About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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God's Love In Context - Part 1


In a previous article I made this statement.  "The degree to which we can begin to understand the Almighty Creator God, is the degree to which we can begin to understand Him as our loving Father."  To put it another way, I don't believe we can begin to understand the love of God until we begin to understand the almighty and powerful nature of God.  I write the following to explain why I make this statement.  


Why Do I Make This Statement?


First of all, I believe that in the western world at large, and also in many Christian circles, we have adopted a lopsided view of God.  God created us in His image, but in our minds, we often recreate Him in our image.  We humanize God to be someone we want Him to be, not who He is.  Therefore, our mental image of God is often not Scriptural.     


Much of the prevailing thinking today views God as simply a God of love, or worse still, just love, and we know the world defines love differently than the Bible.  Viewing God simply in terms of love has implications.  From this lopsided view comes the philosophy of tolerance that has no concept of Biblical morality.  It also results in a non-Biblical idea that God holds no one responsible for his actions.  An over emphasis on the love of God can distract us from reverencing Him as we should.  A spirit of familiarity sets in, making Him our buddy, when He's not.  We think we know God, when we don't.  We only know the imaginary god we've created in our minds who is no different than the idols found in Old Testament times.  Both the idols and our imaginary concept of God are a product of the human imagination, not Scripture.    


How many times have you heard this question asked?  "If God is a God of love, why does He allow all the suffering in the world?"  This is a logical question when you simply believe that God is love.  When you begin to see God in His totality, the question is easily answered, and becomes almost irrelevant.   


Beyond this trend to humanize God in our thinking, what really motivated me to write my opening statement was the quote that opens chapter 6 of the book entitled "The Shack".  Jacques Ellul, a twentieth century French philosopher said,  "No matter what God's power may be, the first aspect of God is never the absolute master, the Almighty.  It is that of the God who puts Himself on our human level and limits Himself." 


The author of "The Shack" has pulled Ellul's quote from his writings which I haven't read, so to be fair, I don't know the context of this statement.  If I understand Ellul right, he is saying that the first and predominant way in which we should view God is as our loving Father who has placed Himself into the limitations of  humanity.  The idea that God is the Almighty Creator is a secondary aspect of God that we shouldn't dwell on.  I certainly believe that God is our loving Father, but He is much more than that.  The rest of who God is, is equally important.  I'm not convinced that one aspect of God is any less significant than another.  They are all equally important.   


I don't pretend to know God as well as some suggest they do.  I really don't think we can understand the totality of who God is.  I know some Christians will argue that point, but He is way beyond our human ability to comprehend.  I may get in trouble saying the following, and I know I'm generalizing, but I'll say it anyway.  When we were children, we played imaginary games.  We had imaginary friends, imaginary cars, imaginary castles, and imaginary everything.  We didn't need store-bought props.  We could get so caught up in our imaginary world that the imaginary seemed more real than the real world around us.  Sometimes I think we've carried this type of imaginary imagery into our adult lives as Christians.  What we believe of God and sometimes experience might be more imaginary imagery than Biblical truth.  I think this way because of some Christians I've met over the years who appear to demonstrate this tendency.


Our concept of God is vitally important.  If we misunderstand some basic issues of God, much of what we believe about Christian things will be misunderstood.  How we believe affects everything we do.  Biblical truth must be the foundation of our thinking.  Too often our imagination and our feelings take priority over the Bible. That shouldn't be, because truth matters. 


Here's an example of what I'm saying. In the King James Bible, Jesus called the Holy Spirit the "Comforter" in John 14:16 and 26, 15:26, and 16:7.  In the New International Bible Jesus called Him the "Counselor" instead of the "Comforter", and I think rightly so.  When mentioning this to one lady friend, she replied, "no way, the Holy Spirit is my comforter.  Counselor sounds too clinical."  Comforter was her mental image of the Holy Spirit.  That is what she wanted the Holy Spirit to be to her, despite what this verse said.   I'm not saying the Holy Spirit can't comfort us.  He certainly does, but once again, He is more than comfort. We can't place our feelings and mental images over what the Bible says and allow them to shape our thinking.  If we think differently than the Bible, we need to change our thinking.              


God is far above our comprehension.  That's one reason why He became flesh and blood in the first place.  The only way I can understand God is through Jesus.  Whatever Jesus said or did, is an exact expression of who God is.  So if you want to know God, take a very close look at "everything" Jesus said and did.  Don't leave anything out.  Sometimes we pick and choose what we want to believe.  I've heard people say, "my Jesus wouldn't do that" when in fact He did do that.  Yes, Jesus did get angry when He overthrew the money exchangers tables in the temple.  The Bible clearly states that apart from Jesus, it is not humanly possible to know God.   


The apostle Paul said that in this present life we know and understand these things dimly. (1 Corinthians 13: 9)  These words are from the lips of a man who on one occasion found himself in heaven.  He saw things that he was not permitted to tell anyone. (2 Corinthians 12:4)  Even with this exclusive knowledge, Paul said he understood things in part.  If this was so with Paul, how much more so is it with us?  Paul's understanding was limited.  My understanding is therefore even more limited than Paul. 


In the articles that follow, I will not attempt to explain who God is in His totality, because I can't.  I will merely point out a few Biblical passages and concepts that I believe give us a glimpse of who God is, and how He thinks about us and things we do.  So, the degree to which we begin to understand these things, is the degree to which we can begin to understand and appreciate the love of God.   I am convinced of that.     

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