Why is it important, not just to think of God, but to think rightly of Him?
I remember when my younger brother Ben (whose now almost 18) was in elementary school, that there was a trend in teaching that basically said: children will learn to write best and most freely if they are uninhibited- so rather than correcting grammar and misspelled words, we will just allow them to write and praise their efforts.
When Ben brought home papers free of the red pen marks of correction that looked something like this:
Too da i wint tu skule. it wuz fun. i playd at resess.
I really thought Mom was going to crap a brick. Sorry to be crude, but there is no other way to say it. She realized something that the educational community would come to later… teaching kids that way is a romantic idea that sounds good, but it doesn’t work. It doesn’t produce the desired end.
In a somewhat similar way, we must think right thoughts about God in order to get to the desired end… becoming a believer who walks in boldness and freedom and who is compelled by the love of God. We can’t think God is mean and distant, and somehow still allow our hearts to fall for His. Whatever creedal statements we may hold to, its what we really believe about God that matters.
So before we dig in and start discussing the individual attributes of God, I think it would be good to answer a few questions that are central to our ability to do so.(If you are wondering what in the world The Sunday Sessions are, visit the Prelude Blog.)So we begin the Sunday Sessions, our spelunking into the depths of the nature of God, today with the first of three vital questions. Not only, why is it important to think rightly of God? But what do we truly think of Him? and what has that meant for our lives?
How do we discover what is really beneath all of the intellectual ideas we agree to and our religious ideas? How do we unearth our true thoughts about the nature of God? Tozer says we can discover it “only after an ordeal of painful self-probing”. I say let’s put the emphasis on pain.
Doesn’t pain just bring you to a place where it doesn’t matter what the “Greeting Card Responses” are (even if they are true)??? I recently watched the interview the Chapmans did after the loss of their 5 year old daughter Maria. The most compelling part to me was when Mary Beth said something to the effect of..whatever good has come from their loss she would undo it all to have her little girl back. The conventional Christian answer is to (as quickly as possible) point to all that God is doing through the pain, but the human answer is more simply “I want my little girl back”. It is in these moments of pain that we find out what we really believe about God.
For myself (just to give you a spring board to think of your own life) while going through the pain of the struggles in my marriage and in our separation, I discovered something I hadn’t realized I thought about God. I thought about Him as if He were grading my every “performance”. In a counseling session, I heard myself say I was struggling with disappointment. Pastor J asked me to explain how I felt God had let me down and I had to correct him and say, “no..I don’t feel disappointed with God, I feel like a disappointment to God.” I couldn’t see him as a Father who was hurting for me; I only saw him as the favorite teacher who was wagging his finger after I failed the test. I can’t even begin to tell you how that was informing my depression!
“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest questions before the Church is always God Himself….the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness…nothing is compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him.”
As believers we must be keenly aware of creating God into our own image… we far too often think of God as if he were like us… reacting in human ways, feeling human emotions, locked into our inability to see from the standpoint of Eternity. Tozer warns this is the basest form of idolatry, “the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him… imagining (these) things about God and acting if they were true…low views of God destroy the Gospel… perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”
I can see this idolatry in my own life, although I never would have given it that title. Somewhere along the way, and unbeknownst to myself, I quit thinking of God as wholly other. I started painting him with my own flawed relational skills and it didn’t take long for Him to look like a demanding Head School Master instead of my Savior.
Sometimes I too quickly point to the Israelites idiocy in making their own golden calf to worship… Come on, who would worship something they had made? Something that is so obviously not God?
Oh yeah…me. Given the opportunity of seeing God in the largest terms my little mind can wrap itself around, I still often times prefer to view him through the smallness of my own attributes.
We must keep this in check as individuals and as The Church. Tozer is right… persons and communities break down for a lack of seeing and thinking and espousing God rightly.
I will end each session with the prayers Tozer wrote in the book. I am paraphrasing them to lose the “thees” and “thous” that might make his beautiful prayers seem inaccessible. As you read them, whisper them in your heart, and allow God to speak to you as you consider your own thoughts about Him.
Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers and the wise but the God of the prophets and the apostles; and better than even that, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I speak of you freely and without blame? We know who Know You sometimes call upon you not as You really are, and so worship not you but a creature of our own imagination; therefore enlighten our minds that we may Know You as You are, so that we may perfectly love You and worthily praise You. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.