August 6, 2006

The Greatness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Attributes of God Scripture: Isaiah 40:25


The Greatness of God

Isaiah 40:25
Sunday, August 6, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

I have been greatly encouraged by your response to our recent sermon series entitled: "The Attributes of God." For the believer, the study of God's character should captivate our minds with the greatest of interest and touch our hearts with the greatest of blessing. Few, if any, other studies can bring us greater benefits than the pursuit to know God.

In Job 22:21 we read, "Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you" (NKJV). Jeremiah 9:24 declares, "But let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me." The Psalmist said, "Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name" (Psm. 91:14). And according to our Lord, "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

Considering these verses the great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once wrote, "There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go on our way with the thought, 'Behold I am wise.' But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the solemn exclamation, 'I am but of yesterday and know nothing' …But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it …Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as devout, earnest, continuing investigation of the great subject of the Deity" (Pulpit, 1855, v. 1, p. 1).

We have been created to be familiar with our Creator. We are on an eternal quest to know the living God. We are wired to be God seekers. This is our purpose. This is true satisfaction. But all too often, we are experts in knowing more about recipes and politics and batting averages than we are about knowing the eternal lover of our soul. We walk past the gold called God and chase after the tin called worldliness - A foolish sacrifice that results in empty people who only help to further our already weak churches.

Knowing God quenches the thirsty soul, satisfies the inquisitive mind, feeds our appetite to praise and directs our daily actions along the proper path. Specifically, as we consider this last clause, knowing the character of God enables us to answer the question, "How now shall we live?" You see, the more we come to know God and experience His attributes in our lives, the more we will come to adore who He is. And the more we adore Him, the more we will desire to imitate Him.

As we have learned the past few weeks, he who is without mercy has yet to experience God's mercy. He who has no interest in faithfulness, has yet to appreciate God's faithfulness. And he who thirsts not for holiness, has yet to see and admire God's holiness. Simply put, to grow in godliness is to grow in replicating the actions of God. Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God, as beloved children." What is the greatest proof of knowing and admiring your heavenly Father? Answer - Wanting to act like Him!

Unfortunately, we have gone in the opposite direction. Instead of wanting to be like God, we have desired to make Him like us. W.P. Nicholson remarked that today's society spells God with a small "G" and man with a capital "M." We have created a god that is manageable and tame. This god is within our realm of understanding and plays according to our rules. We are sovereign. He works according to our will. We are free. He is boxed. We are the creators. He is made in our image. As Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human."

In 1997, J. B. Phillips, wrote a book entitled: Your God Is Too Small. Phillips argued that the concept we have of God in our minds is too small which results in failing to impress the interest of many in this modern age. It is nearly impossible, says Phillips, for an adult to worship the conception of God that exists in the mind of a child of Sunday-school age, the "God-in-a-box" notion, limiting God to such inadequate conceptions as "Resident Policeman," "Magician," "Fun-hater," "Grand Old Man," "Meek-and-Mild," and "Managing Director." As a result of these insufficient ideas of God, many people live with inner dissatisfaction or without any faith at all. For the puny god presented today is laughable to the average adult and unworthy to command our highest admiration and worship.

Listen to the words of A.W. Tozer: "The god of contemporary Christianity is only slightly superior to the gods of Greece and Rome - if indeed he is not actually inferior to them, in that he is weak and helpless while they, at least, had power." Elsewhere he says, "The god of the modern evangelical rarely astonishes anybody. He manages to stay pretty much with the constitution. Never breaks our by-laws. He's a very well behaved god and very denominational and very much like one of us… We ask Him to help us when we're in trouble and look to Him to watch over us when we're asleep. The God of the modern evangelical isn't a God I could have much respect for."

So this morning as we continue to prepare our hearts for the Lord's Table, I would like to spend some time discussing a much-neglected aspect of God's character - His greatness.

Let's begin. If we wish to see the greatness of God where do we turn?

Reason will lead us to a god who is impersonal and amoral. Emotionalism will lead us to a god who is weak and immoral. How about creation? Does creation reveal the greatness of God? Scripture teaches that creation declares God's greatness (Psm. 19:1), but the revelation is incomplete, and thus sufficient to bring judgment for rejecting Him, but insufficient to bring knowledge for receiving Him (Rom. 1:20). If we want to see the greatness of God we must look in two places: Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:9) and that which God has revealed to us in the Scriptures.

Along these lines, listen to the Bible's description of God: In 1 Timothy 6 we read, "He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion" (1 Tim. 6:15-16)! In Exodus 33:20 God said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live" (cf. Jud. 13:22)! In Exodus 15, Moses and the Israelites sang, "Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders" (Ex. 15:11)? The Psalmist exclaimed, "You who fear the Lord, praise Him…glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him" (Psm. 22:23). And, "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases" (Psm. 115:3). And, "blessed be His glorious name forever…may the whole earth be filled with His glory." (Psm. 72:18). And, "Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite" (Psm. 147:5). In Isaiah 40:25, God asked, "To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?"

How great is God? On and on the testimony from cover to cover in the Bible never ceases to reveal the true God who is:

Angry with sinners who suppress the truth (Rom. 1:18)

Creator of heaven and earth (Gen. 1:1)

Perfect in righteousness (Psm. 116:5)

Eternal in existence (Psm. 93:2)

Great in faithfulness (Lam. 3:23)

A father who gives help to His children (Mt. 7:11)

Glorious and majestic (Psm. 145:5)

Good in all His deeds (Psm. 119:68)

An ever-present guide (Psm. 48:14)

Incomparable in holiness (Ex. 15:11)

Unchanging in character (Jas. 1:17)

Incomprehensible (Isa. 55:8)

Infinite (Jer. 23:24)

Jealous of those who fail to worship Him (Ex. 34:14)

The Judge of the world (Psm. 94:1)

Just in His dealings (Eze. 18:25)

Patient with sinners (Isa. 48:9)

Defined as love (1 Jn. 4:8)

Full of mercy and compassion (Psm. 116:5)

Powerful to accomplish any of His desires (Job 42:2)

Knowledgeable of everything (Heb. 4:13)

Present at all places (Psm. 139:7)

Perfect in His ways (2 Sam. 22:31)

Sustainer of life (Col. 1:17)

Without any needs (Ac. 17:25)

The fountain of all wisdom (Psm. 147:5)

And sovereign over all (Eph. 4:6)

This is not the God that is preached and believed upon today. We have lost the awe and reverence for the Almighty. So God speaks: Psalm 50:21, "These things you have done and I kept silence; you thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes."

Do you realize that God is beyond description? He is beyond any concept imaginable. He is beyond time and space. He answers to no one. He is never puzzled. Nothing happens without His permission or outside of His purposes - including evil. He has no limitations, no flaws or no weaknesses. And what He reveals to us in the Scriptures is mere "baby talk" - Only a fraction of His infinite will and nature (Dt. 29:29).

He is self-existent. When Moses before the burning bush asked God His name, God replied, "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex. 3:14). We have an origin, but God has none. We must say, "By the grace of God, I am who I am," but God can simply say, "I am who I am." He is outside the realm of His creation and owes His existence to no one.

He is self-sufficient. We needed a mother's womb to survive. We still depend on many factors outside of ourselves to be healthy, factors that range from the physical to the emotional to the spiritual. Yet God depends on no one. He is independent. He was perfectly content before the creation of the world. He does not need our service or our company or our worship. We add nothing to His character nor is there anything we can do to diminish His glory.

As we read earlier, Isaiah 40 declares He created the world with ease and precision (verse 12). He profits in no way from His creation (verse 14). Verse 15 says, "The nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales." Likewise in verse 17 we read, "All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless." Isaiah comments, "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him" (verse 18)? He "stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in" (verse 22b). "He…reduces rulers to nothing (and)…makes the judges of the earth meaningless" (verse 23). God comments, "To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal" (verse 25)? He created the stars and calls them by name (verse 26). He sees everything (verse 27). And, verse 28, "He does not become weary or tired (and) His understanding is inscrutable."

Though just a glimpse, this is a correct picture of God's greatness. And this picture, even at a glimpse, should terrify us. In the presence of this awesome God, Isaiah 40 says we are like grass that withers (verse 7). And as He sits above the earth, we are like grasshoppers in His sight (verse 22). How can we who are so weak and so frail, moreover so sinful, stand before this awesome God?

A glimmer of hope is found in verse 11. "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes."

This God who is mighty and fearful is also a God of love and compassion. What makes God so great is that while He transcends His creation in majestic supremacy, He has also chosen to love finite sinners in a very personal and intimate way.

No greater proof is needed than Jesus Christ.

For this great God would condescend to become as His creation by taking on human flesh in the likeness of man and dying for our sins on the cross (Phil. 2:6-8). This great God would accept the wrath we deserve and purchase us as a people for His own special possession (1 Pet. 2:9). This great God would love us before we loved Him (Rom. 5:8). And this great God would make salvation available to us as a gift that we receive not by works but by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9)

Isaiah 40, verse 31, "Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary."

Thou God all transcending,

Of life never ending

The source, in whose hand is the key:

The only Inscrutable,

Ever Immutable;

Broken hearts mending,

To feeblest cry bending,

In love Thy Son sending

To save a poor sinner like me.

O God all pervading,

Of glory unfading,

Who art Thine own vast Dwelling Place;

Thou God of antiquity,

Far-flung ubiquity;

Hell's host invading,

Their prisoners aiding,

In Secret Place shading

The weary who rest in Thy grace.

O God, praise is blending

And worship ascending;

Thy majesty burns as a flame

Of Light unapproachable;

Yet condescending,

The wanderer tending,

The Comforter sending

To all who have called on Thy name.

This great God so mighty has chosen to love us passionately in Christ! Do you know this God? If so, how should your life be affected? Use these four ideas of knowing God to examine yourself as we prepare for the Lord's Table.

First, knowing God should overflow in worship. It has been said the most important thing about us is what comes to our mind when we think about God. When you think about God are you lost in awe and reverence? When you think about God is He the most exciting subject for your mind's contemplation? We are created to be worshippers. And we will worship (measured by our praise and finances and time) that which is most preeminent in our affections. Does the living God occupy that place in your heart? Listen to the Psalmist's transition from God's greatness to worship. Psalm 48, "Great is the Lord, and (therefore He is) greatly to be praised" (Psm. 48:1a). Psalm 95, "For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods…(therefore) come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Psm. 95:3, 6). Worship is the perpetual conduct of heaven as all creatures continually behold God's greatness (Rev. 4:8). But the small thoughts about God that occupy many minds and many pulpits will always lead to feeble faith and flabby worship.

Second, knowing God should overflow in service. As I said earlier, God does not need us to accomplish His objectives (Ac. 17:24-25). Just as a father does not need a young child's "help" painting the house, a good father permits the child to contribute often at the expense of sacrificing quality and making more work for himself. So it is with God. He doesn't need our help, but He has designed it in such a way (to magnify His greatness) that He uses us as His instruments to build His eternal kingdom. How can knowing the greatness of God not motivate us to speak of our King and minister to those whom He loves in our family and in our church and in our world?

Third, knowing God should overflow in trust. If we believe the God of Scripture is who He says He is, we will eliminate all fear, worry and doubt from our minds. We will not complain or grumble. We will not limit God in our prayers through unbelief or the belief that we know what is best, because we will cast all our cares upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7).

Finally, knowing God should overflow in biblical preaching. The Bible says, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths" (2 Tim. 4:3-4). As predicted, most people will choose churches that do not preach the true God. For when this great God is preached, hearts are pierced and minds are challenged. A confrontation with this God leads many to respond like Peter: "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man" (Lk. 5:8). Yet those who do subject themselves to the true God see less of their greatness and more of God's greatness. And though the carnal person hates this, the spiritual person finds no greater source of joy. We must preach the greatness of God at the Grace Tabernacle regardless of how the immature, the worldly and the unbelievers may respond. A.W. Pink said, "How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the 'god' of the average pulpit" (The Attributes of God, p. 11). A.W. Tozer said, "The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God" (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 4).

Beloved, realize, our hope and joy lies not in the world but in the character of this great God - Not knowing about God, but knowing God. Even church talk can get so sidetracked on spiritual hobbyhorses that these topics take priority over knowing God. Tozer said, "The highest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him… In all her prayer and labors this should have first place" (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 4).

Regardless of what you are looking for in a church, this is what the Grace Tabernacle is about. And regardless of your thoughts, the greatness of God is best seen though Jesus Christ as He holds out His nail-scarred hand and says, "Behold you God!"

other sermons in this series

Jul 30


The Love of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 John 4:8 Series: The Attributes of God

Jul 23


The Faithfulness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:9 Series: The Attributes of God