Friday, 19 May 2017

The Consequence of a Wrong View of God

In a previous post, we looked at the folly of those who convince themselves that God doesn’t exist. However, those of us that do believe in God often make a mistake that is just as dangerous—we think of God as a human, and try to understand Him on that level. Maybe we allow Him some extra powers and abilities, or think of Him as a bigger version of ourselves, but we still make this fundamental error which affects everything that we do.
Volunteering for Chatnow, a Christian live-chat organisation taking calls from people all over the world, I can see that this flawed way of thinking is at the root of most of our problems. We don’t really understand what God is like or Who He is, or we choose to ignore what the Bible tells us about Him.

Sadly, I have spoken to people who believe that God exists, but who have decided to reject Him because of His failure to do what they perceive to be right. People who believe that a good God wouldn’t allow suffering in the world or “send” anyone to hell. They label God as “unfair” and determine that He is either indifferent to things here on earth or is lacking compassion. Worse, there are some who decide that He is cruel or vengeful based on their assessments of His activity or failure to act.

When I point out that suffering is caused by sin that entered the world originally through people, it usually falls on deaf ears. When I comment that God doesn’t want anyone to go to Hell, and that He has provided an escape through Jesus, for those who choose it, they don’t want to know. When I suggest that an indifferent or aloof God would hardly go to the lengths of sacrificing His Son to restore the broken relationship with them, they scoff. When I warn that in rejecting His offer, they are choosing the broad path to Hell, they don’t believe it.

There are also people who believe that God exists, but reject Him the minute He fails to deliver something they have demanded.  They treat Him as a genie or good luck charm to be called upon when they have a financial, material or relational need. They quote out of context verses about health, wealth and well-being and conveniently overlook passages about cross-bearing and counting the cost of following Jesus. Again, these attitudes come back to a wrong view of God.

Some of these erroneous views have come about due to the “God is our friend” theology. The Bible does speak of God as our Father and Jesus as a friend to sinners, but this should not be taken in a casual manner. God is not our chum, buddy or mate, He is worthy of our respect and total devotion, and should be approached through Jesus with reverence due to His holiness.  We need to remember Who God is according to the Bible, when we approach Him.

Try to imagine the earth (and humans) from God’s perspective—He created it (and us), He sustains it and He is in control. Now, imagine God looking down at a load of tiny, ant-sized people, marching around the earth, shaking their fists at Him, refusing to acknowledge Him in one way or another, and seeking to rebel against His authority. 

If this seems ridiculous, it really is, but it is a good analogy in terms of our comparative insignificance. This life is short. We are just a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4 vs 14.) It is incredible that God pays attention to us at all, let alone watches over us with the kind of love and care that the Bible describes.

All of us suffer from this wrong perspective or wrong view of God, to some extent—we fail to consistently give Him the worship He deserves and we fail to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We reduce Him to a god of our own making or try to put Him in a box of our own understanding. We relegate Him to a small corner of our lives and often only pay attention to Him when we are in trouble.

As soon as we start asking “Why?” questions of or about God, we need to be careful—there are a lot of things about God that He has chosen not to reveal to us, and others that our tiny human minds cannot comprehend. The bottom line, is that God is God and He can do whatever He wants. The fact that He chooses to involve us through prayer is a privilege not a right.

We read in Isaiah 55 vs 8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It can be difficult to use these verses when trying to help a Christian struggling with trials. They want God to explain Himself and feel that His failure to do so is due to inability or inadequacy on His part. They don’t consider that their perception may be completely wrong. 

In the Bible, Job made this mistake. He endured a lot more than most of us will ever have to deal with. He refused to curse God during his terrible suffering, even when his wife told him to! However, he did eventually ask God to explain Himself. He wanted a reason. He asked God, “why?” We all behave like Job, we want to know why bad things happen to “good” people and why things we see as unjust or unfair are allowed to continue.

We might expect that God would explain Himself to Job after all he had suffered. But, He doesn’t. He reminds Job of his comparative minuteness. God asks him whether he (Job) has the right to question the Creator of the universe and the One who sustains everything. He rebukes Job for his presumption. He details His power and greatness and makes it clear that Job is the creature and He the Creator, Job the clay and He the Potter (Job 38)

At this point, Job doesn’t say, “But you still haven’t explained yourself” or “How could you allow me to suffer in this way and not do anything about it?” or “I don’t like the decisions that you made, I’m going to serve a different god.” Unfortunately, that is how a lot of us respond when faced with trials and difficulties. We think that by walking away from or rejecting God, we can win the battle for supremacy, or somehow hurt God with our lack of allegiance or through sinful behaviour.

Pride is at the root of our rebellion, and Job, recognising this, humbled himself. In one of the most famous passages of the Bible which tells us more about Who God really is, he said, "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore, I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42 vs 5-6) Job was a faithful and righteous man, but he had had a wrong view of God. He tried to reason with God on a human level and ended up in serious difficulty. 

When God revealed Himself to Job, his immediate response was repentance and humility. His view of God had been dramatically altered and it affected everything. Job’s only concern was to correct his earlier mistake, there was no longer any discussion of the suffering that Job had had to endure. He had seen who the God of the Bible really is and dared not question Him or suggest He was anything other than perfectly Holy.

As Christians, we must start with the right premise. We must believe what the Bible tells us about God. We must believe that everything He does is perfect, including allowing suffering on earth and creating a place called Hell. We must accept that God is perfectly just and that He cannot lie, that He doesn’t change His mind like humans do. God has many other attributes (for a fuller discussion read The Attributes of God by A.W.Tozer,) and all of them are consistent with His nature and character.

When our mind starts to ask why something is happening, let’s make the decision straight away to trust God.  If our brain begins to consider that maybe God has got something wrong. Let’s dismiss this immediately knowing that it cannot be true because God doesn’t make mistakes. If we wonder whether God is aware of something or whether He has forgotten us. Let’s remember the promises in Scripture—that He knows everything that is happening and that He will never leave nor forsake us.

We can be confident that all things are being worked out according to God’s sovereign purpose and that His plans are for our good. There will be many things about God that we can’t understand but we need to learn to trust Him anyway, because He is faithful. 

Let’s make sure that we have the right, Biblical view of God. It is best to assume that where there are question marks in our minds, it is either due to sin, or due to our finite minds being unable to fully comprehend a perfectly holy and omnipotent God.

Romans 11 vs 33-35
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

Numbers 23 vs 19
"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”

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