One very important thing I have come to know over the years is this: truth is a progression. As you walk with the Lord, God will continue to change the way you see Him. This is so important for the simple reason that the image of God you believe is the image of God you become. It also determines the way you show God to other people. If you think God is mean and hateful, guess what? You’re probably going to be mean and hateful. If you think God doesn’t like you, more than likely you will deal with acceptance issues your entire life. However, the more you get to know the real character and personality of God, the more of the real Him you project to others around you.
the image of God you believe is the image of God you become
When I was growing up as a child, my image of God was a bit distorted mainly because of how those around me saw Him. Many times, I would hear statements like, “David, you better watch out. God is going to get you!” or “I don’t know how much more God is going to take!” Of course, the one that really grabbed my attention was, “I think God has just about had enough of that!” I remember thinking, “Man, what happens when God finally does get fed up?” The answers I came up with just filled my heart with fear.
Those images even carried into my teenage years and early adulthood. I just knew that God was some angry, old man out there about 700 miles from Mars with a huge stick in His hand and His index finger resting on the “kill all” button! In my mind, all God was waiting on was for me, or someone around me, to step over the line – cross the point of no return – and then “zap.” It would all be over but the dying and the crying.
What was happening to me? I was forming an image based on what those around me believed. What complicated it even more was all of the sermons I heard about how we were supposed to “love our enemies.” I remember scratching my head thinking, “Now, wait a minute. We serve a God who is ready to kill us, His children, but we are supposed to love those who hate and despitefully use us? How can we do that?” To this day, this still makes no sense to me at all. But, thank God, I didn’t stay in that state of mind.
I was forming an image based on what those around me believed.
A progression of truth started in my mind.
As I grew older and learned more about who God really is and not just what others said about Him, I began to see Him in a completely different light. The God I knew was a God of wrath, but the truth of His nature – His love and grace – was now being revealed in my heart. I began to see how the love of God drew people to Him and not the fear of going to hell or the dreaded “kill all” button. For the first time in my life, I was seeing God for who He really is.
The God I knew was a God of wrath, but the truth of His nature – His love and grace – was now being revealed in my heart.
While I loved this new perception about Him, I still lived far below my potential in Him. I was, once again, a product of what I heard. People were always quick to tell me how undeserving I was, how God required a holy life that I could never live, and no matter what I did, it would never be good enough to be considered “righteous.” To make it even worse, they had Scripture to back up all of their theories and ideology. The only trouble was they were grossly misusing the Bible!
For the first time in my life, I was seeing God for who He really is.
The truth is many Christians are still doing the same thing today.
Let’s take for example one of the most misquoted verses in the New Testament. It’s found in Romans chapter three. Its one of those scriptures many people learn in their Christian walk, and sadly, wear it boldly like some holy badge of honor. The scripture I’m talking about is this: “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’” (Roman 3:10)
It’s very obvious that this verse says no one is righteous. The problem is, most people stop right there. Religious-minded Believers will say, “See! Right there, the Bible says that not one of us is righteous. We are all filthy rags and dogs in God’s sight!” While this may sound good and “holy,” the trouble is this passage doesn’t stop there. It continues with an explanation of who this verse applies to, and guess what? It’s not for the New Covenant Believer. Take a look: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law…..” (Romans 3:19)
Seeing this verse in context, who does the Bible say is not righteous? It’s easy to see: Those who are the Law. This entire passage of Scripture – from verse 10 through verse 19 – is actually a quote from the Old Testament that Paul uses to later prove a point. So, yes, while it is true the Old Testament Law says no one can live righteous, there is better news: We have been redeemed from the curse of the law! (Galatians 3:13) You see, it’s not about what God is going to do; it’s about what He has already done over 2000 years ago! The church need not stop in any verse of the Bible which condemns us to unrighteousness, but move forward to understand that Jesus became our curse, took our unrighteousness, and paid the price for us to be and live in righteousness before God!
And the truth of that revelation is just beginning.