Welcome to our continuing discussion on the topic, ‘Our view of God.’ Before we look more closely at some of God’s characteristics, let’s take a few moments to evaluate our view of God. It’s one thing to say we’ve avoided the misconceptions about God that we have discussed over the last three weeks. It’s another thing to sense God’s eagerness for us to know Him.
In this discussion, I want to help you develop an image of God as he longs to be seen. He has taken several millennia, inspired hundreds of pages of Scripture, and gone through a traumatic incarnation to paint an accurate portrait of himself. He obviously cares what we think about him. He wants us to see him clearly.
In our journey of discovering God, we will dismantle the common misconceptions about God that keep us from getting as close as he longs for us to be. You will have numerous opportunities to identify your own misconceptions and exchange them for the view God has given us of himself. But I want to go beyond what you can know about God’s qualities to offer you tools you can use to implement those attributes in your daily life. It’s one thing for us to reach a rational conclusion that God is good. It’s entirely different to let that truth begin to affect the way we make decisions, interpret events, and look to the future.
I had the privilege of seeing God change peoples’ heart, soul and mind as they gradually applied the truth of who he is to the way they live. If we join in this journey, we can share with each other the lessons we’ve learned, the mistakes we’ve made, and the helps we’ve discovered in our walk with God. This is the beginning of an exciting adventure.
We can claim that we don’t think God is like us, that we are not trying to manage Him, and that we believe that he has revealed himself in nature, the Bible, and Jesus. But, having made these claims, what picture of God do we actually have? Or, perhaps this question is more personally relevant: How do I know whether or not I am seeing God as he really is?
If we accept the new lenses our spiritual optometrist prescribed for us, we will look across the room at a chart before we leave the office. Our doctor wants to make sure that every aspect of our vision is functioning at top capacity. We’ll need to take a vision test.
In his classic knowing God, J. I. Packer uses a study in Daniel to identify four measurements that help determine whether we actually know God. These by-products of godly vision can be measured on four scales: First, the amount of energy we have for God. Those who really know God have great energy for him. How much energy do you have for him? Second, the greatness of our thoughts about God. Those who really know God think great thoughts about him. What are your thoughts about God like? Third, the degree of boldness for God. Those who really know God demonstrate boldness for him. How bold are you? Finally, the level of contentment in God. Those who really know God find great contentment in him. How content does your relationship with God make you?
An honest response in each category will accurately summarise how well we see God. God wants to see you move from knowing him dimly to knowing him vividly! He longs for distance to be transformed into intimacy. He already knows you intimately; he wants you to know him intimately too. We’ve already explored the ways God has revealed himself, but we haven’t really stopped to consider the passion with which he’s done so. What does it tell us about our Creator that he would go to such extraordinary lengths to make himself accessible to us?
We know God wants to know us because we have the record of Jesus’ memorable expressions of longing. Scattered throughout the Gospels are numerous examples of Jesus’ compassion toward others. The Bible often stretches the capacity of language to capture the depth of his feelings. John 13:1, for example describes his emotions as he prepared for the Last Supper, “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
John tries to convey the intensity of Jesus’ role as mediator between his Father and those he came to love and save. As his time on earth drew to a close, Jesus intensified his efforts to reveal his Father. Earlier that week, Jesus had expressed a broad, poignant longing of God’s heart to be recognised. On the journey from Bethany to Jerusalem that became known as ‘the triumphal entry,’ a brief, almost overlooked episode captures what Jesus was thinking about all that was going on around him.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time God’ coming to you” (Luke 19:41-44).
Jesus wept because they did not realise he came from God. He wept because the consequences of their blindness kept them from knowing and experiencing his peace and forgiveness. In this passage, God’s longing is expressed in terms that remind us of God’s faithfulness to reveal himself whether we recognise him or not. Our rejection of Jesus did not divert his desire for us. He died on the cross saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Yes, the lengths God went to demonstrate his love for us can be summarised by the intimate concept of “longing.” The moment the gospel helps us realise who we are and what we have done, what follows has often been called “a powerful drawing toward God” that brings us to repentance and salvation. That “drawing,” seen from God’s side, is his desire to be known by you and me.
What would happen in your life if you actually began to believe that the God of all time and eternity wanted you to know him? I don’t mean just intellectual assent to that proposition, but an internal, emotional “awakening in your soul” that compelled you to do whatever necessary to see and know Him as He is.
Rev. Eric D. Maefonea (SWIM)