Andrew Fountain - Stories of a God who is Transcendent yet Humble


Full sermon notes - Stories of a God who is Transcendent yet Humble

  • There are two seemingling contradictory qualities about God
    • His distance and his closeness
    • “Distance” does not really convey it, it’s more of his distance in an upwards direction.
  • Theologians use the terms:

God is both:

God is both:

Transcendent Immanent
high above and beyond our comprehesion close and involved with us in our daily lives
  • even bigger contrast:

God is humble

Not just Immanent but Humble

Transcendent Immanent Humble
high above and beyond our comprehesion close and involved with us in our daily lives placing the good of others above own comfort
  • God doesn’t give us this all at once
  • If he told us first about his humility, we wouldn’t appreciate how amazing it was because we wouldn’t know how far he had to stoop!
  • The fullest revelation of God’s humility doesn’t come until the NT with Jesus Christ.

1. Old Testament

  • Let’s start by what God told us of his character in the O.T.
    • what we call God’s “transcendence” —he is infinitely higher than us

Isaiah 55:8–9

  1. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
          neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
  2. For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
          so are my ways higher than your ways
          and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  • God’s response to Job

Isaiah 6:1–5

  1. …I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…
  2. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
  3. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
  4. And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
  5. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
  • But even in the O.T. there are hints of God’s humility:
    • He walked in the Garden with Adam & Eve
    • He met with Abraham and made promises to him
    • He met Moses face to face and even allowed Moses to reason with him and disagree with him

Micah 6:8

  1. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
  • But the O.T. is like a dark and shadowy room compared with the brightness of the N.T.
    • Hundreds of prophecies told of a coming age when everything would be clear
    • When Ford or GM want to launch a radically new model of car…
    • A few years ago there was a radically new kind of computer launched on the internet:
      • First a picture of it was posted with the computer covered up
      • and then every day it was shown with a bit more of it showing
        • the internet was full of discussion and speculation
      • finally it was all revealed
    • It was the same with the coming of the Messiah
      • The Jews were excited about the prophecy
      • He would sit on the throne of David
      • He would destroy the enemies of God
      • He would restore the glory to the people of God

2. The Coming of Jesus

  • and then what happened… The Coming of Jesus
    • Jesus left his place at the side of God (because he is equal with God)
    • was born into a very poor family, born into the dirt of an animal feeding trough
    • What a shock! —so much of a shock that most of the Jews refused to believe
  • Jesus is the full revelation of God.
    • It is through HIM that we know what God is like

John 1:17–18

  1. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ.
  2. No one has ever seen God [the Father]. The unique one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.
  • John 14
  1. Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
  • (also Heb 1:1, 2a; 3a)
  • So what was revealed when the covers were taken off?
    • A wealthy and powerful king
    • no, a man who had nowhere to sleep at night
  • Someone who distanced himself from all but the most pure in society?
    • no, a man who called himself the “friend of sinners”
  • Something seems to have gone terribly wrong!!
    • Is this really God’s fullest and greatest revelation of himself?
  • They were offended by Jesus:
    • He ate with notorious sinners
    • He allowed a prostitute to wash his feet to the shock and horror of the Pharisees
    • He talked to an immoral woman at Samaria, breaking three rules at once:
      • Jews don’t talk to the Samaritan heretics
      • Men don’t talk to women alone
      • Religious leaders don’t associate with immoral sinners
  • Even when he took an interest in little children, they were upset because this should have been beneath his dignity.
  • Jesus told the parable of the wedding feast, where all the nice respectable people ended up not coming, and we read:

Luke 14:21-23:

  1. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant,
    ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city,
    and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’
  2. And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’
  3. Then the master said to the servant,
    ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’

3. The Cross, and the Offence

  • But then the climax of Jesus revelation of what God is like, came on the cross.
    • He suffered the worst kind of indignity and shame
    • The cross was calculated to bring shame and indignity of the worst kind
    • But when Jesus hung naked on the cross, exposed to the ridicule of his enemies, dying out of love for his people, dying in their place,
      • at that point was he most clearly revealing the true character of God!
  • Are you offended by the thought of Jesus Christ, God the Son, hanging in shame on the cross?
    • The Jews were offended.

Offended by Jesus

  • “Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” 1 Cor 1:23
  • “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” 1 Pet 2:8
    • Ministry to sick, diseased and poor:
  • “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.” Luke 7:23
  • The Glory
    • Yet the extraordinary truth: Jesus describes this shameful death as his glory!
    • Christ brought glory to the father in many ways, but his death was the climax, the ultimate glory

John 12:23–28

  1. But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
    [what is he referring to: not his ascension into heaven, but his death on the cross!]
  2. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.”…
  3. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have both glorified [it] and will glorify [it] again.”
  • and then turn over to chapter 13, verse 30–

John 13:30

  1. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately.
    And it was night.
    So, when he had gone out, Jesus said,
    “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him.
    If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
    and glorify him immediately.”
  • and then in chapter 17:1

John 17 & 21

  1. Jesus spoke these words, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said:
    “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you,
  2. “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do.”
  • ch 21 Jesus predicts Peter’s death by crucifixion
  1. “...when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
  2. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.
    And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
  • Why has God chosen to reveal his glory in such a surprising way?
    • Because this is actually his character and he wants it to be shown forth.
    • The very character of God is not to be proud, but to be humble.
      • His very character is to reach out to the unlovely and lost.
    • The crucifixion was not some unfortunate but necessary aberration of God’s plan
      • It was the very high point in the revelation of his glory—the God who loves and reaches out to those he loves no matter the humiliation!
  • Now this truth is not only offensive to some,
    • but it is hard to understand even to us who love him.
      • How can God at the same time be the God whom the angels have to shield their faces to see, and the God who ate with sinners?
    • It seems to be a contradiction in terms for God to be humble!
    • How can the infinite creator God, awesome and majestic, be humble??
  • One of the criticisms that Muslims have of Christianity is that our God does not make sense:
    • 3 persons in one, God becoming man, and so on.
      • Islam is logical.
    • But the very fact that we cannot completely understand God is evidence that Christianity is not a man-made religion.
    • Our view of God is revealed, not man-made. We are finite and of course we cannot fully comprehend him.
  • But having said that, there is a way that we can begin to see God’s awesome holiness and his humility reconciled together.
    • When Jesus died, the temple veil was torn from top to bottom.
    • His coming, in a way that we cannot fully understand,
      • has allowed us to go freely into the presence of this awesome God. Heb 10:19-20 says:
    “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
    by a new and living way which he consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, his flesh”
  • Does this mean we forget about God’s awesome majesty and terrifying purity?
    • Of course it does not, because this aspect of God’s character is just as true, and needed to show the greatness of his humility.

4. Our Response

  • So what should we do as a church to show God’s glory in this way we are commanded?
    • What kind of God are we reflecting?
  • Throughout history, churches have tended to emphasize one or the other, God’s humility or his transcendence.
    • Which does this do?

“Milan Cathedral”

Image source: Jiuguang Wang

  • Back in England we have many beautiful cathedrals that were built centuries ago by a wealthy church that took money of people in grinding poverty. When people point out to me their beauty…
  • We must not let go of God’s awesome majesty, but we must make every effort we possibly can to show him as the friend of sinners.
    • When people come into our midst who are not clean, who carry the marks of their sin
    • I have been in churches that make them very uncomforable
    • we don’t see them as marring the perfection of our worship services, but as opportunities for God to be glorified.
  • The biggest emphasis on our humility in the N.T. is to one another
  • In John 15 he tells us that when we bear the fruit of sacrificial love for one another, it is “By this that my father is glorified”

read Philippians passage 2:5-11

Philippians 2:5–11

  1. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
  2. who though he existed in the form of God
          did not regard equality with God
          as something to be grasped,
  3. but emptied himself
          by taking on the form of a slave,
          by looking like other men,
          and by sharing in human nature.
  4. He humbled himself,
          by becoming obedient to the point of death
          —even death on a cross!
  5. As a result God exalted him
          and gave him the name
          that is above every name,
  6. so that at the name of Jesus
          every knee will bow
          —in heaven and on earth and under the earth —
  7. and every tongue confess
          that Jesus Christ is Lord
          to the glory of God the Father.

Version: NET

  • I challenge you to put this into practice
    • You are bringing glory to God like nothing else, when you make yourself humble!
  • We saw last week how God does not respond to pride, but to humility
    • God will respond to your humble heart
  • Not just an emotion (very ‘umble sir)
    • A servant heart!
  • So part of our response is to reflect this aspect of God to others
  • But the other part is that God wants us to approach him and share with him our innermost thoughts
    • He is not just the creator of the universe, but one who wants to be our dear friend and share our dreams.
    • This is so extraordinary, and so wonderful that it fills our hearts with joy.

Updated on 2013-08-19 by Andrew Fountain