Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Knowing God

Have you ever noticed that we tend to put God in a box? We develop an understanding of who we think God is, and then base our evaluations of Christianity against that perception. However, many times, the God we end up serving may not exactly be the God of the Bible. When the Bible says that God is Jealous, do we discard that description of him because we do not understand it? Do we cast away thoughts of a God who showed judgement in the Old Testament because we want to believe in a loving and forgiving God alone? Is it hard for us to reconcile a loving God with a God who demands Justice? I think sometimes as Christians, we fall into that trap, where we evaluate things based on experience, or on what we want to believe rather than what is. The Bible clearly shows us who God is. I know that since I began to try to discover the truth of the scripture regarding who God is, I have been surprised. In fact, at times I have even had to stop and "chew" on some descriptions or glimpses into the nature of God so that I could truly understand them. At times, I have found myself thinking, "no, that can't be right, that doesn't sound like the God I serve." Then God gently prompts my heart and says, "Know me, Karen". "I am who I say I am, not who you say that I am.

In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus was talking to his disciples in the region of Caesarea Philippi. It sounds like Jesus was concerned about the very thing I describe above - our perceptions and understanding of God according to our own understanding, not that of scripture or truth, even among His own disciples. It must be something that is easy for believers to fall into - believing God is who we decide He is going to be, rather than who his Word has revealed Him to be.

(Matthew 16:13-17) "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."

Notice Jesus first asked, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?". Well, I know that I have heard people tell me all sorts of things about "God" that do not seem to be concurrent with scripture. I have also heard unbelievers describe the God of scripture as a mean and angry God, or others who decide that God is somewhere out there, and can take any form depending on what feels good to that individual. Is our perception of God influenced by what others describe him to be? Even from a trusted pastor, is that our only source of discovery when we search for the character of God? If we are to grow as Christians, it must not be this way. The truth of scripture must be written on our hearts. We cannot listen to what others describe God to be, we instead must discover that for ourselves, through the truth of scripture.

The second question Jesus asks, is just as important - "Who do you say that I am?" Are there aspects of God's nature you would rather not face? Have you discarded the complicated or unbecoming characteristics of God and traded them in for the ones that feel good, that reassure you? God calls us to know him in his entirety. This comes in a mature relationship with Him. I remember when I first met Brock, and I thought all of his characteristics were such blessings. As I grew in relationship with him, I learned more about him, and discovered additional things about his character. Some of these were hard for me to understand. They may not have been the way that I looked at things, the way that I thought things should be done, the "right" way to accomplish something in my opinion. I now see all of Brock's character - the things that are easy to understand and love, and the things that take more time and patience to fathom. It is similar with God. The more we build a relationship with Him , the more characteristics we become exposed to. The easy characteristics - God is loving, forgiving, full of mercy, get re-emphasized over time with harder characteristics, like God is Just, Jealous, and Gracious. These may be harder to understand, and they may even require some work, but they also reveal some of the greatest blessings on the character of God, if we take the time to believe that God is who he says he is, not who we say he is.

Jesus responds to Peter's accurate description of him by stating, "Blessed are you, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my father in heaven." Should it surprise us that when we seek answers to who God is from man, that we get conflicting views? Jesus said that his Father revealed it to Peter. Where do we find the revelation of God today? In scripture, and through the Holy Spirit who instructs us (John 14:26). We must commit to the reading of scripture and to seeking His face, on a personal basis. If we serve the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, then we must learn to accept all that God says that he is in his Word, regardless of our own personal views. In fact, when our old views are challenged through a new discovery of God's nature in the Bible, we should trace our resistance to that characteristic of God right back down to the rooted lie which has implanted itself into our hearts, so that we cannot fully understand who God is. We need to sweep out our old perceptions, and allow the true character of God to be revealed. It is not an easy process. Sometimes it requires a mind-decision over a heart one. Our heart may not want to accept certain facts about God, but we must ask ourselves if we are trying to serve a God of our design, or our true Savior. Let me choose the God of Truth every time!

I pray that as I discover who God truly is, and grow to know Him more, that He opens up my heart to fully fathom the depths of his character. May this knowledge bring only more glory to Him, and help to show others His saving grace. May I appreciate the miracle of his Word that He has given us by careful study of the scripture, and commitment to my heart. May the Lord bless any readers of this text, that they also may truly know Him. ~Karen

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