Originally published October 1, 2008
Everybody seems to have an opinion about God. Some love Him. Some hate Him. Some will swear He doesn’t exist, while others seem to have Him confused with Santa Claus. Many complain that He isn’t doing His job.
If you were to ask a hundred people who they think God is you’d get a hundred different answers. We all want God to be who we think He is. We want Him to fit neatly into the little box we’ve designed for Him so that—like the perfect purse or pair of shoes to our favorite dress—He doesn’t clash with our lifestyles, but rather, fits right in and complements what we’ve already got going.
Over the course of the past few months, I’ve heard or read statements similar to these:
- I think Jesus was a liberal because He did X, Y, and Z.
- I’m homosexual. God wouldn’t create me this way and then send me to hell because of it.
- I think God is much less concerned with (insert sin being defended here) than He is with people being nice to each other.
- Please pray that God will bless me as I move in with my boyfriend.
- I’ve decided _______ isn’t a sin.
- We shouldn’t be preaching about this or that Biblical principle at church, because people might get offended and stop attending.
I’ve got news for all of us, myself included:
Who God is is not determined by opinion polls.
He’s not a politician who will change His personality or his stance on the issues to please us, because we are not His constituents—we’re His creation.
So just who is this God anyway? Moses had the same question when he was first starting out. In Exodus 3:13-15, God has just told Moses that He wants him to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses, trying to wrap his brain around this unforeseen turn of events, says to God in verse 13 (my paraphrase here), “Ok, when I get there and tell the Israelites that God has sent me to them, and they say ‘Who is this God you’re talking about? What is His name?’ What am I supposed to say?”
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” (14a)
This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. (15b)
God is who He is. Not who we think He is. Not what’s convenient and palatable to us. Not who we want Him to be. He has always been that way, still is, and always will be, as we see at the end of verse 15.
Alright, so we know that God is who He is. How do we go about finding out what “is” is? Well, if we want to know who a human being is, we spend a lot of time with that person, we talk to him, we listen to what he has to say, and we watch him in action.
It’s the same with God. We spend time with Him. We talk to Him in prayer. We listen to what He has to say about Himself in His word, the Bible. We observe the way He acted in the Bible and the way He acts around us today.
As we get to know a person better, we may discover some things about him that we don’t like or don’t understand. Maybe he puts ketchup on his eggs (ick!), or roots for the wrong football team (anybody who plays against LSU), or—horror of horrors—puts the toilet paper on the roll so that it comes out from the bottom rather than over the top (We all know that’s the wrong way, right? It goes over the top. :0)
As we discover things we don’t like about a human being, does our dislike or lack of understanding about one of his particular quirks or habits change said quirk or habit? No.
Again, it’s the same way with God, and even more so, because while a person might be willing to change some of his ways to please another person, God is not. And if we think about it, why should He? And would we really want Him to bend to suit our fancies even if He were willing to do so?
Imagine you bought an over the top, fantastic new car and had the opportunity to meet the car’s designer. At this meeting, he tells you all of the things you should do and not do to keep the car running in tip top shape. He even gives you a detailed owner’s manual reiterating everything he’s just told you. Would you believe what he says about taking care of the car?
How much more should we believe and obey what God has to say about the way we should live? He designed us. He knows exactly how we work and what is good for us and what isn’t good for us. Moreover, He loves us and always wants what is best for us. We didn’t design us or anything in our environment. We don’t know everything. Lots of times we don’t even want what’s best for ourselves because we don’t know what’s best for ourselves. Who are we to tell God how He ought to run things? (Job 38:1-42:6)
When God says something is a sin–harmful to us and an affront to Him– it is. When He says something is good and holy, it is. End of story, no discussion, period. You and I don’t get to change those things to suit ourselves. When we try to, what we’re ultimately saying is that God is wrong and doesn’t know what He’s doing. That we know how to handle things better than He does. That we are more qualified for the job of being God than He is.
This is the absolute antithesis of Christianity. Jesus said, “…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) There is no such thing as a “Christian” who willfully, purposefully, and continuously decides to immerse himself in, and pursue, a lifestyle of anything God calls sin. Becoming a Christian requires that we put ourselves, our opinions, our feelings and our impulses aside and submit to the authority of Christ. Salvation does not take place until we embrace the fact that He is God and we are not.
When we refuse to bow to who God really is, who He says He is in the Bible, and start redesigning Him according to our own opinions, according to what’s popular, or according to what is politically correct, what we have done is to set up an idol, a false god, to worship. Take a look at Exodus 20:1-4, and notice that in the middle of verse 4, it says we are not to “make for [ourselves] … any likeness of what is in heaven above“. While we may not be carving a literal statue of stars or planets to worship, which is the context of this passage, we frequently figuratively carve out our own likeness of heaven’s God.
God is who He is. We can take Him or leave Him, but we can’t re-make Him. We were made in His image, not He in ours. He isn’t going to formulate a platform we’ll like so He can earn our vote. He already holds the office of King, and even though He’s frequently opposed, He’s not going to be deposed.