Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Otherness of God

This is a talk I recently gave to our church Worship Team where we are working through the Book Facedown by Matt Redman.

Worship of God must come from a sense of wonder at His otherness or it is not worship. Words like Inexhaustible, immeasurable, unfathomable, eternal, immortal and invisible try to convey something of the otherness of God.

God is like no other but as Tozer remarked ‘Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms’. The Bible reminds us repeatedly of God’s uniqueness.

Q: Are there any areas in your life you can identify where you box God into your view rather than that of scripture?


I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. 42:8

I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god 44:6

To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike? 46:5

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me 46:9

We must be wary of trying to be so culturally relevant that we fail to see the higher value in the Glory of God. He is in no way like us and we merely touch the shallowest depths of who God is.

It is too easy to present a tame, domesticated God in church and fail to explore the mighty depths of the Lord. We can package God as though he somehow needs us, our worship, our offerings and love. God does not need us at all, in any way. He is perfectly whole, complete in the relationship within the Trinity.

Q: Has it ever occurred to you that God in no way needs you?

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Psalm 50:12

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25

Everything we have comes first from God, even the breath we use to praise Him came from Him.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” Romans 11:35

God owes us nothing and never fall into the lie that He somehow does. No matter what deep and painful struggle we may find ourselves in we must never think we can demand God help us and that he somehow owes us an answer. Or that we can demand He bless us, heal us, fix the circumstances we find ourselves in. He may do so in His sovereign will and loves to lavish good gifts upon us but never, ever think he somehow owes them to us.

Q: Can you think of times where you have demanded God come through for you and been disappointed that He didn’t?

When things go wrong, how we react is a good indicator of how much we understand about the otherness of God. It highlights where we are placing more trust in ourselves or something other than God. That we are more interested in our own comfort than His Glory. This is idolatry! Worship of something other than God.

However this picture of Gods otherness is only really complete when we add in His outrageous Grace. God does not need our worship but the wonderful thing is He loves our worship. God delights in honest, heartfelt worship. He is like a doting father over a cherished child. Just as His otherness is beyond our understanding so is His fatherly love and grace.

This Love and grace is summed up in the sacrifice of Jesus that provides the access to God in the first place. Without which we could never approach the throne room of God. We come through Jesus, in Jesus and with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our existence, from creation to salvation to sanctification is quite simply all about Him and for His Glory.


everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. 43:7

the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. 43:21

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. 43:25

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. 48:10-11

We are created and he is creator. Every page of the story is one of Grace, Love and mercy towards us. God lavishly gives us good gifts but we must never think for a second any of it is about us. God is passionate and jealous for His own Glory.

It seems hard to accept that God must care about his own Glory. When man glorifies himself it is pure arrogance and pride. When God glorifies himself it is from a place of pure holiness. God must prize Himself above all others since there is no one else above Him, He is God.

Passionate and intimate worship of God is not so uncommon in today's church. However we need to find ways of helping the church respond to the otherness of God which is equally as important. This surely has to start in our own lives and become part of who we are. A people who reserve something for God alone. Words, thoughts or actions.

Q: Is there anything you do or could do that is reserved for God alone?

Q: How in leading worship can we get across something of the Otherness we have been discussing?

The Jews revered the name of God so highly they would not even write or say his name. We need to recapture this sense of otherness but we need glimpses of this otherness before we can sing wholeheartedly about it.

Tozer writes: ‘What the Church needs today is a restoration of the vision of the Most High God’. This is a relevant today as it was 50 years ago when it was written.

1 comment:

Alicia said...

It never ceases to amaze me about the infinity of God and how little our tiny minds comprehend. It's so true He doesn't "need" us, we are less than the dust of the earth... and without Him we can do nothing and be nothing... yet he loves me enough to send His Son to Atone for my sins. It's amazing!! It is truly humbling to think about. And you are right about how we have drifted away from the respect He so deserves! I also like what you said about Him being a doting Father. I know He lives. I know He answers our prayers, He is faithful, He is powerful, He is merciful, He is LOVING, He is REAL... and He is so very much more than any mortal could begin to even comprehend!

I'm sure you gave a great talk.