Recently I received a letter from a prisoner in Washington State who had had been given a copy of my worship book: “Because He’s Worthy”. He wrote me a fourteen-page, handwritten letter recounting his life story—a story full of horribly devastating events that most of us will never experience. He spoke beautifully and articulately about how Christ has changed his heart and how he, even from a prison cell, is now experiencing the joy-filled life of Christ.
He wrote a statement so profound it grabbed my attention and I want to share it with you. His family all atheists, had filled him with thoughts about God that were negative. He wrote, “Not Knowing God, I grew to hate Him for who He was not.”
As I read his letter I was reminded that we can all think thoughts about God that are contrary to His self-revelation spoken throughout scriptures. I am reasonably sure none of us go home each night and bow down to literal idols we have fashioned with our own hands. Yet, many of us have fashioned a God in our own minds that is nothing like the God of the Bible. We can easily make up our own god, attributing to him our own, ill-informed character traits. Our lifestyle, the way we approach God, our attempts at appeasing him, can all betray the fact that we are professing and serving a God that is nothing like the loving Father of grace and truth we see in the pages of scripture.
Add to this the fact we tend to become like the things we worship. What we set our affections on, we end up, in many ways, imitating. Psalm 115 speaks of the vain idols who have hands but cannot feel and mouths but cannot speak and eyes but cannot see. The Psalmist wisely observes that “those who make them will become like them.”
My friend in prison fashioned an image of a hard and cruel God who did not care for people; therefore he himself became hard and cruel, living recklessly, abandoning his own children and ultimately serving a long prison sentence.
On the other hand, 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that as we behold the true and living God, we are changed into His image from one degree of glory to another. It will do well us to periodically examine the image of God that we carry in our minds, for is directly affects how we live. Is “my God” the same God as the God of the Bible?
When we see the God of grace, we live in that grace and extend it to others. When we see the great Shepherd, we begin to care for others from the motive of love and not law. When we see the missionary God, we will reach out to others with the love that has transformed us. May our prayer be, “Lord help us to see you as you are… and make us like you.”