Once we admit the existence of a personal, intelligent Creator we are also admitting that we are dependent.

In terms of physical dependence this dependence includes not only our original creation, but also our on-going existence and life.

Simply put, we exist, and continue to exist, only by the will and the gift of God. To put it another way: if God so willed he could withdraw his sustaining, life-giving power and we would simply cease to exist.

About this fundamental and inescapable dependence the Bible states:

‘ … when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust’ [Psalm 104:29b].

‘… in him we live and move and have our being’ [Acts 17:28a].

‘ … in him all things hold together’ [Colossians 1:17b].

‘The Son … sustaining all things by his powerful word’ [Hebrews 1:3b].

All over the world are human beings who do not for a moment acknowledge God or his existence, yet God, in a continuum of grace, sustains their physical environment and their physical life. He ‘causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ [Matthew 5:45]. In an instant God could bring the whole world to an end, but because of that same grace he delays that final cataclysm [read 2Peter 3:1-10].

But there is a deeper level at which humans are dependent: we are dependent on God for our real identity, significance and purpose as humans. We were not created to be complete as ‘stand alone’ beings. We are complete only in a positive relationship with God. This is evident in the fact that we are created ‘in the image of God’. An image is of necessity dependent on the reality of which it is the image. An image has no identity, significance or purpose apart from that other reality. The image exists only because of, and in relationship with, the reality of which it is the image.

For example, a mirror is nothing in itself. Its purpose and importance are fulfilled only when you, a separate and more important reality, are reflected in it. It has to be in this relationship with you for its significance to be activated and achieved. Or, looking at it another way, a statue of Julius Caesar is significant only because there was once that real and important person. Its significance is dependent on the historical reality and significance of Julius Caesar.

From these two examples we can perceive this deep level of human dependence on God: that it is his existence that gives our existence its unique identity and significance; and that it is only in positive, face to face relationship with him that we can be what we were created to be.

And herein is the human dilemma: that we, the human race, have turned our backs on God: we no longer see him, we no longer know him, and so we can no longer image him. In addition, we, the human race, have denied his real existence, and in that denial robbed ourselves of our own identity and significance. In grasping independence from God in our quest for human significance we have lost the very thing that we sought. Indeed, we have forfeited the unique identity and significance we already possessed.

The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to ‘turn’ or ‘return’ to the Lord, to ‘repent’. In these commands we see the gracious offer of God to restore us to that relationship of dependence upon him in which our true human identity, significance and purpose are restored:

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’ [Isaiah 30:15].

‘Repent … Turn away from all your offences … get a new heart and a new spirit … Repent and live’ [Ezekiel 18:30-32].

‘Take words with you and return to the LORD. Say to him “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we might offer the fruit of our lips”.’ [Hosea 14:2]

It is only when this relationship of dependence on God is restored that we really ‘live’ –

‘Seek me and live … Seek the LORD and live’ [Amos 5:4,6].

‘He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life’ [1John 5:12].

‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ [1John 5:20].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013, 2016