When you are talking with someone else about God, are you sure you both are talking about the same God?
We live in a day when there is a great deal of disagreement about the nature of God.
It is easy to imagine talking with someone about “God.” Both of us may be using the word, “God” in our conversation. But his/her concept of God and our concept of God may be VERY different! We may think we are talking about the same “God” when we really are not at all!
I can remember conversations in which people would exclaim, “Not my God! My God wouldn’t do that!” Which revealed pretty clearly to me that their God and my God were very different!
It is easy for us to worship a “god” of our own imagination. We may reason something like this: “If I were God, I would always do such-and-such. So that must be how God is. So that’s what my God is like.” And, of course, that’s why so many people are so quick to say, “My God is a God of love! He would not do that!” (Which, by the way, is further complicated by their definition of “love!”)
The problem with us using our own imagination to figure out what God must be like is that we could be wrong! There really is a great Creator God, Who created and sustains His universe. He exists and has a personality and a nature that is the unique, regardless of your opinion or mine! Our imagination may lead us to worship a “god” who is really just a creation of our own wishful or logical thinking and may be very different from the true God!
The question is, how do we get to know the TRUE God–the God Who exists independently of our mental and emotional ideas of what He should be like?
Well, fortunately for us, He, our Creator, knew we would not be able to get to know Him unless He revealed Himself to us. And He has! As we read and study the Bible, we begin to get a more and more accurate understanding of the true God.
Two Common, But Non-Biblical, Ideas about “God”
Common Error #1
I make this mistake when I believe that God exists to make sure that everything goes the way I want it to go. If I am “good,” (usually by my definition of “good!”) then I can count on Him to answer my prayers and make things turn out the way I want them to turn out. Since He is a God of love, then surely He will do what seems to me to be the obviously loving thing–the thing that I would do myself (and call it love) if I had the power.
This view of God sees God with power that we don’t have. So we need Him for His power. But we feel like we have all the wisdom and love we need, inherently. The attitude becomes, “I know what’s best in this situation. I know what the loving thing would be. But I just don’t have the power to do it, so I’ll depend on God to do it for me.”
I have known people who became angry at God because His idea of love did not seem to match up with their own! (“God, what do you think You are doing? Can’t you see that this needs to be taken care of? I don’t have the power to do it, and You’re just sitting there doing nothing!”)
I have known people who concluded that God must not even exist, since He was not doing what they perceived He should have been doing. (“If there were a God, He certainly would not have allowed this! Therefore, there must not be a God!”)
Of course, part of the problem is that we tend to see things from the perspective of this lifetime only. God sees things from the perspective of eternity. God is preparing people for eternity.
In a limited way, it is like parents who will not allow their children to do things that seem to the kids to be so cool and so much fun–things that that are actually dangerous or destructive. Wise parents think about what is best, long-range, for their kids. From God’s perspective, “long-range” means eternity!
To us, it may seem that, if we have the power to stop it, to allow any suffering to continue is unloving. It is hard for us to accept that the suffering of children, for example, could have an eternal purpose that will be for their own eternal good–as well as the good of many others. From our limited perspective, we would put a stop to it if we could. Yet often, we are not able to stop it and God does not stop it. He has a purpose that we may not be able to grasp just yet. (We may try to look more deeply into this issue in a later post.)
When we are young children, decisions made by our parents for our long-range benefit may seem baffling and even cruel. We agonize and cry in genuine bewilderment. To us, their decisions just don’t make sense!
The Apostle Paul (who, by the way, did a great deal of suffering–2 Corinthians 11:23-27) penned these words…
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro 8:18 NAS95)
So one error that some people make about God has to do with thinking that they know more about love than He does!
Common Error #2
A second common error that some people make about God is that He ought to have the same attitude about sin that they do.
God makes it clear, in His Word, that there is something called “sin” that ultimately destroys people. He gives plenty of information to us about sin. He does not leave it up to us to figure it out on our own.
We, on the other hand, tend to trust our own ideas of what ought to be considered “right” and what ought to be considered “wrong.”
So we can easily decide that our immoral behavior is not really that bad, and that it shouldn’t bother “God” either. We would certainly not mind if we were God and others were involved in the same immorality. We would just realize that, after all, “people are people” and not make a big deal out of it.
I can decide that “God” really isn’t that concerned with my anger, or my lust, or my laziness, or whatever. I can decide that it is “just the way I am.” I can decide that if I were God I would understand and overlook it.
But that “God” of our own thinking is not anything like the God of Scripture. He has an infinite perspective on sin. He knows what it does to us. He knows what it means.
Again, it’s a little like young children who can’t understand why their parents should get so worked up just because they have been lying, or hitting baby brother, or pigging out on cookies just before supper, or refusing to do what they are told.
Of course, there are lots of errors that we can have in our thinking about God. But I have found these two to be very common.
If we really want to become strong in the Lord, we need to commit ourselves to a lifetime of getting to know God better and better. That does not mean using our imaginations to try to figure Him out. It means studying His revelation of Himself.
It also means that we must always be keenly aware that just because others may talk about “God,” it does not follow that they are really talking about the God of the Bible!