As my regular readers know, my posts are all about our true identity in Jesus — the identity God created us to become. But let’s take one giant step backward. How can we understand who we really are in God if we’re confused about who God really is?
In order to understand who we really are, we have to understand who God really is. Sometimes the best way to understand someone is to understand who they’re not. So here are 10 popular wrong pictures of God, broken down into 3 categories. Do you (or did you) identify with any of these?
False Pictures of an Irrelevant God
The first few false pictures of God let us think God is irrelevant for our lives today. The true motivation for them really goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. We want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong, without some God hanging around having opinions about our behavior. We are still choosing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil over the Tree of Life.
1) A Myth. So much of our culture believes this, and our children are taught this under the guise of “science.” The truth is, evolution is a myth. Evolution is really bad science. There have been whole books written on this subject, and I don’t have space to go into it here. But evolution violates physics, geology, biology, engineering, statistics — just to name a few sciences that, contrary to what we’ve all been taught, actually contradict evolution. It really takes a lot more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God. We did not make ourselves.
2) The Absent Creator. He wound up the world like a top, and now he’s just letting it spin down and couldn’t care less. If I have to admit there must be a God because evolution is such a house-of-cards, at least he doesn’t care about me. I can still be god over my own life. But God created my life and my body. They are ours to steward, not to own. God cares about every aspect of your life. Not as a control freak, but as someone who is rooting for you because he loves you.
3) My Kindly Grandfather. My kind-hearted, but naïve, old grandfather, sitting in his rocking chair on the porch reading his Bible. He’s really nice, but he really doesn’t get life today. The truth is, God gets life today more than we do. And he has the answers. We are so easily deceived by the spirit of the age into thinking truth somehow changed. And in patting ourselves on the back for being so smart, we take our answers, our worldview, and our morality from the media. See Romans 1:22 and 1 Corinthians 1:27–29.
False Pictures of a God of Performance
These next false pictures of God are all too common. Though we may not realize it on the surface, deep down many of us believe we have to perform, to “straighten up and fly right,” to earn God’s approval, love, and blessing. Often these can be really hard to address because the things we’re doing look so good. They’re good things, but the motivation is to earn love, instead of coming from a place of being loved.
4) Zeus. An angry God, he’s ready to throw lightning bolts as soon as I step out-of-line. In fact, he can’t wait. Sometimes he hurls them just for fun. People blame God for the pain in their lives. They don’t realize he’s crying with them, right there in the middle of it.
People don’t understand God’s judgments come from love, not disappointment or hatred, like a loving parent disciplines a disobedient child. Actually, the opposite of love isn’t hatred — it’s indifference. God has opinions about our behavior because he loves us and wants what’s best for us. He hates our self-destructive behavior the same way the parent of an addict hates the drugs that are destroying their child.
5) A Demanding Parent. No matter how hard I try, I’m never good enough. When God thinks of me, he frowns his disappointment. I have to earn God’s love. He could bless me, but he doesn’t want to. If I can just be good enough, maybe I’ll earn a crumb.
This false picture of God often leads to a scarcity mindset. And it’s so not true. When God thinks of you, he smiles. He rubs his hands together with anticipation and excitement of who he’s created you to be, the same way parents put Christmas presents under the tree before their children wake up on Christmas morning.
6) Santa Claus. He brings me presents if I’m good. He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice. Santa-Claus-god doesn’t care about me, just what I do. But that’s so not true. God cares about the real you inside. We are not what we do.
7) Commander-in-Chief. God’s my general and my chain-of-command. I follow the rules to the letter. With. No. Emotional. Attachment. The problem is, God wants an emotional attachment, so desperately that he does reckless things like dying on a cross.
The play/movie Les Misérables is a poignant example of this legalism, false picture of God. The police captain Javert is all about the rules. All his life, he never broke a rule. Rulebreakers will always be rule-breakers and they need the rule enforcers to keep them in line and give them what’s coming to them. The problem is, the convict Jean Valjean is a rulebreaker but spreads mercy and goodness everywhere he goes. That’s not supposed to happen! People can’t really change! But Javert is forced to recognize Jean Valjean’s goodness is better than his own legalism when Jean Valjean spares his life. The story is an amazing contrast between the Kingdom of Religion and the Kingdom of God. Sadly, Javert couldn’t live in a world where mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
False Pictures of a God of Entitlement
These false pictures of God are pervasive in our first-world culture where we have more than we could ever want.
8) My ATM. Just like an ATM, I go to him when I need something, and forget about him the rest of the time. After all, isn’t God there, and the church also, to meet my needs? Boy, do we have a surprise coming. That’s totally backward! We exist to meet his needs for worship and fellowship, not the other way around.
9) My Insurance Salesman. Thanks for salvation, Jesus, see you in Heaven. Got my fire insurance. As long as I keep up the premiums by going to church periodically, I’m covered. The problem here is that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to bring us into the Kingdom of God in the sweet bye-and-bye. He died to bring his Kingdom into our lives now. Right here, right now.
10) My Savior but not My Lord. Jesus forgives all my sins so I can live however I want and still go to heaven. Such a deal! He’s my Savior, I said the sinner’s prayer, once, sometimes a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. But he really doesn’t expect me to live in holiness and purity, does he? Yes, actually he does. And his heart breaks when we harm ourselves by living like the world. We nail him to that cross all over again. Jesus is not really our Savior if he’s not also our Lord. He comes as a package deal.
All of these false pictures grieve the heart of God. He wants his children to know the real Jesus.
The True Picture of the Living God — My Lover-King
This is who Jesus died on the cross to be. This is what his resurrection made possible. My Lover-King, the essence of my universe, the number one person in my life. He’s just crazy about me, and I wish I could do more to please him. His smile makes my spirit soar, and when we’re together, he smiles all the time. We are so in love. His love crashed in and changed my life.
Think about that for a minute. What would it be like to live in the ecstasy of that kind of lover-close, intimate relationship with God? Lover-close with God? Crazy, huh? Do you think it might change how we live?
BTW, did you know God’s already talking to you? Yes, you! Personally! Find out how to hear him in Dave’s free ebook “Hearing God and What’s Next: 12 Ways to Hear God, 3 Things to Do about It, and 6 Ways to Know You’re Not Crazy.”