High and Lifted Up - but Up Close and Personal
By Ed Delph
October 23, 2017
A nurse on the pediatric ward, before listening to the children's chests, would plug the stethoscope into their ears and let them listen to their own hearts. Their eyes would always light up with awe, but she never got a response equal to four-year-old David's comment.
She tucked the stethoscope into his ears and placed the disk over his heart. "Listen, now what do you suppose that is?" David drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled line and looked up as if lost in the mystery of the strange tap-tap-tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin and he asked, "Is that Jesus knocking?"
David had heard the Bible verse where Jesus says to the church in Laodicea, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." To David, Jesus was in his heart knocking the door. Now, that's up close and personal!
There is quite a truth here. God is what theologians call both transcendent and immanent. Transcendent means God is above all things. He transcends our thoughts, our definitions, our perspectives, and our comprehension. He is, as the Bible says, "High and lifted up." However, God is also immanent. He is right here in our midst and involved in our daily lives. He is personal and relevant. Little David was catching the immanence of God. Let's explore this concept. It might explain some things about God that might be confusing to us.
God's transcendence is what architects tried to capture in the historic or traditional churches that started in Europe. The architects desired to display the greatness of God in the size and grandeur of those church buildings. They wanted you to know that God is big, holy, exalted and majestic. No doubt they were influenced by the verse in Isaac 6:1 where Isaac is trying to describe God in his own words. "I see the Lord sitting on the throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple."
Some of the great mainline denominations from Europe focus on the idea of transcendence. They emphasize the greatness of God, which is a very important aspect of God. But, if transcendence is taken to an extreme, people feel separated from God. They feel like God is out of reach. He is not involved in their life. He sits in the heavens but doesn't visit the earth. He's up there and I'm down here. What good does a formal God do for a personal me? They have a point. That’s why God is also immanent.
What do I mean by immanent? God is also a coming-down God. He likes things "On earth as it is in heaven." The Bible says that, "The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood." God is the first neighborhood activist. So, while He is high and lifted up, He is also near me, not aloof, and involved with people just like you and me. He is the God you can know, right now, in today's world.
The Bible in Nehemiah, Chapter 9, explains this concept perfectly. God came down, God saw their affliction, God heard their cry, God spoke, God knew their issues, God provided, and God listened." That's what I would call immanent!
So, it's a both/and, not an either/or! The "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed (Holy) be Thy name" in the Lord's Prayer displays the transcendence of God. The verse in Romans 8:15 which says, "Abba Father" shows us the immanence of God. The word "Abba" means Daddy! God is our Daddy! He's not just that formal Father that everyone fears. God is up close and personal. He is our Daddy that loves us in ways we can relate to. That's the personal God that many don't hear about.
Transcendence without immanence leads to worship without relationship. Conversely, immanence without transcendence leads to relationship without sincere worship. Isn’t that amazing? The high and lifted up Father is also our Daddy. And...He is knocking at our door. Just ask David at the beginning of this article!
Ed Delph CCC October 23, 2017
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com