Avoiding Misconceptions About God (and people)

As many of you know, my opinion of the church as I was growing up was not very good. My thought was that anything church related was a joke, and some of that had to do with some misconceptions that the world might have about God:

  1. God doesn’t want us to have any fun or be happy
  • Ecclesiastes 2:24-25: There is nothing better for man than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him?
  • Deuteronomy 12:7: You will eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the Lord your God has blessed you.
  • Luke 15:23-24: Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! ’ So they began to celebrate

o   It seems to me that we were designed by God for celebration and for happiness.

o   Since we live in a sinful world, we don’t always get to celebrate or be happy, but we are promised that one day God Himself will complete His work of restoration and we will always celebrate and be happy.

  1. God requires blind faith
  • With this, I have two just a couple questions. The first: Why would God give the scriptures if He wished to remain hidden?

o   John 20:31: But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.

  • The second: Why would nature point to God if God wished to remain hidden?

o   Romans 1:20: For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

  1. God does not like science
  • This one is particularly funny to me. God wrote the natural laws and designed cause and effect. When we study nature, it leads to God. I could refer again to Romans 1:20. God encourages the study of nature. What He does not like is closed mindedness in the study of nature.
  1. God likes men more than women
  • Here I will refer to an Old Testament prophet: Joel 2 (HCSB). “After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days.”

o   Here we see an Old Testament prophet speaking the very words of God about men and women as if they are equal. He goes beyond this talking about slaves as if they are equal to their masters. God does not play favorites, period.

  1. God may have created the world, but He doesn’t care
  • If this were true, it seems that we would not see God interacting with Adam and Eve in the Garden, especially covering their shame and forgiving their rebellion! God probably would not have restored the earth in Noah’s day. Abraham would not have received a great promise from God, especially when he took that promise upon himself and had an illegitimate son instead of waiting on the son that God promised him. God certainly would not have sent us His Messiah, Jesus Christ. All evidence suggest that God cares deeply for His creation.
  1. God lives in the clouds
  • Heaven is a real place, but it is not in the clouds.
  1. God looks like an old man with a white beard and lightning in his hand
  • This would describe Zeus, not God.

So far in our study of Deuteronomy, we have learned that 1) God chooses us as we are, because of who He is, and 2) We respond to God’s goodness by striving to obey Him.

The world around us misrepresents God, and sometimes we believe those misrepresentations. Like the child who believes in Santa Clause, not realizing that he is a misrepresentation of the real man: Saint Nick. One day we realize that this big man really shouldn’t be able to fit down a chimney and our world falls apart. My question is: How can we strive to obey God when the world lies to us about who God is?

“If a prophet or someone who has dreams arises among you and proclaims a sign or wonder to you, and that sign or wonder he has promised you comes about, but he says, ‘Let us follow other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us worship them,’ do not listen to that prophet’s words or to that dreamer. For the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. You must follow the Lord your God and fear Him. You must keep His commands and listen to His voice; you must worship Him and remain faithful to Him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has urged rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slavery, to turn you from the way the Lord your God has commanded you to walk. You must purge the evil from you.”[1]

When we read this, we must remember that when we read Scripture, there are certain laws that were given to a specific group of people in a specific circumstance at a certain time in history. These laws were real, but it may be that God intended them for the people He gave them to. We should not make the text here more than it is. It is a law for Israel, particularly as they conquered Canaan and lived in the promised land. What we should not do in our current time and circumstance, is assign the death penalty to those who misrepresent God or lead us to follow other gods. Whereas these people would be committing treason against the nation of Israel, they would not be committing treason against the U.S. in our current context.

Some things about God

When I read a passage like this one, the first question I ask is: What does this reveal about God’s nature? First of all, I notice that God desires His people. He desires to be with us and to love us. He desires our love and obedience in return. Second, I notice that God allows His people to be tested. When we are tempted, our love for God is revealed. Will we strive to remain obedient to God, or will we follow other gods (lust, power, money, success) God also hates deception. Spreading rumors and gossiping have no place among God’s people. It is especially bad when the people of God misrepresent Him or lead anyone away from Him. God desires that we purge all evil from among us.

If someone here were spreading rumors about God or drawing people away from God, we would need to address that as a church.

Some things about us

God’s character as revealed in this text has some huge and practical implications in our lives. If God desires His people and wants obedience in return, then our first goal in life should be to live in obedience to God. Remember that God first loved us and chose us. We respond by striving to obey Him. He promises more goodness as we live in obedience. If God allows His people to be tested, then we ought to strive to endure all temptation like we are proving our love to God. I know that my wife will always love me. Her love for me is unconditional. I still want to show her that I love her. In a similar way, God’s love is unconditional and we should still strive to show Him our love. If God hates deception, then I should not deceive others. I should always tell the whole truth. I should not spread rumors about anyone. I should not gossip about anyone. If I hear rumors or gossip, then I should not believe it. In fact, I should go to the source and find out the truth. If God desires that we purge evil from among us, then we address problems we have as a group and as a church.

Finally, we get to this question: How do we strive to obey God when the world lies to us about who God is? If God hates deception, then He is honest about who He is. He has given us a record of the things He has done and the way He feels, and even those without the Bible are without excuse because God has revealed Himself in His creation. God is not hidden from us. All we need to do is seek Him for ourselves. This is why it is so important for us to spend time with God on a daily basis. If we do not strive to know Him, we cannot know what He desires of us.

[1] Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (HCSB)

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