“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
What does come to mind when you think about God?
Maybe you see the angry judge, seated behind the imposing courtroom bench, scowling down at you, the guilty party, gavel in hand, ready to bring it crashing down with a death sentence.
Maybe you see the soft-hearted, arms-open version of God with the word “Tolerance” on His lips and many paths – or all paths – leading to Him.
Perhaps you see the dozing, ancient man in a rocking chair with his watchmaker’s tools at His side, covered in cobwebs since He set it all in motion long ago but no longer is concerned.
Or do you see the frantic God, sitting at a switchboard in heaven, panicking over the calls coming in, unable to meet the demand of billions of people praying at the same time?
Perhaps you see Him with some biblical accuracy – but then you see yourself, off to the side, rejected and unable to join in the fellowship happening around His throne.
Maybe you see Him as a God with split personalities, angry and violent in the Old Testament and yet soft and squishy in the New.
There are so, so many misconceptions out there about Who God is.
What He wants from us.
What it means to belong to Him.
Partly because He is unfathomable in many ways.
A mystery beyond our understanding.
He even says that about Himself!
He declared through Isaiah, ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
But even as He is shrouded in mystery in many ways, He is also able to be very, very known.
He reminds me of the ocean.
If I stand on the shore and look at the crashing waves, I can see many attributes of the ocean.
I can feel the power.
Taste the saltiness on my lips.
I can see the splendor of the colors, the waves, the beauty of it all.
I can see just of few of the creatures who make their home there – or at least evidence of them.
But for all I can see and experience, there is more.
Depths I cannot explore.
Creatures I cannot even begin to imagine.
Underwater features that would amaze me.
But for me to understand those things personally, it would take time.
I can know them through the lenses of others who have done the exploring, the studying, the investigation.
But I will never know it for myself unless I do it personally.
I can get to know the depths of the ocean vicariously.
But that isn’t the same as me exploring it for myself.
God is vast, powerful, creative, and yes, even terrifying.
He is beyond my comprehension.
And yet He invites me to dive in.
To take the time to know Him as He is.
As He is revealed in His love letter to me, His Word, the Bible.
It takes time.
And even the equipping of the Holy Spirit.
But it is so, so worth it to know Him as He is and not who I think He is.
To begin to examine the facets of His character.
To start to explore the depths of the Truth about Him.
To live in the tension of not fully understanding and yet falling in love a little bit more with every bit that He reveals.
Seeing Him as He is:
The God who loves justice. Is furious with sin. Is completely and utterly holy. And who punishes sin with death.
And the God who loves mercy. Is passionate about sinners. Longs for a relationship that does not violate His holiness and yet allows us entrance to His presence. Who punished sin with the death of His only Son so that I could stand before Him without fear.
The God who does things and allows things that I do not understand and never will on this side of eternity.
And the God who is completely and utterly good, right in all He does, without flaw.
The God who chose to not make us robots so that we would willingly enter into relationship with Him.
And the God who bears the thousands of ways we reject Him every day and still waits for us with open arms.
The God who allows suffering because we are not robots.
And yet promises to redeem even the worst things in our lives for our good and His glory.
This is the God of the Bible.
All this and so much more.
So yes, I agree with Mr. Swindoll.
My perception of God is the most important thing about me.
Do I know Him as He truly is?
Or as I want Him to be?
Do I seek to know Him in Truth?
Or do I conveniently re-create Him in my image?
Do I let Him be the guide of my life, the rule-maker, the Sovereign King?
Or do I simply pay Him lip service while I do my own thing?
Do I see Him as a loving Dad, passionate about me, fighting for me, loving me too much to let me stay the way I am?
Or do I see Him in some other negative way?
Do I flinch when I think about seeing Him face to face sooner rather than later?
Or do I look forward to that day with deep joy and anticipation?
I challenge you.
I challenge me.
Get to know God as He is.
Ask Him to show You Himself through His Word.
Do your best to look with fresh eyes and a refreshed heart.
Put aside your preconceived notions.
What others have said about Him.
What YOU have always said about Him.
And seek Him for Who He is.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I have some suggestions.
Read (or reread) the book of John, looking for His character, looking to know Him.
Then check out Romans, too.
Perhaps the last few chapter of Job for good measure.
And the last few chapters of Revelation as well.
I dare you to do it.
You will be so glad you did.