“Our picture of God is the most important thing about us.” This quote from A. W. Tozer was the theme of the previous post where we explored this statement and the impact that an incorrect picture of God can have on our lives. So, what do we do if see that our view of God is distorted? Can our view of God be mended so we can see and experience Him as loving and gracious? This post is a continuation of the previous post where I am sharing a talk by Trevor Hudson which occurred on Tuesday of the Renovaré Institute retreat I took on September 16-22, 2019. Let’s explore some suggestions that Trevor provided to help us gain a clearer picture of God.
Contemplate the Mystery of God
A quote from Orthodox Bishop Kallistos Ware was shared which gives us an excellent starting point to healing our picture of God.
There is something that happens to us when we allow ourselves the time and space to think about the majesty and wonder of God. I think exploring the mystery of God helps to give us a greater perspective of who God is. We can tend to put God in a box or define Him based on our life experience. Trevor Hudson stated it this way; “God is greater than our experience of God”.
God is beyond our comprehension. The Psalmist puts it this way:
Part of the mystery of God is the nearness and yet the hiddenness of God. We see God as sitting in the heavens and yet He wants to be fully known. Another quote from Trevor: “Seldom is God in our face, pushy. He gives us space to exercise our will”. Yet, His desire is for us to seek him and to find Him. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14a.
As we contemplate the mystery of God, we are on a search to seek Him with all of our heart. When we do this, we get to know Him. God reveals Himself to us and in the process helps to shape a more adequate picture of who He really is. So what are some ways we can seek God?
- Spend time in His word: As we read His word, we can take note of what it is saying about God.
- Read books by others who have pondered this mystery: Two books were highlighted as opportunities to expand our search. I have not read either of these yet, but they are on my list:
- Spent time in nature. Scripture speaks often about seeing the mystery of God in creation. Taking time for walks and experiencing nature with all of our senses can help us see a good and beautiful God.
Look to Jesus for a Corrective Picture of God
Our picture of God can be greatly enhanced by looking at Jesus.
Jesus is the image of the unseen God. If we want to know what God is really like, all we need to do is look at Jesus and how he lived.
Trevor made an interesting statement: “Jesus is God’s answer to a bad reputation”. Its kind of weird to say it this way, but it is true. In my view of God, it was as if He had a bad reputation. He had a reputation of being stern and demanding and never really pleased with my performance. As I spend time with Jesus, I see that reputation is totally wrong. As I contemplate the mystery of God intervening in human history as a man, fully human and fully divine, my picture changes. I also have a sense of righteous indignation toward the evil one who spread such lies that can wreck God’s reputation to a broken world.
Here are a couple of practical ways for us to get to know Jesus.
- Dallas Willard said: “read the Gospels for 20 years to know Jesus”. Immersing ourselves in the Gospels over a long period of time is a great way to know Jesus more deeply.
- Take every idea we have of God and expose it to the words and actions of Jesus. Whenever we feel the false picture coming on, stop it in its tracks and expose it to the truth of scripture. Is what I am experiencing what I know of Jesus?
Believe God is Present and Active in Your Life
A third way to help us get a better picture of God is to realize that he is present and active in our lives. There are three common views of how God is part of our lives
- He is at a distance: This is a view where God is up there and we are down here. With this view, our paths never cross. It can sometimes be comforting to think that God has a watchful eye on us from a distance, but this misses the reality that God is deeply intimate and personal.
- There is no distinction between God and us: this may have been part of the big lie in the garden where Adam and Eve were tempted be gods. Other religions, new age spirituality, and even early church heresies try to put us on the same plane with God. Wow, I am so glad God is that limited that I can attain to His level.
- God is overlapping and interlocking: God is ever present and active in all aspects of our lives. Paul put it this way that God is “over all, through all, in all, descended … and ascended” (Ephesians 4:6;10).
A way improve our picture of God is to take notice of where God is at work in our lives. God bathes us with His presence. Practice the presence of God throughout each day, trying to make a habit of thinking about God as often as you can, without being legalistic. Just looking for and recognizing God throughout the day will help develop a healthy picture of God.
To keep things simple, we have only two choices to make when considering our picture of God. One response is to choose the picture we default to, that one marred by sin and a broken world, lied to by the enemy. The other choice is to run with abandon to the true picture of a Heavenly Father who loves and delights in you. The picture at the beginning of this post is by artist Charles Mackesy of the embrace of the Father with his prodigal son. If you need a beginning point of getting a true picture of God’s love or if you just need a fresh reminder, seeing the Father’s response to his son in this parable is a powerful image of our Father’s love for us. May all of us find healing of our distorted God picture and experience the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father.