TEXT: 1 JOHN 1:5
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Previously, we have emphasized the fact that the message of the Bible, the message of the gospel, is primarily about God, not us. It is important that we start with this because our understanding of God has significant implications for how we live our lives. (Dan. 11:32)
GOD IS FOR US
However, the fact that the message is primarily about God does not mean that we do not figure at all in the Bible’s storyline or that there is nothing there for us. On the contrary, Indeed the message of the Bible is first and foremost God, but the Bible also teaches that God is a God who is for us! In fact, 1 John 1:3-4 teaches us that God wants us to have fellowship with him and joy in him through Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, we must start with him, not with ourselves and with our needs.
The point is we must put first things first. If we start with ourselves and our needs and desires we will end up with an understanding of God as someone who is subservient to our interests and we will read the Bible through these lens. This is wrong and dishonoring to God. While it is true that God is a God who longs to bless his people and who cares for their welfare, God is not there to be used; he does not want to be treated as someone who is good only for the satisfaction of our desires. He wants to be loved for his own sake.
GOD IS TO BE LOVED FOR HIS OWN SAKE
In this regard we turn now to the book of Job because Job is someone who unforgettably exemplifies the truth that what matters most is God himself and not the temporal blessings that we receive from him. One of the purposes of that book is to refute the charge that Job feared God only for the sake of the benefits he could get from him (Job 1:8-12; 2:3-6). In order to do that God have to take everything away from Job (Job 1:20-22).
As expected, God was right all along in his estimation of Job. Job loved God for who God is and not merely for the sake of the benefits Job got from him (Job 2:9-10). Of course, human as he was, he did struggle with doubt and bitterness (Job 3:11, 20-26). But in spite of all these challenges to his faith, he never let go of his faith in God. Even when he doubted, he trusted!
But why did God have to let Job go through all that suffering? Because the lesson God had to teach Job – and us – was so important that it was worth all the pain. And that is: God is God. At the end of the day, God is all that matters. He is on the throne; he is at the center of it all, not us (Job 42:1-6). And God, being God, is all-powerful, all-wise, perfectly righteous, sovereign and free. He is free and able to do whatever he pleases and he is always right, and wise, and loving, and good, in everything he does, even if we don’t understand his thoughts and his ways. We cannot obligate him to do as we please and treat him as if he were a genie just because we have a false and unbiblical understanding of his nature and character and promises.
GOD IS WHO THE BIBLE SAYS HE IS
Thus, it is very important that our understanding of God be based on the message that we have heard, that is, that was given to us in the pages of the Bible. The danger is our understanding of God might be influenced by worldly values and selfish interests. If we don’t base our understanding of God on what he has revealed about himself, we are liable to go wrong and we will end up with a God who is not sovereign over us but is subservient to us. A false God.
GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER US, NOT SUBSERVIENT TO US
Incidentally, this is why God rebuked Job’s friends: they had not spoken of God what is right. In effect – though they might not have consciously intended it – they were teaching that God can be manipulated to bless us if we behaved in the right way. And their conclusion was, because Job was undergoing all this suffering, he must have committed some sin. Of course, that was not the case. But the point is they thought of God as someone who was less than sovereign, as someone they could subject to their claims and demands, which God was obligated to comply with, because they had kept – so to speak – their part of a bilateral, reciprocal contract. They had complied with their part of the bargain. They had pushed the right buttons. They had followed the formula or the recipe provided to them. If God doesn’t do as we expect, he’s guilty of breach of contract! If the formula or recipe doesn’t work as expected, then what good is God? That kind of attitude towards God leads to irreverence and bitterness or self-condemnation.
In other words, their attitude towards God was manipulative and mercenary. They thought of God as someone whom they could control by means of their good behavior so that in a sense he would be forced to make sure that their circumstances would always be comfortable, prosperous, and pain-free.
But is that the God of the Bible? Is that the message that was taught to the prophets and to the apostles? No; that is a God of our own making, a God we can control, a domesticated God instead of a God who is sovereign and free.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis created a talking animal, a lion named Aslan, who is actually a picture of God in that fantasy novel. One of the characters, Lucy, wonders about Aslan’s character and asks, “Is He safe?”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Mr. Tumnus also says, “He’s wild, you know. Not a tame lion.”
God is good, God is loving. We might even say that he, in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, is a lamb meek and mild. But in his essential glory as God he, as C.S. Lewis says, is not a tame lion, although he is good.
Incidentally, it was only when Job realized that God is God and he has a perfect right to do whatever he pleased, not only because he is all powerful, but also because he is all-wise, and loving and compassionate – it was when Job learned this lesson (that God is God and we are no) that God restored his fortunes (Job 42:5-6, 10).
CONCLUSION: GOD HIMSELF IS THE BLESSING.
We should realize that God loves us so much more than we love ourselves. And it is because he loves us that he wants us to really know him as the all-glorious God, the One who is worthy to be loved or his own sake, the One whose fellowship we should crave even at the cost of losing everything this world can give (Phil. 3:9-8).
And, amazingly, you will find out that the only way for the message to be also about us is for it to be first and foremost about him.The fact is God is more eager to bless his people far more than they desire to be blessed. He intends to bless his people not only unfailingly but also infinitely beyond what their minds and thoughts can think and conceive (1 Cor. 2:9). And it is precisely because he wants to bless us that he does not want us to miss his greatest blessing – which is himself (Genesis 15:1 KJV). And in order for us not to miss the blessing of himself sometimes it is necessary that he not only deny our requests for some temporal blessing but even to take away temporal blessings we already enjoy, because sometimes these temporal blessings hinder us from receiving the greatest blessing of all, the gift of himself. Hinder? How? He knows our hearts. He knows that sometimes these temporal blessings compete with God for supreme allegiance in our affections. And the only way for him to reestablish his supremacy in our affections so that we can experience true joy and satisfaction in him is for him to take away the so-called blessings which have actually become idols that we worship more than God.
That is why the message is about God. That is why when we study our Bibles we should be aware that it is primarily about knowing God in and through the person of Jesus Christ, and as a result of knowing him, loving him and obeying him in the power of the Spirit. And ironically when we understand that the message is about God it is precisely then that we are in position to be truly blessed with the greatest blessing of all: the blessing of himself. As God said to Abraham, “I am thy shield and exceeding great exceeding reward!” And as Asaph said, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26) Why should we bewail the drying up of the spring, when an ocean of fresh water, the source of all springs, is made available to us?
So let us continue to know more about God. Next time, God-willing, we will learn about the fact that God is light and why it is so important for us, in our understanding of God, to begin with this great truth: God is light!