In a Class by Himself

Isaiah 46:9-10

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’

Dear Friends in Christ,

As many of you know, back in October Marilyn and I attended the Celebrators Conference in Pigeon Forge, TN, and we’ve already got our reservations made for this year’s conference because they let it be known that on Wed. evening of that conference they are going to have a special patriotic night and if all goes according to plan, the speaker will be former President George W. Bush.  Now that’s not to diminish or take away anything from the speakers for last year’s conference who happened to be some pretty big heavyweights in Christian circles, namely, Dr. David Jeremiah who is a prolific author and can be heard on many Christian radio stations every day and then there was also my favorite author Max Lucado who they said now has more than 100 million books in print which is absolutely mind-boggling when you stop and think about it.

Well, both Dr. Jeremiah and Max Lucado had written books prior to the Celebrators Conference so each one shared a couple of chapters out of their respective books when they spoke.  Those books were also on sale in this very spacious room where they had booths set up for the authors, the singers, and other Christian ministries.  And if you wanted to, you could actually get your book signed by the author and even converse with him for a few seconds.  I thought about it, especially the prospect of getting to meet and talk to Max Lucado since I’ve read every one of his books, but there was a problem.  Lots of other people were thinking the same thing and had already started to form a line – a very long line – so I figured my dream of being able to talk to my favorite author would have to wait for another time and another day.

Now I share that story with you because maybe there have been times in your life when you felt the same way about God – that he was too busy for you; too tied up with other people to help you with your problems or needs.  If you’ve ever felt that way, my friends, you’ve sure come to the right place today.  Because this morning I’m beginning a sermon series that will find us doing pretty well a word-by-word study of perhaps the most familiar verse in all of Holy Scripture, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,  that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Some of you will remember that the last sermon series I preached was on the 23rd Psalm which is arguably the best known chapter in the Bible.  So I thought I would follow that up by taking a look at what is arguably the best known verse of the Bible, a verse we often refer to as the Gospel in a nutshell.  And today on this 2nd Sunday of a brand new year it will be our privilege to study the 2nd word in this passage, namely, the word “God.”  For God so loved the world.”

And the first point that we want to make today on the basis of this verse is that God is, that God exists.  Jesus, who spoke these words, simply assumes that there is a God, and understandably so since he himself was God.  He is the 2nd Person of the Godhead that we call the Holy Trinity.

Now, if you are one of those persons who needs proof that there is a God, especially in this highly technological, scientific, and secular day and age that continually casts doubt on his existence, I have 2 suggestions for you.  First of all, look above you.  Get away from the city lights some night and look up into the vast array of stars that comprise our Milky Way galaxy.  Did you know that astronomers are telling us now that our galaxy alone is populated by as many as 100,000 billion stars?  That would be a 1 followed by 11 zeroes.  But there’s more.  For a number of years astronomers were saying that the Milky Way galaxy is only one of 100 billion other galaxies that populate our universe, but just last year an international team of astronomers revised that number and are now saying that the universe contains at least 2 trillion galaxies, 20 times more than previously thought.  Another article I came across estimates that there are 70 sextillion stars in the known universe.  That’s a 7 followed by 22 zeroes.  This unfathomable number is said to be greater than all the grains of sand on all the beaches and in all the deserts of our world.

Now how do we get our minds around numbers like that?  Well, let’s try, using an illustration I came across while working on this sermon.  I want you to imagine that we decided to drive to the sun together – 93 million miles from planet earth.  We charter a special sun bus which is able to travel 150 mph.  Now we don’t get to stop on this trip.  We just don’t have time for that.  We’re going to drive straight through just like a lot of us men like to do when we go on a long trip.  So how long do you think it’s going to take us to get to the sun at 150 mph, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?  How about a lifetime?  More specifically, how about 70 years?  Just to get to the sun.  And once we get there, we’re going to get out for a few minutes, stretch our legs, get a little sun, climb back in and then we’re going to go to the next closest star, Alpha Centauri.  How long do you think that’s going to take?  You’d better pack a lunch because it’s going to take 15 million years.

The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  In other words, the first missionary for God in the universe was the universe.  So if you don’t think God exists, look up.  A watch implies a watchmaker.  A house implies a house builder.  A painting suggests there was a painter.  And stars of the numbers we’ve been talking about loudly and unequivocally proclaim there was a Star Maker.

But don’t just look up to know that God exists.  The Bible also calls us to look within.  Think for a moment about your sense of right and wrong, your sense of good and bad, your code of ethics that seems to be embedded in your genes.  Where did that come from?  Oh, I know your parents taught you some of it, but did they not only encourage and build off of what was already there?  Somehow even as a child you knew it was wrong to hurt someone and you knew it was right to help someone.  Where did that come from?  And another thing, why is it so universal?  I realize we deviate from it at times.  We abuse it at times.  But C. S. Lewis said that the greatest argument for the existence of God is the moral argument.  That from century to century and culture to culture – even cultures who have never heard of God or seen a Bible – you can find a consistent code of behavior.  Where did that code come from?   The Apostle Paul gives us the answer to that question in Rom. 2:14-15 when he says: “Even when Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, instinctively follow what the law says, they show that in their hearts they know right from wrong.  They demonstrate that God’s law is written within them, for their own consciences either accuse them or tell them they are doing what is right.”

So we have the heavens above us.  We have the moral code – our conscience – within us.  We might call them heaven’s 2-fold evangelists which declare that God is.  But the Bible has so much more to say about God.  Not only does it make it clear that God exists, but that he is also above us.  And by that I mean that he is so much greater than we are.  He truly is in a class all by himself.  Like he says in our text for today: “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”

Consider just a few of the things that set God apart from us.  For starters, God is needless.  He has no needs.  You and I, on the other hand, are need driven.  We can’t even get out of bed in the morning without having a need.  In fact, what typically gets us out of bed is a need, and I’m not talking about the alarm clock here!  But God has no needs.  He’s never been hungry.  He’s never been thirsty.  He’s never taken a nap.  He’s never called time out and said, “I just need a break.”  In fact, he’s never said, “I need” because he has no needs.  He is the uncaused Cause of the universe.

And because of that, God is not only needless, he is also ageless.  Psalm 90:2 says: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  When God met with Moses at the burning bush and called him to go back to Egypt to deliver his people from slavery there, Moses asked God, “Who shall I tell them has sent me?”  To which God replied: “I AM WHO I AM.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.’”  The Hebrew word that is translated I AM there is the word Yahweh.  That’s the official holy name of God that he wanted to be known by to serve as a reminder to his people that he is the eternal God, that he has always existed and he will always exist.  God never says, “I was” or “I will be.”  He just always is.  He exists endlessly, perennially, perpetually, and forever.

But there’s more.  He’s not just needless and ageless.  He is also sinless.  When the prophet Isaiah was given a glimpse into the very throne room of God, he saw the Lord, high and exalted, sitting on his throne, surrounded by 6-winged angelic beings called seraphs.  And those seraphs were offering up their continual praise to God that consisted of that triumphant triplet that we sang earlier in our service: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  And when Isaiah beheld this incredible vision of the holiness, the sinlessness, the perfection of God, what was his response?  Did he say, “Wow, God, this is so cool!  Do you think we could do this again sometime?”  Is that what he said?  No!  Instead, I picture him falling on his face as he says: “Woe to me!  I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  Isaiah understood that because of his sinfulness he had no right to be there in the presence of One who was so perfect and so sinless.

Occasionally I hear people talk about God in very casual terms.  He’s the man upstairs.  He’s my co-pilot.  He’s the big dude in the sky.  Now I suspect that people who use such terms for God don’t mean to be disrespectful.  But I do think we need to be careful when we talk about God like that because I guarantee that when we stand before him, not a single one of us is going to go up to him and kind of slug him on the shoulder and say, “How you doing, old buddy, old pal?”  Instead, we will do what Isaiah did.  We will stand in awe of him.  We will fall on our faces before him.  And we will know instantly and instinctively that were it not for his grace and goodness we would have no right to be there.

So let’s tally up what we’ve been talking about.  God has no needs.  He has no age.  He has no sin.  No wonder he said in our text, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.”  Now someone might hear that and say, “Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but I really don’t find that to be very comforting.  I mean, it’s amazing that God is the way he is, but it’s also kind of scary because he is so much above anything that I could ever hope to be.”  And that’s true.  Just think about it.  God is needless and we’re so needful.  God is ageless and we’re getting older every day.  In fact each day takes us one step closer to the grave.  God is sinless and my goodness, we can’t even make it through a church service like this without sinning.

So where does that leave us?  That’s the big question, isn’t it?  Well, I’ll tell you where it leaves us.  It leaves us needing to hear and needing to study the rest of John 3:16 because in the remainder of this verse Jesus not only affirms that God is and that he is above us, but also that he is for us.  He’s on our side.  He’s in our corner.  And he’s done everything possible and everything necessary for us who are sinful to enjoy an eternity in his sinless presence.  Nobody said it better than the Apostle Paul in Rom. 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

So getting back to what we started this sermon with, this God who gave his all for us; this God who is needless, ageless, and sinless; this God who truly is in a class all by himself, is never too busy to give his full and undivided attention to one of his hurting children.  So go to him frequently, my friends; go to him trustingly; and receive from him what only he can give.  Amen.