This past week’s topic on our Discipleship Training School was the “Character and Nature of God.” As Maureen Menard taught we had the privilege to get insights from a very passionate master teacher. Most Christians would probably agree that it’s a good idea to focus on God, who he is and what he is like. But where should we even start? And why do we talk about His “character” and “nature?” Let’s look at those two terms a bit closer, because understanding them is crucial.
The nature of God is who God is and who we are not. God has certain qualities that we will never have. Even if we can travel all around the globe, we will never be omnipresent (present everywhere at the same time). Even if you have three or more master’s degrees, you will never be all-knowing. And because you and I were born and we, therefore, have a start, we will never be infinite.
So these are some aspects of God’s nature. These are huge concepts and honestly, it’s not that easy to wrap our heads around them. Think about this one: The God who fills the whole universe with his presence, wants to live with his fullness in you and me. Wow. I feel my words are not adequate to explain this or even scratch the surface. Take a moment and think about it. That’s pretty big.
But at the same time I’m also glad that it’s this way, because these attributes make him stand out; they make it obvious that he is God. If his essence was super simple to understand, I would hesitate to call him divine. Okay, let’s move on to the second part.
God’s character is what he chooses to be. For example, God always chooses to be loving and faithful in everything he does. And in this area we imitate and reflect him; here we can grow and become more like him. Going back to the example from above, he has given us the power to choose to be loving and faithful like he is, and he has given us his Spirit, who helps us and teaches us how to put that into practice.
Character in general and especially God’s character is a key factor. Whenever God is questioned or people doubt him in some way, it’s always around his character. That already starts in Genesis with the serpent, which makes Eve believe that God doesn’t have the best intentions for humanity and that he is therefore not fully trustworthy. This is a clear attack on God’s goodness, which is one of his character traits. Another example would be the classical question we hear after every natural catastrophe, “How could a loving God let something like this happen?” This reaction clearly questions if God is actually a loving God.
To answer this question goes a bit beyond this blog post, but there are different ways to go about it. One way is to point out that God isn’t passive at all (he sent his Son to this planet, as well as you and me to bring restoration and fight evil), further, we live in a fallen world and God gave us free will (without free will, a loving relationship wouldn’t be possible, and free will also means that we can choose to work for evil instead of good).
Understanding the difference between God’s character and his nature helps us to bring a little bit of order into the big undertaking of knowing God and his ways. To me it’s helpful to know that there are things that only God is, but that I can grow in other areas and become more like him. These categories are an attempt to bring some clarity, but it’s surely not about putting God in a box.
One last point to conclude all of these thoughts: Connecting an aspect of God’s character with an aspect of his nature is very powerful. For example this one: God is all-knowing (he knows every detail about you somebody can know!), yet he loves us without end. Wow!
As we think about him and what he is like, let’s not forget to pause, be in awe of him and thank him for who he is.
Marcel, from Switzerland, completed his DTS in New Zealand and leads our July DTS with his wife Cecilia here at YWAM Lausanne.
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