A fundamental question anyone investigating Christianity must answer is, “Who is this God we’re dealing with?” That really is the central question we must not only answer, but answer correctly. The worst thing we could do is learn God wrong. And yet, so many times when I encounter someone who rejects God, they give me their reasons and I usually agree with them… I wouldn’t follow that god either. They’ve learned God wrong.
It’s imperative that we have a right understanding of who we’re dealing with. I could write a book on this topic, but for the purpose of this blog post we will look at two of my favorite examples of God’s character to get a sense of who He really is.
The first one is found in Genesis 3 pretty soon after God created the world and everything in it. Adam and Eve sin and the perfect Garden of Eden is corrupted. They realize they are completely naked and try unsuccessfully to hide their sin and their nakedness from God. Prior to their sin, Adam and Eve had not even the slightest idea they were walking around buck naked. At this point in Genesis, most people focus solely on the judgments of God. I know that was all I focused on for years. Then – like I had new eyes – a verse from that passage jumped off the page.
Genesis 3:21 is a hidden-in-plain-sight truth that is imperative to knowing, truly knowing, God. It says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” This one sentence stopped me in my tracks.
I had always been so focused on the temptation, the sin, and the list of consequences – and make no mistake, those are important details – that I failed to see something my heart needed to know: God does not leave us to recover from our sin alone. He’s not a you-made-your-bed-now-lie-in-it God. Adam and Eve’s sin brought chaos to God’s perfect creation and He brought them… Himself.
Even though Adam and Eve had gone their own way, expressly disobeying God, He came to them find them. He sacrificed animals (that He’d just created, by the way) to clothe them. He didn’t make them wallow in the mess they’d created, He lovingly moved them toward repair from the damage they’d inflicted.
Yes, there are consequences for sin, but there is a God who desperately wants you to know He loves you and He’s not looking for ways to distance Himself from you. Quite the opposite. If we think God is just waiting to heave a bolt of lightning at us and then sit crossed-armed while we figure out how to make things right, we’ve learned God wrong. He is right there with us, ready to help clean up our messes and repair the fracture in the relationship with Him that we caused. This is a huge truth about God that we can’t miss, lest we create an incomplete picture of the God we’re dealing with.
I almost hate to move on from there, but we gotta get to the wine.
The other story we’ll cover shows us more of the God we’re dealing with. It’s the account of the first miracle of Jesus – turning water into wine (John 2: 1-11). Jesus shows up to a wedding with his mother, Mary, and the disciples. The celebration is threatened to come to a screeching halt when the groom runs out of wine. Even the reserves are empty, there’s not a drop of wine to be found. It’s late, but way too early to stop the celebration.
Mary takes the situation to Jesus and He asks why she’s involving Him. Interestingly, she doesn’t answer Him, but tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. And we know the rest of the story…. Jesus turns water into wine and performs the first miracle. The wedding festivities continue and we’re left to wonder why Jesus used his first miracle to save a party.
But the God we are dealing with is in the details of this story, and we often read right past them. Not today.
The Bible tells us there were six water jars nearby and that each water jar held between 20 to 30 gallons. Just in case you’ve never done the math, those six water jars held close to 180 gallons, which equals about 682 liters. Jesus tells the servants to fill the jars with water and John makes a point to let us know that the servants filled the water jars to the brim (John 2:7). To put these numbers into context, we’re talking about the equivalent of 908 bottles of wine Jesus miraculously produced. Nine hundred eight.
But quantity isn’t everything. John also tells us that this isn’t the cheap stuff as everyone would expect given the late hour. No, John relays that this is choice wine, the best wine (John 2:10). The quantity and quality of the wine is unfathomable. The extravagance of His generosity is unthinkable.
For the sake of our discussion, it’s also important to note what Jesus didn’t do at the wedding. Jesus didn’t tell the groom he should have planned better. He didn’t gather his disciples and leave to find a better party in Cana that night. He didn’t say running out of wine didn’t matter. Instead, He stayed, got into the minute details and He provided more than anyone could have asked for or imagined. Jesus was (and is) stunning with His lavish generosity. His first miracle uncorked the abundance that was (and is) to come through Him.
Again, diving into the personality traits of God is worthy of more than a mere blog post. But these two stories give us great insight into the God we’re dealing with. He seeks us even in our sin and He’s generous to the point of absurdity.
If you think He’s a god who is out to get you, you’ll never stop running from Him. If you think He’s a god who can be impressed by your polite behavior, you’re in for a rude awakening. If you think He couldn’t come close to forgiving you, you will never know how far the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). And if you think He’s just waiting to damn you to Hell, you have no idea the price He’s paid to redeem you. He fills what was empty (Genesis 1:2) and promises life to the FULL (John 10:10). He is God who gave up His own place in perfect Heaven to come look us in the eyes and tell us He loves us.
That’s the God we’re dealing with.
Dear Lord, thank you for pursuing Your children. Show us more of You – who You really are. Let us not be deceived by counterfeit gods or trade Your holiness for what we’d do if we were in Your place. Let us not create You in our own image. Jesus, cut through all the wrong teaching and show us the true You. Stir in us a hunger to know You that will never be satisfied until we see You Face-to-face. We love You and take joy in exactly who You are. Amen.