When I was a young single man, I remember thinking what it must be like to settle down someday and have children. It seemed really nice, and I looked forward to that reality one day in the future. Then later, when I met my wife and we were engaged, we would often discuss what it would be like to be parents together. I thought I had a pretty good idea what it would be like. I enjoyed holding other people’s babies and playing with my younger cousins from time to time. I figured I had a pretty good handle on what the whole parenting thing would look like.
The split between reality and the theoretical would soon occur, however, as my daughter came along shortly after we were married. Two more young ones followed over the next six years or so, and I discovered one very important thing. Namely, that I had no idea what being a parent was really like, until I became one myself. Spending time playing with cousins and neighbor kids really doesn’t prepare you for 2 a.m. bottle feedings and a perpetual lack of sleep. Nor does it prepare you for those special moments when those little faces look up at you with pure, unadulterated love in their eyes. I suspect it’s the same way with grandchildren.
My point is this: we often think we know something, when in reality, there is still much to learn. If we think about the concept of God for example, different people can have a multitude of ideas about what this being is really like. They are pretty confidant that the deity they are praying to is the embodiment of whatever concept they have envisioned in their own mind. But that is often the catch ... it is a created concept they are worshipping. It may not be grounded in Scripture or solid Christian teaching whatsoever. Even the notion of ‘solid teaching’ can sometimes differ depending on who you talk to.
Let us take a look at the example of Jesus resting next to Jacob’s well with the Samaritan woman. The Gospel of John lays out a picture of a tired and thirsty Messiah who arrives in Samaria with nothing to draw water from the well. After a quick discussion about spiritual things, John 4:22 records this statement: “You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”
You will note here that Jesus was not making a statement about racial superiority, but rather, he was trying to help this woman understand that the concept of God that she had adhered to was not one-hundred-percent accurate. It’s hard to argue with the son of God on the subject of who the Father really is. It’s easier to debate God with each other I suspect (and in fact we often do). This is why I’ve always found it so funny to picture the Pharisees debating Jesus about Old Testament law. Who would know better than Christ?
The question still stands today — are many of us worshipping a fictional God that we have created ourselves? Do we really know who we are praying to? Do we understand who we are coming together each Sunday to worship? This revelation can be both frightening and freeing at the same time.
I believe one example of this fictional God is very popular today. It basically builds a case that God is some type of politically correct being who doesn’t require repentance from sin. In other words, a senile type of older man with a white beard who doesn’t really care what we do with our personal lives, as long as everyone is happy and healthy. Sound familiar?
This is an easy God to love, because it requires no sacrifice on our part. This fictional version of God makes no demands upon our lives, has nothing to say about the great issues of our time, and will not ever judge us or become angry. This version of God doesn’t care or comment on same sex marriage, abortion, or make any comment in either direction about morality or ethos. He is more like a fun uncle who shows up at the house every once in a while with ice cream or candy. Not anything like an omniscient, omnipotent creator.
Think I’m exaggerating? Try suggesting God is a personal being who can get angry or render judgement on a nation, and see what type of response you get from the general public. By and large, many have fallen victim to a God of their own creation. And when confronted with the concept of the Biblical God, people will often react with anger or frustration.
But there is hope. If we seek out knowledge from the Bible concerning who God really is and what He actually did, then the picture becomes much clearer. The tide begins to turn. The historical God of Abraham and Isaac begins to render into clear view. In my own studies, I have been able to draw three conclusions about who this awesome God of ours really is. And although I am just as subject to error as any other human being, I think most mainstream Christians would agree with the short list that follows.
First, the true God of the Bible hates sin. I know because He tells us so, and Jesus does also. Multiple times throughout the Scriptures we are commanded to turn from our sin and repent (both as a nation and as an individual). The idea of sinning away without any notion of sanctification over time, is not a luxury we are afforded if you read though the actual text.
Second, the true God of the Bible is long suffering. Scripture shows us time and time again that before a prophet would bring a plague or judgement upon a country or nation, hundreds of years would pass by. In other words, if God corrected a people group, chances are they had been refusing to repent for a long, long time. It isn’t like how human beings become angry at the drop of a hat and fire back at each other sometimes. God is much more patient and long suffering when it comes to us.
Finally, the true God of the Bible extends the offer of salvation to anyone who calls on His name. It’s no good trying to assert that certain people are more holy than others, and therefore deserve God’s love more. I think we do a disservice to the Scriptures if we think or act in that fashion. The offer of eternal life from Jesus stands for anyone at any time, we need only repent of our sins, accept Him as lord and savior, and put our trust in God and become baptized.
I have often heard people say things like, “I wish God would send me a sign or a signal.” Although I empathize with their plight (especially in today’s confusing world), I must maintain that God’s foremost sign for the human race is in fact the Holy Bible. It is nothing short of a love letter written out in the form of sixty-six books over the course of some 3,500 years. I implore people to read through it on their own, and then get involved in some type of Christian study group. We have so much information about the true God and who He is, and it’s right at our fingertips. What a gift this is for humanity. What a powerful thing it is to really understand who we are worshipping, and to be confident in what He wants for our lives. It is then only a matter of time until we begin praying and giving thanks to a more accurate version of the Father of Lights.
The Bible says that He knew us before we were even born ... the least we can do is take the time to learn a little about Him as well. Not so much what culture might tell us, but what Jesus actually said and did.