Monday, November 15, 2010

MAGYC Part I: GOD is Not a Barbie Doll! (Understanding Attributes)

This is the second post for the series of MAGYC (Meditations on the Attributes of GOD for Young Christians). Last time we talked about the importance of knowing GOD. Now we will start to talk about God's attributes as the primary concepts to know GOD.

This photo was taken from this url.
"For Me, In my opinion, I think..."

We, the youth, love these expressions. We love to share what we think of certain things. We love giving our opinions, sometimes to the point that we already think there's no such thing as right or wrong or true or false, that it's just a matter of opinion! But that idea is foolish. It's even self-contradicting. If you said that there is no such thing as correct, then, you must believe that even what you said is not correct. If you believe that all our statements are right and my statement says "Your statement is wrong.", is my statement still right? C'mon!

We must believe that absolute truths (that is, unalterable and permanent facts) exist. Triangles always have three sides, 1 + 1 is always equal to 2, etc.

This is also true with GOD. There are ideas about GOD which are either true or not, no matter what your opinion is. GOD is not a barbie doll which we can dress the way we want, act the way we want and look like the way we want. There are things about GOD that will remain true, even if we don't like it. 

And one of the primary (true) things about GOD that we need to know are His attributes.

An online dictionary defined the word 'attribute' as "a quality or characteristic inherent in or ascribed to someone or something." Attribute could be synonymous to properties or characteristics. Just think of any object. Say a basketball. The color, size, shape, hardness are some of its attributes. And without these attributes, no one can know what a basketball is.

Same with GOD. GOD is more than a name! He also has attributes, which He revealed in His word. He has attributes which if you distorted, it's no longer Him. 
"The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections [or, attributes] as revealed in Holy Scripture." (A.W. Pink, The Attribute of God)
In this tolerant generation, you can hear lots of people say "Muslims, Hindus, Christians and other religions are just the same because they all believe in GOD." But who is that GOD whom they believe? What's His proper name? What are His attributes/characteristics? How does He act? What does He say? Ask these groups of people and they'll have different answers! That simply means they don't have the same GOD. As Christians, we believe that only the GOD of the Bible is the true GOD (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:8; 45:5,6). And, like it or not, whatever He is in the Bible, that He is. You can imagine or invent who GOD is as so many false religions do but that will remain unreal. Simply put: you can't manipulate GOD. He is not a barbie doll or an action figure.
“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.” (A. W. Tozer)
It is interesting to note that the very meaning of God's name YHWH or Jehovah is "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:13-15). You can't change Him (unchangeability/immutability is already one of His attributes!). But you can (and must) know and worship Him. In fact, the effect of truly seeing His attributes is worshiping Him:

"The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation." And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped." (Exodus 34:6-8, ESV)

In the passage above, some of GOD's attributes are already mentioned: grace, patience, love and justice. Next time we will have a closer look at these attributes categorically and individually. Stay updated!

Monday, November 8, 2010

MAGYC (Introduction): Meditations on the Attributes of God for Young Christians

I. Hu U, Young 1?
"I am unique."
"I am not perfect but I get stronger through my mistakes."
"I am not a boyfriend/girlfriend material but my love is satisfying."
"I am a person who never gives up on life."
"I am blah blah blah..."
The list goes on and on...

So often the youth of today wants self-expression. We simply want to be heard. We want to show who we are and what we can do. We want to be identified from others. We pride ourselves with uniqueness, liberty, beauty and strength. We are filled with I-am's and I-like's! This is obvious in the fact that the majority of people in social networking and blogosphere are the youth. Even Christian youths have this tendency of focusing on themselves too much.

But I think our biggest mistake is not that we try to express ourselves too much. I believe our biggest mistake is that we think we know ourselves truly and deeply. We think we know ourselves too much. Wondering? Let me elaborate.

II. Everybody Needs a Mirror
In order to see ourselves physically, we need an object of reflection, a mirror. This is also the same when it comes to knowing ourselves. And we know we have different mirrors. I may think of you this way and you may think of yourself that way. So whose mirror of perspective is right? Or is there any?

Oh, I think I'm hearing someone murmuring: "I know myself better than anybody else!" But that's a deceitful lie. There is Someone who knows us more than how we know ourselves. We should see ourselves with His mirror. We gotta get His perspective of us.

III. We are Creatures
This will be clearer if we go back to Genesis 1:27 (NIV),

"So God created mankind in his own image, 
   in the image of God he created them; 
   male and female he created them".

To be "created" means that we didn't exist on our own. Someone has molded us, designed us and determined our nature and functions. The best way to know the features and functions of a new hi-tech gadget is to consult the inventor, or to read his manual. Likewise, to truly know ourselves, we gotta consult God. We gotta read His manual (the Bible). 

But more than being "created", the verse says that we are created "in the image of God." Evangelical Protestant camps vary with how they define that. Some see it as purely natural (intellect, affection, will), some see it purely spiritual/moral (knowledge, righteousness, holiness), and some both[1]. But all of them agree that this means that the created essence (image) of man is seen only in God. That implies that if we want to know ourselves deeper--who we are and what we're made for--we gotta see God! We gotta know God.

John Calvin explained it this way:
"Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves."
" is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself." (Institutes of Christian Religion, emphasis added) [2]

IV. Hu U, GOD?
So instead of listing much of our I-am's, won't we list down our knowledge of GOD-is's?
"GOD is love..." ( John 4:8 )
"GOD is light ".. ( _____ )
"GOD is ____".. ( _____ )
Can you continue the list?

Maybe it's hard to accept but if we know the GOD of the Bible too little (we can't recite at least five verses, mention the books of the Bible in order, etc.) then, we truly know ourselves too little. And we, the youth, are just seeing a very dim and distorted image of ourselves. Deceitful mirrors!

I hope that these series of Meditations on the Attributes of God for Young Christians (MAGYC) will help us deepen our understanding of GOD and, consequently, of ourselves too. We shall see what we mean by "attribute" next time, and I shall try to present each of God's attributes in the context of the youth.

"So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity... Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God." (John Calvin, emphasis added) 
[1] For the variety of views, click here
[2] Although Calvin said that "it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other", he ended it with "But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter"