Friday, April 7, 2017

The Attributes Of God: His Transcendence and Immanence

What is it like for God’s holy transcendence to appear on this unholy planet? [1]

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NASB).

I have written before, that I love creation. I love witnessing the character and attributes of God displayed in creation. I love the beauty of creation waking up out of the winter, into the arms of spring.

Though I love creation, I love the Creator, who transcends it all. He is wonderful and beautiful. He is magnificent and glorious; He is the incomprehensible Creator who exists outside of space and time. Transcend means to exist above and independent from; to rise above, surpass, succeed. The Lord {El Shaddai} created the mountains, the oceans; He created the stars and named each one. Everything seen and unseen are the work of His hand. God did not have to create anything, He chose to do so as a sovereign act; nothing outside of Himself caused Him to do so. Eph. 1:11 declares that God works all things after the counsel of His will. The Lord is unique; He is the only transcendent Being. He is above and distinct from all He has made.  Ephesians 4: 6 declares that there is one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Psalm 97:9 says, For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods {cf. 108:5}. All things are upheld by His mighty power {Heb. 1:3}, yet He is upheld by Himself alone. The whole universe exists in Him and for Him that He may receive glory, honor, and praise.

God’s transcendence is illustrated for us through the Word by His holiness and righteousness; revealed to us in Jesus Christ. How can a holy God, who transcends all that He created, be present with such a lost and broken planet, filled with lost and broken people? Closely tied to His transcendence is His immanence (nearness). It is in His immanence that God chooses to draw near to His creation and to sustain it through the Son:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together {Col. 1:15-17 NASB}.

Jesus Christ tore the veil {Heb. 10:20; Eph. 2:14} of separation to draw all mankind into a close, personal relationship with Him. He who transcends His creation, in His love chose to not only draw near, but to dwell with His creation, in Christ, the Word made flesh {Jn. 1: 1-5, 14-18}, to break the bonds of sin, and to live in our hearts and minds through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit.

God’s transcendence is vital to our lives. He is bigger than any problem or trial that we face. How can we not trust Him? He holds the universe together. He is powerful and mighty enough to create and hold all things together, He is powerful and mighty enough to hold you and me together through every trial.  We experience His mighty power when we trust in Him, and when we worship Him with our whole heart; acknowledging His greatness, power, and magnificence. We experience His immanence when we draw near to Him, through Christ and His Spirit dwelling in our hearts. James encourages us to draw near to Him, and He will draw near to us {4:8}, and Peter encourages us to cast all our cares on Him {1 Pet. 5:7}, because He cares for us! This great, big, transcendent Creator of the universe cares about you and loves you—so much that He came to dwell with you, and take care of you.

The Disciples who walked the earth with Jesus, broke bread with Him, were His closest companions, witnessed His transcendence and immanence. They are with Him to feed the five-thousand {Matt. 14:13-21} or to heal a woman bound by Satan for eighteen-years {Luke 13:15-17}; He washed their feet {John 13:1-17}. They see Him in His immanence, drawing near to care for all mankind, to give hope to the hopeless and to release the captives {cf. Is. 61:1-3 ; Lk. 4: 17-19}. He displayed His transcendence and divine power when He transfigured before them, drawing them to their knees in awe and wonder {Matthew 17}.  He is their Rabbi and friend, but He is also the Lord Almighty, all-powerful and glorious.

We, too, can experience both God’s immanence and transcendence through our relationship with Jesus, and in our prayers and worship. We must worship Him, acknowledging His transcendence, that He is the One True God, all-mighty, and all-powerful, who created and holds together the universe, and His immanence by approaching the Throne of Grace {Heb. 4:16}, to receive the grace we need, and cast our cares on Him{1 Pet. 5:7}, because though He is the transcendent God, in His immanence He truly cares for you.

 [1] D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares And Pruning Hooks (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2002), 77.

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