I used to preach what God can do, what He wants to do, what He has done, what that means for us, but very little of who He is.
His abilities, and mine as a result, rather than His characteristics.
To preach on His actions alone, without a proper understanding of who He is, it becomes quite difficult to interpret His commands - to live according to His will, to walk with Him daily, to be steadily transformed into His image until one day when we awake in His likeness. It's much simpler, then, to live according to a right-wrong rule book. These actions are good, these are bad. Do these things, believe this way, and you will be in right standing with God. He will bless you and you will get the desires of your heart. Saved by grace, but earning favor, blessing, health, prosperity because of our right thinking and right living.
If you were to go about it, there are two ways to create a right-wrong rule book:
Yet it's possible to do either of these and still miss out on who He is.
This is where some will respond, "Exactly. It's not about rules, it's about relationship."
In a relationship, we know the other person. Not just what they've done or what they want to do or what they expect of us, but also who they are. The deeper the relationship, the more traits we pick up on - the more passionately we can convey those traits to others. For those who are in a relationship with God then, "What are His characteristics?"
You answer - "God is love. Plain and simple. Doesn't have to be so complicated."
And then what else? Who else is He? Or is He that one-dimensional for you?
You reply, "Brother, if you say love is one-dimensional, then you've never experienced true love. I feel sorry for you."
Describe your wife (or husband) to me? Is one word enough? Or your hometown sports team - what characteristics do they portray for you? And the star player, when the game is on the line - do you have only one word to describe their personality? How about your favorite reality TV star or Marvel superhero? Would you be at a loss of words to describe who they are? Perhaps then you'd prefer to spend time complaining about your boss, co-workers, relatives - the characteristics of theirs which drive you crazy? How long could you talk to the traits of each of these people?
We so easily become content to stop at "love" with God but have the time, energy, knowledge, desire to go deeper with others. Why? Is He unknowable beyond love? Does love, and our definition of love, contain Him? Has who He is, and the uncovering of that mystery, stopped fascinating us?
When pressed to go beyond love, for many the list will start (and unfortunately come to a sudden end) with some combination of these five traits:
And if we were to ask them in curiosity, "How do you know these things about God?" The common answer, "Jesus."
"Go on...," I may say.
"Well, Jesus was the perfect representation of God. If you've seen Jesus, you've seen God, the One who sent Him. No need to look deeper."
It's like saying, "I know my dad because my mom described him for me. We all sat in the same room sometimes, but Mom did all the talking. It was a little awkward because Dad kept so quiet, but Mom and my brother did plenty of the talking to pass the time. It was a relief to get out of that room, but I know how much he loves me. Otherwise, I wouldn't have my mom or my brother in my life. Also, I know Dad is strong. I saw him lifting weights one time."
We all must reckon with this question, "Who is God?" Not what has He done. Not who did He send. Not what does He want to do. But who is He?
You may say, "I haven't thought about that question in a long time. I spend a lot of time thinking about what He's done for ME, what that empowers ME to do, MY identity as a result, MY calling in light of this identity, which has awakened MY vision. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to accomplish and live out MY vision. It's just hard because people don't recognize MY calling, MY anointing, MY vision all the time. I really have to fight to fit in, to belong, to bring people along with ME, to find a place that accepts ME for who I am, that supports MY vision. But who God the Father is...I'm not sure I could tell you."
"Who is God?" Until we can get to a well-rounded answer to that question, we will struggle:
"It wasn't as if you were listening to a man talk about someone who was in another room. It was as if you were listening to a man who in the midst of his sermon went and got that person and brought him out in front of you. And you were confronted with God. You had to make a decision about life in light of the God you just met in the Scriptures." John Snyder in "Logic on Fire: the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones"