“The chief end (purpose) of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
The first time I read that statement from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, I was perplexed. Even uncomfortable.
Perhaps that’s your response as well. We have no problem accepting that we are to glorify God—to exalt and praise Him or even fear Him. But to “enjoy” God? How do I enjoy someone so holy, so majestic and powerful? It begins with understanding who He is.
How would you describe God?
Your personal life experiences and religious training may have helped to shape your view of God. Is God kind and gentle or severe and harsh? Is God personal—somebody that you would want to know intimately? Someone you could turn to in a moment of perplexity or heartbreak? Or is God more like the cosmic cop—always watching, hoping to catch you running a yellow light? (That was the God I knew as a youth. I feared disappointing God, but I can’t say I ever felt close to Him.)
Last week I described one of six caricatures of God in my book, God in His Own Image. God is not an absent landlord who refuses to get involved in the chaos and suffering in the world today. He is not passively watching as pandemics, floods, droughts and wars rage. In fact, I suggest we ought to include God in our debate regarding the present crisis in the world. Perhaps God is communicating with us through the crisis. Perhaps warning us.
Today I introduce four caricatures that misrepresent God as impersonal.
Is God a stern taskmaster? Is He like an impatient father, always pointing out, no matter how hard we tried to please Him, that we could have done better? No encouragement! Just more correction.
Is God an unpredictable tyrant with a short fuse and a violent, over-the-top response to the slightest mistake?
Or is God the cosmic cop mentioned above? Someone ever-vigilant to enforce the Law, but never inviting us to meet Him at the local donut shop?
Perhaps, your view of God is an impersonal force, as in the Star Wars mantra: “May the force be with you!” Or is God in everything around us; perhaps a sacred cow in New Delhi or crystals dangling from a rearview mirror? One thing is certain; these impersonal gods are not interested in a relationship. They could care less about who you are or what your concerns and fears and secret dreams might be.
Yes, I realize the above descriptions probably don’t reflect the opinion of most of my readers. But do we sometimes treat God as if He was not personal or loving or interested in an intimate relationship?
My cosmic cop god was an image created in my mind as a result of legalistic religious training. I believed in God. Feared God. But never felt close to Him.
Had I been raised in a family or culture with many gods portrayed by strange or frightening images, my view of God would not be someone personal or loving.
Having ministered on several continents, I have witnessed the influence of these perverted views of God. Truth is, if God had not chosen to reveal Himself to us, we would be left to imagine God (or the gods) based on our life experiences and our culture.
Of all the World Religions, only Judaism, Islam and Christianity recognize God as a person. But Islam’s Allah is not the same as the God of Abraham in the Bible. It’s not even close.
Allah, the God of the Quran, is not personal according to Nabeel Qureshi in his book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Nabeel was raised in a very religious Muslim family and culture. Challenged by a Christian friend he eventually began to search and to compare the Bible with the Quran. He discovered the biblical Jesus and fell in love with Him. Converting to Christianity was costly, but Nabeel never regretted his decision. He writes, “The God of the Bible has revealed Himself to us and desires a relationship with us—even to the point of pursuing us in an effort to reconcile us to Himself. Allah, on the other hand, has no interest in seeking a relationship with people…. Truly, nothing else in the Quran appears to indicate that Allah wants a relationship with humans. This is especially true of a father-child relationship, as the Quran specifically denies that Allah is a father….When Jews and Christians suggest they are children of God, the Quran says to castigate them.”
Nabeel describes the relationship with Allah as that of a servant to a master, not a child to a father. “We are not his beloved—just one of his creatures.”
The God of both Old and New Testaments is revealed as being personal. He seeks relationships with people. He enjoyed intimate fellowship with Adam and Eve in the garden. Evening conversations with God were the most anticipated time every day. God even pursued them when they were hiding from Him in shame and guilt. And when they were neck-deep in trouble, He threw them a rope, promising them a deliverer who would reconcile sinners to Himself. God appeared to Noah and Abraham. He startled Moses through a burning bush. Moses’ relationship with God eventually become so intimate that it was described as face to face, like friends. The Old Testament is replete with encounters between God and men and women.
The New Testament opens with God coming to dwell among us as a babe in Bethlehem. (The wonder of it!) Jesus revealed the Father to us, demonstrating that He is a loving God—with love and compassion so relentless that Jesus would die in our place to redeem us and to reconcile us to God.
After Jesus returned to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to not only be with us but to dwell in us. Can any relationship be more intimate!
I return to the question at the beginning of this blog: “Do I enjoy God?”
Yes, we are to respect God and treat Him as holy. He is not to be trivialized, but He invites us to taste and see that He is good. He welcomes sinners to know Him and experience overwhelming love and grace.
If the experiences of your life have been so painful that you have felt abandoned by God, don’t believe the lie. Accept His invitation to enjoy life as it was meant to be lived: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him will have (enjoy) eternal life.”
Join me and millions of wounded seekers that have tasted and discovered that God is good!