There is a massive failure affecting the spiritual walk of a large number of people, causing them to declare that they do not need God—the failure of preachers to correctly teach about God’s true nature. Statistics show an increasing percentage of atheists who were formerly Christians, but walked away from God. This is due to a widespread misconception about who He is, and what He is really like. To truly know God’s nature, we must correctly interpret the Scriptures pertaining to the old covenant agreement versus the new covenant agreement. Most churches still teach the Law of Moses, which focuses on God’s punishment; this gives us a wrong picture of Him. God has not changed, but the covenant under which He deals with us has. When we realize that He is our heavenly Father who deeply loves us and wants a personal relationship with us, we can position ourselves to receive the good things He wants to give us.
A. When God gave the law, the people thought they could keep it though their own efforts.
1. And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, And be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death (Exodus 19:8-12).
a. When the people touched the mountain, three thousand of them died. However, previously God had delivered then out of Egypt, and no one died. He delivered them not because of anything they did, but because of His goodness.
b. God led the people through the wilderness, fed them, and gave them water, by His mercy and grace. What angered Him was their refusal to acknowledge that they needed Him. Just like the children of Israel, we need God.
c. “We will do” indicated that the people thought they could keep all the law without God’s grace. They believed they could succeed by their own merits.
2. And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:1-4).
a. The Ten Commandments, plus all the accompanying laws, were given to show the people they needed a Savior.
b. Because of man’s evil nature that resulted from Adam and Eve’s sin, the law was designed to keep the people in check until Jesus came. The law was never God’s original plan.
B. The law was perfect, and impossible to keep. God gave it to the people to increase sin.
1. And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God…But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee (Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, 15).
a. God gave the laws knowing that the people were unable to keep them. He told the people to keep all the commandments; only Jesus was able to do that.
b. Breaking even one law brought guilt and condemnation.
c. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).
d. The law was a conditional agreement based on man’s performance. There were no blessings unless all of the law was kept.
2. Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it (Isaiah 46:9-11).
a. Our impression of God determines how we receive from Him.
b. This re-affirms how unique God is. Nothing compares to Him.
c. The future is actually God’s Word coming to pass. He causes things to happen simply by declaring them.
C. We must have the correct impression of God’s nature. He is our loving heavenly Father.
1. Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s nature. If we try to define His nature by the old covenant, before Christ came, we will have an incomplete picture of God.
a. In the Old Testament, God was the God who rained fire down from heaven. The disciples still perceived God in this context.
b. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of (Luke 9:54, 55).
c. This was not Jesus’ nature. God is not angry anymore; He is not intent on punishing us.
d. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12).
e. To find true peace, we do not need to be inundated with intellectual Christian principles; we simply need a relationship with the Father.
f. …But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits (Daniel 11:32).
2. We must know Jesus, not simply know about Him.
a. That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death (Philippians 3:10).
b. [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope] (Philippians 3:10, AMPC).
D. God only wants the best for us; however, He lets us choose which path in life to take.
1. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live (Deuteronomy 30:19).
a. We should not blame God for bad things that happen; He made us all free moral agents. He will never take away our freedom of choice by choosing for us.
2. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).
a. We must not choose the path that seems right to us based on what we see; we must choose the correct path based on God’s Word.
3. There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell (Proverbs 14:12, MSG).
a. God gave us free wills; we can choose for ourselves which path in life to take. Thankfully, if we find ourselves on the wrong path, we can make a U-turn.
b. God is always talking to us and trying to warn us away from the wrong path. However, if we are not on the same frequency as He is, we will not hear Him.
E. Previously, God judged and punished. Now, He shows us grace and compassion.
1. And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp (Numbers 15:32-35).
a. God’s order to kill the man was given under the old covenant agreement, which God could not break. If this is our impression of God, it is outdated.
2. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:3-11).
a. This gives us a completely different impression of God’s nature. Jesus was the perfect expression of God’s love and grace.
3. Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:1, 2).
a. God’s true nature is love, mercy, and grace; however, if we do not get in the Word, we will never know His nature.
b. Grace and peace do not come simply by knowing about God, but by knowing Him through a personal relationship.