Billy Graham: What Is God Like?

Billy Graham: What Is God Like?

Once, as I was visiting the campus of a Southern university, a sophomore asked me: “What kind of a guy is God?” Another time, a leading businessman asked me, “What do you suppose God is like?” And an airline flight attendant once asked, as we were skimming over the beautiful Rocky Mountains from Denver to Los Angeles, “Wouldn’t it be fine if we really knew what God was like?” A university president said: “If it were possible for preachers to tell people what God is and what God is like, it would make the question of religion a good deal simpler for many people.”

I believe I can give you some idea of what God is like. 

Many people say God is absolute, and that is all we know about Him. Others say that God is the expression of everything that is in nature and life, and all that is in nature is God. Others say God is an original force that started things, and through a process of evolution we have what we have today. I’ve met philosophers who say God is the power behind the movement of life, and everything we see is the result of God in life. Almost every philosopher in the world has wrestled with this problem. Through the ages, people have gone out under the stars at night and looked up with wondering bewilderment and thought, I wonder what God is really like.

I’m not going to try to debate any viewpoint, whether scientific or unscientific. I’m going to take you to the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of God. In the Bible we have a full revelation of what God is like. If you do not believe that we have a revelation that is sufficient to give us an answer to our question, then you might as well go from one place to another for mere speculation. No two theories or ideas will agree. Every other idea about God is the product of someone’s imagination. Your guess is as good as anyone else’s. However, if we believe that in the Bible we have a revelation of God, then our minds can be completely satisfied as to the correct answer. 

There are hundreds of things we could say about God as revealed in the Bible, but I’m only going to choose four: 

First, the Bible declares God to be Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is talking to a woman at the Well of Sychar. Jesus makes a straightforward statement about God: “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). 

Immediately you imagine a sort of cloudy vapor. But that is not a picture of God. If we want to know what a spirit is, we can find out in the scene where Christ said, after His resurrection: “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). So we know that spirit is incorporeal; it is unbody. Spirit is something that is not limited by body. Spirit is not wearable or changeable as a body. The Bible declares that God is such a Spirit. So, He is not limited to body; He is not limited to shape; He is not limited to force; He is not limited to boundaries or bonds; He is absolutely immeasurable and undiscerned with eyes that are limited to physical things. 

The Bible teaches that because He has no such limitations, He can be everywhere at the same time. People may try to limit God to certain spheres and regulate Him to certain categories that are the product of their own speculation. But there is no limit to God. There is no limit to His wisdom. There is no limit to His power. There is no limit to His love. There is no limit to His mercy. 

I was reared in a small Presbyterian church in Charlotte, North Carolina. I remember that before I was 10 years old, my mother made me memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We were asked to define God, and the answer we learned was, “God is a Spirit—infinite, eternal and unchangeable.”

He is infinite, not body-bound. He is eternal, with no beginning and no ending. And the Bible declares that He never changes, that there is no variableness nor shadow of turning with Him (see James 1:17). 

People change, fashions change, conditions and circumstances change, but God never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It is almost impossible for slow, finite minds to conceive accurately what all this means. The Bible teaches that there was never a time when God was not. We cannot think of God as limited to the sort of things we are. 

If you have any problem concerning the inspiration of the Bible, go back and look at it again. The basis of your problem is that you have not permitted God to be the sort of Spirit that He is. If God is what He says about Himself, there is no problem of providence. There is no problem of His oversight of nations. There is no problem of His inspiring men to write the Bible. In other words, everything fits in its place once you understand who and what God really is. 

Second, the Bible reveals God not only as a Spirit, but also as a person. A person is one who feels, thinks, wishes, desires and has all the expressions of personality. The Bible also attributes these kinds of actions to God when it says: “God loves,” “God says” “or God does.”  

Third, the Bible declares that not only is God a Spirit and a Person, but He is holy and righteous. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals Himself as a holy God. He is utterly perfect and absolute in every detail. He is too holy to touch sinful men; too holy to endure sinful living. He is a holy and perfect God. 

If we could ever get a vision of His majestic righteousness, what a tremendous difference it would make in the way our nation lives. If we could once see the appalling difference between our unrighteousness and God’s perfect righteousness, it would change our way of living immediately. 

The Scripture declares Him to be light, in whom there is no darkness at all (see 1 John 1:5). It is impossible to understand the Bible unless you have a clear understanding of the holiness of God. 

Because God is holy, there is a wide rift between God and the sinner. The Scriptures say your iniquities have separated you from God (see Isaiah 59:2). God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil (see Habakkuk 1:13). Because God is holy, He can have nothing to do with sin. Before sin came, man and God had fellowship with each other. Now that fellowship is broken, and it is an absolute impossibility for a sinner to have any contact with God except through Jesus Christ. 

Man neither possesses nor can acquire the sinlessness that is necessary to have access to God. However, Christ has come and made such access possible. In God’s holiness lies the reason for the death of Christ. And what His holiness demanded in exacting the penalty for sin, His love provided in Jesus Christ. 

We are dealing with a holy, righteous and pure God. He will not long tolerate our evils and sins. How long is this pure God going to endure our divorce rate, our immorality, our drunkenness and our profanity? How long is God going to tolerate our pride, gossip, malice, slander and our love of money, ease and pleasure? Were it not for the mercy and longsuffering of God, this nation would be swept into hell overnight, with all other nations that forget God.

The fourth thing I want you to see about God is the Bible’s expression “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Many people have misunderstood this. The fact that God is love does not mean that everything is sweet, beautiful and happy, and that God’s love could not possibly allow punishment for sin. God’s holiness demands that all sin be punished, but God’s love provided a plan of redemption and salvation for sinful people. God’s love provided the cross of Jesus Christ, by which we can have forgiveness and cleansing. It was the love of God that sent Jesus Christ to the cross. 

Who can describe or measure the love of God? No matter what sin you have committed—how dirty, shameful or terrible it may be—God loves you. You may be at the very gate of hell itself, but God loves you with an everlasting love. Were it not for the love of God, none of us would ever have a chance in the future life. But thanks be to God, He is love! Because He is a holy God, our sins have separated us from Him. But because of His love, there is a way of salvation, a way back to God through Jesus Christ, His Son. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

The Scripture says: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You must believe. You must receive. You must take it. There must be a definite, positive act of commitment and surrender to the love of God. You can sit all the days of your life under the preaching of the love of God and still die without Christ. Or you can open your heart today and say, “Yes, my heart is open. I receive Christ today.” 

It is impossible for human, finite minds to completely understand God. That is where faith comes in. By faith I receive His plan for my redemption. I trust Christ as Savior. In my own heart I have a deep assurance that I shall spend eternity with Him. After all is said and done, if I had no other evidence except my own personal experience, that would be enough to convince me concerning God and His Christ. I know God through personal experience. You can know Him, too.  ©1951 BGEA

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.

YOU CAN KNOW GOD.

God has made a way for us to know Him and spend eternity with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. What do you need to do? First, confess your sin and turn away from it. Second, receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, putting your faith in Him alone to save you. You can do that right now. He promises to live in you and transform your life. You can have a new life, a new beginning, if you will surrender to Christ.

START BY SIMPLY TALKING TO GOD.

You can pray a prayer like this:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I’m sorry for my sin. I want to turn from my sin. Please forgive me. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son; I believe He died on the cross for my sin and You raised Him to life. I want Him to come into my heart and take control of my life. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

DO IT RIGHT NOW.

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Photo: Russ Busby / ©1953 BGEA

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