How do we describe an indescribable God? We use anthropomorphic language to describe Him with human words and images–that always fall short. Still, it helps to understand the God we follow when we are leading others to become His disciples. While the Bible itself does not use these terms, theologians and Bible scholars have written much about God’s immanence and transcendence. Here, I want to apply these important aspects of God in an overly simplified way to disciple-making.
Immanence is a personal way of describing God. He is Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). He chose to dwell among us though Jesus Christ. As the Creator, He is present throughout creation and especially among His people. Jesus’ birth and death are pictures. One way we describe God’s immanence is that he is near us (present with us), but God is so much more.
God is far beyond anything on earth, beyond anything we know. He is above and beyond us. God’s Word is filled with words and images that point in that direction: exalted, above the heavens, most high, without sin, resurrection, etc. These words and images refer not so much to place as to His worthiness, His holiness, and His otherness.
Immanence and Transcendence: Application
Is your relationship with God personal or formal? Is He near or distant? Does He care about you, willing to be involved in the details of your life, or is He involved in events more important? The answer is yes. He is both and so much more.
He has revealed Himself (immanence) to us from His holiness and otherness (transcendence). He is both. This dynamic is important, even critical right now. So many have forgotten these aspect of God and are in need of reminders and re-introductions to Him.
As simply as possible, explain these terms to your disciple(s), and then ask your disciple(s) to identify which word best describes God to them. They have to choose and defend one term. Share your testimony about the terms. Without arguing, explain why the other term for God is also true. Help your disciple(s) to regain the present wonder of God.
For me, Psalm 8 captures both terms in describing God. Here are a couple of verses:
When I observe your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you set in place, what is a human being that you remember him, a son of man that you look after him?Psalm 8:3-4, CSB
He is the magnificent Creator, but He still cares for me. Lead your disciples to understand, worship, and follow a great God. Make disciples!