I feel the need to say this. And here’s where I might lose a handful of you. But I think – no, I know – it’s that crucial, and so worth the risk.
The Person-That-Is vs. the Person-Described
I’m going to ease in with an analogy. Think of something undeniable about yourself. No, I don’t want surface identities like skin color or mental illness or sex. A trait about who you were wired to be.
Are you undeniably fierce? Gentle? Determined? Focused? Patient? Social?
Now imagine someone out there says you aren’t that thing. Maybe you’re social. And they say you’re a hermit. Or maybe it’s less extreme; maybe you’re exceptionally driven and they say you’re a hard worker, harder than most, but not what they’d call “driven”.
You’re social/driven/your thing. That’s undeniable. This person says you’re not. That doesn’t make you less social/driven/your thing. You are still you, despite what that person may think based on their impression.
All that makes is this: it makes that person wrong.
The person that is doesn’t match the person they’ve described. The Person-That-Is is real; the Person-Described is fiction.
The Person-of-God Vs. the god-you-describe
Alright. Let’s talk about God.
God is a Being. A Being independent of other beings. Similar to you, except far more powerful and infinite. You can relate to God, similar to how other people relate to you. And this makes sense, because you are made in His image. Unlike you, He doesn’t evolve, so any traits that are undeniably Him, are undeniably Him forever.
We live in a world of experiences. And we live in a world that shapes God based on those experiences. “I experienced X, and it felt like God, therefore God is X.” Or, “God is fine for you, but I don’t believe in Him based on my life experience.” We then take these experiences and impressions, and determine who God is by them.
There’s a problem here. The problem is that it makes God an image of us. Our experiences impress onto the person of God and change His personality. But we know that reality is the opposite (Genesis 1:27). We are images of God. We are secondary to His Primary. Defined by Him, not definers of Him. (Check out my last post on this very topic here.)
And now we get to the point. It’s a sharp point. This is going to sting for some of us to hear.
The god-you-describe doesn’t matter
God is undeniably Himself. So whatever you think of Him?
It doesn’t matter.
That’s right. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter what you think of God.
You can think He isn’t good because there’s evil in the world. You can think He isn’t wrathful because that just doesn’t sound like God to you. It doesn’t matter.
He is who He is. And He hasn’t changed with culture or history. (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17; Malachi 3:6.)
Yahweh. “I Am.” (Exodus 3:14.)
And you can say that God doesn’t tell us who He is, so we can make Him what we want or we are free to discover and experience Him as we want. That God is actually in us and a mystic being to be explored.
Or you can abuse the truth that God is infinite and cannot be understood by saying that He very well may work in ways that go against what we are told about God.
But have you read what He has said?
“God-breathed” – θεόπνευστος. Theopneustos. This is the Greek word used to describe all of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. God told us exactly who He is. It’s all right there. Complete and clear. (2 Timothy 3:16-17.) We will never fully comprehend Him. But He has equipped us with enough to recognize who He is, and who He definitely isn’t.
His Word took on human form (John 1:1-4), showing us and explicitly telling us who God is (John 6:63; John 10:30).
So on one hand, it doesn’t matter what you think of God. He’s stated and displayed clearly who He is, and He’s not going to change.
The God-That-Is matters, and your understanding of Him does, too.
On the other hand, it gravely matters what you think of God. Because if you think wrongly, it could mean life or death (Matthew 10:23). If you think He isn’t real, or that He isn’t that big a deal and you’re good, unfortunately for you, He is real, and He is the only thing that matters.
If you think He isn’t good and loving, and you are struggling to believe that, I have good news: He has said He is and you can trust it (1 John 3:1).
If you think He’s this pantheistic spirit that just moves and lives in the universe, it doesn’t matter that you think that. He’s a Triune Person that sustains all things, but is holy and not homogeneous with His creation. He has set rules for it and will judge it, condemning evil and death and sin (including the unbelieving sinners), to restore it to perfection at the end of time (Colossians 3:25; 2 Peter 3:15).
If you believe He isn’t a holy Judge who’s going to judge your soul after death, it doesn’t matter. He will (Psalm 145:20).
And if you think He is a nice addition to your life and you can go about your day without being affected, that God will do His thing while you do yours, it doesn’t matter. He is still God, still enthroned and ruling over every molecule of your being, and demands to be worshiped (Colossians 1:17; Revelation 4:11).
Even if you don’t recognize Him as God, or if you as a believer don’t recognize Him for who He truly is, it doesn’t matter because He is still God, still carrying out His plan (Isaiah 14:27).
And it also infinitely matters because, if you’re wrong, it could result in your eternal life or eternal condemnation.
So What Are You?
Are you a Christian? Then know the God you claim to serve for who He is, not for who you perceive or want Him to be.
Are you on the fence? Do you believe in God but don’t know if you want to follow Him? Stop messing around and recognize this Lord of life for who He is. Your uncertainty won’t matter in the end; He will remain certain in His plan for humanity, and if you believe, you are sealed in His love (Ephesians 1:13-14). Place your trust in Him, and follow Him in your life.
Are you atheist? I have unfortunate news. It doesn’t matter that you believe in no existence of a god. That is about as effective on reality as saying you believe in no existence of the sun; it’s there regardless and will continue to shine on you as you go about your day. God still exists and will still judge you, even if you don’t believe He exists.
Either you are subject to God or you have a god that is subject to you – if the latter, it therefore less powerful than you, and therefore powerless to do divine work. So it’s no god at all. It’s an imaginary friend fashioned after you. If God is God – which He is – He surpasses you and your expecations.
God is not an image of us. Do you know this Person rightly, and are you in right standing with Him?
That is all that matters.