The LORD will keep

your going out and your coming in

from this time forth and forevermore.

Psalm 121: 8

 

This may not be what everyone has in mind when they consider a relationship with God. The degree of watchfulness on the Lord’s part that is indicated here is just too close and way too personal for our tastes as there are times when the idea that God sees it all is not very comfortable. In other words, we want to be invisible from time to time, and a God who has His hands on all of my life isn’t going to just ignore what I am about during those days of desired secrecy. Yet, there is a tension implied in all of this, too, for there are many situations and events when I really do want God in His power and with His strength to be watching over my life and guarding my pathway from harm.

 

In truth we cannot have it both ways. We do not get to select which aspects of life are under God’s view and within His area of involvement; rather, He is all in with our existence, and the Lord is fully engaged in the total package that forms the comings and the goings of life. There is no place where He does not go, and we cannot enter into activities or even have thoughts that He is not aware of. So, for me, I have needed to come to grips with the fact that God sees and will engage with everything that I do, say, and think. This part of my reality has caused me to consider the nature and the character of God more closely, for it brings out the question of my comfort with His proximity to my innermost self.

 

When I do carefully consider who God is and contemplate His nature deeply, the eyes of my heart are opened up to the fact that there is simply no one else who I would want to be that close to me. The Lord loves me with an unceasing depth of commitment that is not possible to match elsewhere, and He cares about the nature and the quality of my life to the degree that He has already sacrificed His all in order to redeem me from the pain of death that I so fully deserved. This God, who watches over each of my steps and who places His mighty hand of protection over my head every moment of my days, provides me with guidance and with the wisdom of eternity to use in considering the next steps that I will take. As I yield myself to His will, my Lord takes me into the glory of His will, and with God as my guardian and my counselor, my days are lived out in a form of freedom and peace that is empowering and joyous beyond all imagining.

What shall we say then? “Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!”

Romans 9: 14

 

It seems easy to cast blame onto God, for there is much that is wrong in our world. A God who is truly sovereign over it all and who has the power to do something about it certainly would not let the evil of our days continue, would He? These are the sorts of thoughts that go through the minds of most people at some time, for it seems to me that it is much easier to blame God for what is wrong than it is to accept my own participatory ownership in it all. However, my personal experience with that same God and observation of what His character is truly like tell me that blaming God points the accusatory finger in exactly the wrong direction.

 

The nature of the God that I have come to know is righteous. This means that He is wholly separate from the sinfulness, the brokenness, of our world. All of this anger, violence, and self-serving action that characterize the daily struggle to exist here are generated by people in thoughts and actions that are created in our own hearts in opposition to God’s will, His Word, and His original creative design intent. We are the ones whose lives are framed in by an injustice that is the embodiment of unrighteousness. We humans seem to work hard at separating ourselves from God and thus from all that is good, just, and loving; we move away from all that is righteous.

 

This is not how we must continue to live. Christ is here with us in order to change all of that. He brings the righteousness of God into the reach of each of us. He bridges the enormous gulf that exists between the Lord and our sinful hearts so that anyone who desires to exist in the presence of the holy can, in fact, do so here and now. In this way God’s justice is, in fact, redemptive. The just God invites each of us to depart from our unrighteous existences through acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us so that we are then transformed into beings that are known to God as His beloved children. This is the nature of the truly just God that I have come to know. He has taken my sinful and broken life and, in Christ, continually works to transform me into a person who lives out the justice, the righteousness, that is the Lord’s desire, will, and nature.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

Romans 3: 21, 22

 

God’s character stands above everything else in creation. In fact, it is this character that sets the standard for what constitutes rightness and righteousness in everything. The character of God is itself an expression of His nature; so, when God, Himself, is considered, absolute righteousness is what is on view. No other standard, rule, or law that has come in any sense from the hands of humans can match that exact image of the Lord, for all others are nothing more than copies or amateurish sketches that were crafted by ill-informed and shaky hands.

 

Now God’s Word, as God’s Spirit has directed it onto the page, does give us our best written facsimile. Still, it is expressed in our imperfect human language, and it requires that people engage with it out of our relationship with the Living God in order to gain our best understand of its content and direction for our lives. Also, when it comes to viewing God’s character in earthly terms, the lives of people who have been transformed by Christ in them is the world’s living depiction of God and expression of His kingdom in its glory among us on earth. God desires that all people would know Him and be in relationship with Him; so, the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to live as us and among us, and Christ sent His Spirit to continue that earthly dwelling with all of us who enter into a relationship with God.

 

In Christ all that is God, His nature and character, have been made fully known to all people. I do not pretend to know exactly how this happens or the ways in which God brings His story of redemption and salvation into the minds and the hearts of every person on earth; I just accept His word when it says that He does. What I do know is that everything that is good, righteous, and holy in my experience of life has come out of and from God, Himself. I do understand that Christ produces my own goodness as He resides within me and as I am submitted to His perfect will, and I pledge my mind and my heart to seeking to know Christ more fully and to actively responding to His calling to live righteously that this knowledge and understanding produces.

“Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord God, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

Ezekiel 18: 23

 

A lot of people think that God simply does not like them. They believe that He is angry with their life choices, with their attitudes, or simply with them. They stay as far away from God and from anything that is related to Him as is possible. This is understandable for people who don’t know God. It is easy and often natural to have an unclear and a distorted view of the Lord’s character and intent toward people when He is only known about and not known in an intimate way.

 

Sadly, God’s own don’t always help the cause of understanding, either. We lash out in angry words and actions against people who can’t be held to a standard of righteous behavior since they don’t hold the key to righteousness. We approach a discussion about life and lifestyle in a manner that points to the bad behaviors of others and heaps guilt upon their heads. This is not how God does the same things. Behaving as if we are angry with people does not show them the face of God; instead, it pushes them away from Him.

 

The Lord is very concerned with the way that we live, and He sets very clear standards for people’s behavior. Still, He knows that living up to His standards is impossible for people who don’t know Him. God cares about the relationship that people have with Him. He wants all people to know Him personally. The Lord directs His children to show others the truth about Him and His character and to help them understand the reality of the love that God has for everyone. The answer to the evil that is rampant in our world is not anger, and it is not separation leading to isolation. Rather, it is found in loving those who don’t know Christ; it is found in connecting with them and in understanding their needs. God’s response to lost people is demonstrated by his attitude of sadness at their lack of hope, and He commands us to share this concern and to act upon it by sharing the love of Christ with others. The evil of this world needs to be confronted with the soul saving truth of God’s grace, restoration, and love.

 

In every way you were enriched in God in all speech and all knowledge.

1 Corinthians 1: 5

 

We live in a world where many things are enriched. Enriched bread and vitamin fortified milk and juice are common. Enrichment courses are taught in schools and in other settings. When you enrich uranium, the release of an extraordinary amount of energy is just around the corner. The idea of being made better, stronger, greater, and more complete through some form of externally applied addition is one that we can easily accept. Sometimes this enrichment leads to a beneficial outcome and sometimes it has been proven to be useless. Much that we gain in this manner is worthy and good, but people are capable of turning that good science into terrible evil. In the end, what matters the most is who we turn to as the source for the sort of enrichment that establishes an eternal basis for all of the rest of it.

 

God’s Word makes His intent and desire very clear, and His actions over all of time have demonstrated His sincerity. The Lord wants all people to know Him at a level and with a depth of understanding that is deep and intimate. When He speaks of enrichment, God means that we will be changed, transformed, in a manner that involves the essence and the nature of our being. The sort of addition that God desires to impart to people is not so much an increase to what was there from birth as it is an enlivening of what God created in us from the beginning of humanity’s existence. We were designed to be beings that related with and to God at the level of our souls. It is fundamental and intentional in God’s design that everything that we know and all of the expression of that knowledge was to find its foundation in God’s truth, justice, and righteousness, that is, in His character.

 

However, God is something of a relational risk taker. He has never forced His will on people. The Lord grants us the option and the opportunity to enter into and to engage in a relationship with Him. Yet, the consequences for turning away from God are severe. The loss that results from rejecting Him is total in both earthly and eternal terms. On the other hand, the gain that we are granted by electing to follow Christ is too great to be measurable. It is in this relationship with God that our hearts and our minds are opened to understanding the truths that actually enrich us. Humbly and openly seeking God with a spirit that is surrendered and yielded to listening and to following His will brings each of us into the grace and the peace that come only from God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

 

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth through Jesus Christ.

John 1: 17

 

God has always provided guidance to His people. He provided us with His moral code of conduct, His Law, at a very early stage of humanity’s existence. Even before the giving of its formal version to Moses, God set out His desires for our behavior and thought for people to follow. The Lord did not want us to lack for understanding of who He was and of how He desired that we would live. When it comes to things that matter, God is not ambiguous. He speaks with authority and out of His love for His creation.

 

However, the law was not the answer. We are not good at following rules, and people have always been prone to questioning and to challenging their intent and their content. Something far greater than the law was needed. As humanity had frequently tried seeking our guidance and giving our allegiance to other forms of god without achieving true mastery over living well, this new thing had to come directly from God, A moral code had also proven to be futile; so, something much greater was required in order for people to be able to overcome the spiritual and moral death that we were condemned to experience from birth.

 

In order to fully and truly reestablish relationship with people, God had promised Himself as the answer to our sinful state of separation. God gave to us His Son, Jesus, as this final response and solution to our need for the both moral and ethical direction and for the grace to overcome our state of rebellion. Christ pours out God’s grace upon us. He also leads us into living in the center of the eternal truth that is God’s character. In and through Christ we know God. We are immersed in His love, mercy, peace, and truth in a way that is impossible to gain without the presence of Christ in our lives. The law was true but was incomplete. Christ brings the grace of God to us so that God’s love is totally mixed with His truth in a manner that brings God’s people into an unceasingly redemptive relationship with our Creator.