THE TRUE PICTURE OF GOD
Rincy V. Cherian
People look up at the sky and come to all kinds of conclusions about God. Based on experience and the realities of life, they form their own opinions and develop their own ideas about Him. It would indeed be fair to say that every human being has some kind of impression or understanding (right or wrong, positive or negative) about God.
However, it is not a god of our ‘imagination’ that we are called to serve, but a God who has made Himself known to us through ‘revelation.’ In fact, God is grieved when a person misunderstands Him and angered when a person misrepresents Him.
We are all familiar with ‘defamation suits,’ where a person goes to court and files a case against one who has maligned him in public. Well, if God were to initiate similar proceedings, all mankind would be held guilty on charges of having brought dishonour and disrepute to His name by speaking falsely of Him! Remember, after all, what He said to Job’s friends? “I am angry with you because you have not spoken of Me what is right” (Job 42:7).
As believers, it is especially vital that we have a biblical understanding of who God is because this will affect the way we ‘relate’ to Him personally and the way we ‘represent’ Him publicly.
So, what is God really like? What is the true biblical picture of God? How has God revealed Himself to us through the pages of the Scriptures and the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ?
God Is Creator
The pages of the Bible begin with the introduction of God as Creator. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Everything that exists, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, was created by God (Col. 1:16).
Man loves to boast of his mobile phone made by Nokia, television manufactured by Sony, computer developed by HP, and so on. But when it comes to his own existence, he would rather say that he has come from apes and monkeys, than acknowledge God as his Creator! Could there be anything more appalling and absurd?
God is Creator. We are just finite creatures. Mere breath, a speck of dust, frail grass, puff of smoke (Psa. 90:5-6; 103:14; Jas. 4:14). We may wear designer clothes, travel about in the most sophisticated machines, live in the grandest of homes, and have multiple degrees added to our names. But we are still dust. We have nothing to boast or be arrogant about. If we do have any accomplishment or achievements, they are simply expressions of the intelligence and abilities He has placed within us (Deut. 8:17-18). God is Creator. We exist for His pleasure (Isa. 43:7). He does not exist for us; we are made for His purposes. Many tend to see Heaven as a supermarket and God as the store-owner whose responsibility it is to grant every item on our prayer list. Some even treat God like a waiter in a restaurant. They place their orders, demand excellent and quick service, and give a small tip (tithes!) in return for what they have received.
God is Creator. This means that He alone knows what is best for each one of us. When Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, God knew both ‘what was good’ and ‘what was not good’ for him. He gave Adam a wife because it was good for him and issued commands concerning what he could not eat because it would not be good for him.
God is Creator. That tells us there is nothing impossible with Him. He can do miracles and bring total transformation to any person or condition. We need to believe Him actively and not set limits on Him like what the people of Jesus’ hometown did (Mk. 6:1-6).
God Is Redeemer
There is a problem with man—he is a rebel, a hard-core sinner. But God is in the rescuing business and wants to save him from his miserable, wretched condition. He longs to set people free from all wickedness and purify them so they can become a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good (Tit. 2:14).
The name Jesus means ‘Saviour from sins’ (Matt. 1:21). And the good news is that through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, this transformation can happen. Bad people can become good, sinners can be turned into saints and wicked people can be made into righteous people.
It must be emphasised that the goal of redemption is not to save us from Hell; the goal is to make us exactly like Christ in character (Rom. 8:29). And to this end, God will continuously and constantly work within the heart of the repentant believer. However, there must be a willing, life-long cooperation and submission to the work of the Spirit in order that Christ-likeness may be attained.
Sin must never be condoned or excused. It is not to be joked about or played with. We must treat it with extreme seriousness for it is terribly dangerous and destructive. What is more, it cost God His only Son who died to free man from the clutches of sin! God is Redeemer. His heart is to save, not to condemn (Jn. 3:17; Rom. 2:4). The attitude of a Christian must therefore be one of gentleness, patience and mercy as he deals with the spiritually ignorant and immature (Jn. 8:10-11; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:19-20).
God Is Father
There is no other religion or faith which would dare to see God as Father. To the Jew, this would be blasphemy. And while 99 names (including titles) are attributed to Allah, there are two conspicuous by their absence: these have to do with the ‘Fatherhood’ and ‘love’ of God. Readers may now realise the significance of the title of a popular book which records the conversion of a woman from Islam to Christianity: “I dared to call Him Father”!
God is Father. He is not the Father of every individual—that can happen only through a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. But He does desire that everyone comes to know and enjoy Him in the warmth of a loving, intimate relationship.
Jesus taught His disciples to address God as ‘Father’ (Matt. 6:9; Jn. 20:17). When the believer receives the Spirit of sonship, he cries out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). ‘Abba’ is the first word that a Jewish child is taught. It is the word he uses to call his father. The Christian can come before God and say, “Daddy!” He can weep and laugh with Him, sing and sigh before Him, cast his cares and burdens on to Him. In fact, one of the distinguishing marks of a true believer is that he has the boldness and confidence to approach God and relate to Him as Father.
The concept of a loving God needs to, however, be clearly explained these days because people all over, including Christians, have a sentimental view of love rather than a Scriptural view. To many, ‘God is Father’ would mean that He is so loving that He will never cause pain or suffering and will provide all that we ask for. In other words, He is someone who will always make and keep us happy! We must realise, however, that although God is Father, He does not raise spoilt children. So He will both comfort and chastise, bless and break, heal and hurt (Ezek.7:9; Hos. 6:1-2; Heb. 12:5-11).
Many cannot understand how God can be a loving Father, when there is so much of evil and suffering in this world. They ask, “Why do bad things happen to us good people?” But this question is actually lop-sided. The question should actually be, “Why do good things happen to us bad people?” Whereas we all think we are good and do not deserve anything bad, the truth is that we are all really wicked at heart and deserve only punishment from God and none of the blessings we are so lavishly enjoying. The way we treat God, His creation, and creatures proves how rotten and corrupt we are. And the wonder is that in spite of all this, God still chooses to shower and generously pour out His mercy and kindness upon us! So, rather than complain or find fault with God, we must be extremely grateful to Him for His mercy towards us and realise that He is ‘far more loving’ than we think!
It is also important in these days to guard against preaching, especially to unbelievers, about the love of God without emphasising at the same time the righteousness or holiness of God and the need to repent. We need to, furthermore, desist from telling people that the God of the Old Testament may have been an angry God, but Jesus Christ is the true expression of God and is full of love. There could not be a greater insult to God! For the truth is that God has and will always be the same. His character will never change. In fact, the Old Testament abounds with examples of God’s mercy and the New Testament abounds with expressions of God’s wrath! It is true that God brought an end to many nations and people groups in Old Testament times. But this was never an impetuous or impulsive decision. Punishment and judgement were brought upon people only after several warnings and only after sins had heaped up to such a limit where there was no other choice! And with regard to the New Testament, the wrath of God is even now being manifest in that He hands human beings over to their sinful passions and desires, to shameful lusts and a depraved mind, to delusion and deception (Rom. 1:18-32; 2 Thess. 2:9-12).
Even Jesus who is presented as the gentle Lamb of God will one day manifest His wrath and pour out His anger upon the nations. He Himself will open the seals and cause death and destruction upon earth.
God Is King
There is only one Sovereign Lord over the whole universe, and His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. He exercises total authority and in everything He has the supremacy (Col. 1:18). There is no power or principality that is not subject to Him.
God is King. He alone is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honour, glory, and praise (Rev. 5:12-13). He commands everyone everywhere to repent and submit to His rule. He has standards that we must abide by and is jealous for the honour of His name (Ma. 2:14). He is a consuming fire and people must worship Him acceptably with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28-29).
Our role is as servants whose duty it is to hear the master’s command and follow orders. Whereas we should be receiving directions and instructions from God concerning our lives, we often have the audacity to give counsel and dictate matters to Him. God asks, “Do you give Me orders about the work of My hands?” (Isa. 45:11). And the apostle Paul declares, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor?” (Rom. 11:34).
The one who knows God as King will be the most victorious and jubilant person around. For he is heir to the resources of Heaven—the power, presence and peace of God—and can conquer any storm that arises in his life.
God Is Judge
There is an appointment which no one will miss, which no one will escape. God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31). It will be a time of personal reckoning, a day when secrets are exposed, and a moment when truth finally prevails (Rom. 14:12; 1 Cor. 4:5).
The surety of God as Judge and a Day of Judgment must cause us to lead our lives as strangers here in reverent fear (1 Pet. 1:17). We must make it our goal to please God each and every day of our lives for each one will receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. We must come out of sloppy living and start leading serious lives (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
We must recognise that prior to the ‘Day’ of Judgment, there will be both small and severe expressions of it on both believers and unbelievers, on the church and the world. The case of what happened to the city of Jerusalem and many in the early church, and the events recorded in the Book of Revelation bear special witness to this truth. People must understand that they just cannot live the way they like.
God is Judge. Not we. This must remind us not to take revenge or vengeance. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14). He knows how to deal with wrongs and when He judges, it will be full, final and fair!