Five Perceptions We Have of God

Have you ever wanted to see God face to face?  I know that many people don’t believe God exists because they haven’t seen or touched Him.  We know of course that just because you can’t see something – doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  We can’t see or feel gravity, love, or many other things.  We believe they exist because we can experience their effects.  We can know God is real because the life we experience points to Him.

The Bible teaches us that God wants us to see Him as He really is.  In fact the Bible teaches us that at the end of time – when we pass from this physical body, we will see God as He is.

BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.  (Revelation 1:7)

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

But did you know the way you see God in the meantime effects the way to live your life?  One of the things that you will begin to see as a follower of Jesus – as you read the Bible – is that people have a tendency to live according to an image of God that they have.  People tend to respond to God the way they see God responding to them.  The children of Israel believed at one time that God was like a golden baby cow – they had an image of God that wasn’t right – and it caused God to not only get angry – but also pen this commandment for the people…

“You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6)

God wants us to see Him as He is, so we will respond to Him and live our life in a way that is in light of who He is.  When we do this – we actually find that we live in a place of blessing because we respond to the laws of the universe that flow from the character and nature of God.

The Bible teaches us that one of the reasons that Jesus came to earth was to show us what God is really like.  As we look at Jesus we see more and more how God is – not just some of the time – but all the time.

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:18)

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip *said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. (John 14:6-11)

This is one of the goals of our Christian life – to grow in seeing God as He is.  Let’s take a moment now to outline some of the images of God that we have that are misconstrued – and will grow to see that God is not…

The Angry Punishing God

Some people have an image of God as an old man sitting on a throne – pointing His finger down at us condemning us to eternal nothingness – a God who is always looking at our bad side – who is eternally keeping tabs at our mistakes and calculating our errors – a God who has “mistake police” just waiting to report our slip ups so that He can punish us – because of course He lives to punish and inflict the greatest anger on us.  An image of God as an uncontrolled angry God.

The Bible gives us a totally different image of God.  It teaches us that God gets angry when His good creation is destroyed – and isn’t fulfilling its fullest potential…but even at that –

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalms 30:5)

The Absent God

Some see God the way their fathers were – absent.  Some people believe God put everything into motion but isn’t involved in our universe, much less our daily life.  Some people believe that God could care less what goes on from day to day.  Some think that God doesn’t want to deal with humans and has better things to do then take an interest in our everyday affairs.  The Bible teaches us that God is not absent- He knows us better than we know ourselves.

You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. (Psalms 139:3)

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? (Psalms 139:7)

For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

The Irresponsible God

Some people see God as someone who has put too much responsibility on them or on people – responsibility that He doesn’t want to take.  Some people believe that God expects them to do His work.  As we follow Jesus, we will see what God actually expects of us – what our role is – and what His role is.  We will see that God calls us to do particular things and we will see that God has promised to supernaturally move.  The Bible teaches us that God leads us by His Spirit – and this is how we will know what God is doing and what He will do – and what our part is.  God has taken responsibility for History.  He takes responsibility for His good creation.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me…My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; (John 10:14,27)

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15)

The Unjust God

“Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? (Job 8:3)

Some people look around at the situation in the world and come to the conclusion that God cannot be a fair and a just God.  Why does God allow innocent children to be molested?  Why does God allow the corrupt to get rich and the honest to stay poor?  Why does God allow governments and political regimes to oppress those who are peaceful?  Why does God allow judges to sentence criminals to sentences that seem far from just?  While we may not see justice happen the way we want it to happen – God does promise to bring justice to every situation and action on earth.  The Bible teaches that God may choose to inflict justice in our lifetime – or in eternity.

Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:4-11)

The Performance Based God

There are many who have an image of God who loves us because of what we do.  People believe that because God is a God of justice – His love for people is connected to their actions.  If we are good – then God loves us – if we are bad – then God couldn’t have the least bit affection for us.  The Bible teaches us something different.  The Bible teaches us that God performs justice, to keep His good creation in balance.  The Bible teaches, however, that God’s love for us is not based on what we do and don’t do.  God’s love is based on His character that doesn’t change.  Everything that God does flows from his heart of love – a love that is constant – and ready to give when it is welcomed and received.  God loves us in spite of what we do or do not do.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jeremiah 31:3)

How then do we see God?

Jesus taught that God wants to be seen as our Father.  In the parable of the lost son, in the Lord’s Prayer, and many other times, Jesus refers to God as Father.  God wants us to see Him is as our Heavenly Eternal Father.  That doesn’t mean – as our natural earthly father.  Our earthly father was not perfect – and not a perfect picture of God.  God is not like our earthly father.

God wants more than anything to have a relationship with us – and to see that we come to a place where we reflect Him.  Even as our earthly fathers have the desire that we would reflect them – our heavenly father wants us to come to a place where we experience life as He experiences it…he wants to teach us and enable us to do this…  God wants us to learn the ropes – to see how to live life – to teach us, to show us, to help us, to empower us, and guide us in how to live our life.  He wants us to be filled with his love.  He wants us to grow to give that love away to those around us.  He wants us to live in blessing.  He wants us to experience Him…

As we walk with God – as we follow Jesus – we will grow to see God as He is.  It isn’t something that happens all at once.  It doesn’t happen automatically.  It happens a little at a time.  As we grow to see God as He is, we find that we shed the ideas of Him that we once had.  We find that leave the ideas of God that we once thought were true and right.  We find that we see God as He is.

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