A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So who is God and what is he really like? As we will see in this chapter, our answers to these questions will shape the way we live.
Jesus told us a story in Matthew 25:14-30 to drive home this point. In this parable (which is a fictional story used to teach a lesson) Jesus described a rich man who had three servants. The man was going away on a trip, but before he left he gave each of his servants some money. The first servant and second servant both invested the money. When the rich man came back, he was pleased with their behavior and blessed them with even more of his money to manage.
The third servant, however, did not invest the money. So when the rich man came back from his trip, he was not pleased with this servant’s behavior. Why did the two servants behave in a pleasing way to the rich man while the third servant acted in a displeasing way? We find the answer in Matthew 25:24-25:
He said, “Sir, I know that you are a hard man. You gather grain where you have not planted. You take up where you have not spread out. 25 I was afraid and I hid your money in the ground. See! Here is your money.”
This third servant who acted badly had a very poor view of this rich man. His poor beliefs about his master led to poor behavior towards his master. The other servants had a better understanding of the rich man, therefore their behavior was better. Jesus is helping us all understand why our beliefs about God are so important. How we view God will shape how we act towards God in our lives.
So how can we know the truth? Who is God and what is God really like? The answer to these questions are found in the Bible. As 1 John 4:1-3 explains, there are many false ideas out there about God. Ultimately, we will know what is true by testing it against what the Bible says:
Dear Christian friends, do not believe every spirit. But test the spirits to see if they are from God for there are many false preachers in the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that says Jesus Christ has come in a human body is from God. 3 And every spirit that does not say Jesus has come in a human body is not from God. It is the teaching of the false-christ. You have heard that this teaching is coming. It is already here in the world.
Who Is God and What Is He Like (Trinity, Holy, Love)
So who is God? As this passage of Scripture show us, God is one while also being three different persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all mentioned here. This is called the Trinity. The Father is often just referred to as “God.” The Father plans what is going to happen (John 6:38, Acts 1:7). The Son is Jesus Christ. He accomplishes the Father’s plan, reveals the Father to us, obeys the Father, and rules with the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3, John 6:38. John 17:4-5). The Holy Spirit applies what the Son has accomplished. The Holy Spirit enters into Christians at the moment they put their faith in Jesus and gives them every spiritually blessing possible (Ephesians 1:3, 13-14, Acts 1:8).
Throughout the Bible, God is described in many ways. He is called the loving Father while also being the just Judge. He is like a kind nursing mother, but he is also like a mighty warrior who defends his people. God is a close friend to those who have put their faith in him while also being the King of the universe seated on the throne in heaven. As you can see, although God is simply Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God expresses his character in many different ways throughout the Bible.
So if you had to summarize what God was like in the simplest way possible, it would be fair to use just two words: love and holy. Love is doing what’s best for someone at great cost to yourself. Jesus said that the highest form of love is to lay down your life for a friend (John 15:13). 1 John 4:9-10 explains how the Father showed his love for us:
God has shown His love to us by sending His only Son into the world. God did this so we might have life through Christ. 10 This is love! It is not that we loved God but that He loved us. For God sent His Son to pay for our sins with His own blood.
The reason Jesus had to pay for our sins with his own blood was because God is holy. To be holy means to be perfect in every way, set apart from common use, and to be without any blemish or sin. God is so holy that no amount of sin or imperfection can come into his presence. He judges all wrong doing, from the smallest evil thought to the worst crimes ever committed, because he is perfectly holy.
God loves us but because God is holy, our sin has separated us from God. So God sent Jesus to make us holy and bring us into a relationship with him. When we put our faith in the gospel, God makes each of us into a holy person who is now a part of a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9).
So why is knowing about the holiness and love of God key for transformation? If you only understand the holiness of God, you might feel distant from him and constantly ashamed of your sin since all humans are unholy without the gospel. If you only understand the love of God, you might assume God cares about you so much that he can look past your sins and that you can have a relationship with God regardless of your sinfulness.
Because God is so holy, he can never look past any sin. But because God loves us so much, he makes us holy through the blood of Jesus when we put our faith in Christ.
Why Is It Important to Know Who God Is and What He Is Like?
Take a moment and think about the times in life when you have hurt those you love. It’s not pleasant to remember these times, but it can motivate us to change. Don’t you want to love people better, to have more patience, to have more self-control, and to be a more reliable friend and family member? Our success and failure in our most important relationships depends on our walk with God.
This can be seen right at the beginning of our human story. Adam and Eve fell to the temptations of Satan and ate from the tree that God told them not to eat. But how did Satan deceive Adam and Eve? He corrupted their beliefs about God. Genesis 3:1-6 says:
Now the snake was more able to fool others than any animal of the field which the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say that you should not eat from any tree in the garden?” 2 Then the woman said to the snake, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden. 3 But from the tree which is in the center of the garden, God has said, ‘Do not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
4 The snake said to the woman, “No, you for sure will not die! 5 For God knows that when you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” 6 The woman saw that the tree was good for food, and pleasing to the eyes, and could fill the desire of making one wise. So she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Adam and Eve started to live a sinful life as soon as their beliefs about God became untrue. Satan tempted them to believe that God was keeping this fruit from them because he did not want them to be like God. This was a lie, but when Adam and Eve believed this lie, they started to behave sinfully. When we believe lies about God, our behavior will become evil too. Satan knew that if he could get them to believe the worst about God, then sin was not far behind. What we believe about God will shape our behavior. A.W. Tozer states:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. For this reason the most serious question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most significant fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart thinks God like. We often live by a secret law of the soul that moves us toward our mental image of God.”
When you really believe that God is holy, you will pursue holiness yourself in Christ. Notice how 1 Peter 1:15-16 puts it:
Be holy in every part of your life. Be like the Holy One Who chose you. 16 The Holy Writings say, “You must be holy, for I am holy.”
To be holy, we must first recognize and believe that God is holy. Our belief about God will shape our own behavior. People are like arrows. We are always moving towards what we are looking at. If you are looking at a false picture of God, you will start living a sinful life. 1 John 4:7-13 explains that when we know the God of love, our life will show love.
Dear friends, let us love each other, because love comes from God. Those who love are God’s children and they know God. 8 Those who do not love do not know God because God is love. 9 God has shown His love to us by sending His only Son into the world. God did this so we might have life through Christ. 10 This is love! It is not that we loved God but that He loved us. For God sent His Son to pay for our sins with His own blood.
11 Dear friends, if God loved us that much, then we should love each other. 12 No person has ever seen God at any time. If we love each other, God lives in us. His love is made perfect in us. 13 He has given us His Spirit. This is how we live by His help and He lives in us.
Transformation happens when we are connected to the true power source. When we are filled with God, we are then filled with love, and then we can act lovingly.
God acts the way he does because of his identity. Who God is shapes what God does. Likewise, we too live from our identity. What we do flows from who we are. When we were not a part of the family of God, we lived a lifestyle that followed our sinful nature, the world, and the devil. 1 John 3:9-10 says:
No person who has become a child of God keeps on sinning. This is because the Holy Spirit is in him. He cannot keep on sinning because God is his Father. 10 This is the way you can know who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil. The person who does not keep on doing what is right and does not love his brother does not belong to God.”
When our identity is rooted in Christ, then we are free to love and act how we want rather than to be controlled by the false gods of our past (people, drugs, money, Etc.).
How Can We Know God and Love God?
How can we know and love God? It’s the right question to ask because according to the Bible, knowing God comes first and love will flow out of what we know about God. 1 John 4:14-21 says this:
We have seen and are able to say that the Father sent His Son to save the world from the punishment of sin. 15 The person who tells of Him in front of men and says that Jesus is the Son of God, God is living in that one and that one is living by the help of God. 16 We have come to know and believe the love God has for us. God is love. If you live in love, you live by the help of God and God lives in you.
17 Love is made perfect in us when we are not ashamed as we stand before Him on the day He judges. For we know that our life in this world is His life lived in us. 18 There is no fear in love. Perfect love puts fear out of our hearts. People have fear when they are afraid of being punished. The man who is afraid does not have perfect love. 19 We love Him because He loved us first. 20 If a person says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar. If a person does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God Whom he has not seen? 21 We have these words from Him. If you love God, love your brother also.
Verses 14-15 say that when we “see” God accurately we will be bold for God in our lives. Verses 16-18 says that when we “know and believe the love God has for us” we will begin to live a life of love without any fear. Lastly, verses 19-21 say that we will love God when we truly accept the truth that God loved us first. And when we know that God loves us and we love him in return, this will empower us to love other people too.
In summary, 1 John 4 teaches us that God reveals himself through Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9-10). God showed his love for each one of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters our heart and opens our eyes to the truth about God (1 John 4:13). The more accurately we begin to know God and the closer we become to him in a personal relationship, the more our life will be radically transformed (1 John 4:19-21).