Lord’s Day 12/19/10 The Real God

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God the Father is altogether Jesus-like!—it is the most breathtaking news that anyone can ever hear. But do we attend to what is revealed? I fear not.Imagination takes over again.

What do we do? We imagine a clash between the presentations of God in different parts of the Old Testament, and between the entire Old Testament presentation and what we imagine Jesus to have been. What sort of person do you think of him as? Gentle, meek, and mild? Kind, and endlessly ready to be entreated and forgive? True—but only half the truth, and a half-truth treated as the whole truth becomes a whole falsehood. Have you forgotten how he whipped tradesmen out of the temple (Mark 11:15–17; John 2:14–16), and threw verbal vitriol at recognized church leaders (Matthew 23, etc.), and cursed the fig tree as a sign of judgment to come on unfaithful Israel (Mark 11:12–14, 20ff.)? In Jesus, as in all God’s self-disclosure throughout the Bible, there is a combination of pity with purity, passion with power, and slowness to anger with severity of judgment, that should humble us to the roots of our being and move us every day to cry for mercy. But are we realists enough to see this? Or has our imagination betrayed us once again?

Do we like to think that God is light as well as love (1 John 1:5; 4:8), great and terrible as well as steadfast in love (Nehemiah 1:5)? Maybe not, but this is how he is, and woe betide us if we are foolish and inattentive enough to imagine him different.

God ends the second commandment (Exodus 20:5ff.) by reminding us of his real nature as the jealous God who seeks total loyalty, the just God who judges his foes as they deserve, and the gracious God who shows “steadfast love to thousands (of generations) of those who love him and keep his commandments.” And how should we keep this one? By reining in our disordered imaginations and reverently accepting that God is as he says he is. How unready and slow we are to do that! Yet we must learn to do it; for it is only as rose-colored fantasy is abandoned, and realism takes its place, that true worship—worship, that is, in truth—can begin.
–  Packer, J. I. (1996). Growing in Christ (244–245). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

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