By Joe Chesser
You just have to feel sorry for the people whose god is made of wood and stone. Perhaps even more sympathy can be felt for the people whose god is themselves (selfishness) or money (their possessions). Think about it. What kind of real-life help can you get if your god is chiseled out of a rock or can disappear in the stock market? What kind of relationship can you have with a piece of gold or a certificate of deposit? Sure, they are nice to have, but they make a mighty poor god.
In contrast, for the Christian, God is a God who is always nearby. He wants to be close to us, and he wants us to be close to him (James 4:8). Sometimes called the doctrine of the sanctuary, the theology of the nearness of God is at the heart of the biblical story.
The tragedy of sin is that it separates us from the presence and nearness of God. Of all the consequences of Eve’s introducing sin into the world (loss of the garden paradise, weeds and thistles, pain in childbirth, etc.), the greatest result of sin was separation from the nearness of God. Aware of their sin, Adam and Eve tried at first to hide themselves from God, and then God made the physical separation permanent. The greatest tragedy of life is to live a life separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and the greatest punishment of hell is to exist for eternity shut out from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Apart from God there is darkness and hopelessness. There can be nothing worse.
That’s why the incarnation gives us such hope – light had returned to the world (John 1:4)! God had demonstrated in as visible a way as possible his desire for us to be restored to his presence. That’s why Jesus was also called Immanuel. That’s why Jesus taught us, in words and actions, how to live like God. That’s why he was willing to give his life on the cross, that through his blood our sins could be washed away and that we would once again be fit for his Spirit to live with us (Acts 2:38). That’s why Jesus has returned to heaven, to prepare rooms in the Father’s house for us, and then sometime in the future, he will return for us to “take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3). In the meantime, he has left us his Spirit to live in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19).
Hallelujah! We have a God who wants us to draw in close to him (Ephesians 2:13). “But as for me, it is good to be near God” (Psalm 73:28).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org