Having a Proper Concept of God
Have you ever wondered why there are so many denominations? How could committed followers of Christ, who read the same Bible, have so many different belief systems and practices? I believe, for the most part, the difference lies in their concept of God.
The way you view God determines the quality of your relationship with and to Him. For example, if your view and concept of God is based on your adversarial relationship with your earthly father it will be difficult to receive and understand how much God loves and cherishes you. If you didn’t feel loved and accepted by your earthly father, then how can you believe you will be loved and accepted by your Heavenly Father?
Even though our past relationship with our earthly father can sometimes affect how we view our Heavenly Father, more often than not our concept of God is usually shaped by our church experience. That was my case. I felt loved and accepted by my earthly father but my church environment formed most of my belief system and concept of God.
At church I had a steady stream of teaching that emphasized that I was a sinner and I would always be a sinner. No matter what I did, I would always be just an “ole sinner saved by grace.” From that assumption, I believed that I must prove myself worthy of my salvation by doing the following:
1. Daily admit that I am just an ole sinner – but I can try to act like a saint, even though I felt like a sinner.
2. I will work for God and do the best I can to try and measure up to what a Christian should be.That smacks of self-righteousness.
3. The more I do for God the more He would be pleased with me. God’s love is based on my performance.
4. The measure of my spirituality is how committed I am to the local Church.You gotta drink the Kool-Aid
The result of my flawed belief system of God was “Performance Based Christianity.” I had, unknowingly developed a law- based system of Christianity, all because I had a wrong concept of God. I had gotten my view and concept of God from religion rather than from God’s Word. I don’t blame anyone, it is just what I perceived as necessary to please God.
I think that having a Biblical concept of God is so important to understanding the Christian life that I always begin my Exchanged Life Conference (http://www.exchangedlifeconference.com) with how to develop a proper concept of God. If we have a flawed concept of God then how will ever know how to approach Him, love Him and worship Him?
In my mind there are two ways of developing a proper concept of God. First we learn the character and nature of God as presented in His many names throughout Scripture. We learn from His name Jehovah Rapha that He is our healer. God can heal our sickness. We learn from His name Elohim that he is a God of power and might. There are many other names throughout Scripture that describe the nature of God. I encourage you to do a study of the names of God; it will be a tremendous blessing. (See Wednesday devotional on 3/20/13 for a fuller discussion of God’s name)
The second way we develop a proper concept of God is to understand the Cross. Over the years I have asked hundreds of people this question: “What does the Cross mean to you?” Many would immediately answer, “The cross is where Jesus died for my sin.” Then I would respond with a yes, that is correct but what else does the cross mean to you? Most of the time I would get a blank stare because their knowledge of the cross was limited to one thing, the death of Christ.
I am not trying to minimize the role and importance of Christ’s atoning death for mankind’s sin. But the atonement is just part of the story of the cross. The cross is not only the means by which our sin debt is paid, but the cross is where we get our identity and we begin to live.
To illustrate the point, I like to teach that there are two sides to the cross. The first side of the cross is where Jesus paid my sin debt. On that side of the cross I passed from death unto life, I became a child of God, and I became someone I have never been before. Old things are passed away, all things became new. (2 Cor. 5:17, Ephesians 1:4-17). We all rejoice in the opportunity to be drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit and to declare Jesus as our Lord and Savior. However, this wonderful salvation experience does not bring us victorious living.
That’s what the other side of the cross does for us. The first side of the cross dealt with our sin, the other side of the cross deals with our self-life or flesh. At salvation our spirit was made alive by the Spirit of the living Christ (Galatians 4:6). But our soul, (our mind, will and emotions) is still in bondage to our flesh and needs to be delivered. We have all this old programing and belief system from our old life that hinders us from doing what is right.
Because of the cross three things happened that gives us a proper concept of God.
1. Christ’s indwelling allowed us to become an extension of His very life. (Colossians 3:3-4)
2. God poured His life into us at salvation, and then Christ’s life goes out through us to others. (Colossians 2:6) We become a conduit of His life to a lost world.
3. God’s design is that we manifest His very life. We are not to mimic a life like His, but rather learn to rest in Him and allow His life to flow from our life. (John 17:21-23)
The proper concept of God includes two key ingredients. First, you develop a proper concept of God by learning and knowing His names. His many names define His true character. Through His many names you learn how He works and deals with mankind, how loving and forgiving He is, and how committed He is to His children.
Secondly, you develop a proper concept of God by accepting, by faith, your identity in Christ. You learn that God indwells you and has placed the Holy Spirit within you to teach and lead you into all truth. God is not some far away deity that you can hope to please, but He indwells you so that you may daily walk with Him, have a personal relationship with Him, and that He may cherish and lavish you with His love.