Can I know God and His love personally?
by Chris Plekenpol
There are two words that those trying to understand God need to know. They are transcendent and immanent. Many religions connect God with being transcendent. Buddhism embodies this. A transcendent God is one that sets up the systems of the Earth, sits back and watches it all unfold. He left the Earth as is.
Many try to achieve transcendence to commune with this God. They may live in temples, mountains, or caves. They get away from the evils of society to purify their soul with monastic living. They may even practice forms of meditation to take them to the next level of connecting with this transcendent God who doesn’t seem like he wants to be found or bothered. He is outside of time and is completely powerful over all the affairs of man, but he doesn’t intervene.
Some call him the watchmaker God who created everything and wound up time and then chose to sit back and watch.
The immanent God is the one who is overly involved in the affairs of men. The Greek gods and goddesses were famous for being involved in all sorts of ways. They were so involved, they ended up having overly intimate relationships with humans and their inability to control their own god passions brought more chaos than order to earth.
God is not simply transcendent: outside space and time and omnipotent and omnipresent.
God is not simply immanent: involved and intervening in the affairs of man.
He is both. Not only is he both, but he loves his creation in a deep way. Much like a father loves a child.
God is love. His very being embodies love. There is nothing in God that isn’t love. God created humans to share that love and perpetuate it. It’s tough to get our minds around that idea, but let me try. His love is perfect. His affections don’t come with conditions. He is the perfect parent who loves his children completely.
God gave humans the ability to choose love or to choose selfishly. The first humans chose selfishly. I can sense an eye roll from those of you who don’t believe the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. You may take it as metaphorical, or you may disregard the Bible altogether.
So let me start here. Everyone of us has known the right thing to do in a certain situation and chose selfishly. This is why mere education is not the answer to the plight of the world. All of us have made a decision against what we have been taught.
In Christianese, we call this sin. This choice separated all humans from God, because all of us inherited sin.
This inherited sin prevents us from experiencing God’s love the way he intended. We are all infected with a sinful nature. No matter how good we think we are, there is still a separation between man and a perfect God. And this infection will kill us physically and spiritually.
AIDS babies born in Africa are as close as I can get to describing inherited sin. These babies didn’t choose AIDS, they just have AIDS and everyday their lives are impacted by AIDS and worst of all they will die before their time. They are terminal. That’s us: terminal.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Nobody’s perfect.”
Paul, a former skeptic and writer of almost half of the New Testament, wrote that everyone is guilty of sin and the wages of sin is death. Those who love perfectly like God get to live eternally with God, those that don’t are eternally separated from God. The reason for this is when a person doesn’t love perfectly there is something flawed within. The act of non-love is merely a symptom of a much deeper problem.
God created humans to enjoy him and his love forever. When people choose selfishly, they have revealed their inability to live with God eternally.
Some think God a bit unfair here. They can get Adolf Hitler burning for eternity. However, most of us haven’t killed six million people or sought world domination.
How good is good enough then? How about just killing one person? Jesus Christ, who is the cornerstone of Christianity, raised the bar on this. He said if you hate someone in your heart, you are guilty of murder.
I’m not that good. You’re not that good.
We will talk more about the full ramifications of evil in the next chapter. For now know that the evil we have taken part in has consequences, namely separating us from God’s love eternally.
Since we are filled with evil and on a trajectory away from His love, Jesus came. Emmanuel. God with us. God displayed his immanence by taking on flesh and dwelling among us. It’s not as though he wasn’t involved before, but I think putting on flesh takes, “I feel your pain” to a whole new level. In fact, God did something to a greater degree so that people could know his love personally.
God could not just overlook sin and evil, but knew his creation stood condemned unless he did something. So in his ultimate justice, he punished a person for sin. God was unfair to us in that Jesus who knew no sin, became sin on the behalf of humans and took the punishment we deserved. In that way God showed his justice and mercy at the cross.
We don’t have to accumulate enough good deeds to spend eternity in heaven. Jesus is unfair to us by giving us what we don’t deserve.
Our part is accepting that Jesus died on the cross for our sins to be our savior, and he rose from the dead to be our king. That is what makes Jesus so special. He made a way for human beings to have interaction with God. Jesus took our place on the cross. He absorbed the wrath of God so that once again we could experience the love relationship with God the way he intended.