The Character of God - Jon Fryer

When we talk about the character of God, what we are really saying is “What is he like?”. The word ‘character’ describes how someone acts
and reacts and so reveals what they are like ‘inside’. In books and plays the people describes are called ‘characters’ because we want to know what they will do and why – its all about what they are like on the inside coming out to affect what they do and say on the outside.

So how do we know what someone’s character is like? Obviously the best way is to get to know the person themselves, by spending time with them and getting to know what makes them tick. Many of the people in this room are good friends with God and know what He is like through long personal experience. But lets for a moment assume that we are unable to do that for some reason – how then could we find out what God is like?

Firstly, in order to get to know someone’s character, we can look at how they act, look at what they actually do. For example, at geek cell
we play a tabletop wargame that is meant to promote and reward teamwork. Instead, nearly all of our players spend most of the game trying to stitch each other up, which is why they die so often – someone watching could perhaps watch how the players act and draw some fairly good conclusions about what each of the players are like, and what they believe and think about life, and about people, and about fairness or right and wrong and all sorts of things – in short, your actions reveal your character. So what about God?

What can we say about someone who created this?:

Andromeda GalaxyPerhaps that they are powerful, creative, that they love
beauty and energy, order and chaos, that they are complex and beyond understanding?

Psalm 19 says that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;  night after night they reveal
knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words;  no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."

And in fact Romans 1 says that this is one way we should
indeed understand what God is like – “What may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Or what can we say about someone who created these?:

PlatypiThat he’s creative, playful, breaks rules, cares about small details, is generally awesome?

And so on and so forth…

How else can we know of someone’s character? Well, we can listen to what other people say about them. When someone says that Bob is of
good character, what they mean is that Bob behaves properly in all circumstances, and we perhaps don’t need to see Bob’s behaviour for ourselves because we can take on trust the reports of other people, although that’s not
necessarily as good a source as getting to know the person for ourselves. Likewise, if someone is said to be a shady character, we perhaps can work out some things about how they behave and what they are like from that report also.

In the Bible, we have a whole raft of people telling us about their experience of God, and what they think He is like. And the Bible is not biased purely in God’s favour – Job accuses him of being unfair, Jeremiah complains frequently about the job he has been given by God, and David frequently accuses God of not being there when He needs Him. Nonetheless, in the end, it normally turns out that God knows best, even if His actions have been hard to understand up until that point. God’s friends normally give Him the benefit of the doubt, because they can see that in the past He has always been good to us, even if we don’t understand what he is doing.

St. John, who was a very good friend of God, has this to say about God, which pretty much sums up what the entire Bible has to say about

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: he loved us and sent his Son to put right everything that is broken about us. Dear friends, because God loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, we show each other what God is like.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, proves that they do not love God, whom they have not seen, because this is what God says that He wants: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Ok, so in the Bible there is another way we can know what God is like. When we say someone has a good name, what we really mean is that they have a good reputation. But in the Bible this is taken literally – peoples names meant something, and their name could and would be changed by their friends, families or teachers to something more appropriate if it turned out that their name didn’t match their character.

In the Old Testament alone God has 144 different names in Hebrew, and they all explain what he is like. Can any of the Christians remember any of them and what they tell us about God? E.g. He provides, He heals, He watches over me, He sits upon the Cherubim etc.

Most of those names are given to God by people in their reaction to Him, although some are God’s way of describing Himself. However,
there are four moments in the Bible where God’s name really and truly reveal what He is like.

Firstly, when Moses first asks God what His name is, God answers ‘I AM’. The implication is ‘I exist, and that is enough’. But some scholars believe that the unpronounceable name that God gives Moses and that we translate as ‘I AM’ is actually just an onomatopoeic way of describing the sounds of someone breathing. Moses asks God what his name is, and all he hears in reply is the sound of someone breathing – the implication is not ‘I exist, and that’s all you need to know’, but rather ‘I am here with you, and that’s all you need to know’ – What is God like? He is here with us, sharing in everything we do and feel and experience. God is here.

Secondly, when Jacob wrestles with God he asks God his name. God doesn’t reply, and instead he blesses Jacob. But the blessing IS the reply. What is God like? He blesses, that is, he wants what is god for you, he wishes you well. And if God wants what is good for you, then ultimately you will get it, because God always gets what He wants in the end. What is God like? God is good, and he cares about you.

Thirdly, when Manaoh asks God name, God replies ‘Why do you ask my name? My name is too wonderful’. On the face of it, that seems to say ‘Don’t be stupid, you wouldn’t understand it anyway!”, but its not. What it says is ‘My name is wonderful , I’m too much for you to comprehend at the moment, but one day you will understand, and when you finally do understand, you will be filled with wonder and awe’. What is God like? God is so great, so good, so fantastic that you can’t completely understand Him, but when you do it will completely blow your mind.

And lastly, finally, comes the time when God finally answers the question. When God finally decides to come to earth as a human being he
reveals his name to be Jesus, which means ‘He saves’. Saves you from what? Saves you from everything you will ever need saving from. He makes Superman look like an amateur. He saves us from ourselves, from each other, from our circumstances, from our enemy. Maybe not in the way we are expecting, but he saves us. He saves. What is God like? He saves. If you remember nothing else from tonight, remember that – He saves us in every way it is possible to be saved. And that is the good news of the Bible – God is here, God is great, God wishes good to us, and most of all, he acts to bring that good about for us. He saves.

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Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
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