The older I get, the more convinced I become that 1) God is good, and 2) we’re clueless. His goodness makes fools of us all because His good is so good, so simple and grand, as to defy belief.
And that’s the problem, you see. We believers don’t believe. Oh, we say we do. The preacher will say, “We love because He first loved us” and everyone claps and amens, because we know it’s in the Bible, and in that moment, we agree with that particular formulation of truth. In fact, we strongly endorse many, good statements and theorems:
- “God is good”
- “There is no sin too great for God”
- “You don’t have to live in condemnation.”
Amen! (But not really)
When the rub and grub of life really puts our theoretical inner convictions to the test—when we’ve just screwed up again for the 15th million time—we secretly switch faiths. We begin relating to God totally differently, or to a totally different god, than the one we just amened in church.
No matter how much truth you know in your head, emotions typically follow the trail of your true beliefs. Process that for a moment, because that means, in part, that what you feel in moments of failure and weakness is perhaps the most honest compass to determine what you really believe about God. Your low moment, not your high amen, reveals unto Whom your faith is fixed. When sin looms large, do you start proof texting various passages (1 John 1:6,8,10, 3:4-6; Heb. 6:4-8, 10:29, et al) to negatively reassure yourself that, yes, God is quite serious about sin, while you’re not nearly serious enough. After all, if you were serious, clearly, you wouldn’t keep sinning! Right?
Learn to follow the trail
Though God “so loved the world that He gave,” our belief system actually puts us on the brink of damnation from The God Who Taketh Back. Making matters worse, we self-protect our own misery, because that kind of repentance feels safer than trusting the wildness of grace. But that is to make both our sin and our repentance an idol greater than God’s provision in redemption. Even so, we don’t want anyone to talk us out of our well-deserved internal rebuke, so we nurse it over and over again until we think we’ve finally learned our lesson. The logic is simple: if we aren’t as harsh as we deserve, we’re going to keep screwing up. It’s time to take discipleship seriously! Fact is, if we were God, we would have been done with us long ago. We’re convinced that God is probably at least a little bitter and remorseful about His rather naive commitment to love and redeem us unconditionally. What a fine mess He mistakenly committed Himself to! Poor chap. He should have known better.
But wait. Maybe…just maybe…if we weep and fast enough, it will prove to Him and us that we’re really going to change this time. Maybe then He’ll take us back. On the other hand, if we’re done for, we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. Far from merciless, it would be totally justifiable for Him to treat us this way, like some vengeful video game deity.
I suspect this is the god of 80+% of Evangelicals.
But it is not truly God.
Is Jesus Easily Offended?
It has been said that God made man in His image, after which man returned the favor. When it comes to all our grand religiosity, this is absolutely true. Our Trinity has become a distorted caricature of the real thing: Jesus the Begrudging, Easily Offended Savior, God the Constantly Annoyed Father, and Holy Spirit the Bitter, Hand-Slapping Mother Superior of Spiritual Grammar Class. I’m not joking. We know all the verses that say otherwise, and we claim to believe them. But flat out, we don’t. The average believer is plagued with insecurity precisely because the typical Sunday morning sermon is plagued with Law. You will never be confident in God based on how well you’re doing. Jesus didn’t come to make you a better person so you could be loved, loving and lovable. He loved you, period, so He came. His mission wasn’t to make you better, but to make you alive.
If you cower before God the Divine Score Keeper, God the Stern and Silent, God the High School Principle, then your baseline is fear, not faith, and “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6). Arise! The God of Scripture is better than that, wayyyy better. It is only your image, your conception, that is faulty. To remedy this, you need a better image of God.
His name is Jesus.