I love summer with all the activity and warmth. Watching plants emerge from apparent death in the spring to full blossom in the summer is delightful and full of wonder. It is fun to switch out different pairs of sunglasses and look at the landscape. With one pair the reds are deeper, another pair makes the atmosphere an eerie yellow, another so dark that things are barely visible. I think we do this with our perception of God as well, using different filters to perceive Him and interpret His personality. Some of those filters diminish Him and distort our spiritual understanding. Just like we all have our favorite pair of sunglasses, we also have certain ideas about God.
Sit outside and gaze at the stars on a clear night and begin to fathom your insignificance. Feeling like less than a speck of dust kind of freaked me out one night. I was terrified to feel my utter nothingness! The God Who knows the names of all of those stars and set them in motion was a religious concept to me at the time. I had no connection to the One Who thought all these things up and holds them together. Now that He is my friend I love to ponder my cosmic destiny! A lovely little book called God’s Voice in the Stars exploded for me Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament show His handiwork”. Amazingly, the constellations waltz through the sky in such a way that tells His plan of redemption! No wonder ancient cultures had similar stories about man’s existence and experiences, since they had the night sky instead of electronics to entertain their imaginations – plus no light pollution to diminish the show! There was a distinct perception of extra-terrestrial purpose for this little ball of mud. Then add the verbal revelation and interaction that God Himself had with the unlikely humans that became Israel, and the significance of mankind acquired astronomic potential.
What does that have to do with us? As believers we represent the God Who purposed redemption for a defiant and deceived humanity. Jesus came to be the Way. Denominationalism and conflicting doctrine make excuse (for those looking for one) that God cannot be known and therefore not trusted. He is all love or He is all judgment. He forgives universally or He accepts only the elect. We are free from the Law or we are tethered to it. We are all compassion or we demand compliance to standards. We accept any ideology as valid for fear of offending or we castigate other belief systems. Adherence to any of these extremes, which of course can all be Scripturally supported, promote a false idea of God – a god who is formed in our image. It would be easy to throw up our hands and just ignore the whole problem. Easy but fatal!
Think of the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each explored a different part – one the trunk, one the tail, one the leg, and so on. When asked to describe an elephant, their descriptions were of course limited to their perception, and wholly inaccurate. While no one person can apprehend the entirety of the Creator and Sustainer of a universe we can hardly fathom, it certainly seems to me that we must make room in our thinking that God is much more than we or our particular brand of Christianity can understand. It also tells me that my personal experience without the input of others is most likely incomplete. Maybe that’s why when the Son left the earth He left the church.
I cannot subjectify God to fit my spiritual lens. I cannot just throw out doctrine and decide for myself who God is. That would be ok if Jesus had not said the “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” Hmmm! He also said that “You err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” There are many things that we can be mistaken about without weighty consequences. But eternity is too important to put at risk with a personally comfortable but dangerously inaccurate concept of God and His relationship to mankind (me). Jesus is not a pawn to be used to promote our particular rule of spirituality or social cause. But we all fall into that. We see something about God that is new to us, and immediately we expect everyone else to jump on board. We do not consider the possibility that our “targets” have learned this years ago, or that God is showing us something that we ourselves desperately need to see. We are individuals in the midst of a community – a concept that is being drowned out in our present culture of personal rights as the foremost good.
On the other hand we can trust “the professionals” too much! Seeing God through another’s optic can free us from our own narrow concepts, and we would be foolish to isolate ourselves. But I love what the apostle Paul did when he was knocked flat by Jesus in the midst of his religious righteousness ( misguided perception ) which mistakenly led him to persecute the very work of God in his day. He went off by himself and let the Lord teach him. Not enough of that today! Many Christians are woefully ignorant of how God thinks because they do not spend time sitting at His feet like Mary did. We can listen to all the right ministry, hear what others see about God, have a lot of “correct” doctrine and have pathetic personal familiarity with the Friend of sinners (us).
God began His relationship with the apex of His creation – man – by seeking friendship with him. Adam hid. We hide. That much love to us -who know instinctively how unworthy we are of the attention of an infinitely good Being- is very uncomfortable. We know we cannot merit such affection, and so we put up barriers. Some deny His existence and embrace an impersonal scientific view of life. Some live in a constant state of effort never feeling worthy enough to merit acceptance. Some keep Jesus at bay with their morality. The fortunate ones accept their flawed natures and turn with hopeful trust to the offer of forgiveness that Jesus gives. Begin there in the pursuit of truth and personal relevance! Receive new hearts and a new nature by faith (not just belief) in the One who died to set us free from sin, self, and slavery to the material realm we temporarily occupy. This gives us the chance of seeing God for Who He truly is. Not that we will ever plumb the depths, but Jesus opens to us a world that is hidden from philosophers, scientists, and sages. The simplest believer has access to the wisdom of God, and if one pushes through that open door, there is a dimension available that science fiction only dares to imagine. The things that we do not understand will someday be revealed. The only thing that will bring us shame in the end will be our unbelief. When we finally meet the God of the stars, we will weep from the depth of our beings at His beauty and sheer goodness. Let’s get ready now to meet Him in person!
A little extra for your enjoyment!