Who is God to you? Or let me ask it this way: When you think about God, what is the primary image that comes to mind? Don’t think about it too long or too hard, lest you ruin the experiment. I am not asking you to refer to the volumes of material you have stored away from sermons you have heard or classes you have attended. In fact, please don’t attempt to do this. I simply want to know what immediately comes to mind when someone mentions God to you.
More importantly, I want you to know what immediately comes to your mind.
The Most Neglected Subject in the Kingdom of God
For some of us, this exercise might be a bit challenging, as it seems that many don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about God at all. Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer Missions Base of Kansas City, once stated, “the most neglected subject in the Kingdom of God is God Himself,” and I believe he might be right.
My experience has been that we like to talk a lot about biblical principles, the Kingdom of God, Christian ethics, our identity in Christ, etc., all of which are excellent topics of conversation. And to some degree, you can’t really discuss these topics without at least some reference to the God around which they revolve. But when was the last time you had a conversation with friends or heard a message focused solely on God – His character, His thoughts, His emotions?
If your answer to that question is “recently,” awesome! Keep hanging out with those friends and give your pastor a pat on the back! You, my friend, are a part of a blessed minority.
But if it has been a while since you spent some time intentionally reflecting on the character/nature/personality of God, I would encourage you to sit down for a cup of coffee with King David, who is described as “a man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). He certainly has no shortage of points for you to ponder. Consider the following from Psalm 45 (ESV) alone:
- “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” (v. 3)
- “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (v. 8-9)
- “The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” (v. 13b-14)
- “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (v. 17-20)
Your View of God Determines Your Relationship with God
In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer states, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I believe this is true for two reasons. First, A.W. Tozer said it, and after all, who wants to argue with that guy?!?! Second, in any relationship, the way we view the other party – are they kind or rude? humble or proud? do they seem to like us or despise us? – determines how we relate to them.
It is no different when it comes to our relationship with God. So again I ask, when you think about God, what is the primary image that comes to mind?
Maybe you approach God primarily as a king. Whether this is a positive or negative image in your mind, you have come to identify God primarily by His bigness and sovereignty.
Another popular (albeit significantly less Scriptural) image of God is that of a loving grandfather—someone who is there to pat our heads, tell us how great we are, and make sure we have everything we need (or want).
Or maybe you, like many, view God primarily as a cop or a judge. Before I became a follower of Jesus and committed myself to knowing the Father and learning about His character, this was probably my strongest identification of Him. I assumed God was watching my every move, just waiting for me to screw things up so that He could take me out (SPOILER ALERT: I was wrong).
Obviously, there are plenty more ways to view God than the three I have mentioned here (some have a basis in truth, while others do not). And hopefully your image of God is not limited to just one or two aspects of His personality and character, since focusing heavily on a couple, while neglecting the myriad of others, leads to not really knowing God at all.
All of that said, there is no denying that your view of God shapes your relationship with Him. You relate differently to a king than you do to your grandfather. You relate differently to your grandfather than you do to a cop or a judge.
Furthermore, whatever your primary image of God might be, that identification has certainly been shaped to some degree by your interactions with others who may fit that description. As a result, two people who view God primarily as a king will likely relate to Him differently, even with the same identification. For example, if you view God primarily as Father, and you have a good relationship with your earthly father, then you likely have a fairly positive image of God. However, if your earthly father is (or was) abusive, or even simply absent from your life, then the emotions created by your situation will also carry over into your relationship with God.
Who is God, Really? The Question YOU Must Answer for Yourself
Since there are so many life experiences and external factors at work that will naturally shape our view of God (and therefore our relationship with Him) it is critical that we are diligent and intentional in our pursuit of knowing God in truth. If we don’t develop our perspective of God intentionally, it will be formed by default. I believe this is why so many children, who are raised in a Christian home, abandon their faith when they leave for college. It is because it was never really their faith at all.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples a critical question:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”Matthew 16:13-15, ESV
“Who do you say that I am?”
While our initial view of God may be determined primarily by those around us and the way we interpret events that occur in our lives, we are ultimately responsible for developing our own view about God through study and encounter with the Holy Spirit. Study the Scriptures. Pray. Ask the Father to reveal truth about who He is. He loves to share Himself with those who legitimately desire to know Him.
Don’t allow the world around you to answer the most critical question of your life: Who is God, really?
And as you seek Him out, do so with humility. Allow the Scriptures and the counsel of the Holy Spirit to challenge your preconceived notions. Remember that while our view of God is important because it shapes our relationship with Him, God does not change to line up with our perspective. Rather, our perspective must be shaped by truth to line up with the reality of who God is!
Earlier I mentioned that King David is referred to in Scripture as being “a man after God’s own heart.” Why? David was an adulterer. He was a liar. He was a murderer. So we can surmise that he certainly did not earn this title because of his own qualifications or character.
David was not a “good” man. None of us are. But David knew the character of God, because he devoted his entire life to that end. In Psalm 27:4 David writes, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (ESV). David committed his life to knowing God, and it freed him to relate to God rightly. He knew God’s character and was familiar with His personality.
God did not give David the ultimate compliment of being “a man after God’s own heart” because there was anything good about David. The title was David’s because he pursued the intimate knowledge of God with all of his being. As a severely broken man, this gives me great hope. While I can never do anything to make myself righteous, I can, with the Holy Spirit’s help, set my eyes on God and pursue knowing Him as the chief purpose of my life.
Sounds like a great way to live. I invite you to join me!
In fact, let’s have a conversation as we pursue the knowledge of God together. Drop me a comment below, or let’s engage on social media (or in person, of course, assuming we have that opportunity). I would love to connect with you!
And if you enjoyed reading this post, you might also be interested in checking out Return to Your First Love: Transformed by the Knowledge of God. Check it out and let’s discuss!