11 Nov A False Notion of the True God
One thing the story of Jonah teaches us is that God’s word often runs counter to our will. When God calls Jonah to Nineveh, Jonah runs to Tarshish because Jonah doesn’t want what God wants. God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” while Jonah is callous and hard-hearted, quick to rage and abounding in indifference. The word of God contradicts the will of His prophet and Jonah doesn’t want God to be gracious to his enemies. If Jonah, a prophet who received revelation from God to report it to God’s people, doesn’t want what God wants and wishes that God were like him rather seeking to become like God, then what makes us think that the word of God will never contradict our will and force us to choose whether we will worship the true God or a false notion of the true God?
We, like Jonah often operate with false notions of the true God when we attempt to form God in our image rather than being conformed to His image. Jonathan Edwards wrote about this phenomenon years ago in his work Religious Affections where he says,
A kind of love may arise from a false notion of God that men have some way imbibed [consumed], as though he were only goodness and mercy and not revenging justice, or as though the exercises of his goodness were necessary and not free and sovereign, or as though his goodness were dependent on what is in them and as it were constrained by them. Men, on such grounds as these, may love a God of their own forming in their imaginations when they are far from loving such a God as reigns in heaven.
Edwards says that in an attempt to escape the contradictory nature of God’s word against our will we often love “a God of our own forming” rather than the God who reigns in heaven. Edwards’ words to his culture hundreds of years ago are just as relevant in our day where there are many who celebrate the love and mercy of God without mention of His justice or wrath and when we choose one characteristic of God and pit it against and over all others we are loving a “lopsided” or even false notion of God: primarily one that does not contradict us.
There are many ways that we love a false notion of the true God, a god who does not contradict us. If your god is ok with you keeping your distance from “those people”; people with different backgrounds, experiences, convictions, or color you are worshipping a god formed in your image. If your god is ok with you never withdrawing fellowship from people who claim to be Christians who are living in blatant & unrepentant sin you are worshipping a god formed in your image. If your god always supports your lifestyle choices and never confronts your moral, spiritual, or social decisions you are worshipping a god formed in your image. If your god is open to and affirming of your chosen sexual orientation you are worshipping a god formed in your likeness. At the same time, if your god rubber-stamps your bigotry, racism, sexism, classism, or your feelings of superiority because of your heterosexuality you are worshipping a god formed in your own image. If your god is agreeable with your hatred of your enemies, you are worshipping a god formed in your image. If your god is good with you merely maintaining a personal relationship with him while you neglect the bride for which he died you are worshipping a god formed in your image. If your god says things like, “it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as your are sincere in that belief because all roads lead to the same place”, you are worshipping a god formed in your own image. At the same time, if you feel that you choosing the “narrow road” is deserving of some merit before God you are worshipping a god formed in your image.
If we live in real relationship with the LORD, the true God, we will come up against truths about Him and ourselves in the Bible that are contradictory to what we have always believed. When confronted with these truths, we can either reject them and continue worshipping a god formed in our image or receive them, change accordingly, and through worship be conformed to His image as seen most clearly in His Son Jesus Christ. When God contradicts Jonah he runs because he wants God to look more like him, how will you respond?