What Is God Like?
At last winter’s Dare2Share conference - Dare2Share is an annual Christian youth event, a program designed to help young people be comfortable sharing their faith - a study was advertised called SALT, the challenge of which is based on something Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.
What Jesus said that is relevant for the study is found early in the Sermon. He had just given what are called the Beatitudes - blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.
Right after that, Jesus said - this is the first part of verse 13 of Matthew 5 - “You…” He referred to those who were listening to Him. Those who were at that time following Him. Since it is the Bible, His words also apply to us, His present-day followers. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.”
Jesus gave a warning in the rest of verse 13. He did that when He added, “If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men.”
That warning is a reminder of the consequence of not being poor in spirit or meek or merciful or any of the other things He had just listed. The consequence of not obeying everything else Jesus went on to teach. The consequence is that anyone who does not obey Jesus has little spiritual use.
But of course, the point Jesus wanted to make is not so much the warning as it is the challenge to be salt. To have the impact spiritually that salt has physically.
Meaning we are to add flavor to the world. A Christian flavor. We are to act as a preservative, keeping the world from spoiling or rotting.
And I have thought of this. Salt causes thirst. If we are to be spiritual salt, do you suppose we ought to be causing people to have a thirst to learn more about Jesus? A thirst that will translate into them accepting Him and then obeying everything He taught?
You - I - we - those of us who are Christians - are the salt of the earth. That is what Jesus wants us to be. According to the study sponsored by Dare2Share, that challenge includes the need to know the answers to some important questions. Five questions people in the world are asking.
For Dare2Share, the thought is that these are questions being asked by young people. I think they are asked by some not-so-young people, too. Which is why we are going to be asking them and answering them, doing so today and for the next few messages.
The five questions? What is God like? How valuable am I? What happens after we die? Why does God let bad things happen? What makes for good relationships?
By the way, just so you will know, the questions come from Dare2Share. Some of the Bible references we will consider are suggested by Dare2Share. But the messages - what will be said about the passages - are mine. I do not want you to think I am just copying what someone else wrote.
But for today, the question, “What is God like?” a question asked by young people and old people and middle-aged people. A question we need to have thought about ourselves so we can have an answer. An answer that will add flavor to our world. An answer that might help preserve our world. An answer that will hopefully cause a spiritual thirst in our world. An answer that will help us be what Jesus called us to be, that being spiritual salt.
What is God like? That is the question for today. One I asked the Wednesday evening Bible study group a week-and-a-half ago. I asked, “When you hear the name God, what are the first five words that jump into your head?”
Some people responded with five things, others had fewer. But here is a tally of the answers written down at that Bible study.
Five times, “Father” or “Heavenly Father “was listed. What a wonderfully warm feeling that is supposed to give.
“Creator” was listed three times, as was the word “awesome.” Those two words describe the wonder of God and His love.
Speaking of love, two people wrote that word.
“Listener” was also listed twice. Isn’t it nice to know God is willing to listen?
“Son” was another one listed twice.
A whole lot of words were listed once by those at that Bible study, including two that describe another form of Him, that being “Holy Spirit.” Some gave other names or descriptions of Him - “Messiah,” “Abba,” and “omnipresent.” “Holy” and “reverence“ were each listed once.
Two words truthfully explain God is beyond our words - “indescribable” and “uncontainable.”
“All-powerful” and “eternal” were two other words.
And then this thought was written down. “I love You.” What a reminder that when we hear the name God, love should be our response.
Thank you, Bible study group, for your input. I hope everyone else, as we have gone through the list, has had maybe another word or two pop into mind.
Which leads us to the first of a few Bible passages for today. Passages that explain to us what God is like. And again, we need to know what He is like so if we are ever asked that by anyone, we will have a salty answer. An answer that will add flavor, that will preserve Christian spirituality, that will persuade others to thirst to know God, along with His Son Jesus.
The first Bible passage is in the Gospel of John - chapter 14, verses 8 and 9. Jesus and His disciples were together, having a conversation. This was shortly before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, acts that led to His crucifixion. In the conversation, the disciple names Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father.”
Interestingly, Jesus had just reminded His disciples they believed in God. He had then challenged them to also believe in Him. But maybe their belief was not as strong as it should have been. That may have been the case at least for Philip, who, like the others, had been with Jesus for three years. “Lord,” Philip asked, “show us the Father. Then we shall be satisfied.” It was as if Philip wanted to see God before He would or could fully believe in Him.
Well, none of Jesus’ original disciples, and none of us, has ever seen God. None of us will see Him until we, as Christians, reach Heaven.
But listen to what Jesus said, which is a wonderful answer even now if anyone asks us what God is like. Actually, Jesus began with kind of a put down. He said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip?” That was a put down, like, “Really, Philip? You have heard all My words and you still don’t get it?”
But then He answered the statement. Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In other words, anyone who has seen Jesus has seen God. As Jesus added, that is the truth because God was in Jesus and Jesus was in God. They were one, so when anyone saw Jesus - when we see Him through the words of the Bible - they and we see God.
With that in mind, let’s think of a few more Bible verses - verses in which Jesus described Himself, thereby describing God. All of these are also in the Gospel of John.
John 6:35. “I am…” By the way, “I am” was how God described Himself in the Old Testament. Using those two words were Jesus’ way of identifying Himself as God. “I am the Bread of Life.”
Bread. How important that is to physical life as it provides comfort and nourishment, both of which are necessary for life.
Spiritually, bread - Jesus - is essential. It is He who comforts us in times of need. It is Him who provides the spiritual nourishment we need so our spiritual lives can thrive.
Spiritually, Jesus makes Himself - His bread - available through the Bible and through prayer, both of which can be very helpful once we accept Jesus as the Savior. In fact, Jesus added, “He who comes to Me [anyone who goes to Him] shall not hunger.” Spiritually, that means He is everything we will ever need.
How does that relate to God? Since Jesus said seeing Him means seeing God, God, too, is the Bread of Life.
As that relates to God, there are many other religions around the world that also have gods. One god or multiple gods .
But our God - the one we want to tell people about when they ask us what God is like - offers to sustain us and comfort us spiritually, just as physical bread sustains and comforts us physically.
What is God like? He is the Bread of Life.
In John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.” Which suggests many wonderful qualities. Light helps things grow. It makes the proper path easy to see, especially in darkness. It provides warmth. It is encouraging. How nice it is to see the sun after a few days of cloudiness. How good it is to see the morning after a long night.
Jesus said that seeing Him is seeing God. Therefore, what is God like? He is the Light of the World, meaning He is willing to help us grow and to walk the right path. He is the one who gives us not only physical, but spiritual warmth. He is available to encourage, even on troubled days.
When I visit people in hospitals, I often, in prayer, claim God’s goodness, not only on the easy days, but on the difficult days as well. Again, God is the Light of the World every day.
In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”
What does a vine do? It supports the branches of the plant. It does so, not only physically, but also nutritionally. It is the vine that provides the branches the water and the nutrients they need. The vine is the source of the strength needed by the branches to bear the fruit for which they exist.
What is God like? Since He is like Jesus, He wants people to be fruitful, as in living in ways that are righteous. But He, too, is willing to help with that. He is willing to give people the physical strength and the spiritual water and food needed to live in those ways.
In other words, God does not leave people on their own to try to figure out ways to please Him and then somehow try to do those things. No. He wants people to be connected to Him. He wants people to thrive in their spiritual lives. That is the kind of God we know. That we worship. That we have the privilege of serving. That we are to tell others about.
All of that summarized in the word “love,” which is taught in John 3.
John 3:16. For God so loved the world. What is God like? He loves. The world, as in not just America and not just Europe or Africa. He loves the world.
He loves the world so much He gave His only begotten Son Jesus that whosoever believeth in Him… Whosoever. Again, not just Americans. Not just Asians. Not just one color, but all colors of people. Whosoever believeth in Him. Whosoever accepts Him. Whosoever accepts Jesus as the Savior will not perish spiritually, but have eternal life.
Being with God. As already stated when we talked about the vine, that is what He wants for us. According to verse 16, the way to get to that point is simple. Simply accept His Son Jesus as Savior. That is it. You do not have to make animal sacrifices, which some religions teach. You do not have to make human sacrifices, which some religions teach. You do not even have to wonder how to make God happy. Accept His Son Jesus as Savior and He is happy. Happy enough to give you eternal life. That is what God is like.
In verse 17, there is more about His love. He sent His only begotten Son Jesus into the world He loves, not to condemn the world.
How important those words are since many other religions have gods who are angry and vengeful, ready to strike down whoever gets out of line, relishing such times. But not our God. The last thing our God - the one we are supposed to tell people about when they ask what God is like - the last thing our God wants is for people to be condemned. Instead, He sent Jesus to the world so that the world through Him might be saved.
What is God like? The answer can be found by looking at Jesus, which means God is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Vine that sustains His people, who are the branches. All of which show His love.
In addition to all that, He is, according to the very first chapter of the Bible, and as listed by the Wednesday evening Bible study group, the Creator.
Despite what others may say, God created. As explained in that very first chapter, He created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, which includes light, and dry land and oceans, and the sun, the moon, and the stars, and birds and fish, and animals and plants and trees, and yes, the first man Adam and the first woman Eve, from whom came everyone else, including you and me.
And again to show His love, God taught in the Old Testament how people are to live. What wonderful benefits people had when they obeyed.
In the New Testament, God’s teachings came through Jesus. Teachings recorded in the first four New Testament books. God’s teachings also came through those who wrote the
rest of the New Testament. People including Paul and Peter and John.
Again, there should be no question what God wants from us. How He wants us to live. He makes it very clear. All we have to do s read and study. And the key to obeying? It is to accept Jesus as Savior and then ask for God’s strength to be obedient.
Next week, the question we might be asked - a question probably everyone has asked at some time - “How valuable am I?” For today, the question, “What is God like?”
If you or I are asked that, we do not have to wonder how to answer. We can say without hesitation and without reservation, He is - one more time - the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Vine by which His people can be watered and nourished. He is love, He is the Creator, He is the Master Teacher.
Which yes, as the Bible study group proclaimed, are examples that He is holy, all-powerful, and very awesome.
Knowing that, our response, when hearing the name God, ought to be, “I love You.” With that response, may we be so salty that others will catch the thirst to learn more about Him, then accept His Son, then obey Him, so they, too, can take advantage of all His blessings. All His love.
Today’s closing song is the hymn None Is Like God Who Reigns Above. It provides kind of a summary of how God has been described in this message. May the song help get that description in our minds so we will be ready whenever anyone asks us about God. Our God. The one and only true God.
None is like God, who reigns above,
So great, so pure, so high;
None is like God, whose name is Love,
And who is always nigh.
In all the earth there is no spot
Excluded from His care;
We cannot go where God is not,
For He is everywhere.
He is our best and kindest Friend,
And guards us night and day;
To all our wants He will attend,
And answer when we pray.
O if we love Him as we ought,
And on His grace rely,
We shall be joyful at the thought
That God is always nigh.
We are called to be the salt of the earth. We are therefore to be salty in our responses to lots of questions. Including the question, “What is God like?” May we never hesitate in answering that question. May we instead be ready to respond exactly according to what the Bible says about Him.
And yes, may what we say spread a spiritual thirst to those who ask us about God so they, too, will know that He who created is many things, including Bread, Light, the Vine, Love ,and Teacher. All of which make Him worthy of our love.
May we be salty. Amen.