Knowing God


The main story.

(Words in bold refer to the notes in the sidebar.)

Notes

There is nothing more important for anyone than to know God. He created the whole world and he created you. Gen 1:1-31; Gen 2:1-25

God is infinite in power and knowledge and goodness. He reveals his character to us in the Bible; he is perfectly loving and also perfectly just. He will not endure any imperfection.

Everything that God created was very good. He created man “in his image”, to be like him; unlike animals, we have the power of speech and rational thinking. We were made to be in complete harmony with God and to be in charge of the earth for him. Yet God wants friends, not robots, so we all have the capacity to refuse him.

Creation: God created the whole universe in six actual days about 6,000 years ago. Contrary to what the media assert, science has not proved that this is false; scientists merely assume that it is false and refuse even to consider that God could be involved. If we assume that the Bible is true, we find that the evidence agrees with the Bible. The differences between science and the Bible are about how to interpret the evidence.

Site explaining creation/evolution issues

Our problem

The first man and woman sinned – they refused to trust God and disobeyed him. As a result, their fellowship with God was broken and they became subject to death. In addition, the earth was cursed and man's existence on the earth became difficult and laborious. Gen. 3:1-24 In turn, we have all inherited from Adam a tendency to sin; in fact there is no one at all who has not sinned. Rom. 3:23

When the first man, Adam, sinned, he put himself and all his descendants into the power of the devil, the evil one, who is the enemy of God and of mankind. 1 John 5:19 The devil strives to keep us ignorant of the true God.

Because God is perfectly just, he must punish sin, so as to be faithful to his own character. This means that every person is separated from God and deserves death, which is the penalty for any sin. Rom. 6:23 Without God, men become more and more evil. Some 1600 years after the creation, men had become so evil that God had to wipe out all life on earth with a global flood. Only one family was preserved through it. Gen 6:1-22; Gen 7:1-24; Gen 8:1-22

Sin: this is the tendency in every one of us to want to do things our way instead of God's way. A sin is any act that follows from that -- not just obvious wrongdoing like murder, theft and lying, but anything we do that doesn't come from God's will for us, including failing to love God or each other.

The curse: as a result of the curse, the world became subject to disease, death and decay. Animals eat one another; weeds grow more strongly than useful plants and we are subject to natural disasters. The curse is a faint foretaste of the future judgment on everyone that refuses to be reconciled to God. People who die in accidents and disasters are not more evil than others who live; but they are sharing in the general judgment on mankind who have rejected God.

The devil: he is a powerful angel (a spiritual being) created by God as the chief of the angels. He rebelled against God and drew many other spirits into evil with him, who became demons. He is also called Satan (the accuser) and Lucifer. He is the father of lies and a murderer. He is not in charge of hell; that is the place of his punishment. Although the devil is powerful, he can do nothing that God does not allow him to do and at the end of this age he will be destroyed.

The flood: the flood was so violent that it completely reshaped the face of the planet. All the sedimentary rocks, the coal and oil and almost all the fossils were laid down in a period of one year. Only one man, Noah, and his family, eight people in all, survived the flood by building a huge ark (literally, a box) 140 metres long which held them and breeding pairs of all air-breathing animals (though many of these have since become extinct). Cultures all around the world have memories of the flood.

God's solution

However, God loves us and does not wish anyone to perish; John 3:16 therefore he has provided a way for us to be freed from sin and to be reconciled to him without violating his justice.

God knows that it is impossible for any man to save himself, since everyone is already guilty of sin. Only God himself can provide a solution. He did this by himself becoming a man, Jesus.

Jesus was born without a human father from a virgin, so as to cut off the chain of inherited sin. Luke 1:34-35 As a man he kept God's law perfectly and was therefore able to offer himself as a substitute to take on himself the punishment due to us for all our sin.

Jesus is the Anointed One (Messiah, Christ) who had been promised to the Jews for hundreds of years. Matt. 16:16-17 He demonstrated who he was by doing miracles of healing and of power over nature. However, the Jews were expecting a political leader who would uphold their establishment and so their leaders refused to accept him.

Jesus was handed over by one of his own disciples (Judas) to the Jewish leaders and by them to the Romans who crucified him so that he died. Matt. 26:14-16,47 This happened in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, which commemorates God's rescuing the people of Israel from Egypt. All this was foretold in the part of the Bible called the Old Testament and Jesus went willingly to death as the only means by which he could achieve our rescue. Acts 17:3

On the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead, and showed himself to his disciples and the women who had followed him. Matt. 28:5-7 Over a period of 40 days, he continued to show himself to them and taught them many things. After the 40 days he told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received power from God; then he ascended visibly into heaven. Acts 1:4-9

Ten days later, at the festival of Pentecost, God sent his Holy Spirit onto all of them in a spectacular display of his power. Acts 2:1-47 All of them began to speak in languages they did not know but each of which was understood by some of those who were listening. The disciple Peter explained to them that Jesus, whom they had crucified, was the Anointed One and told them how they could be saved; 3,000 people became followers of Jesus that same day. Acts 2:1-42 That was the beginning of the Christian church.

God describes aspects of himself and his character all through the Bible. All the references taken together show that God is both one and three. The first word used for God (Elohim) is a plural word – literally “Gods”. There are three persons within the Godhead, who are described as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet they are so close and so united that God is also one alone. How this can be is beyond our understanding; we just have to accept it as true. Because God is three as well as one, it is possible for God to describe himself as “love”; love is impossible unless there is another person to love.

God the Father is the one to whom the Son and the Holy Spirit defer. His relation to them is the model for human fatherhood. He is spirit and no man has ever seen him.

God the Son is also described as the Word of God. He is the one through whom the Father created the universe – he spoke and what he said came into existence. He has taken on a visible form from time to time so as to have dealings with men. Finally, he himself became a man, so as to rescue us from our sin. As a man, he took the name Yeshua (Jesus in English) which means “God is saviour”. The Father has appointed him to judge the world; after the judgment, when all is submitted to him, he will return it to the Father so that everything will be subject to the Father.

God the Holy Spirit is the power of God working in the world. His role is to point to Jesus and to live within those people who repent and hand over their lives to God so as to give them the power to live in God's way.

Crucifixion was a horribly painful death, which was the normal Roman execution method for non-citizens. The wrists and feet were nailed to a cross and the victim left hanging until he died. Any idea that Jesus could survive it is quite ludicrous. In addition, a soldier pierced his heart with a spear, to make sure that he was dead.

Rising from the dead (resurrection). Jesus had already brought a few people back to life after they had died prematurely, but they would have to die again at the end of a normal life. His own resurrection was a different kind of thing. Although his risen body was physical and he was able to eat and drink, he was also able to appear and disappear at will and his friends did not immediately recognise him.

The resurrection is God's proof that Jesus is indeed the Anointed One who was promised. It is firmly founded in history and better attested than any other historical event of that time.

Church: this is the English word for the assembly of God's people. The Greek word which it translates was used for the political assembly of a city state, where every citizen had a vote. Church does not mean buildings or clergy or rituals or organisations: all of these are non-biblical additions to God's pattern. Although there are many people in the institutional churches who are true followers of Jesus, those institutions themselves are enemies of God because they always seek their own survival rather than God's glory.

If you become a follower of Jesus, you need to join with others of his followers; but do try to choose a group that is truly following what the Bible teaches about church. Ask God to lead you to a good group.

How to be saved

The message of Jesus is called the gospel, which means “good news”. The good news is that Jesus has given his own life to save us and that we can accept Jesus' sacrifice of himself for us so that we will no longer have to bear the guilt of our sin. If we accept the offer, God treats us as dead and attributes Jesus' righteousness to us instead of our own sins. Having his righteousness is compared to having shining white clothing. Rev. 7:19

There is no other way to come to God. Jesus tells us: “No one comes to the Father except by me.” John 14:6 This is the way God has provided and he will not receive anyone who refuses to take advantage of it; you cannot rely on your own good works. Jesus illustrated this with a story about a man who turned up for a wedding in ordinary clothes and was thrown out. Matt. 22:11-13

You need to change the direction of your life so as to live for God rather than for yourself. You have to rethink your attitude to God and other people (repentance), and be immersed in water (baptism) so as to be forgiven your sin Acts 2:38 and as a sign to the rest of the world that you have committed yourself to God. Then God will give you his Holy Spirit to live in you and begin the process of making you like Jesus. However, do not bother to start unless you are determined to stick with Jesus to the end. You need to be willing to give up anything, including your life, rather than turn back from following him. Luke 14:26-35

Once we belong to God, we are identified with his Son, Jesus, and become adopted sons of God and brothers to all his other children, so we must learn to live with them and relate to them as members of the same family. We actually become the body of Christ, a single organism. 1 Cor 12:27

Repentance: The Hebrew word for repentance has a basic meaning of change in direction; the Greek word means to change one's mind. This involves: agreeing with God that you are a sinner who deserves God's anger; acknowledging that Jesus has died in your place and asking to receive the benefit of his sacrifice; believing that God raised Jesus from the dead; being immersed in water (baptism) for cleansing from sin; declaring these things to other people; resolving to change your behaviour in every part of your life so as to do God's will instead of your own; and joining with other whole-hearted believers to live in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism: this is a word from Greek that means being completely immersed in water. It should be done as soon as possible after you decide to repent and follow Jesus. The Bible says that baptism cleanses you from sin; therefore it is not just a ceremony but has a real spiritual effect.

Many churches have pretended to baptize babies or other people who had not repented of their sins, or they sprinkle a little water on people instead of immersing them. If this describes your experience, you need to be baptized in the manner required by the scripture as soon as possible.

The body of Christ is made up of all believers in the local area, who each have different abilities and gifts given them by God. These are to be used for the benefit of the whole body, and the individual members are like the different parts of our bodies, which all work together for the benefit of the whole body. All believers across the whole of world history make up the Bride of Christ, an expression that describes the close relationship God wants to have with his people.

The future

God will not tolerate evil for ever. Jesus will return soon to remove the curse from creation, to put an end to all evil and therefore to destroy everyone who refuses to follow him. When Jesus came the first time, it was in mercy Luke 4:18-21; the time to receive that mercy is fast running out. When he comes the second time, it will be in wrath and bringing judgment. Matt 25:1-46

No one knows exactly when Jesus will come back, but he gave us signs to indicate when his coming is near. Nearly all of those signs have been fulfilled.

When he returns, those who follow him and are ready for his coming will be changed to be like him. We will be given new bodies like his and a new nature which is completely free of sin, and we will enjoy being with him for ever. 1 Cor 15:51-54

Second coming: The first time he came, Jesus declared he was fulfilling an old prophecy that God would send his Anointed One; but he cut off his quote of the prophecy before he got to the part that spoke of God's vengeance. He makes it clear that the second half will be fulfilled when he comes back.

Judgment: God the Father has committed all judgment to Jesus. There are two judgments: the first is of those who follow Jesus, who are rewarded according to how well they have served him, but are all assured of having a place with God. The second judgment is of the rest of the dead, who are punished more or less severely in proportion to the evil they have done, but are all condemned to hell.

Signs of Jesus' return are largely to do with Israel and the Jews. For more than 1800 years most of them were exiled from Israel, but God said that he would eventually bring them back, before Jesus returned. Jews started returning to Israel in the nineteenth century and the state of Israel was established in 1948. The Jews won full control of Jerusalem in 1967 and we understand that the countdown to the end of this age has begun from then.

The last chance

Those who refuse him will get their own way – but they will not like it! They will be forever shut out of God's presence and deprived of the blessings which he now gives us every day in the world. They will not even have the blessing of extinction; God made us in his image, and our consciousness is eternal, so death is no escape. Jesus spoke of hell more clearly and more frequently than any other person in the Bible. He longs for you to give up wanting your own way 2 Peter 3:9, to turn to him and be saved, but if you reject him, he will reject you.

Your last chance to turn to God will be gone at your death or at his return. No one knows how long he has to live; death can come suddenly on the young as well as on the old. So turn to Jesus now, while there is still time!

Hell is spoken of as a place of burning. One of the words for hell, Gehenna, comes from the name of a valley outside the walls of Jerusalem where the rubbish was burned. In the same way all the rubbish of sin and those people who cling to it will be thrown out to be burned.

The lake of fire shows how terrible the punishment of hell is. It shows that the punishment will be very painful. At least part of the punishment is to be cut off not only from God but from all the benefits which he gives to everyone every day of their lives; anything at all that you enjoy is a blessing from God. In hell there will be only endless loneliness in which to experience the endless awareness that you have rejected God and have nothing left, and to feel the endless, dreadful pain of that loss.

Do not choose it!

This page contains the bare essence of the bad news about sin and the good news of how Jesus saves us from it. If you want to know more, please contact the writer.



Copyright © Oliver Elphick. You may reproduce this page freely as it stands. You may alter it, but you must remove my name from it if you do.