Theology Thursday: Immanence

person holding their hands together praying

Trying to wrap our minds around the attributes of God can seem like a never-ending journey where we see the destination just ahead but never seem to get there. While our minds can struggle to understand God, our souls long to know him and be known by him.

Present and Active

God is both transcendent and immanent. He is transcendent−above all, distinct from his creation, holy, almighty, all-powerful and incomprehensible. However, God is also immanent–knowable present, concerned and actively involved with people and the world. God did not create the world and then back off to leave us to fend for ourselves. God is involved with his world and continues to act in love toward people.

Through the Good and the Bad 

Life can be hard and it can be happy. It is marked by sin and suffering, yet it can also be full of joy and delight. The Bible tells us that God is with us through all the ups and downs of life. During those times when it feels like we are drowning in a rushing river, God is with us (Isaiah 43:1-5). When we need direction, peace and a safe place for our souls to rest, God leads us there and stays to enjoy our company (Psalm 23).

Throughout history, when God’s people faced overwhelming odds and challenges, God promised to never leave them alone (e.g., Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:9). When Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God, he said that the kingdom had “come near” (Mark 1:15). God’s presence, rule and influence were not out of reach, but near and Jesus, the king of the kingdom, was present. In fact, one of Jesus’ names is Immanuel which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23).

Like a flashing neon sign throughout the Bible, we read about God’s immanence again and again.

Open Heart and Open Arms

Always present, God cares so deeply for people, that at a particular time in history he sent his son Jesus to become human and physically live among us for a time. Jesus, who is fully God became fully man. Jesus was present and active in creating the world (John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:15-16), yet he did not exploit his power and position but chose instead to humble himself, become one of us, and serve us (Philippians 2:5-8). He offered his own life as a sacrifice on the cross for our sin and canceled the power of sin and death through his resurrection.

After Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit came to indwell the lives of Christ-followers and give us the wisdom, encouragement, discernment and power we need to live as followers of Jesus. The immanence of God– Father, Son and Holy Spirit–encourages us to live abundantly, sharing the goodness of this incomprehensible yet knowable God with the world as we spread his grace, love, beauty, truth and justice.

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