Our broken images of God
Christian prayers end “in Jesus’ name” but this doesn’t mean we all pray to the same God. Since the time of the apostles, people have heard different teachings and ideas about God that have been confusing and misleading. Over time, we can adopt broken images of God and pray to “another Jesus”, as the apostle Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 11.
Warning against false teachings
2 Corinthians 11:4 ESV For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
God’s Word warns us against:
- counterfeit images of Jesus
- invasion by ungodly spirits
- corrupted Biblical teachings
Indeed, we have all believed in one or more false images of God at one stage or another. Here are a few common ones.
1. Truth: God doesn’t have a multiple personality disorder
God the Father is commonly viewed as powerful, judging, and distant. Jesus is compassionate, kind and caring. The Holy Spirit is supernatural, close and helpful. Somehow, we have split God’s image into different caricatures. God does not suffer from a multiple personality disorder.
We worship One Personality in Our Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the “exact imprint” of God the Father and can only do what He sees the Father do. The Holy Spirit is God manifested in us. The original Hebrew word for the Holy Spirit is ‘Ruach’, which refers to the breath of God which disperses His life-force and intentions. The Holy Spirit is not a separate person, He is the essence of God Himself. Let us not fall for confusing images of God and worship Him alone.
Hebrews 1:3 ESV He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
John 5:19 ESV So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
2. Truth: God is holy and majestic
God is mind-blowingly majestic, sacred and fearsome. He reigns supreme in this entire universe. His thoughts cannot be understood by billions of human beings. He alone is unique and holy.
Exodus 15:11 ESV “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
By comparison, no person, no object, no animal, no water and no night can rightfully be called holy. Sadly, we have diluted and misused the word, holy, and treat God just like another mortal being. He is infinitely above humanity and worthy of absolute awe, fear and reverence. The Bible shows that both spiritual and human beings would fall flat on their faces in terror whenever God was present. Let us bring the same attitude and reverence towards God when we present ourselves before Him in prayer and worship.
Revelation 7:11-12 ESV And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Matthew 17:4-6 ESV Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
3. Truth: God has feelings
When God created us in His image, He deposited His emotions into us; from love to grief, compassion to anger, and all the emotions in between. God displays His love and compassion towards us and His grief and anger towards our sin.
- Love – John 3:16 ESV “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
- Grief – Genesis 6:5-6 ESV The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
- Compassion – Psalm 78:38-39 ESV Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.
- Anger – Psalm 145:8-9 ESV The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
God is not nonchalant when we seek Him; He gladly welcomes us. God is not unresponsive when we sin; He is grieved. He is not unsympathetic when we suffer; He empathises with us. God is not unaffected when we kill and destroy; He is angry. God has many emotions except fear. Fear only arises in human beings when our minds and hearts are not rested in God.
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
4. Truth: God rejoices over us
God is a wonderful Father and holy Judge who desires to delight over His children. When we repent of our sins and draw close to Him, there is great rejoicing in heaven. The Creator Himself will gladly sing loudly over us. What an incredible picture of the Ruler of our universe delighting in us when we choose to obey Him.
Luke 15:7 ESV Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Zephaniah 3:17 ESV The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
5. Truth: God is close to us in our pain
God is exceptionally compassionate. When Jesus came to be with us on earth, He chose to be vulnerable and abused by the human beings He created so that we can see that He understands our pain.
- Abandoned – Deserted by all those He loved | Mark 14:50 NLT Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.
- Bullied – Mocked and spat on in public | Matthew 27:30-31 ESV And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe …
- Grieved – Grieved over a friend’s death | John 11:35 ESV Jesus wept.
- Hungry – Starved from fasting 40 days | Matthew 4:2 ESV After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
- Misunderstood – Constantly misunderstood | Mark 8:21 ESV And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
- Rejected – Chased out of His hometown | Luke 4:29 ESV And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.
- Shamed – Striped naked in public | Matthew 27:35 ESV And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
- Targetted – Plotted against for destruction | Matthew 12:14 ESV But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
- Tortured – Suffered brutal physical abuse | John 19:1 NLT Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip.
In our pain, we often think that no one can ever understand what we are suffering. This is untrue. God has undergone intense anguish and agony Himself to show us that He sympathises with our suffering first-hand.
Psalm 34:18 ESV The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
6. Truth: God in the Old and New Testament in the same
To a first-time reader, God in the Old Testament can sound severe and reprimanding compared to the New Testament. This is because the two Testaments address different audiences and issues. God Himself has not changed.
Numbers 23:19 ESV God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
James 1:17 NIV Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
To illustrate, let us use an analogy of an Olympic coach. The coach will sound severe towards a group of elite adult athletes but softer towards a group of little children. This is similar to how God speaks in the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament was written primarily for God’s chosen nation of Jews who memorised His laws. They were to meant to be set apart as holy and provide a shining example for all other nations. Sadly, God’s chosen people disobeyed Him and followed demonic teachings and rituals. These were the “elite adult athletes” with all the necessary training who should have known better.
On the other hand, the New Testament was written primarily for non-Jews who were unaccustomed to the Jewish Law, rituals or scriptures. They, in fact, used to worship idols and demons. To these people, God’s Word is full of encouragement to follow Him in spite of these setbacks. He pours out His Holy Spirit to them and promises to love them as one of His own. These were the “little children” who knew very little and needed lots of training.
The Old and New Testaments demonstrate how God knows our needs and addresses us accordingly.
7. Truth: God’s promise in Acts is still relevant today
God does not change, and neither does our spiritual heritage. All His promises in the Bible from thousands of years ago still apply to this very second.
Jesus promised that miraculous signs will accompany those who truly believe. He did not say they might, He said they will. Yet there is a form of ungodly teaching that convinces us that everything in the book of Acts has died out. This implies that God has deserted His promises to us. We know this is a false teaching.
Hebrews 13:8 ESV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Mark 16:17-18 ESV And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Will we recognise Jesus when He returns?
With so many different doctrines and denominations being propagated today, there is a very real danger that that many of us have been worshipping and praying to false images of God.
Salvation does not come through worshipping a counterfeit God, but only by truly knowing Him for everything He says He is in the Bible. Jesus warned that He would reject those of us who claim to worship Him and do mighty works in His name, but who have never really known Him.
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
When Jesus was on earth, many of His very own people did not recognise Him. The Israelites memorised God’s Word and knew all the prophecies about their Messiah by heart. Yet when they eventually met Him, they mocked Him, chased Him out of their towns, and ultimately, crucified Him. They claimed to know God but ended up utterly disgracing His holy name because they had misguided ideas of who God is.
We all desperately need to know God for who He truly is and not be misguided by confusing and misleading teachings about Him. Let us seek to know God with all our hearts, minds and souls. This comes with studying God’s Word and submitting ourselves to His Holy Spirit, so we truly know God’s heart and character. Only then can we worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Jesus said that He is coming back soon. May we never repeat the mistake of the Israelites who thought they knew God, only to reject Him when they finally met Him in person.
John 4:24 ESV God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
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