Everyone has an opinion about who God is. But the question we should ask ourselves frequently is, “Do we believe God is who he says he is?”
We live an opinion-saturated culture. Our feelings are our guiding force (yes, even in the Church).
“I don’t feel like God is really that way…”
Do you find yourself saying things like that?
I do often, even without thinking.
When faced with the reality of what the Bible claims about God, it’s easy to think, “I don’t believe God is like that.”
Take the idea of substitutionary atonement (the concept that Christ died on our behalf, to forgive our sins).
More and more people are finding substitutionary atonement so distasteful that they hate the idea of it, and even hate the God who says he commanded it.
They say, “That version of God is no more than an abusive sky-daddy.”
But is that what God calls himself? Of course not.
So, who are we to reject what he claims about himself?
When we speak to people about Jesus, we find ourselves pressured to say, “God isn’t like that.”
But the most obvious sign that the Holy Spirit is drawing someone to himself is a willingness to accept God to be who he says he is.
Likewise, the most obvious sign that a person hates God is that they are only willing to accept a God who looks like how they want him to look.
If you feel this pressure to change your portrayal of God, remember that the reaction of your listener reveals his or her own heart, rather than your own.
But this isn’t really about how those who don’t believe in God respond to him. Instead, this is about how we respond to God revealing who he is to us.
We say we love Jesus, but do we only love his comforting attributes?
We may know a lot of things about him, intellectually. But do we know him in our inward person?
Do we humbly seek to know him by how he has revealed himself through history?
Do we pursue experiencing his Spirit’s transforming work in our hearts every day?
Or would we rather think we know all about him already, and deny our constant need for him?
Scripture urges us to pursue getting to know him and his promises, and the way he wants to be loved by us.
Even a cursory glance through Scripture reveals that the Bible is absolutely filled with God’s statements about himself and how he wants us to respond to him.
Let’s take just a handful of Psalms.
Psalm 50:23 “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
Here, even in the Old Testament, God is saying he loves thankful prayer more than the sacrifices he commanded in the old covenant. Isn’t that striking? Of course, he immediately clarifies that he cares deeply about obedience. And by doing so, he shows that he rewards an attitude of thankfulness coupled with holy living.
Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
When we are humbled by our inability to live how he calls us to live, he shows us mercy. Take this promise, along with his command to abide in him, as your guarantee that he will sustain and empower you to live like he commands you to live.
Psalm 63:8 “My soul clings to you; you right hand upholds me.”
Do we cling to our possessions, our success, our hobbies, our pleasures? Or do we cling to Jesus as our reward here and now?
Because the seven verses that came before that verse read like this:
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Wow. That speaks to me. As I read it, it draws me in, until I find myself worshipping him and being satisfied with him just like the psalm talks about!
And just a little later, in Psalm 66, we are commanded to shout for joy to God, and to sing the glory of his name.
On and on the Scriptures roll.
If we believe them, we will live like they tell us to.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” James 1:22-25
Do we do that?
I hope these are as sobering and inspiring of considerations for you as they are for me!
Lord, show us the life you want us to live. Reveal to us the secrets of how to honor and love you the way you want to be honored and loved. Give us the strength to push back on all of the distractions in this world, and respond in joy to your call for intimate time together. We love you, and we choose you as our treasure as you chose us as yours. Reveal to us where our thoughts deviate from who you really are! Amen!
As you do your Scripture reading this week, write down the verse references you come across that address God’s character, his desires, and his commands for us. Try to keep them in neat piles, if you can, so that you can look these up and read them all in a row later – to get a clearer sense of who he is. I have found this idea to be very helpful in me getting past some misconceptions I didn’t know I had about God.