The Essence of God

By Ernie and Mary Kroeger

Have you ever wondered what God is like? How could He come into being without having a beginning? Since God is invisible to our natural eyes, we have no idea what He is like unless He reveals Himself to us. Without true knowledge of God, our imagination will create many false ideas of God. Before God formed the Adam man, He said, “Let us make man in our image,” so we naturally conclude that God looks like a man. We may even try to prove this assumption scripturally by quoting the passages that speak of Him as having eyes, ears, arms, hands, feet, and white hair. We naturally think that being formed in His image refers to our physical form, and our imagination kicks in to help us complete the picture.

In comparing God to our visible human image, we are bringing God down to our level. It feels comfortable to think that we are sort of on the same level, for it gives us the right to advise Him as well as to criticize Him. In humanity’s arrogance it blames God for all the wickedness in this world, and calls God the Old Man up there. We think our methods and solutions are easier and better than God’s ways, and therefore we don’t want to submit to His will. We may give mental assent to the fact that God’s ways are best without actually realizing and believing that they are best, and that they are the perfect way of taking care of all the problems in this world. God is doing it His way by working all things according to the counsel of His will! God’s wisdom is beyond our understanding!

Our natural mind cannot know God, yet it tries to explain Him. When we revert to natural thinking, we wonder how His brain functions and what kind of nervous system He has. How does He gather all His information? All human explanations will lead us astray, for the human mind cannot envision and fathom Him. Since He is in the unseen realm, He has to reveal Himself to us! God is beyond our understanding!

In our meditation about God we need to understand that God is not a man. In Numbers 23:19 it says that “God is not a man, that He should lie.” God is NOT a man; He is spirit! Man is limited; God is unlimited! Yet we compare God with man in so many ways! It is impossible to learn to know God the way we get to know people. God is invisible to our eyes, and people are not. We describe people according to what we know ABOUT them - their ethnic origin, their appearance, their talents, their social standing, their actions, their characteristics, etc. However, we don’t know their inmost thoughts and desires unless they reveal them to us by their speech and actions. We like to fit people (and ourselves) into a personality type. We seem to feel more secure when things are sorted and packed in their respective boxes!

This is true in our perception of God as well. We try to box Him into our way of thinking, and determine who He is by our perception of Him. Our perception of God is formed by what we have been taught, what we have read and experienced. We have been taught many errors because we forget that God is not a man.

In our effort to know what the invisible God is like, we have compared Him to visible man - a person. Many sermons have been preached about God being a person with personality and character traits like we have. Books have been written to convince us that this is true. However, this assumption has its problems because it is based on a false premise and a wrong understanding of the scriptures. God is not a man; personality and characteristics apply to man – not to spirit. God is spirit, and therefore an image of Himself has to be a spiritual image. When God formed Adam, He made an earthy image of Himself - not a spiritual image. Man differs from the animal world in that he can worship and create from existing materials; he is not as limited in his thinking like the animals are. He is higher than the animals, but he is not like God; he is only an earthy image of God. He is the starting point for the creation of a spiritual image of God.

The spiritual image of God comes to us in Christ - in the anointing. When we are born from above, we are a new creation – a spiritual creation! (2 Cor. 5:17). The old things have passed away, and new things have come! It is this new creation that we are, that is being brought into maturity; it is our transformation into the image of Christ!

Let’s look at some of the false concepts we have of God. In both the Old and New Testaments it says, “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! “ (Deut. 6:4) “The foremost (commandment) is, `Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord.’” (Mark 12:29) However, we have been taught that God is actually three persons – three persons in one! The Bible plainly teaches that we have ONE God, yet we are taught that we have three Gods – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and these three Gods form one God. That conflicts with the mathematics that we have been taught in our schools and universities. The scriptures teach that we have ONE God, and He is the source of everything. They also teach that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father, and that the Lord is the Spirit. Believers are to be baptized in the name (not names) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the source of all. The Son is the Word made flesh - the Father's communication with the world. Our words bring to others a revelation of who we are and what we think.The Word, Jesus Christ is the revelation of the invisible God to us! "The Lord is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:17)They are one in deity, truth, thought, desire and will, but they remain Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who was first - the Father or the Son? Is the Son the source of everything, or is the Father the source? We cannot have two or three sources of everything! The Father is the source of the Word, the revelation of Himself and the work He does. One God!

We have been taught that God is a person. If God is a person, how can He be everywhere at the same time? Besides, He is invisible to our eyes. How can He look like us and yet be invisible? Instead of bringing God down to our level, we are to be ascended into Him! Since we are to be transformed into the image of Christ (the exact representation of the invisible God), it follows that we have to be brought into a higher level; we are to be changed into His likeness! Ignorance leaves us confused; truth brings light and understanding!

The teaching that God has given us a free will robs God of His sovereignty! God has given us a will, but that will is not free to do as it pleases because it is influenced by many things. . In Romans 7 Paul writes that he is not free to do what he wants to do; instead, he does what he doesn’t want to do. Our failure to keep our New Year’s resolutions illustrates this problem. Also, why would so much money be spent on advertisements if people had a free will and could not be influenced?

Many Christians do not realize that a free will is one that cannot be influenced. If God had given humanity a free will, He would have lost His right to influence humanity, and that includes each one of us. He would have lost His sovereignty! The teachers of this absurdity realize that this would never do! To camouflage this error, they declare that God is too much of a gentleman to infringe on our free will! In so doing, they retain their so-called right to blame people for not having made the right choice as to their eternal destination. The logical conclusion to this thinking is that God would rather see the greater part of His creation writhe in agony in the flames of hell throughout eternity than to influence their will. What a horrible misrepresentation of God! Nothing could be farther from the truth!

The scriptures are full of examples that prove that people can be influenced. We know that Adam and Eve were certainly influenced by the serpent’s words, so instead of obeying God, they obeyed the serpent. We also have many examples of God influencing people. Take Jonah for example. It took a special fish to swallow Jonah, but God had that fish ready and He made Jonah willing to do what he did not want to do. Saul of Tarsus is another good example. When he was blinded physically by the light of Jesus Christ, his spiritual eyes were opened and he was influenced to become a believer in Christ instead of a persecutor of Christians. God does whatever is necessary to get us to change. He would not be God if He could not fulfill His desires and perform His will!

Another false concept of God declares that He only loves us when we are good; if we are bad He will throw us into a fire that always keeps burning us, but never killing us. Torturing pain for all eternity! Yet He is a God of love! Does God in His love punish endlessly just for the satisfaction of showing us that He needs to be obeyed, or does He discipline us to eradicate the errors or flaws in our thinking? How does love fit in with endless punishment? There is no redemption in that, yet all of God’s disciplines are redemptive! Endless punishment says that evil will exist throughout all eternity, and that God is too weak to do away with evil. When we were teaching in China, we saw this idea expressed in their communist textbook notes on John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”.

Unbelievers want to find fault with God, so they blame Him for the difficulties and problems that have emerged because of their selfish and lustful actions. They also ask questions that are prefaced with, “If God can do anything”. Some favourite questions are: “Can He make a stone so big that He is unable to lift it? Why doesn’t He exercise His power and do away with all the wickedness in this world? Can God sin?” Notice that these questions have the wrong premise. The question should read, “Can God do everything He purposes to do?” God cannot sin because that would be against the very essence of His being! God only does His will, and He works everything according to the counsel of His will!

If we blame God for our troubles it shows that we think that we would do things differently and better if we were God. Humanity’s simplistic cures reveal their ignorance of God and His unfathomable wisdom! Humanity does not understand that God is in the process of doing away with sin, and that He is doing it in the best way possible, that is, by changing us into His image! When difficulties come our way, we often think, “I don’t need this one more thing in addition to all the troubles I already have.” But God knows what we need, and what will bring glory to His name. We have to learn that He is our provision for all our needs! To receive His provision requires obedience to His rule! This makes us overcomers and brings glory to His name!

It is very important for us to know who our God is; if we don’t know who He is, we’ll find all kinds of reasons why we can’t believe Him, and we’ll blame Him when we should praise Him. Since He is not a man, we will discuss who He is in the very essence of His being. The scriptures tell us that God never changes! He is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Heb. 13:8) Changes take place when there is growth or deterioration. God can never grow in truth, purity, love, etc., because He IS those things! Neither can He deteriorate in any aspect of His being because there is nothing perishable in Him!

God is spirit!! What does spirit look like? Actually, we don’t really know. Because He is spirit, He does not occupy space; so He is everywhere, and we can’t get away from Him. In Psalm 139:8 it says, “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold You are there.” Even if we go to Hades, He is there! He knows all things; He even knows the number of hairs each of us has. He can lead and direct each one of us, and He has a specific plan for each person! What an awesome God!

In John 4:24 Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” We know that spirit does not occupy space, so it cannot have form according to our definition of form. Spirit does not have a physical form, but it can take on form when it so desires, as the spiritual Jesus did when He appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. Since we cannot see spirit, we have to base our complete understanding on the revelation of what the scriptures declare. God never lies, so the essence of His being is truth, and we have to worship Him in accordance with who He is. Worship is more than singing praises to God, clapping our hands, etc. We cannot truly worship God without submitting our will to Him, and taking His will as our will! Our obedience to the will of God is our testimony that we believe God is true. “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.” (John 3:33)

God’s promises can never fail because He is spirit and truth. In fact, it is impossible for Him to fail! He is totally dependable! Everything He says has to come to pass! Whenever our carnal mind tells us that we have a better solution to our problem than God has, we know that this is a lie! That mind would have us trust in self-effort (something we can see) instead of in God’s provision (something we can’t see). His provision comes into the seen realm through faith.

The natural mind cannot receive spiritual realities, for it is void of faith. It can regurgitate knowledge about God, but it cannot act on what it cannot understand. This is why we so often walk in unbelief instead of in faith. Why do we not believe that God will work all things for our good? Why do we worry? Why is the joy of the Lord not evident in us? Why? Why? Why? It is because we don’t know our God! In Daniel 11:32 we read, “… but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. “

Christ knew the Father in His very essence. He knew that the Father’s love and plan for Him were perfect. He knew the truth! He knew that He could walk in obedience to that plan, regardless of the difficulties He would encounter! If we believed everything we say that God is, we would walk in the same perfect confidence of obedience that Jesus did!

In 1 John 4:8 we read that, “God is love.” He doesn’t have a great measure of love; He IS love! Love is the very essence of His being! All His thoughts, words and actions flow out of LOVE! If humanity would understand this, it would not accuse Him of any wrongdoing! All of God’s promises and disciplines are rooted in love! All of His disciplines tare redemptive in nature. Sadistic and eternal punishment does not flow out of love and therefore cannot exist!! God’s love encompasses all humanity! “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)

Nothing can change that love, for He IS love! None of our failures change God’s love for us! In fact, He loves us so much that He won’t allow us to remain off course! “ The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance .” (2 Peter 3:9) Can He fulfill His desires? On the one hand we say that God can do everything He wishes to do, and then we turn around and say that man’s will is so powerful that it can prevent God from fulfilling His desire that is rooted in love. Let’s get with it! Either He is sovereign and He can accomplish His will, or He is not sovereign and cannot accomplish His will. The scriptures teach that God is sovereign; therefore He can accomplish His will!

Since God is love, everything He does has to come out of a heart of love! All our trials and difficulties that we face come out of a heart of love! The scriptures tell us that we should rejoice when we face these various hardships, because they are working something good in us! Without working against an opposing force we cannot grow strong physically or spiritually.

The scriptures give us many examples of this principle. God’s love made Abraham wait 25 years before giving him the promised son; God’s love let Joseph suffer in preparation for the great work and honor that he was to receive; God’s love let Job suffer horribly that he might know God; God’s lovelet His Son suffer the cruelest death possible that he might save the world; God’s love let Paul suffer so he would remain humble! God’s love also lets us suffer for a specific good purpose! It is only later on that we discover the blessing He had in store for us!

The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) If we have a wrong image of God, our thoughts and actions will be in line with that image. If we think the law was given in order to teach us what God is like, we’ll be very legalistic Christians. Instead of loving others, we’ll be critical and judgmental. The purpose of the law was to teach us that we could never reach God’s standard of righteousness by self-effort, and to show us our need of Christ . Once we recognize the weakness and inability of self-effort, we will repent and turn to Christ and rely on Him alone!

Jesus Christ taught us to love our enemies! This love was exemplified on the cross when He prayed, “ Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34) God demonstrated His love for us when He gave His only-begotten Son to die for us! When we truly recognize that God has poured out His love into our hearts in the Holy Spirit, we will be transformed into His image. Keeping grudges and rejoicing when our enemies suffer show that we do not know God, for God is love! He loved us when we were His enemies, dead in our sins and trespasses. Knowing that in Christ we are united with our God and Father of love, will cause love to prevail at all times.

God dwells in love, for He is love! “ We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. ” (1 John 4:16) Knowledge alone does not bring us into faith. We have to know and believe! God does not dwell in hate, anger, revenge – in the lust of the eyes and of the flesh, and in the pride of life. He dwells in love! What a glorious truth! What an incentive to love! Difficulties, rejection and persecution seek to rob us of our love. Without love we are living in the mind of the serpent. The mind of God is love! Being ruled by the mind of God brings us into love and into God!

It may be difficult for us to understand that God is also a consuming fire. “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire.” (Deut. 4:24) In Heb. 12:29 this truth is repeated! “For our God is a consuming fire.” Since God is spirit, it follows that this fire has to be a spiritual fire – not a physical fire. In Matt. 3:11 John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” This is the cleansing fire of God that takes place in the inward man. It destroys all our carnal thoughts – our wrong attitudes and our wrong idea of God, self, and Satan. When our wrong ideas are gone, our outward actions will change.

God’s consuming fire does what our self-effort fails to do! All our efforts at trying to be pleasing to God by making right choices and new resolves to do better in the future are useless, because we cannot make ourselves pure and righteous! This is an impossible task! The natural mind is filled with lies and deception; it always opposes Christ; in fact, it is anti Christ. Only God knows how to produce an effective cleansing! God loves us so much that He will do away with all our carnality! His cleansing fire does away with all our dross – with all our wrong thinking, pride and fleshly lusts! We don’t enjoy the process, but we appreciate the blessings that this cleansing brings.

Notice that God is a consuming fire! It is the very essence of His being! The so-called eternal hellfire is not a consuming fire. We are taught that it just keeps burning and torturing us, but it does not accomplish anything; its only purpose is to give us torturing pain forever. Since it is not consuming anything, it is not redemptive, and therefore not of God. Those who call our attention to the burning bush that was not consumed, forget that this fire did not hurt the bush, so it cannot be compared with a hellfire that is said to keep people in agonizing pain forever! God’s disciplines are always rooted in His love for us, and in His purpose to change us into the image of Christ!

All our bondages to sin have to be removed! This truth is symbolized by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were tied up in ropes and thrown into the fire. After they were in the fire, they walked in the midst of the fire in total freedom together with someone who looked like the “ son of the gods.” (Dan. 3:25) The fire had only burned away the bondages that had curtailed their freedom. God’s consuming fire does not hurt us, and it frees us from our bondage to sin! This brings us into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior!

God is Light! “This is the message we have heard from Him and announced to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) Light without any darkness is beyond anything we have ever seen! There is nothing in Him that even faintly resembles sin and darkness! God dwells in light! “”He (God) 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 .” (1 Tim. 6:15-16) It is impossible for the natural man to see God, for God is spirit, light and love. Even as God is love and dwells in love, so He is light and dwells in light! The purity of His light causes His light to be brighter than anything known to man. It is beyond comparison!

It’s important for us to see the difference between the essence of His being and the attributes that flow out of the very essence of His being! Let’s look at some examples. God is a righteous God. He “is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.” (Dan. 9:14) However, it does not say that God is righteousness. He is a jealous God, but the essence of His being is not jealousy. He is jealous for us - not because of greed and selfishness, but because of His great love for us! God is our refuge, but it does not say that God is refuge! God is full of grace and His throne or government is one of grace, but it does not say that God is grace. Since there is no darkness in Him, everything he does flows out of the purity of His being; all His plans, choices, judgments, and actions are rooted in pure unselfish love and light!

God is holy.” (Ps. 99:9) There are many references in the Bible that state that God is holy. We readily proclaim that He is holy, but what do we mean by that? We have no trouble explaining other holy things. For example, the utensils in the temple were holy because they were set apart for the work of God; holy men and women are those who have been set apart to serve God. How do we apply this to God? God has set Himself apart to be absolute purity in thought and deed! His judgments flow out of His holiness; they stand in stark contrast to the unrighteous and polluted judgments of sinful humanity. !n Rev. 16:5 we read, “ And I heard the angel of the waters saying, `Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because you judge these things.’” This gives us an understanding of why the righteousness of God’s acts and judgments are commonly associated with the fact that God is holy!

In 1 Peter 1:15-16 we read, “But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourself also in all your behavior; because it is written, `You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ This is a quotation from Leviticus 11:44. We are so impressed with how completely God wants us to be like He is! All our behavior is to be free from all selfishness! Since we are children of the Most High God (King’s Kids), don’t we deserve special treatment? Can’t we think of our needs, and be a little selfish at times? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, showed us the way! He only did what the Father showed Him to do! When He and His disciples needed resting time, God gave them time to rest. But He did not demand it. He did not demand respect from others. He did not expect special favors from God because of His Sonship. He accepted God’s plan for His life because He trusted the Father to have the best plan for His life. He knew that God’s grace was sufficient for Him! So He remained pure in thought and action. Even so God’s grace is sufficient for us!

God is eternal life. “ And we know, that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20) Our God is a living God! There is no other living God! All the gods of our imagination are dead gods. All who have been elevated to godhood (like Buddha and Mohammed) in the minds of people, are dead. Not one of them has been resurrected out of physical death. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was resurrected out of death, for He too is life! He said,“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (Jn. 14:6) In Christ we can know the true God, for He is the exact representation of the invisible, living God! (Heb. 1:3)

Eternal life does not only refer to unending life, but also to the quality of life that causes it to continue living forever! Our physical life depends on the condition of our aging bodies, and we know that our physical bodies wear out. They perish or die because they cannot sustain themselves forever. God’s life is different! It is perfect; He cannot increase or decrease! There is no darkness, decay or death in Him! He is absolute goodness!

When we are born of His Spirit, we receive His life – His eternal, imperishable, incorruptible life! In 1 Peter 1:23 we read that we have been born of an incorruptible seed. An incorruptible seed can never receive corruption! It has the same quality of life that God has! This is so difficult for us to believe because we cannot see the invisible, but we can see the flesh and its imperfections. Only by faith can we believe that we are the new creation man that God says we are!

God’s promises are always in accordance with His plan to create man in His image. This seems impossible to us, but God is able to perform His will, for His will is always in agreement with the very essence of His being. He said, “ Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.(Isaiah 46:11) There is no duality in Him. Therefore we can trust Him implicitly, and cheerfully submit our will to His will!

God has revealed Himself to us in so many different ways, yet He remains beyond our comprehension! He gave us the scriptures that tell us who He is and what He does! He has revealed His omnipotence in the creation of the expanding universe and all that is in it! He even has the power to change us into the very image of Christ! He has revealed His omnipresence in the Holy Spirit. He is present everywhere; we can’t get away from Him (not that we would want to), and He has promised never to leave us! He can accomplish everything He wants to accomplish! He has revealed His omniscient wisdom in creation, in nature, and in His wonderful plan of salvation, and in the glory that shall be revealed to us and in us! He knows all things! He knew that humanity could not understand His being, so He sent His beloved Son into this world to explain His invisible being to us!

The Man Christ Jesus is the express image of the invisible God, and now in Christ we can learn to know God! In Christ we learn that nothing we do can cancel God’s eternal love for us! In Christ we learn of the cost and rewards of obedience! In Christ we learn of the undeserving forgiveness that is inherent in the love of God! In the revelation of Jesus Christ we learn that God’s consuming fire of love will burn in us until all our carnality is burned away, and we will stand in His presence in the perfect image of Christ! What a glorious Savior of the world our God is!

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