Don't Check Your Brains at the Door part 6
What Is God Like?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 15, 2008

[This message series examines several of the spiritual concepts that are dominant in our society but are contrary to Biblical teaching. In particular, we are looking at the spirituality being promoted by Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle in their webinar based on Tolle’s book, “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.” The videos used are not available on the Sunrise website. However, you may still be able to find them on iTunes or YouTube. In the event that you do find them, the start times for the clips are included in the notes below.]

What is God like? That’s not a very easy question to answer, because God goes beyond our comprehension. No one can fully explain God. And if we could, then He wouldn’t be God at all. God by definition is indescribable. But we can grasp a little bit of who He is. We can learn a little bit about Him. So this morning we’re going to look at some of the things we do know about God.

Now, over the past month we’ve been looking at some of the things Oprah believes about God. We’ve been examining some of the things She’s been teaching through her talk show and through an Internet-based class that she’s been teaching alongside the New Age author, Eckhart Tolle. And what we’ve discovered is that a lot of what she’s been teaching contradicts what we know about God from the Bible. Oprah and Eckhart have been making all kinds of spiritual claims that just don’t line up. So if what the Bible says about God and about us and about our relationship with Him is true, then what they’re saying is false.

But unfortunately, a lot of people are buying into the lies. A lot of people are being deceived and are being misled. Now, do I believe that Oprah and Eckhart are purposefully misleading people? No, I think they’re just misled themselves.

So what our goal is through all of this is to learn to examine and evaluate spiritual claims. What are they really saying? Are they true or are they false? Because we don’t want to accept something as being true just because Oprah says it. We don’t want to accept something as being true just because it’s worded in such a way that it sounds appealing. We want to accept something as being true because it’s true.

So this morning, we’re focusing in on the claims that Oprah and Eckhart are making about God Himself. What is God like? Who or what is God?

So let’s take a look at some video clips of Oprah and Eckhart trying to explain God. And understand, I am not endorsing what they’re saying. I think that what they’re saying is wrong. And we’ll look at why they’re wrong in a little bit.

VIDEO CLIP – Week 7 at 45min
[Oprah explains her view that we are spirit come from the Greater Spirit, and Eckhart adds that deep within there’s a place where you and God merge.]

Okay, so that’s one claim that they make… that we come from God and that we are in fact part of God ourselves. We’ve seen then say that in past weeks… teaching that we ourselves are God. But that’s not at all what we understand about God from the Bible.

Take a look at another clip…

VIDEO CLIP – Week 9 at 1:14
[Again they say that the essence of who you are is connected to God. You and God merge.]

So again, they’re claiming that the essence of who you are comes from God, is connected to God, and is in fact God. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re not God.

You know, I was talking with someone about God a few months ago at Tim Hortons, and this is basically what they told me. They believe that we are all part of God. God is who we are. But again, that’s not even close to what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that we were created by God, and we were created to live in relationship… in community with Him. We don’t merge with God, but we were meant to know God. But then we rebelled against Him and severed that relationship. So if you go deep enough within, you are still separate from God. What Jesus did when He came and He died on the cross, was make it possible for that relationship to be reestablished. He makes it possible for us to know God again… no to be God, but to know God.

Let’s go on to the next clip…

VIDEO CLIP – Week 9 55min
[Oprah claims that we all stem from the universal source/power]

Why is it that I feel like I’m watching one of those old psychic hotline infomercials?

What I want you to notice here are the terms Oprah uses to describe God. She talks about Him as being a Power, an energy field, she calls Him the universe, the Source, a Higher Consciousness, a Presence… in other places in these classes they call God life, they call Him nature… but what they don’t do is acknowledge any rationality or personality in God. He’s not a person, He’s not a being, He’s just an energy.

In fact, a lot of times they don’t even refer to God as “Him.” They just call God “It.”

VIDEO CLIP – Week 10 at 49min
[Oprah says that "It" (referring to God) doesn't care what "It's" called. You can call "It" the universe, consciousness, energy, or whatever]

You know what? I think God does care what He’s called. Why do you think the third commandment is to not take His name in vain… not to use His name frivolously or uselessly or inappropriately? And I assure you, He does not want to be called “it”. Think that’s not very serious? Well, how would you feel if I started calling you “it”. “It came to church today.” “It’s sitting on a chair.” Oprah says it doesn’t matter; I assure you it does.

One more clip. This one’s actually from Oprah’s weekly radio show. Here she’s interviewing a doctor who’s recovering from a devastating stroke…

VIDEO CLIP – with Jill Bolte Taylor week 1 19:31-21:08
[Taylor talks about achieving Nirvana. Oprah asks, “Did you see God? and Taylor responds “I was God”]

Interesting how Oprah tried to step in and more clearly explain, isn’t it? Sounds to me like Oprah’s received a lot of criticism about her claims and she’s trying to smooth things over with her audience. But the thing is, she still makes the same claims. She still says that we’re connected to that which we call God, we’re a direct part of God, God is just an energy and we flow into that energy that is God. Same claims. Nothing changed there.

It’s interesting, too, that Oprah talked about Nirvana. Nirvana is a term that comes out of Hinduism, and it refers to the unity of all existence. But listen… while we’ve adopted some eastern culture and terminology into our own society, and that’s a good thing, we’ve got to be careful not to buy into beliefs that are false. Listen, just because something comes from a far away place and a long ago time doesn’t mean it’s true. If something is a lie, it’s a lie at anytime and anyplace. If something is true, it’s true at anytime and anyplace.

Okay, so Oprah has been teaching a lot of misconceptions about God. Other people have other misconceptions. What I want to do for the rest of our time is identify some of the more common misconceptions and then look at some of the things we do know about God.

Common Misconceptions of God:

•    Scrooge God

This is the concept of God that pictures Him sitting with a ledger keeping track of all our spiritual debits and credits. We can’t have fun, we can’t enjoy life. We’re working for Him, and he’s going to sap all the joy out of life with his unreasonable demands.

•    Gotcha God

This is the concept of God standing on the clouds with a lightning bolt in hand, ready to strike you with it whenever you mess up. That’s a pretty poor picture of God, but a pretty common one.

•    Grandfather God

This pictures God as a loving yet forgetful grandfather who hears our prayers and answers them… if we ask loud and long enough. And no matter what we do, he just smiles and nods approvingly. He’ll never actually discipline us for anything.

•    Santa Claus God

This God has a gigantic sack filled with all the good things of life. Simply ask Him for whatever you want and wait for His jolly answers. Of course, this God chuckles a lot because He’s out of touch with real world.
Yes, God’s a generous God. But there’s a lot more to Him than that.

•    Fix-It God

This God wears a big tool belt and steps in to fix things when life goes awry. But that’s it. Otherwise, you don’t bother Him. Oh, and you’re on your own for the small stuff.

•    The Force God

Like in Star Wars, this pictures God as some impersonal force. This God may guide all things, may be the essence of all things, but there’s no personality… no individuality… no Uniqueness. God’s not a Who, He’s a what. That’s the kind of God Oprah and Eckhart seem to believe in.

(Theologically, this is called Pantheism… a belief that all things are God. Contrast that with atheism which believes there is no God, and the monotheism of the Bible – which teaches that there is one God and only one God, who is the Creator of all things but is not His creation Himself.)

So those are just a few of the common misconceptions of who God is. So common that some of your friends probably hold these kinds of perceptions about God. But they’re not real. They’re not true. They’re just misconceptions.

So where do we find a better picture of God? Well, the Bible is God’s self-portrait. If you want to know what God is like, look at what the Bible says about Him. What is God like in His nature? What is God like in His character? Let’s start with His nature. The first is…

What Is God’s Nature Like?

1.    He is a Living God

This is what Oprah and Eckhart deny. They think God is just some energy field… He’s not really living. But the Bible paints the picture of a living, active God.

Jeremiah 10:10 (NLT)
But the Lord is the only true God. He is the living God and the everlasting King!

He is a living God. Now, that doesn’t mean that He has a physical body. (Although God took flesh upon Himself when He was born into this world as Jesus.) No, the Bible tells us that God is Spirit. And that He exists at all places all the time. But that Spirit of God is alive. It’s not an impersonal force, He’s the Living God.

2.    He Is an All-Powerful God

Jeremiah 32:17 (NLT)
“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!”

I believe that to be true. Of course that always prompts the question, “If God can do anything, can He create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?” I don’t know, but if He can, I hope He creates it right about the people who ask that question. What a stupid, illogical question. It’s self-defeating because it contradicts itself. It’s not a valid question. And besides, it completely misses the point. God is all-powerful, and what that means is He can do anything that He wants to do. He can accomplish everything He sets out to do. He can fulfill His every promise. He can meet your every need. There is nothing in all the universe that is beyond His the scope of His power.

Mark 10:27 (NLT)
“Everything is possible with God.”

God is so powerful in fact, that we can’t even begin to imagine or measure just how powerful He is. His power goes off the charts.

3.    He is a Personable God

What I mean by this is that God shows all the qualities of personhood. Oprah and Eckhart Tolle are trying to strip away all of the qualities that show that God is a sentient individual. But the Bible clearly shows that God possesses personhood. That’s why God’s always referred to with first-person pronouns in the Bible, like “He” and “Him.” God is never referred to as “it”.

“The question ‘Who is God?’ is a good question. It is better than asking ‘What is God?’ This is because God exists, created us, loves us, is concerned for our being, desires to provide for us, and sent the Son to redeem us. If we were to ask ‘What is God?’ we might be tempted to say that God is the infinite being, the creator, a presence, or something like that. In some respect, this would be true. But the first question brings us closer to understanding more of who God really is in His character and His love for us as revealed in the Bible.”
~ Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

In your notes, you see a whole list of words that describe the attributes of God that show His Personhood…

Attributes of God showing Personhood:

He knows
He teaches
He can be lied to
He can be a witness
He has a mind
He speaks
He feels
He loves
He grieves
He designs
He creates

Selected verses showing Personhood of God: 2 Sam. 23:1, Isaiah 63:10, Luke 12:12, John 14:26, Acts 5:3, Acts 5:9, Acts 5:32, Acts 7:51, Acts 8:29, Acts 10:19, Acts 11:12, Acts 13:2, Acts 15:28, Acts 20:28, Acts 21:11, Acts 28:25,  Rom. 8:26, Rom. 8:27, Rom. 15:30, 1 Cor. 2:11, Eph. 4:30, 1 Tim. 4:1, Heb. 3:7-8, Rev. 2:7, Rev. 14:13, Rev. 22:17

And by the way, that’s true for the entire Trinity. We understand God to be One God expressed in three Persons… God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. I know that’s difficult to understand, and people smarter than me have been wrestling with this for centuries.

We’re going to be talking more about the Trinity this Fall, so we’re not going to get into all the doctrine of the Trinity right now. We’ll talk about how there can be three persons but only One God then… for now, all I’m getting at is that the Bible portrays God the Father as possessing a sentient individuality, the same for Jesus, and the same for the Holy Spirit.

Number 4… not only is He a personable God, He is also…

4.    He is a Personal God

That means He wants to know you personally. Now, there are a lot of people who give some kind of intellectual nod to the possibility of the existence of God, but then they believe that He has no relevance in the real world. “If there is a God,” they would say, “then He’s out there somewhere and has no interest in me personally.”

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Because by His very nature He makes Himself available to us. He’s a Creator who yearns to know His creation. In fact, He already knows everything there is to know about you. He knows everything about everything. But He wants you to know Him, too.

God is passionate about you. That’s why Jesus came… so the penalty could be paid for our sinfulness so we could have a restored relationship with God.

John 1:1,14,18 (NLT)
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God…
So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son…
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

He made Himself known to us through Jesus. He wants us to know Him.

John 10:14 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…”

James 4:8 (NLT)
Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

Okay, so that’s a bit about the nature of God. How about the character of God?

What Is God’s Character Like?

A.    He is a Holy God

Isaiah 6:3 (NLT)
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

What does it mean to be holy? Well, to say that God is a Holy God means that He is absolutely pure and righteous. There is no evil, no darkness in Him at all. He is completely and entirely without sin.

In fact, think about it like this: God is allergic to sin. He can’t stand its very presence. He can have nothing to do with sin. He is entirely holy.

B.    He is a Just God

That means that He always does the right thing, and that He opposes injustice. That means that He demands that justice be done.

Job 34:12 (NLT)
Truly, God will not do wrong. The Almighty will not twist justice.

God is a just God, and He demands that justice be done. But at the same time, He tempers that justice with mercy and with grace. That’s number 5…

C.    He is a Gracious God

The best example I can give for this is the salvation that He offers to each of us. We had sinned against God, and His justice demanded that a price be paid. And that price was death. But in His mercy and His grace, God decided to enter into His own Creation and to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and for yours. His justice meant that the price be paid, and His grace meant that He paid it Himself.

Ephesians 2:8 (NLT)
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

Daniel 9:9 (NLT)
But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.

D.    He is a Compassionate God

God loves you deeply. He wants the best for you. He celebrates when you celebrate, and He mourns when you mourn. He loves you with a love that will never fail.

Psalm 103:8 (NLT)
The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

Okay, so that’s just a little bit about what God’s like. As you can imagine, we could have talked about this for days and we’d barely scratch the surface. We’ve just caught a glimpse today of what God’s like.

But as we finish up, here’s what I want you to understand. God wants us, as His followers, to become more like Him. He wants us to become like Him. Not in our nature… we’ll never be all-powerful or all-knowing or all-present… He wants us to become like Him in our character. He wants our character to have a family resemblance to our Heavenly Father as revealed through the Son.

Romans 8:29 (NLT)
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son…

That means He wants us to be pure and holy. He wants us to love justice and the always do the right thing. He wants us to temper that justice with grace and mercy and generosity and forgiveness. And as a compassionate God, He wants that compassion to flow from Him through us to other people.

And here’s the thing… that is the character that God Himself will produce in you as you strive to know Him more and more, and as you seek to obey His Word every day.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008