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The Cambridge dictionary defines the word attribute as a quality, characteristic, or feature of a person or thing, especially one that is an important part of its nature.
When we pause long enough to ponder on what sets us apart from those around us we begin to notice how we are different. Unique, even. It is not merely an aesthetic difference but a natural one in character, personality, and temperament. Some of us can withstand the galloping dance moves of our neighbors on the floor above our own while others cannot bear to listen to a birdsong first thing in the morning.
We’re all different and that’s fine. That’s good.
Depending on our upbringing, our socio-economic stability or instability, our body image awareness, or emotional intelligence quotient we see ourselves and the qualities we have as advantages or possibly as disadvantages in our society.
We know that in one culture it is acceptable for families to yell at each other across the dinner table as the discussion becomes a boisterous street-side shouting match where taking turns to speak and voicing one’s opinion is a war-like experience.
In another culture, speaking at the dinner table is discouraged. Some will allow the husband and wife to discuss minor happenings of the day and nothing beyond that. Children are reserved to utter silence out of respect for this dynamic tradition
This is why we can meet friends who will treat a restaurant waiter with utmost respect and decency while another friend will berate not just the waiter but their smile, their attire, the font size on the menu, the lack of light in the restaurant, the chef’s lack of variety in his seasoning choices, and ultimately the establishment as it stands.
We can road trip with friends who are considerate of their fellow passengers, their safety, who are considerate of their fellow passenger’s favorite fast food stop without trouble. And, perhaps, on the same road trip, we may have a friend who is ignited like a bomb to explode if someone cuts them off in traffic. They refuse to stop for restroom breaks because they’re bent on reaching their ultimate destination. This person will eat salmon in the car, chew gum like a cow chews grass, and light a cigarette with the windows shut without the slightest consideration for his fellow passengers.
One might consider this person a sociopath, but, he may, in his own mind and world, be doing that which he believes is right and normal.
These behaviors, these qualities, these mannerisms, and characteristics, good or bad, are present in all of us whether we know or not.
If your coworkers were asked to describe you, I’m sure some would say you’re amicable, approachable, helpful, funny, knowledgeable, expressive, and so. In another setting, say, in a social club where you refrain from interacting with community members, you’ll be described as aloof, rash, anti-social, and selfish.
We are vulnerable to the way those around us describe us, unless, that is, we introduce and explain to them who we really are and why we are that way.
The problem with us is that we’re constantly at risk of changing. This volatility creates in us a distrust of continuity of character because we are subject to our circumstances.
We change. In a blink of an eye.
Depending on our mood on a particular morning, we may be inclined to feel groggy and later mistreat a coworker or two. Bumper to bumper traffic can easily transport us from a state of peace to a state of resolute anxiety, especially if we’re running late to an important meeting. We are in one instance, the best of friends and in another, should the betrayal of trust, fraud, assault, thievery, slander or libel take place we then become the greatest of nemesis of that individual.
Our personal attributes, our characteristic qualities, and features are subject to our environment, our mental stability, our circumstances, and more. We are truly volatile creatures. Loving in one moment and hateful in another. Approachable and later, deceitful.
As created beings, it is quite our nature to be, say, mutable. But God is immutable. He does not change and as strange as that may seem I want to remind the reader that for us, it is a wonderful thing that there is at least one entity in our universe that is not subject to the environment around it. That being is God.
I want to list just six of God’s attributes that we can rely on for comfort when the world around us, and also the world within us, collapses and loses ground. We can look up and see that Someone is forever still, forever present, forever the same. I hope these attributes listed, which are so few, will bring you hope in your days of desperation, fear, loneliness, and uncertainty.
1. The Aseity of God
John M. Frame describes the aseity of God this way: “He is sufficient to himself, independent of anything outside himself. God’s eternality is his aseity with respect to time: Lord of time, existing above and apart from it, but free to enter it to accomplish his purposes. […] (1) he has no beginning or end, (2) he does not change, (3) he is equally conscious of past, present, and future, and (4) he is not limited by the passing of time in what he can accomplish.”
This brings us peace in knowing God is not dependent on us to exist. He is ever-existent, self-sufficient, and eternal, we can rest assured that He will not dissolve or cease to exist one day, leaving us and the cosmos to fend for ourselves. God is not a deistic, distant, and uncaring God, He is a Creator who cares deeply for His creation.
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12-7-10
2. The Transcendence of God
“God’s transcendence is seen in that he is exalted in his royal dignity and exercises both control and authority in his creation. Divine transcendence does not mean that he is so far from and other than his creation that we are not able to understand his self-revelation in the Scripture or relate to him in any way.”
There is no authority that us above God nor is there a dictator whose reach can subjugate God to subservience or obedience. God is the only God. He is of a different substance, a different material, different nature than us. What He is cannot be added to the periodic table for He exists outside of the created order of things.
Let us not misunderstand Him as being beyond the clouds, beyond the stars, beyond the cosmos as they stretch through time. God is God. We needn’t worry about any other cosmic or spiritual entity threatening our existence for He alone governs existence and will wield it to His will. And thankfully, His will for us is gracious. The King is gracious.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God but me. I will strengthen you, though you do not know me,” Isaiah 45:5
3. The Immanence of God
“Divine transcendence and immanence are the related Christian doctrines that while God is exalted in his royal dignity and exercises both control and authority in his creation (transcendence), he is, by virtue of this control and authority, very present to his creation, especially his people, in a personal and intimate way (immanence).”
It brings us joy to know that our Creator is self-sufficient, superior to all, and still, in His greatness, He approaches us and does not shun us. In many faiths, you see the distance a deity has between himself and his people. At times, God places certain barriers between people and His glory for their safety, not His. But, in time, He became flesh and walked among us, healing, strengthening, encouraging, hugging, smiling, and admonishing us. Truly, He understands our woes, our losses, struggles, our pains, and more. And He does not shun us.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Immanuel means God with us). Isaiah 7:14
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Hebrews 1:1-3
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
4. The Immutability of God
“Immutability means God does not change in any way.”
We can recall the betrayal of Julius Caesar by Brutus, one of his most loyal confidants. We remember the betrayal of Christ by one of his disciples. “You betray me with a kiss, Judas?” Asked Christ. Many of us would trade a blow for a blow, a stab for a stab, a curse for a curse but our God is benevolent and kind. In fact, He reminds us, that He is gentle and lowly in heart, slow to anger, longsuffering and merciful. Whereas we want nothing more than to retribute wrong for wrong, Christ shows us His unchanging love. Christ did not curse His enemies from the cross, in fact, He prayed that the Father forgive their sins for they knew not what they did. He is the archetype of integrity. He is whole and complete, unwavering for eternity past, present, and future. We needn’t worry about God betraying us when, we, many times, fail and betray Him.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
5. The Grace of God
English evangelist and founder of Methodism, John Wesley, defined grace as God’s “bounty, or favour: his free, undeserved favour, … man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that ‘formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,’ and stamped on that soul the image of God, and ‘put all things under his feet.’ … For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand.”
We know God is loving enough to provide for our salvation by His grace. We know God is gracious enough to justify us in Christ Jesus; removing sin from us and imputing us with righteousness in His Son. God is gracious enough to sanctify us; change our desires, our attitudes, our minds, and intentions so that we reflect Him more and more with time, by His Spirit. We needn’t rely on our efforts to please God for He is pleased in His Son and we are hidden in Christ Jesus.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.“ Ephesians 2:8-9
“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
6. The Wrath of God
18th-century revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards began his most famous sermon, Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God with this verse, “Their foot shall slide in due time-” when referencing Deuteronomy 32:35.
He did not shy away from this attribute of God. His fierce, piercing, unstoppable, and conclusive wrath. God is holy and His holiness demands that anything that does not qualify as holy and pure be annihilated from His presence, and because His presence fills and reaches every molecule in space and time, everything touched by sin and imperfection is worthy of total destruction.
It would be unfair of Him to allow the many Hitler’s, Mussolini’s, Pol Pot’s, Ibi Amin’s, Joseph Stalin’s, and Kim Jung Uns of the world to go without punishment. Can you imagine a world where one can commit the worse of atrocities; can violate women and children; bomb hospitals; instigate famine and desolation; raze cities to the ground; atomize generations into thin air; pollute waterways so that the thirsty are poisoned as they drink, and escape any form of judgment at death? Any God who would allow injustice and sin to go unpunished is no God at all. God’s wrath is as much a part and necessity of His character, His very essence as is His aseity, His transcendence, His immanence, His immutability, and His grace. His Holy Wrath is not mixed with rage or back-biting spite. His wrath is pure and impartial.
As frightening as God’s wrath may seem we must remember that God is not a raging bull with snot running down His nostrils onto his mauled victim. His eyes are not red with rage, his step is not a gallop of death, and His stance is not one of a creature who has lost control. He is like a Judge, who has reviewed the crimes and the cruelty with which an impenitent man has disgraced the lives of his wife and children by discarding them as one discards trash is led to sentence this man to life behind bars. There is no foaming at the mouth. There is no lust for sadism. No desire to mock and shame. Just pure, raw, unadulterated, unsullied, holy wrath.
And what is of greater comfort than knowing our God will not let evil win, in the end, is knowing that He has hidden us in His Son Jesus Christ. We know that our feet have slipped off of the Rock of Holy Standard ages ago but He catches us. He saves us, justifies us, and molds us into the image of His Son, Jesus. We need a God who is not shy, one who is not intimidated to throw a case, one who is willing to show us how evil, justice, love and forgiveness all met at one point in time: the cross.
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias confirms these four absolutes in this way:
“On a hill called calvary where all the evil intents of the human heart are hurled upon the very son of God. Where God in his justice took upon himself that justice but he manifested his love for you and me in a way that is indescrible. And he offers you and me forgiveness.”
God has so many attributes that if we were to spend time putting them down on paper or webpage and spend trillions of years doing so we would not even touch the tip of who God really is.
From what He has revealed to us through divine revelation, through scripture, we accept and we praise Him for it.
In knowing more about the character and essence of God we know more about ourselves.
Whenever confronted with death know God is more powerful than death.
Whenever you are intimidated by authorities, principalities, and entities, know God is superior to them all.
Whenever you are lonely, afraid, without hope and destitute, know God is near. In fact, He is with you.
Whenever you feel as if your identity has been lost, your purpose, your traditions, your dreams, and aspirations, know that He will not change. He is influenced by none. He is your Rock.
Whenever sin crouches at your door, attempting to force its way in, crashing your notions of eternal assurances to the ground, understand God is gracious. Salvation, justification, and sanctification come from Him and Him alone. He is your Advocate, your Counselor who will not allow His grip on your soul to slip nor allow your crown in Christ to be sifted away.
Whenever evil reigns supreme in the world around you, its presence felt, its touch cold, its face hideous and bold, roaring like a lion chasing whom it will devour next, understand that evil will not win. God’s just and holy wrath will triumph over evil. He incarcerate it for eternity, and all those who served it wholeheartedly with it. We love and serve a Just God who will not allow evil to win.
The more we understand our God the more we understand ourselves.
Take this to heart and continually seek Him.
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:17-18
Questions to Consider
- Of the above-listed attributes of God, which do you struggle to understand most?
- Does it bother you that “wrath” is one of God’s attributes? If so, why?
- If God is gracious why do we treat each other with such cruelty and disgrace? Is there hope?