26. August 2018

A Personal God

Service Type:

‘…Thou hast searched me and known me…’ (Psalm 139, 1)

Who am I? This is a question that is so deep, so profound, so unsettling, so challenging that we dare not ask it of ourselves. What am I? Now that is a question that is far easier to address. Each of us can describe ourselves to another in terms of a whole variety of characteristics, some of which we imagine to be more or less significant depending on to whom we are describing ourselves. But who I am can only emerge when what I am has been stripped away. The Christian Gospel claims that ‘who I am’ can only be realised when we allow God to reveal to each one of us just ‘who we are’. Before God it is ‘me, myself and I’. But then, before we fall into the trap of believing that ‘I’ am all that matters, that it is all about ‘me’, that I only have ‘myself’ to concern me, that same Christian Gospel, in revealing to me ‘who I am’ causes me to realise that ‘who I am’ is ‘who everyone is’, and that everyone is who ‘I am’. Each one of us is made in the ‘image of God’, and through Jesus, whom Paul describes as the ‘image of the invisible God’, each one of us can be remade ‘in the image of Christ’. And so, as a Christian, if were to view ourselves through the eyes of faith, when we look into a mirror we would see reflected the ‘image of Christ’. More pertinently, if we were to look at each other through the eyes of faith, we would see Christ in each of us. Even more pertinently, if we were to look at anyone else through the eyes of faith we would, at the very least ‘glimpse’ the image of God in which each and every one of us was created. The difficulty we have so often is that we prefer to live by sight, and when we do we merely see ourselves reflected back to us, we see each other Christians as ‘they are’, we see others as ‘they are – not ‘who’ we are, just what we have become, not ‘who’ each one of is but just wheat each one of is to each other, not ‘who’ others are, but rather ‘what’ they are. The Gospel imperative demands of us, those of us for whom the eyes of faith have opened, to see beyond the ‘what’ that we might see ‘who’; and that we encourage each and all alike to subordinate the ‘what’ for the sake of ‘who’. This is not mere semantics, it is a distinction that goes to the heart of the human condition, lays bare that which serves to feed an appetite that is hellbent on, at one and the same time undermining, distorting, exaggerating, over indulging, prejudicing, demonising, and idolising in equal measure those whom we choose to label accordingly according to what we perceive them to be.  Inter personal relationships are essentially vulnerable, if for no other reason than that both parties change over time, either independently of each other or because of the effect one has on the other. This is particularly true in regard to marriage and to family life. The nature of a relationship can change and often with unforeseen consequences, such as when one retires from employment, moves to a new location, changes one’s social status etc… All of this serves to exacerbate the fickleness that is at the heart of our relating to and with each other. But with God it is different altogether. God does not change, will not change. The intensity with which God loves each one of us, a love so intense it is uniquely so, never ever wavers. We change, and even in terms of our relating to God we will change, but God will never change. If we walk away in a fit of pique, God waits for us to return. If we choose to give our love to another, God’s love is never removed from us. If circumstances of life are such that we cannot even countenance God’s very existence, God doesn’t disappear. We can hurt God, we can wound God, we can cause God great pain and much heartache but nonetheless the God who loved us is the God who loves us, is the God who loves us regardless. Last Sunday I created something of a ‘stir’ when I suggested that the Eternal God does not know what the futures for any of us but that God promises to be with us in every present moment. Whilst a number of you sought to ‘put me right’ the more I think about it, the more convinced I am. The future for all of us is an ‘open future’. In Jesus God has reached out to the world, to every single individual, and offered to establish a loving relationship with anyone who would so choose. The only condition that God attaches to such an offer is that it be established at God’s initiative, and on God’s terms. The only condition is that we be prepared to accept that the relationship is one of mutual/reciprocal ‘love’ – a ‘love’ which in Jesus is revealed to be selfless, self-giving, sacrificial love – and that our response is to be a willingness to ‘love’ the Lord our God will all our heart, with all our soul, and all our mind, and to ‘love’ our neighbour as ourselves. In so doing, God promises that we will discover who we really are and that who we really are is far more important than whatever we might have been, whatever we are, or whatever we might become. None of this matters to God, what matters to God is that we are prepared to allow ourselves to know who we really are; thereby being at peace with God, with one another and with ourselves. God does not know who will say yes to what is offered to us in Christ. God does not know when, if ever, we will say yes to Christ, but what we do know is that the invitation is never withdrawn. In the olden days, ministers would occasionally ‘preach for decisions’, give an old-fashioned ‘altar-call’, ‘make an appeal’. Well, might this not be an opportune time to encourage all of us to think seriously about what it means to be in a relationship with a personal God; a personal relationship; it is never too late, better late than never. Don’t put off to tomorrow, trusting to the inherent uncertainty of the future, when it can be that today is the day of my salvation.