We all have questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? Who is he? What does he want from me? What is wrong with the world . . . and me? What happens after I die? How can I know for certain? These matters and many more can trouble us. But the most important questions really come down to who is God and what does he want from you?
Every person is a theologian—each of us thinks and operates out of a set of beliefs about God. A fundamental truth of theology is this: there is a God. A second truth necessarily follows: you’re not him. We may deny or at least doubt that God exists but the Scripture declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). The fool is one who lacks understanding, often arrogantly and deliberately dismissing what is obvious. This rebellion against the one true God of the Bible permits us to appoint gods of our own making (1 John 5:21), namely pursuing our own wants and desires (Philippians 3:19; James 4:1–4). Even in the perfect Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were enticed to rebel against God’s holy command so they could advance their own desires (Genesis 3:1–6).
But there is a God and you’re not him. Other questions we have in life can only be answered by starting with God. Let us consider just a few truths about who God is and what he wants from us.
The invisible God has revealed himself in many ways. One way is through the work of his hands: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20; cf. Psalm 19:1–2). He is also knowable through the human conscience. This knowledge of what is right and what is wrong reflects (albeit imperfectly) God’s moral standard of holiness (Romans 1:32). God is the source and author of all that is good, true, and right, and our capacity for moral judgment rests upon knowing him.
God has also particularly revealed himself through special means. Many supernatural historical events testify of his direct intervention, including the global Flood, the confusion of languages, and the crossing of the Red Sea. He also spoke directly to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. He revealed himself through visions and dreams (Numbers 12:6; Matthew 2:12) and, of course, through prophets and apostles (Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:15–16). This self-revelation of God has been faithfully recorded for us in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15–17).
But the Scripture identifies a fuller revelation of God: the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and surpasses all previous revelation.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. (Hebrews 1:1–2; cf. John 14:9)
With all this self-revelation, we should be persuaded that God wants us to know him (Jeremiah 9:23–24). We ought therefore to study him in creation and history; to understand and follow his moral standards; to read his written word; and to greatly esteem his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible declares, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He spoke and “all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
For thus says the Lord,
who created the heavens (he is God!),
who formed the earth and made it
(he established it;
he did not create it empty,
he formed it to be inhabited!):
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:18)
Of all his creation, humans alone are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). He made humanity (Psalm 100:3) and gave them dominion over all creation (Genesis 1:28). Thus we are able to appreciate him and to reflect his perfect attributes. He wants us to glorify him—to honor him with our words and our works—and give thanks to him (Romans 1:21). We must fear him with reverence and self-reproach so that we would not sin (Exodus 20:20), knowing that he will judge us in righteousness (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).
God keeps his promises; he cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). He is the true God (Jeremiah 10:10; John 17:3) and what he says is true (Psalm 19:9; Matthew 22:16; John 5:32). The psalmist David says,
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge. . . .
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (2 Samuel 22:2–3, 31)
When we trust God, we rest securely in his faithfulness. The Scripture says, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:10). The patriarch Abraham “trusted in the Lord, and he credited righteousness to him” (Genesis 15:6, author’s translation). The Apostle Paul encourages us to follow Abraham’s example, for “those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9). We must trust God, since “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
God doesn’t need anyone since he is sufficient for himself and truly independent. Yet from the Garden of Eden to the new heavens and new earth, God has delighted to dwell among men. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God. Many centuries later he chose the nation of Israel to be his special people, and he invited them to draw near to him (Deuteronomy 7:6–9). The Apostle John told of the time when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14)—this was the Lord Jesus Christ who lived among his people, teaching them God’s Word and healing their diseases. When Jesus returned to heaven, he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in his followers (John 15:26). The Apostle John also prophesied that in the new heavens and new earth “the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3).
Given God’s immense desire to be with humanity, it is only appropriate that we should love him, enjoying his presence and living our lives in relationship with him (James 2:23). When Jesus was asked to summarize the entire Law of Moses into the greatest commandment, he responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This love for God should characterize our thoughts, words, attitudes, actions, and affections, so that he is at the center of every aspect of our lives (Psalm 73:25–26).
All authority and power belong to God alone. He fears no challengers or usurpers.
He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15–16)
Because God is the supreme authority, we must obey him. Jesus told his followers, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). He also directed us to “make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20). We must also stand before him in judgment when we disobey. He is the lawgiver and judge and there is “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). God righteously judges and all men are worthy of eternal punishment and separation from God (Revelation 20:11–15).
Distinct from time and his creation, God has no beginning and no end. God is eternal; that is, he is outside of time (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 9:6–7; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 9:14). He alone is the living God who revealed himself to Moses as “I am” (Exodus 3:14). He has life in himself and does not depend upon anyone or anything.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24–25)
The living God created Adam and Eve to live with him and not die. But suffering and death came into the world because of Adam’s disobedience to God’s command (Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). God commanded and warned Adam, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). When our first parents ate the fruit, they were separated from God (Isaiah 59:2); became conscious of their own sin; and their physical bodies became subject to illness, infirmity, and ultimately death. Because God is eternal, the punishment for sin is also eternal (Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).
Even with this limited overview of who God is and what he expects, each of us should recognize how far we fall short of him. Every aspect of our lives is tainted by sin, and we are forced to agree with God’s assessment of humanity:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one. (Romans 3:10–12)
Is there any hope for sinners? How can what is wrong be made right? We must admit that the problem is within us and the solution must come from outside of us. We cannot save ourselves from God’s wrath, but he has made a way for us to be reconciled to him.
Jesus came “to seek and to save that the lost” (Luke 19:10). You must first admit that you are lost, separate from God because of your sin, subject to his just and holy wrath. You must confess that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)—including yourself in that confession. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).
Repentance means you must turn away from your sinful desires, thoughts, and actions, rejecting them as shameful and leading to death (Romans 6:21), and turn to God. Since an idol is anything that we worship or place trust in rather than fully trusting in God, true salvation means you have “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Because God is just, he cannot just pass over sin and excuse it with a divine decree. Consequently, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The first shedding of blood was the animal that died to provide “garments of skins” to cover the shameful nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned (Genesis 3:21). The ultimate covering for sin came through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ:
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5–6)
To receive the gift of salvation you must believe the truth of the gospel:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9–11)
When a person calls upon the Lord for salvation, God delivers him (Psalm 50:15, 116:17, 145:18). This comprehensive deliverance means that a person is saved from the penalty of sin, is being saved from the power of sin, and will be saved from the presence of sin (2 Corinthians 5:15).
Because Jesus has died in the place of sinners, the perfect justice of God has been satisfied for those who believe: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . [And there is] now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 5:1, 8:1). The righteousness of Christ replaces the guilt of sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Believers have been freed from slavery to sin and are set apart to God to lead sanctified lives (Romans 6:12–14; Titus 2:11–14). Instead of living in bondage to sinful thoughts and actions (Galatians 5:19–21), the Holy Spirit of God enables us to live holy lives (verses 22–25), “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).
Believers who die enter the presence of the holy God (2 Corinthians 5:8) and are “spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23). All believers alive or dead look for the glorious resurrection of the body, and the whole creation yearns for the time when all things will be made new (Romans 8:18–23; Revelation 21:1–4, 27, 22:3).
Since God wants us to know him, honor him, trust him, obey him, love him, and live with him forever, how are you doing? How have you grown in your knowledge of him? How often do you honor the Lord and give him thanks? Do you find comfort in his faithfulness? Is your life characterized by obedience to God’s Word? Are you trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins? Do you draw near to him and desire him? All praise to God that he never changes and that he is near to those who call upon him in faith. Draw near to God today and forever grow in your enjoyment of him.