Foundations for a New Year

This post first appeared in the extratime blog. We’re very grateful to them for letting us re-post it here! Check out their talks page, including recordings from Cor Deo’s own David Searight and Mike Chalmers.


foundationsAnother New Year, another set of resolutions?  Every January gyms sign up loads of new members, people give up bad habits, start new hobbies, commit themselves to make major changes, organize their lives and so on.  Every February most of this is forgotten!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those anti-resolutions people that never even tries.  This year I am making a big effort to get on top of my email, and I’m starting to swim each week.  But there is something far more foundational than how we organize our lives or look after our bodies.  Let’s call it the real foundations of life.

The foundations of our worldview and belief system will influence everything we think, everything we do, and every way in which we engage everything around us.  Probably the healthiest thing we can do is take some time to prayerfully ponder the foundations of our faith.

What do I mean by the foundations? I mean the answers to basic underlying questions that everything else is built upon.  The foundational questions of any belief system are these:

Which god is God, and what is He like?

What does it mean to be human, to be made in His image?

What is the nature of the problem between us and God, or what is sin?

What is the solution to that problem?

These are really basic questions, and yet strangely, most of us never stop to think about them.  After all, everyone knows who God is, right?  Everyone knows what sin is?  Do they?  Do we?

Let’s just take the first question: Which god is God, and what is He like?

Which God?  For too long we have been lulled into a false sense of clarity here. How easily we assume that God is, well, God.  He is the supreme, ultimate, in charge, powerful being sitting on the throne, right?  Well, these facts may all be true, but already the description is starting to specify a certain version of God.

Let’s say you are talking with a friend and they say they don’t believe in God.  Uh oh, defensiveness rises within you. But then they start to describe their view of the heavenly Hitler who inflicts suffering without any sense of care for the creatures. Hopefully this starts to feel very uncomfortable. After all, I hope the God you believe in is not a heartless despot inflicting agony on a helpless world. And thankfully, your job in this conversation is not to defend the absolute power of a generic God-being, but rather to help introduce your friend to the true God.

The world is full of different “gods” and we need to start thinking about which God we actually worship. For most people, in most of the world, for most of history, there have been numerous deities.  It is only really in the West, influenced by a combination of Greek philosophy and a politically powerful but theologically poor Christianity, that the generic distant power-broker god has become the assumed deity.

The Bible does not assume that everyone is referring to the true God when they speak of God.  The Bible points us to the God who is a Father revealed by His Son through the Spirit.  The Bible points us to a specific God, with a specific character, who can be known. This is an amazing reality – nobody has ever seen the God (the Father), but unique God who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known! (John 1:18)

 What is He like?  God is like Jesus.  Perfectly like Jesus.  And once this truth grabs a hold of us, suddenly this most foundational question can become a lifelong quest.  In a good friendship there is the joy of continual discovery as you get to know more and more about your friend.  In a healthy marriage this quest to know the other is thoroughly satisfying, but never complete.  And if it is true in a friendship or marriage, how much more will the infinitely wonderful Son of God captivate our hearts forever? For all eternity the Father has found the Son to be delightfully satisfying.  Surely there is enough there to stir our hearts for the rest of this life, not to mention eternity!?

Too many of us have settled into assuming we know the answer to the most foundational of all questions.  I know which god is God – it is the God of the Bible.  What is God like?  Well, you know, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc.  And we sound like we are describing a set of facts like the specifications on a car (and not like a car enthusiast would either!)

God is not a set of facts to know and quote.  God is not a set of doctrines, no matter how wonderful that theology may be.  God is personal, and He can known through Jesus, His Son.

Do you like God?  Seems like a strange question for many.  We know the correct answer to “do you believe in God?” or even “do you love God?” but what about “do you like God?”  It does seem weird that we know instinctively whether we like a waiter or waitress before they finish their first question at our table, and yet many go to church for years, live in God’s family for years, and then struggle to answer the question, “do you like Him?”  It is almost as if God were impersonal, just a set of facts.  Do you like the spec-list for your microwave?  Do you like the ingredient list for your bag of crisps?  Who cares?  These are impersonal.  But do we like God?  This is a gloriously significant question.

As we stop to ponder the foundational questions we will find that the answers the Bible gives us are progressively more thrilling.  The foundational questions can be answered quickly, but our entire lives are really a working out of our answers to these questions.

Let me encourage you at the start of this year to take some time to pray through the four questions and ask God to help you see the truth of the Bible for each, and to see how getting the right answers to these questions can become the thrilling quest of a lifetime for you.

What is God like?  He’s like Jesus.  Get to know Him better this year.


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