In many Christian circles today great emphasis is placed on the personal aspect of God’s character. We love to talk about our God who loves us, cares for us, and is intimately involved in our daily lives. We find great strength and security in the awareness that he knows us deeply and relates to us. This is both beautiful and necessary. However, too often God’s immanence is emphasized at the expense of his transcendence, the part of him that is beyond physical existence and comprehension.
For awhile we can talk about his transcendence. When we speak of him as Creator we enjoy contemplating his creativity and love of beauty. We like to recall that he is everywhere, that he knows all things, that he is the sustainer of life. But keep going and we begin to get uncomfortable. Begin to contemplate his holiness, his righteousness, and his justice, and suddenly we get squirmy. We know that these are important aspects of his character, but we don’t want to dwell on them too long, thinking about the implications. We don’t want to think about the fact that our God is so holy and so just that he cannot be in the presence of sin. We don’t want to think about the fact that he is so far above us and so powerful that we cannot stand in his presence, but must fall on our faces. We throw out the command to fear the Lord by arguing that it probably means something more along the lines of ‘respect.’
But the reality is that any theology that doesn’t include our God’s power, justice, and holiness, which we cannot even look upon, is severely lacking. It is dangerous to forget that we must revere and fear (yes fear) our God, that his glory and power are frightening to behold, and that he is absolutely just and holy. First of all, if he is not powerful and just, he can no longer be a good and perfect stronghold. He is a stronghold because he is powerful, and he is good because he is also righteous and just. Second, if we forget these aspects of God’s character we are in danger of slipping into a life of licentiousness that doesn’t take holiness or obedience seriously. And holiness and obedience are a really big deal. If we start living like some sins really aren’t that big of a deal we will lose our footing and slide down that slippery slope before we even realize we’re going downhill. If we don’t contemplate the more difficult aspects of God’s character, check our pride and realize how small we truly are, and give him the honor, fear, and reverence he demands, we’ll be headed down a dangerous road.
So let’s leave room in our theology of God’s immanence for his justice, power, and holiness. Let’s realize that our obedience is essential, and rely on his grace to get us through every second of every day. Let’s pursue holiness and honor our good, loving, gracious, kind, just, holy, and powerful God.
"Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face." -Ezekiel 1:28
Soli deo gloria