3 Things Jesus Wants Us to Know About God
French scientist and Catholic philosopher, Blaise Pascal, once quipped, “God made man in His own image, and man returned the compliment.” Sadly, when we knowingly or unknowingly ‘make God in our own image’ we reduce Almighty God to fit within our narrow and limited parameters of experience and understanding. As a result, the “God” we impart to others often ends up sounding just as cranky, frustrated, judgmental, unforgiving and impatient as those of us who claim to be His ambassadors and representatives. If we’re not careful, the more serious consequence is that we end up worshipping and serving a false god entirely, one of our own human manufacturing.
Truth be told, God takes all of this ‘speaking in His name’ very seriously. In the Old Testament, if a prophet claimed to speak for God yet did so falsely, he would be found out by the prophecy not coming to fulfillment and was to be put to death (Deut. 18:20-22). Ouch. In the New Testament, God forewarns everyone who desires to be a leader or desires to teach others about Him this way, “For let not many among you become teachers, for they will incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1). In sum, God appears to be saying that if you’re going to speak in His name or on His behalf, you’d better take the time to really get to know Him in order to accurately convey who He is to others. So who or what can help us get God right? Thankfully, we have plenty of help.
In a general sense, nature or the natural world around us helps us to better understand our Creator (Romans 1:20). More specifically, we have Sacred Scripture and the teaching of the Catholic Church. Finally (and best of all in my opinion), we are given the gift of Jesus of Nazareth to reveal who God is and how He operates. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). In other words, if we want to know what God the Father is like, all we have to do is look at Jesus Christ.
1. God doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him.
Too many Christians today live with an unhealthy fear of God. By ‘unhealthy’, I’m referring to those who think or feel (or were taught) God is out to punish them, or waiting anxiously to judge them, or keeping a divine scorecard of their rights and wrongs. This kind of fear can lead to a serious neurosis of guilt, repression and scrupulosity. While ‘the fear of the Lord’ is a gift of the Holy Spirit, that isn’t the kind of fear I’m referring to here. In fact, ‘the fear of the Lord’ taken from the Old Testament, actually refers more to reverence than to trepidation. In Hebrew, it is ‘silent wonder’ and ‘affectionate awe.’
Christians in a state of grace have no need to fear God's wrath. 1 John 4:17-18 says "In this way love is perfected among us, so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love". Those who are perfected in love can have humble confidence on Judgment Day and always because perfect love drives out all fear of divine punishment.
Other proofs of this can be observed in how Jesus teaches us to pray. In His day, it was forbidden (even blasphemous) to speak Almighty God’s holy Name: Yahweh. Yet when Christ teaches his disciples how to pray, as we all know, it begins with “Our Father”. This is also seen in Romans 8:15 where St. Paul tells us that we have "received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out Abba, Father." What does he mean by "Abba, Father"? Abba is an Aramaic word which means "daddy" or "papa". What St. Paul is saying is when you give your life to Jesus as Savior and Lord (through baptism); you are adopted into God’s family. You become His child and He becomes your heavenly Father.
2. God doesn’t desire for anyone to spend eternity in hell.
I heard a story of a young man conversing with God. He asked, "God, how long is a million years to you?" God answered the man, "Like one second." The man then asked, "God, how much is a million dollars to you?" God replied, "Like one penny." The man inquired of God, "Then may I have one penny?" and God said, "Sure, just give me one second."
Have you ever wondered why it’s taken over 2,000 years for Christ to return to earth in His glory? We’re told in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” Isn’t it comforting to hear that God is holding back His own return for the sake of souls? Apparently, the party in heaven just isn’t big enough yet.
Similarly, we hear the same comforting language from St. Paul, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
If the life and especially death of Jesus of Nazareth tells us anything, it tells us that God loved the world enough to bankrupt heaven. The price didn’t get any higher and yet God thought we were worth the purchase. Jesus’ parables, ministry and miracles all attest to the truth that God is a deliverer. Jesus shows us time and again how patient God is with the world, reasoning with us even to our death beds, like the criminal on the cross next to Him. When I look to Jesus, I see how very difficult God is trying to make it for people to go to hell. In fact, in Jesus I see how God loves the hell out of me, quite literally.
3. God doesn’t work in formulas.
When I was in my early to mid-twenties I was driven by misguided piety. I lived out my faith as if God worked in some kind of divine formula. If I just did a, b, and c, God would then keep His end of the bargain with x, y, and z. It has taken nearly two decades of stumbling and fumbling to learn this isn’t how God operates. It would have behooved me to pay more attention to Jesus’ teachings, particularly the parables that speak to God’s grace, as grace interrupts the formula. Grace doesn’t compute. It doesn’t make sense. This is one reason why such grace scandalized the religious people of Jesus’ day. He kept turning everything on its head. Suddenly, tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the Kingdom before those who had spent their entire lives trying to be good.
Whether we were to look at the story of Job or the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), or the parable of the workers (Matthew 20:1-16), it is clear that God doesn’t work in formulas. As God says through Isaiah the prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Suffering and trial are not necessarily signs of consequence for sin. Prosperity and abundance are not necessarily signs of someone’s faithfulness.
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3 Things Jesus Wants Us to Know About God
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