“I thank my God through Jesus Christ” Romans 1:8
THIS is perhaps the greatest experience of human life, to be able to say with the apostle Paul, “First, I thank my God …”. My God! Those who can so speak from their hearts have a prospect which is inexpressively glorious. We dare not take “God” as a subject; at best we only know Him in part, but from the Scriptures we can get some gracious glimpses of Him in all the wonders of His Person.
God is Good
When Jesus was addressed as “Good Master” (Mark 10:18), in His reply that “None is good save one, even God”, He was not admitting any imperfection but perhaps stating that since He was in bodily form as a Man, He could be tempted, whereas God, as such, cannot be tempted. He is only good; His goodness can never even be exposed to temptation. God is not only good; He is goodness. He does not have to think things over to find out what is good and how He can be good, for it is the essence of His nature. We never have to appeal to God to be good for He Himself is good with a goodness that is unrestricted, a goodness that cannot be tempted and a goodness that is absolutely pure and entirely unmixed with evil of any kind.
God is Holy
We read of four living creatures who “have no rest day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty” (Revelation 4:8). If we are honest we will have to admit that we fall far short of this. We are so far from the nature of God that this characteristic holiness of God would tire us if we tried to join in such an exercise day and night. Not one of us could repeat these words with real meaning for a [17/18] quarter of an hour in our own present state. We are not able to appreciate how to give the words true weight and meaning.
If we call it the radiant fullness of God’s excellence and perfection in every imaginable realm, that may give us some slight impression of what is meant by God’s holiness. Our own natural unholiness and obtuseness make it only possible to get some faint impression of what “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord” really means. If God revealed it to us in fullness it would bring us down into the dust.
Using a merely human way of speaking, we have to say that there can be no contradiction between the inward and the outward so that God is holy in His innermost motives as well as in His outward actions. In everything that is pure and true, God is effortlessly perfect, with His outward actions springing from His inward perfection. That is why no-one can bear to see Him, for to do so is to dwell with consuming fire. Yet He has laid down the standard for human life: “You must be holy, for I am holy”. We do not like this standard and are constantly found trying to explain it away and to excuse ourselves, but the fact remains that God is against all forms of unholiness and can only accept us on the basis of the gift of holiness which is ours in Christ. This brings us our next consideration which is that
God is Love
We may be able to love a little, though all too often our love is mixed with selfishness, but of no-one can it be said that he is love. It is said, however, without any reserve or qualification about God. This means that in Him there is a longing to give Himself and everything good to us His creatures and to possess them in an eternal fellowship. This love — like His goodness — is far beyond our powers of comprehension. God does not lack anything as we may do. That He is love does not mean that He, like the rest of us, needs others. He has the fullness in Himself, and yet He longs to give Himself, for that is the nature of love.
This is a wonderful thought, that God wants to have us in an eternal, intimate spiritual fellowship in which He can say, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine”. In Christ He paid an indescribable and incomprehensible price in order to give Himself to sinners. The gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is the news that He has paid a price beyond description in order to give.
The children of God have always longed to know Him, to know His love and His holiness and we cannot understand how His holy, consuming purity can long to give Himself, regardless of the cost, to such as us. We cannot understand how such a holiness and such a love can dwell in our God at the same time. But perhaps — and only perhaps — we can say that God would not be holy unless He loved, because love is included in perfect holiness.
We can easily be indifferent to those who wrong us, but we cannot imagine God being like that. God never treats us with superior indifference because we are small and petty people. The opposite is also true; God could never be love unless He were holy, for only the perfect One can truly be love. It is a pity that we often mix our ideas of goodness and love when we think of God. We would like goodness to adapt itself and not take our sins so seriously, but in relation to sinners, both God’s holiness and God’s love forbid that things should go well in that pathway, though at the same time that same holiness and love are always eager to save from what they rightly forbid, which is sin.
God is Life
In John 5:26 we read: “The Father has life in himself”. God is life because He has life in Himself and not from anyone else. You and I have life from Him. We do not have it of ourselves. It may seem strange to use an artificial expression about the Almighty, but we have to say that He is self-existent. You can go back as far as you will, yet will always meet Him who is the “I AM”. Our minds reel: He has no beginning, no cause that brought Him into being; nor can anything cause His existence to cease. He is God. Everything that exists owes its existence to Him. “I am that I am.” Is it not wonderful to say of such a Being: “My God“?
God is Everywhere
In John 4:23 Jesus says: “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall [18/19] worship the Father in spirit and truth”. The Jews thought that it would happen in Jerusalem, and the Samaritans thought that it would happen on the mountains of Samaria. That is, they thought that God was limited to a locality. Jesus said, “No, the time is coming when there will be true worshippers everywhere, for God is everywhere”. He is God, and His power is available to Himself everywhere and at all times, without His needing to move or concentrate that power in anyone place. God is always near, with His wonderful power of action.
For this reason we can confidently pray for others, since God is with them with His unlimited power and His infinite wisdom. This is something we cannot understand. I can only act when I am present, and I have to concentrate my capacity on what I am doing at any given moment; if a need arises in some other place, I cannot immediately meet it. God, however, is everywhere, undiminished in every respect without any limitation of time or place. This is a wonderful thought but it is also a dreadful one, for it means that, wherever sin is committed, it happens in His very presence.
God Knows Everything
“There is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether” (Psalm 139:4). God does not forget and He does not judge wrongly: He neither exaggerates nor depreciates. Our motives are an open book to Him. It is a marvellous privilege to make the claim, “My God” and “My Father”, and yet it should make us tremble for He sees the hidden depths of our hearts. While we cannot understand that His knowledge is independent of time and space, we may learn that the beginning of all true wisdom is the fear of God.
God Can Do Everything
He is the Almighty. He once told Abraham to walk before Him and be perfect, prefacing that command with the words, “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1). Unfortunately many Christians think of His almightiness as being something magical. ‘God can do anything’, they say, and of course in a sense that is true, but God cannot and will not do anything that contradicts His own holiness and love. His almightiness is not a characteristic which makes Him act against His own perfection. We need to be a little hesitant about taking the almightiness of God as a guarantee of the fulfilment of all our prayers and desires, for He uses His omnipotence in harmony with His perfect wisdom. The wisdom of God is complete, and cannot be enlarged or corrected by experience. Nothing takes Him by surprise. No development in society is news to Him. We have to confess that we often find our own wisdom insufficient; then let us not pretend to be wise, let us not think and interminably turn things over in our minds, but let us say with King Jehoshaphat: “We have no right … neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon thee” (2 Chronicles 20:12). He knows! He understands! He is Light.
Who are we to say that God must do something. We must be careful. It may be right but it may be wrong, for God is God. He is a Person, not an impersonal power which can be applied in an almighty way according to our wishes.
I turn back to the words with which we began, words which can easily be read and yet — like all Biblical words — are inexhaustibly glorious. “I thank my God through Jesus Christ.” In the face of all life’s problems and demands, how wonderful to be able to go to your room, close your door, look up and say: “My God”. You hardly need to say more. He knows all your needs before you mention them. Perhaps it is better to begin with “Hallowed be thy name”. That is what matters most. “Thy will be done.” That is the greatest good, for our Father is perfect in His goodness. When you have prayed for His will and His kingdom, then perhaps you can mention your special need.
To be able to say “My God” brings a person with all his desires and conflicts, his struggles and his nervousness into what the Word of God calls rest. This is not passivity but a matter of right relationship with God. Our Lord Jesus has made all that possible, for He is the Mediator without whom we could have no contact with God either in time or in eternity. He has made His Father to be our Father and His God to be our God. We do not need to say more. [19/20]