomplish the right ends with the wrong means. He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus understood what poverty was all about. After Jesus had entered into His public ministry, on one occasion He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

Jesus understood the challenge of involvement with people, for he worked with all sorts of people–religious and profane, literate and illiterate, high and low, rich and poor, young and old, healthy and sick, Jew and Gentile, urban and rural. He understood the complexities of human relationships and the subtleties of human nature.

Jesus understood what it was to be misunderstood, rejected, and despised, and he also knew what it was to be hailed, praised, and followed. Jesus knew abounding times and abasing times, prosperity and poverty, apparent success and apparent failure, companionship and loneliness, joy and sorrow, acceptance and rejection. Through all the changes and chances, due to the ebb and flow of life, Jesus learned to be master of circumstances. As we would say today, Jesus learned to cope with life, to cope with the challenges and the responsibilities of life. Jesus' life demonstrates God's total identification and involvement with man's daily changing experiences.

Jesus even identified with man's sins. "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

"Jesus, you hit rock bottom in your identification with mankind when you went to the Cross for my sins! No one but God could demonstrate such love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: In His total identification with mankind, Jesus gave Himself totally for my redemption. Nothing less than the total giving of my Self to God is worthy of God's infinite love for me.

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Isaiah 53:1-4

A Man Of Sorrows

Most scholars believe that the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 is a description of Jesus Christ.

The sorrows and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Wrote Kagawa, the great Japanese missionary: "God dwells among the lowliest of men. He sits on the dust heap among the prison convicts. He stands with the juvenile delinquents. He is there with the beggars. He is among the sick. He stands with the unemployed. Therefore let him who would meet God visit the prison cell before going to the temple. Before he goes to Church let him visit the hospital. Before he reads his Bible let him help the beggar." There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Picture Jesus as He makes His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the graveside of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. Go with Jesus to the Mount that overlooks Jerusalem; and witness Jesus' tear-soaked cheeks as he cries out, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is left unto the desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son–Christ could not bear it! The leper, the innocent, once gay young life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death–Christ could not bear it. 'I will, be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery–Christ could not bear it. And so He died to free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion.'

'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, 
Pure, unbounded love Thou art; 
Visit us with Thy salvation, 
Enter every trembling heart.'

But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life; Stewart; pg. 197)

"Do you care, God, when my days are weary and my nights are dreary, when my heart nearly breaks with sorrow? O yes, I know you care, for I see Jesus moving among suffering humanity, applying His touch of healing. Let Jesus touch me! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because Jesus was acquainted with grief, I will not detach myself from grieving persons.

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Philippians 2:4-8; 2 Corinthians 8:9

Out Of The Ivory Palaces

"Many years ago, when the Duke of Windsor was the Prince of Wales, he one day left Buckingham Palace, journeyed west into the coal mining country, put on a miner's cap, and went down into the dingy tunnels to see for himself the conditions in which men toiled in a difficult and dangerous branch of British industry. As a member of the royal family he was as much a prince in the coal mine as he was when he lived in the palace in London. But, while his essential equality with royalty was unchanged, there was no longer an equality of experience. He had consented to enter into experiences that never came to him amid the elegances and immunities of the palace." (Proclaiming the New Testament; Paul Rees; pg. 44)

Jesus was still the royal Son of God while he dwelt on earth, but Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to accept the poorness of humanity. As 2 Corinthians 8:9 points out, the costliness of the Incarnation is seen in three facts: (1) how rich Jesus was, (2) how poor He became, and (3) how wealthy he made us.

Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe–all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-equal with the Father and the Spirit–this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!

Says Bishop Sheen: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting as beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat… There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable… The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of the Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manger. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."

"Jesus, your very name means 'Love' to me! Love can go down. You went down into the very pits of sin to rescue sinners! You left the glories of heaven to experience the miseries of earth! All because You loved a sinner like me!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus humbled Himself to serve all; I will surrender myself to serve Him!

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Psalms 145:14-21

He Is Nearer Than You Think!

The Incarnation teaches us that God, far from being detached and disinterested in man, is instead the God who has taken the initiative in seeking and saving mankind! There is a story of a woman who was trying to find God. "She had a certain dream which she dreamed more than once, namely, that she was standing in front of a thick, plate glass window. As she looked at it, she seemed to see God on the other side. She hammered on the window, trying to attract His attention, but without success. She grew more and more desperate, and began to call to Him and found herself shrieking at the top of her voice. And then a quiet, calm voice at her side said: 'Why are you making so much noise? There is nothing between us.' Perhaps that illustrates our difficulty, does it not? We have been thinking all along that God was somewhere far away, unapproachable… some place that was difficult of access… and we have been groping around for a long time, and all the while He is standing beside us." (Mr. Jones, Meet the Master; Peter Marshall; pg. 131)

It is a great thing to know that God loves the human race–corporately yes, but more amazingly, individually. Paul Rees tells of a community canvass being made. At a certain door the questioner asked the woman who answered his knock what children she had. She began, 'Well, there's Willie, and Horace.' But the canvasser interrupted, 'Never mind names, I just want numbers.' Then she grew impatient and a bit indignant. 'They haven't got numbers,' she protested. 'Every one of them's got a name.' Concludes Paul Rees: "They had personalities that spoke with all the eloquence of their individual characteristics… So God looks upon His human creatures." (Stand Up in Praise to God; Paul Rees; pg. 23-24)

Jesus was made rich but He became poor in order that, through His poverty, we might be made rich! The way God accomplished this purpose is most mysterious and wonderful! "It is fifteen hundred years ago that this apparently invincible Empire (of Rome) utterly collapsed, and all that is left of it is ruins. Yet the little baby, born in such pitiful humility and cut down as a young man in his prime, commands the allegiance of millions of people all over the world. Although they have never seen him, he has become friend and companion to innumerable people. This undeniable fact is, by any measurement, the most astonishing phenomenon in human history. It is a solid rock of evidence which no agnostic can ever explain away." (Good News; J. B. Phillips; pg. 162-163)

"God, forgive me for groping around so long, trying to find You when You have already found me! You are nearer to me than I ever dreamed! Your initiating love is not only for the world as a whole, but for me as a person! Amazing!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will listen attentively to the quiet, calm voice at my side. It sounds like the voice of Love!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Identification Of A Personal God'

  1. What is meant by the statement: "Jesus gave God a Face!"

  2. Why is Jesus called 'the Word'? (John 1:1, John 1:14)

  3. Who does the writer of Hebrews (in Hebrews 1:2-3) declare that Jesus is?

  4. What significant truths regarding God's plan of salvation can you describe, as noted in John 1:9?

  5. What declaration from the lips of Jesus' disciples offers strong evidence for the deity of Jesus?

  6. What evidence from Scripture can you cite for the true humanity of Jesus Christ? (Note Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14-18.)

  7. Why must Jesus be fully Man and yet fully God in order for Him to be the Savior of mankind?

  8. How does acceptance of the conclusion that Jesus was God revolutionize your conception of the character of God?

  9. What was the purpose for which God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ?

  10. According to John 3:19-20, why do people reject the Son of God?

  11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God's light must be experienced as self-surrender before it can be experienced and enjoyed as self-fulfillment."

  12. What false Messianic conceptions regarding the mission of Jesus, did the Jews of Jesus' day hold? What are some of the false conceptions people have today regarding the mission of Jesus?

  13. What is meant by the statement: "Legalistic systems of self-salvation must be surrendered. "What behavioral manifestations will likely be evident in the life of the person who seeks to live by law rather than by grace?

  14. Were God's covenants with Israel conditional or unconditional? Is God obligated to favor America, regardless of the degree of America's obedience to God's revealed moral laws and will? What is meant by the expression: "God's light can soothe or sear!"

  15. Name several ways in which Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, identified with the human race when He was on the earth.

  16. Describe what is meant by Bishop Sheen's statement: "Divinity is always where one least expects to find it."

  17. What is there about Jesus that makes Him and the movement that bears His name–Christianity–one of the most astonishing phenomena of human history?

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