Have you ever tried to define God? If someone asked you the question “What is God?” what would you say? It’s hard right? Trying to put something, or rather someone so big into a few lines of text doesn’t seem possible, or even appropriate. Yet at the same time it’s important to somehow describe this amazing God we serve, because we want to rightly love him and tell others about him.
In the mid 1600s, the Westminster Assembly took on the task of creating a succinct answer to the question, “What is God?” Here is what they came up with: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #4).
There you have it. God defined in 18 words. Although it may seem impossible to accurately encapsulate God in such a limited way, I think the Westminster Divines did the best they could. So what do we learn in those 18 words? Well, a lot actually. But I think the most profound truth that comes across in their definition is the eternality of God. To me, this is one of the most fascinating and incomprehensible attributes of God.
As humans – especially American humans – we are overly consumed with the concept of forever. Think about the most popular books and movies that have flooded our culture over the years. Time travel, space exploration, super heroes and, of course, our beloved vampire tales, all attempt to explore and explain the idea of eternity. We love these stories because the idea of eternity is so outside of our experience.
Time is the one constant we can’t escape. Our lives are spent constantly fighting time. We want to save time, prolong time, kill time, go back in time, and all because we live with the reality that time is constantly moving forward and eventually will run out. So the thought of a being, someone who is completely unlimited as it relates to time, impacts us at our deepest level.
This is our God, the eternal One who has no beginning and no end. The God who vividly sees all of time from start to end, and yet in himself has no succession of moments. And one might think that a God like this would have no interest in human time, but this is not so. Even though this God exists outside of time, he cares about time and chooses to act within time. We read in Galatians 4:4-5, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The eternal God of the universe looked through the span of time and determined a perfect moment in history to dramatically intervene in the lives of men. And in our darkest hour, when we were lost and without hope, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus to save us from our sins. The eternal became temporal so that we could experience eternity.
As Christmas draws close it’s a perfect time for us to reflect on these things. Think about how much you can trust an unchanging and eternal God. In your season of waiting or trial, remember that God’s timetable is vastly different than yours. In a world that’s driven by Internet speed, we need to remember that God describes life in terms of farming, which is much slower than we are comfortable with. But it’s often in the slow, farming moments of waiting where we will find the most growth. Finally, we also need to remember that time is short on this earth, and God cares about how we use our time. Use it wisely and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.