The Power of God: part 1 of 2: To Be

The Power of God

(from Wisdom's Friend)

The most important thing a person can do before dying is to surrender his or her soul to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But what power impels a person to do this? And beyond that, what powers are at work to determine the nature not only of the individual but of reality as a whole?

Underlying the supreme decision which each human being must make about his or destiny for all eternity is the framework upon which that decision rests, the fundamental basis for making that decision. That framework is one’s worldview, that is, how a person sees reality. If this framework, this worldview, is correct and accurate and true, then that person will surrender to Jesus as Lord and Master (Jn. 6:45, Jn. 7:17). If not, no surrender will take place to the light of the world (Jn. 8:12) and that person will remain (Jn. 3:36) in the darkness of his own reasonings and desires. It all depends upon how one sees reality. Jesus described it this way:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mt. 6:22, 23 NIV).

Jesus told the crowds this profound truth early on in his ministry, thus emphasizing the extremely important place that one’s conception of reality plays in a person’s life. For it is was crucial to get the important things of life and existence out to the people right away, at the beginning. Therefore he spoke of the importance of one’s worldview so early in his ministry because all else depends upon it. It is that important.

Jesus knew that the framework through which one views his or her life and existence must be established upon the one true view of reality that God declares to us in Scripture. To base one’s life on a false worldview, on a worldview championed by any source other than the Holy Scriptures, is to open oneself to great and grievous error.

“You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Mt. 22:29 NIV).

The above quote is from the latter end of Jesus’ ministry to this world. He began that ministry with a clear reference to worldview, and now, near the end of that ministry, he confronts those who did not listen to his warning to get their worldview straight, that is, in line with that proclaimed by Scripture. Because they had not done this, they were in error.

But notice that Jesus did not stop there. He said that not only did they not know the Scriptures, they did not know the power of God. The power of God to do what? The context in which that question was asked gives the answer to that question. It was asked by the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection (Mt. 22:23), despite declarations to the opposite in the Scriptures available to them at the time (Exod 3:6; 1Kgs. 18:36). They did not know the Scriptures; they did not know the power of God, who can raise the dead to life (Ps. 49:15). For the Scriptures are all about life and death and new life in Him who is the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ, the very one who stood before them and warned them about their ignorance of the power of God in that Word.

Life and death. Our own existence is a great mystery, as is, in fact, the existence of anything. More than one philosopher has correctly distilled this great mystery down to one simple but most profound question: Why is there something rather than nothing?

Power is what it all comes down to, the power to exist. And when the word all is used, that is exactly what is meant. Everything, all of reality, comes down to this one thing. If someone objects to this statement and says that we should rather say that it all comes down to God, then this question arises: What is it that makes God, God? Is it not the fact that he has infinite power, the power to exist in and of himself, with no outside dependencies, and to exist eternally? The psalmist thinks so:

“You are from all eternity” (Ps. 93:2 NIV).

And God himself says that this is so in his Word:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13 NIV).

“This is what the Lord says . . . the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Is. 44:6 NIV).

As this last passage makes so clear, no being can claim to be God, the Supreme Being, unless that being is able to exist from all eternity and to continue to exist from all eternity. That is the very basis for the definition of God. For all the other attributes of God flow from this one thing: that he exists in and of himself and does so forever. For it is meaningless to speak of other attributes such as wisdom and love and all the other multitude of aspects of God unless he first exists and does so forever. A being who does not exist cannot have any attributes at all. Existence comes first.

It is no accident that when Moses asked God what his name was (thus giving the essence of who He is), God replied, “I AM” (Ex. 4:12). And when Jesus, who is God (Col. 1:9, 19), revealed himself, he also emphasized this most basic truth, saying, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (Jn. 8:58 NET).

Though a full and complete understanding of God is beyond us, God has made us with the ability to understand at least enough about him to fall down at his feet in humble adoration. He has done this through his Son, who enables us to understand this basic, foundational requirement for a being to be called God: that he must exist forever, have eternal life:

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. . . . He is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20 NIV).

Thus it is absolutely necessary, and a first requirement, that any being to be designated as God must be self-existent and self-existent forever. But if we dig deeper, trying to discover what it is that allows such a Being to exist forever, one word must be used to describe this most basic truth, and that word is power. It is entirely proper, then, that God’s revelation of the deepness of himself to us makes this connection between himself and his eternal existence with his infinite and eternal power:

“Power belongs to God” (Ps. 62:11 WEB).

Power and God cannot be separated. God’s power to self-exist eternally is intimately connected with his power to do anything else. Power belongs to God. The mystery of existence is all wound up in this one thing, power.

God has used a number of his servants through history to speak to us about this mystery of existence and power. One of those servants is Job, and he has willingly shared his knowledge with all who will listen:

“I will teach you about the power of God; the ways of the Almighty I will not conceal” (Job 27:11 NIV).

And what does Job teach us about this great mystery? He says, “To God belong wisdom and power” (Job 12:13 NIV).

Another servant of God declared the same thing:

“Praise be to the name of God (I AM) for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his” (Dan. 2:20 NIV).

Now, where have we heard this before? The psalmist thus echoes both Job’s declaration and Daniel’s, saying that power belongs to God. But Job and Daniel both add an additional insight to the psalmist’s statement, saying that not only power belongs to God but also wisdom. The two must go together. If they do not, power will destroy what wisdom creates and builds.

It was said earlier that for any being to be considered to be supreme, that being must have infinite power in order to exist and to continue to exist. But infinite power alone is not enough; in fact, if by itself, power will destroy what exists, because power by itself has no mind and no will, no ability to control itself; it is just a raw energy that cannot be contained.

Job belonged to that ancient people of God, the Hebrews of the Old Testament times. Job is thought to be perhaps the oldest book in the Bible, written long ago. It is noteworthy, then, that this ancient book concerns itself not only with suffering, as seen in Job’s trials, but also with the larger picture of who God is, his existence and mysterious ways. In so doing, it speaks of power and wisdom, thus emphasizing their extreme importance to the basic nature of reality.

The ancient Hebrews often used symbolism to help them understand and communicate the truths of reality that would otherwise be too deep for man to fathom. One of these symbols is the sea. The Hebrews saw the sea as symbolic of chaos and evil. This was true not only for the commonplace world in which they lived their daily lives, but they also applied this symbolism to the unseen, larger world from which their own world came by the creative hand of God. For the ancient Hebrews, the sea represented chaos and evil that existed before creation of the world in which they found themselves. They understood, through the insight and revelation given by God to his prophets and servants, the deeper basis for existence, that there is a force that would destroy anything that exists unless that force is restrained or destroyed by a superior power, in fact, a supreme power.

Given this background, the mystery of existence and the dark force that would destroy it if it could takes on new meaning in the revelation of Scripture regarding Lucifer’s fall from heaven (Is. 14:11-15, Ezk. 28:12-19, Rev. 12:7-9). God gave Lucifer great power, but Lucifer let that power take over his will because that will and power was not submitted to the One who could enable him to keep it under control.

It is not enough simply to have power. As was mentioned earlier, power alone, without mind and will to control it, will destroy all things–including the very one who wields it. Lucifer is a prime example of this. Power alone is self-destructive. That is why those who claim the physical universe as god, a god of pure force and energy only, with no mind or will and with no need for a personal Creator-God such as Scripture declares, are without understanding. A purely physical universe, existing in and of itself, if there could be such a thing at all, would ultimately destroy itself. This applies not only to the physical cosmos but also to any living being.

But God has himself under control, for he is infinite in all his attributes. His infinite power is under control of his infinite will and wisdom. Therefore, he could create out of nothing a magnificent physical universe with unimaginable, but still limited, powers coursing through it, because all those powers are under his stronger power. He has the superior power to control what he has created.

The sea, for instance, that caused the people of the ancient world such terror by its power to destroy, has limits established and enforced by God. He is the One who:

” . . . shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb . . . and prescribed bounds for it, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'” (Job 38:8, 10, 11 RSV).

The world which God has created (meaning the entire universe and cosmos, not just this planet earth which we often call the world) is full of tremendously powerful forces which would annihilate all life were these forces not limited and balanced by their Creator. One of the ways God does this is through what is called the fine tuning of the cosmos, an example of which is the perfect distance of the earth from the sun, which distance protects life on earth from the sun’s enormous energies while still allowing warmth and light to sustain life. There are many other such examples that combine to show God’s greatness–and all of which are explained away by those who do not want to admit that there is a great God who arranged all these many aspects of the universe for this very purpose: so that life could not only exist but thrive.

“For this is what the Lord says–he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited–he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other!'” (Is. 45:18 NIV).

As was just mentioned, though God has done all this and shown his unlimited power not only through the creation of the universe but through his controlling it and setting certain limits for its powers which he gave it–though he has done all this, there are many among the inhabitants of this perfectly balanced world who do not want to acknowledge this or submit to God’s rule over them. These rebels are often characterized in Scripture to be like the wild waves of the sea which was held in such fear by the peoples.

Psalm 93 is one such place in Scripture that dramatically and forcefully uses this symbolism. But before it gets to the use of the wild oceans to symbolize rebellious man’s opposition to God, it begins with an affirmation of the sovereignty and power of God over his creation:

“The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength. The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved” (Ps. 93:1 NIV).

There is that mention of God’s power again, right at the beginning, thus emphasizing once again the fundamental place that this aspect of reality holds over all else. All that exists exists because of the power of God. It is firmly established and cannot be moved.

This short psalm of only five verses then moves to the next important aspect, that of the necessity for a Supreme Being and Creator to be eternal, to exist before anything else can be called into existence:

“Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity” (v. 2).

Only then, after establishing the primary, root fundamental of existence–God and his own existence and power, along with his ability to reign over his own power–does the psalmist then go on to reveal the current condition of this creation: that it is in rebellion against its Creator.

“The seas have lifted up, O Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves” (v.3).

This is an elequoent and profound expression of a deep truth about the reality in which we who live in this world find ourselves. For there is a dual truth found in these words, a physical and a spiritual application. For it has already been noted how the physical forces of this universe could easily do harm to man, as in the example of the waves of the sea pounding to pieces the land when it crashes on shore. But there is also the spiritual symbolism, in which forces of evil from amongst both man and evil spiritual beings seek to destroy life (Rev. 12:3, 4; Jn. 8:44).

This opposition to God and his ways does not perturb the psalmist, however, for he is well aware that all such rebellion against God is futile. God’s power is supreme and unlimited, while all other powers, no matter how seemingly mighty, are as nothing in comparison.

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea–the Lord on high is mighty” (v. 4).

Scripture sometimes compares the arrogant words of rebellious mankind against God to the roaring of the seas (Rev. 17:15). The psalmist in verse three acknowledges this loud roaring of the nations, but in verse four says that their mighty roar is as nothing compared to that of the Lion of Judah, and Job concurs:

“Are you as strong as God? (TLB) , and can your voice thunder like his?” (Job 40:9 NIV).

Scripture elsewhere confirms this puny shouting of man to be nothing compared to God’s overwhelming thunder:

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath” (Ps. 2:1-5 NIV).

In Psalm 93, the psalmist acknowledges evil and its power in the world, but gives it only one line or verse, while all the rest acknowledge the supremecy of God and his power. A person with an accurate and true perception of reality, one with the correct worldview which Jesus also declared we must have, will thereby have a realistic and balanced view of reality, acknowledging the presence of evil but also knowing that God and his power is greater than the worst that the forces of evil can do. I love the words which Jesus uttered in the Garden of Gethsemane, as the forces of evil came for him, to destroy him:

“I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave” (Jn. 14:30, 31 NIV).

Evil exists and it has power to hurt us. But God also exists, and his power to preserve us and save us from the destroying power of evil is far greater than anything that would attack us, from whatever corner of the cosmos.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39 NIV).

When Jesus spoke those words in the Garden, he said that the world must learn that he loved the Father. What is true of him is true of us (1 Jn. 4:17). We have been left here upon this earth as witnesses of the greatness of God’s power, and as we witness to this, the world learns that we love the Father who first loved us. This power of God to save us and sustain us is the subject of the next section of this meditation. To view that second part, click here: The Power of God: part 2 of 2: In Us

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