We are obsessed with creating a God of our own understanding. We superimpose our finite nature onto God’s infinite nature. One of the discoveries that we will make along the way is that we are “created in His image” and believe it or not, we can know God. The problem is that to really, truly know God, one has to allow Him to define Himself as opposed to us trying to define Him. If you just met someone and wanted to get to know them, would you allow them to define to you who they were? Or would you insist on defining them as you saw fit? Do you see how backwards this is? Even after knowing someone for a long time, there are certain things you will never know about that person until they share with you their heart. Most of us are ill-equipped at assessing people to begin with; we actually define them by how we see the world. We assume that because our perception shares at least some common ground, that we can empathize with others. This is a false premise. Getting to know someone requires a relationship, and part of a healthy relationship is sharing with one another our individual wants, needs, desires, and our personal version of “the world as I see it”. We are all guilty of assuming too much. And we play this awful game with God as well. We try to “see through His eyes”, we try to ascertain His motives, and we assume we can actually empathize with our Creator. We can end up frustrated and bitter through this exercise in futility.
From the very beginning, man has tried to make an eternal and infinite being into a finite and limited being. We have tried in vain to fashion a likeness of Him, what the Bible calls idols. There is an inescapable propensity of man to make God into an image that we can understand. There are golden calves, totem poles, statues, edifices, giant cathedrals, animals, the sun, the moon, and everything in-between. God really hates this; it is His pet-peeve if you will. God simply cannot be an icon! The Bible tells us that God is light, God is Spirit, and that God is unapproachable, but we ignore all of this and seek to create Him in an image. The most awful atrocity in this flawed endeavor is making ourselves God! Whether you believe in Satan or not, understand this: his eternal guilt is his desire to be equal with God. And whether you grasp the full heinousness of this crime or whether it escapes you, you must understand that modern man is on a fast-track of making himself out to be God. The elephant in the room is the notion that somehow man can save man, that man will one day build the tower of Babel and be equal with God, and that by building our empires of knowledge, scientific discovery, technological advancements, the uncovering of the human genome, our ability to manipulate our environment, and celebrating our own genius that we will someday approach God with our own efforts. It is the continuation of what started in the Garden of Eden. We are intoxicated with our own achievements, we applaud discovery as if we have done anything else but expose more of God’s majesty, and we act as if we control our own destiny. Think about it. Humanism is the disease of our generation. We pretend that WE can somehow save the planet, that WE can achieve peace in the world, or that by OUR efforts WE can make life meaningful. Sad…
Even in our most genuine efforts, we fashion kingdoms and religious counterfeits to replace an infinite God. God desperately loves us. God’s burning desire is to have fellowship with us. Above all else He has created, we are His supreme desire. He only wants you to know Him in a personal way, but there is a great gulf between us. After the fall of man, God has been in the business of healing this rift!. Don’t ever doubt God’s love for man. One of Christ’s objectives was to eradicate our systems and restore fellowship with God. He stated in no uncertain terms that God wants a restored relationship with man, and man-made systems simply will not and cannot do. The only way back to fellowship with God is by God. He gave the solution to the problem despite our weaknesses and selfishness. Jesus came to change the game and announce a new covenant. In a very significant way, Jesus dismantled the religious systems and set out to allow us to know God spiritually. Not long after his return to heaven, we began to take the spiritual message of Christ and fashion it back to a religious system! It wasn’t 50 or so years after Christ’s departure that Paul records the cancer of religiosity, division, or what he refers to as carnal thinking. Early believers began to formulate idols once again in the form of systems. In the book of Galatians, Paul warns of the folly of taking the gospel and making it less spiritual and more religious. A sect of Judaism began to confront new converts telling them that in order to be right with God, they must not abandon certain parts of the Jewish religion; these people were called Judaizers. Other churches started “branding” their own form of Christianity, based on who baptized them! Notice the verses recorded in 1 Corinthians:
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?…for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 1:11-13 and 1 Corinthians 2:3-4)
We just can’t seem to help ourselves! In our quest to have a tangible God, we forsake the spiritual nature of God and make it less than. If we can’t feel it, taste it, smell it, and pass it through our lower intestine (this is a quote from a man named Ross Perot who ran for the presidency of the United States…classic), then we want to reject it. We have tried to fit God into our lives rather than allow ourselves to be fit into His!
One final note on this issue: when I began going to recovery meetings, I noticed a phrase in the “12 steps” that stated “a God of your understanding”. Many years prior, the steps used the word “God”, plain and simple. But in order to achieve the level of political correctness required for a mixed group of people to sit in the same room together, they changed it to “the God of your understanding”. After years of sitting in these meetings, I thought it appropriate to change it without anyone’s approval to “the God of our misunderstanding”! Pretty clever, eh? When a person is new to recovery, they (the group) don’t want to run that person off by subjecting them to a god they don’t understand and probably don’t believe in anyway. So in many ways, I understand the reasoning. In fact, I have seen many recover and find God starting from a ridiculous premise. The premise is this: that one must believe in a power greater than themselves, that that power can restore them to sanity and that you as an individual can define that power as you see fit. Many people would say, “It doesn’t matter what your ‘power greater than yourself ‘is, as long as you have one!” For instance, I actually heard some say that theirs was “the group” or “nature” or even “a doorknob” (I swear I’m not making this up!). What slapped me across the face one day was the realization that God doesn’t really care. I was offended that the people reaching out for help would not even recognize Whom was actually helping them. But God wasn’t offended. Eventually, through prayer, many found the healing hand of God, and these same people didn’t even know who or what they were praying to! We are so much more intolerant than God; we underestimate His patience. This is another example of us superimposing our finite reasoning on an infinite God. I thought God would find it repugnant to help someone who wouldn’t even acknowledge His helping hand, but alas, His love is much greater than I will ever comprehend. Sometimes as Christians we act like the bouncers at the door to the kingdom of God. We act like we know more than God. We assume that if it doesn’t fit within our paradigm of the “kingdom of God”, then it must be unacceptable to God. But if and when we start loving people the way God loves people, we will go to almost any lengths to help save them. We can learn to overlook the absurdities in life, we can learn to withstand the onslaught of an atheist’s vitriol, and we can suffer gladly knowing that in the long run, the only thing that matters is helping and saving a soul that God loves just as much as He loves you!