Every summer my wife and I have some time off to go and visit our families in West Wales. My Mother lives in Llanelli and there’s a really nice harbour nearby in Burry Port and we love going there to watch the sunsets. One evening as we stood on the harbour to watch the sunset, a few children were scurrying around a crab that had obviously been left on the dock by someone who had been crabbing earlier in the day. No one wanted to touch it, so I picked it up and safely dropped it over the side and back into the sea. As the excitement declined, an elderly fellow commended me for ‘doing the right thing’ and stood next to me chatting as we gazed into the sunset.
He asked me what I do for a living. At the time I was an Assistant Pastor at St. Mellons Cardiff and he took an interest in my work and proceeded to say how he was brought up in church, still believed in God, but didn’t go to church anymore. He shared with me some of his Sunday School memories as a child and so I asked him, “Have you ever wondered where God is? Where is God?”
He replied, “Well my boy..” as he leaned towards me, lifting his arm, pointing at the sunset. “Can you see the gap in the cloud there, where the strip of pink is? Look at the colours and find the furthest point into that sunset. Can you see it?”
“I can” I replied. “Well, God is beyond that” he said confidently.
I thought it was incredibly interesting that he should say that. I was encouraged that he was affirming God’s existence and thought God was outside of his creation; far, far away. But he was only half correct. Not only is God transcendent (he lives beyond and is independent from creation), but he is also immanent (God is present within his creation).
So, as I sought to converse further with the elderly fellow, I decided to quote a Psalm. As I nodded, I said “I agree with you. Psalm nineteen verse one says ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.’ However, I do believe that what you said is only half of the truth.”
“What do you mean?” he asked looking surprised that I provoked his belief.
I looked at him and said, “Well, not only is God out there…”, as I pointed to the horizon. “But God is here…”, pointing to my heart. “God is present all the time. You see, the Bible itself is God’s Word. He has revealed himself to us. This means that we can know God personally.”
I continued to explain the following:
Although God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, he is also the Saviour of the world. God created the world to be perfect, but because of the sinfulness of humanity, the Bible says that we live in a ‘fallen’ world – meaning an imperfect world. Things die, people suffer, natural disasters occur and nations make war against each other. The world is beautiful but at the same time, it is incredibly ugly. The rebellion of humanity against our glorious God brought this to be. God told the first humans that rebellion against him would bring eternal death (Genesis 2:17). However, God is not only just, but he is gracious, loving and kind. God’s plan was to redeem (buy back) humanity. In order to do this a perfect man must be punished and endure the punishment due to every person. There is no perfect man so God himself would become man. The eternal Son of God Jesus Christ came to the world to live a perfectly obedient life to the Father and died on the cross accepting and bearing God’s wrath on our behalf. Christ became our substitute so that anyone who believes and trusts in him will have eternal life (Romans 10:9). We must repent of our sin and ask God to forgive us. God promises to do so because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done.
So, after explaining the Gospel (good news), the elderly fellow said, “I’ve never heard it put that way before. Thank you for telling me that!”
I concluded by saying, “God is not only out there, but the Holy Spirit dwells in my heart because of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And he can dwell in your heart too, my friend!”