Sunday, February 23, 2014

see God

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

I've encouraged you to see people differently in the past couple of articles.  This week I encourage you to challenge your view of God

I recently saw a movie called Transformers.  It’s a film based on the Hasbro children’s toy in which a mechanical object (a car, for instance) is not what it appears to be.  It’s actually a robotic life-form from another planet.  These robot-machine-people are giant and very powerful, and there are two basic kinds, good guys and bad guys.  The bad guys want to destroy humans, and the good guys are protectors.  The lead in the movie is a high school boy (Sam) who gets his first car (an old Camaro) which turns out later to be a giant robot.  At first the boy is frightened of the machine, but later his fear changes to a kind of love as he realizes the car is his giant, powerful personal protector. 

The transition of Sam’s thinking reminded me of a boy from the bible – a shepherd boy who became king.  Like Sam in the movie, David had a fear of God … but also he saw God as a giant protector.  It was because David saw God as a super-powerful protector that he was able to appear so bold to his contemporaries.  David was a fine man in many ways, but his two strongest attributes were his love and his faith.  Both of these were a direct result of the way David “saw” God.  The only way David was able to fight the giant Goliath was because he saw it as a contest between the mighty Creator/God (Yahweh), and a trashy, relatively small pagan.  Because David saw the battle this way, it was a no-brainer.  This view was born of David’s fear of Yahweh – and his shock that others in Israel didn't share his awareness of the awesome power of God. 

When I was a child my parents taught me that God sees everything I do.  I can’t remember how they first taught me this, but I’ll never forget how it made me feel.  Like David, I was frightened of God.  But to me God was watching me to see if I would sin, and if I did, He would demolish me now, in eternity, or both.  God was like a a giant Santa Claus with an evil side that would reward or punish me for my behavior.  So I’d better be good, or I’d get creamed. 

When I was in college a professor cautioned us to be careful when representing God as a “Father,” because many we would meet would have had very awful dads, and if they heard God was a Father, they’d have bad feelings about God.  Though far from perfect, my dad was a pretty good dad so it wasn't much of a leap for me to see God as a perfect Father.  But this view limited God – even for me.  My dad was, for example, a brilliant man, a very big man, and a very good man.  And he expected those around him to also be good.  Now I understand that this helped form my image of God – for better or worse. 

One Christian I know is filled with a very publicly proclaimed self-loathing.  While she’s adept at presenting herself as a very “good” person, she is constantly “confessing” her sins.  When I see this kind of thing I marvel at what her view of God must be – or if she thinks much about Him at all.  Of course the truth is that she’s way more concerned with what other people think than she is about God.  That’s why we put on a show for others usually, isn't it?

When others hear us lamenting how awful we are in God’s eyes, what impression does that give them of our God?  This is why many people see God as terrible, judgmental, and mean. 

On the other end of the spectrum are those people who see God as a different version of my “Santa Claus” God.  He sees who’s naughty and nice, but always gives gifts anyway.  One gets the idea that they don’t believe in hell at all, or if they do – that the only ones there are Stalin, Hitler, atheists and Muslims. 

And of course one common view among evangelicals is the “Sovereign God,” the God of Calvinists.  This view of God holds that He is arbitrary and will choose who’s saved and who’s lost without regard for one’s behavior. 

Of course God always seems to look like the person who describes Him.  These days black people feel the need for a black God, Gentiles forget that Jesus and all his followers were Jews, and many think it’s cool to describe God as a female.  We all want to make God in our image – and forget that it’s the other way around.  As Clement famously quoted Xenophanes as saying:
“… if cattle and horses and lions had hands or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do, horses like horses and cattle like cattle also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies of such a sort as the form they themselves have…
Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed and black
Ethiopians say that their gods are snub–nosed and blackThracians that they are pale and red-hair”

Sadly, most of the “Christian” world knows more about their nation’s leader(s), celebrities, their church’s rules, and their workplace … than they do about God. 
Good grief – how many even know God’s Name?  (Hint: it’s not “God”)

your life - God’s reflection

Remember what Jesus taught us in the SOM:
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”               (Matthew 5:16)
People see us and the way we live, and it reflects God. 
If we live with fear, it communicates clearly that either God isn’t powerful enough to win battles for us or that He doesn’t love us enough to protect us. 
If we live with guilt, it shows people that God is judgmental and harsh
If we live with sin, it shows people that God isn’t just.  Rather, He’s just a big fluffy marshmallow man, and not to be feared. 

Jesus made it clear that when people saw him, or when they knew him, they also knew his Father (John 14.9, etc).  That’s because Jesus was a perfect reflection of God.  He was the exact human image of God (Hebrews 1.1-3). 

People will judge God by what they see in you.  None of us is perfect, so we all reflect God imperfectly.  But because we are imperfect, we also reflect something about God’s justice, His mercy and compassion.  

I've heard many lessons taught in which Jesus’ teaching, “enter in through the narrow gateis used to demonstrate that God makes it hard to get into heaven, so you’d better be careful. 
I thought we were saved by grace 

So how we reconcile these will be answered not by the way we analyze the “laws” or “rules” of God, but by how we understand His nature. 

Again, David served as a great example of this.  As we all do, he sinned.  In one case David murdered a foreigner in order to steal his wife, while the foreigner was fighting for Israel.  David was “busted” and rebuked privately by Nathan the prophet, and David repented.  He felt a great burden of guilt for a time.  This is reflected in Psalm 51, where David wrote:
“Be gracious to me, O God,
According to Your loving-kindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity & cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions….  against You - You only - I have sinned & done what is evil in Your sight….”  (Psalm 51:1-4)

Do you see that for David this was personal, and between he and God?  David understood that the real sin wasn't in the murder, adultery or neglect of his troops; but it was neglect of God! 

But this did not define the rest of his life, for he knew that God is not like men.  God is forgiving.  So when David’s time of suffering ended, he got up, bathed, ate, married Bathsheba and went on with his life, accepting God’s love and forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:20-25). 

This is what made David a man after God’s own heart.  He knew what Paul would write later to the church in Corinth:
“Godly sorrow produces repentance - without regret - leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”  (2 Corinthians 7:10)
David understood Godly sorrow because he understood God.  God wants us to repent, to change, to grow, but not to be buried in sin and guilt forever, for this reflects badly on God Himself!

Israel’s idolatry provoked Yahweh to destroy them, but Moses argued against this because it would have made God look bad to foreign nations (Exodus 32:11-14).   

We are servants of God.  When people in the world cry out to God for help, protection, relief or freedom, it is God’s servants who will show people what God is like by the way we respond (or don’t).  In the same way, if we respect truth – or not, if we love sinners – or not, if we are merciful – or not … each of these reflect on God Himself. 


Rather than telling you how I think you should see God, I’d like you to challenge yourself and your own view of God.  How do you “see” Him? 

This is tricky, because most of us don’t think much about God.  We think about how we look to others, or we think of our own religiosity (which we usually say is our spirituality).  We often think if others see us as good, faithful, and that we don’t sin much, or at least don’t do any super “bad” sins … then we are in good standing with God.  In fact, very few of us are willing to look bad to other people if that is what it takes to look good to God (like Jesus did). 

We rarely challenge ourselves to understand how God sees us.  The noise and chatter of this world is so loud, we are rarely alone and quiet and seeking a pure, vertical relationship with our Father: the Creator and Sustainer of all life, and the Savior of our souls. 

Challenge your view of God.  In your mind, is He powerful enough to do whatever He wants?  Will He do whatever He wants to do in your life?  And if so, what does He want to do?  Does He want to condemn you or forgive you?  Does God care about your every little “owee,” or does He even know you exist here among 7 billion souls now on earth?  Is God impressed with your singing, your ministry, your job, or your family?  What does He expect of you?  How do you know your answers to those questions are right?

It’s hard for us to be honest with ourselves when we try this.  Here’s a trick to help you be honest in your search: look not into your mind for your thoughts, feelings and opinions, but look to your behavior

Over the past year, what does your behavior reveal about your view of God? 

How often do you talk to God (pray)?  
  • What do you say or ask for when you talk to Him?  
  • Do you speak with Him as often as you do your spouse, your boss, your kids or your best friend? 

How often do you listen to God?  
  • Do you open the bible and read stories to learn about Him – from Him, or is the bible a rule book to you, or a mysterious comfort or problem-solver or source of lessons? 
  • Or is your communication with God merely a “spiritual discipline” that you force yourself to do regularly because someone told you you’re “supposed to,” or because it’s “good for you”? 

When you are around other people – do you worry more about how they see you – or about how your behavior reflects on God?  Do you even think about how you reflect God? 

These behavioral tests will tell you the truth about yourself. 

The trick to finding God begins with one simple step: you must make a conscious effort to seek Him.  One thing is for sure: God (unlike Satan) does not have to bribe you.  He does not have to give you anything more than He has already done.  Seeking God is YOUR job.  Either you will take that seriously, or you will not. 

Along the way you’ll get distracted.  I guarantee this.  As early as the very first mention of Satan in the world, he was lying to Eve about God.  Satan does not want you to know the truth about God!  The devil will distract you.  He will weigh you down with guilt, responsibilities, and worries of this world; and he will attempt to fill your head with so much “noise” that you will not be able to distinguish the true God from all the chatter in your ears.  But if you really try, and persist, and never quit, God will give you success, even over Satan’s noise:
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
(Jeremiah 29:13)
This will happen when you search for God, personally.  Don’t search for His rules, His commands, His religion or any of that … rather, seek HIM.
  • What does He like? 
  • Does He ever laugh? 
  • Does He always listen when you talk to Him, or are there times He is sick of you? 

And when you “feel” things about God, how accurate are those feelings? 
  • Do you imagine He is disgusted with you when really He is not? 
  • Do you imagine He is far from you when really He is near? 
  • Do you imagine He doesn't care for you when really He cares a great deal? 

Seeking God is a lifelong pursuit.  But the best humans who have ever lived made this their number one goal.  They put God first.  From Moses to David to Esther to Jesus and Paul – those who put the knowledge and fear of Yahweh as their top goal are always the best people they can be, and by far more faithful and more loving than any of their peers. 

Because of this, we should encourage each other to pursue God always, and regularly.  We must brush our teeth, exercise, and pay our bills … in the same way the wise person will seek God every single day. 

I’ll sign off with David’s vision of God.  Remember that above all, David was a shepherd.  He fed and watched over his sheep.  He led them to water, and he protected them – even when he fought lions and bears as a boy! 
Here is how David saw God:

Yahweh is my shepherd, I shall not want
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters –
He restores my soul
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You’re with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies 

You have anointed my head with oil - My cup overflows

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I’ll dwell in Yahweh’s house forever

- Psalm 23 -

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