I was thinking about why there seems to be all this schizophrenic, bi-polar, old-versus-new reasoning when it comes to understanding the nature of God. To every born-again child of God, it is clear that Jesus is love and is God’s expression of love. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God to us. When we see Jesus we see the Father. Still there are those nagging scriptures about wrath and vengeance and all kinds of violence that at a first glance suggest God is very angry with mankind. If you know Jesus you know that isn’t true.
Actually God has been pursuing mankind from the beginning. Our fallen nature is the source of the violence and anger and wrath and all that stuff. We have been hiding from a loving God who isn’t offended by our behavior and just wants to liberate us from all our junk. You know that is true about Jesus and since Jesus is God then we know that is true about God. Actually the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus is the EXACT representation of God. So I can read passages that imply an angry God but I know in my innermost being that He is not angry and is love. This is not the post to unpack all that but let me say God has always been the same, like Jesus. Mankind has changed. The Bible is accurate and inspired but written by many men that did not have a revelation of Jesus. May I suggest that even though the words are inspired the perceived nature of God is through a fallen Adam’s processor. This same processor hid from God in the garden and killed his brother over jealousy. Still the words are there and I believe for a very good reason.
Have you ever wondered what separates us from men like Abraham or Moses or David? Maybe you don’t but I bet you agree they “stand out” when it comes to the mighty men of God. In a nutshell I believe they had a “revelation” of “Jesus.” I believe they had a revelation of the goodness of God. I believe they “saw” God as He is not as they perceived Him. I believe they had a glimpse past their “fallen nature limitations” and saw the love of God manifest, Jesus. This is what happens to us when we are born-again. We can “see” the Kingdom of Heaven and get to “enter” into the goodness of God. We get to experience what only God can show us through the Holy Spirit. We meet Jesus. We fall in love with Him. We are joined to Him through the Holy Spirit. We experience the fullness of God through the love of Jesus. Here is a good verse for that:
Eph 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (ESV)
Here is another passage that is very important:
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV)
Remember we are looking through our relationship lens not a religious lens. God is relationship. We were built for relationship. Jesus restores our relationship. Our right relationship with God is our righteousness. He has always been “righteous” towards us. Now we get to live in a right relationship (righteousness) with Him based on faith. So this faith thing is pretty important.
Faith is our belief and trust in the character and nature of God. It is that simple. When we know God is good we can expect Him to give what He has which is good. If we believe God is bad then we can expect bad. If we trust God is love then we can expect something that looks like love in this “righteous” relationship. This is why I believe it is so important to “see” in our innermost being that God is good, loving, kind, and…way too good to be true. I believe this is what happened to these mighty men of faith. I also believe it happened THROUGH a relationship like Paul suggests in Rom 1:17 “from faith for faith.” Some translations say from faith to faith but the idea is the same. We have a “little” and we use it to have more. More what? Revelation of the goodness of God.
Could we actually let ourselves believe that God is sooooooooooooooooooo good that it is outside our understanding? I can tell yo that when you get a glimpse of His infinite goodness then this thing rises up inside of you for justice the God way. You just can’t stand for the underprivileged to be oppressed or the sick to stay sick or the hurt to stay hurt or the offended to stay offended. Wow this “Godly justice” thing rises up and you just have to do something. You are so convinced of how God loves us and wants to help us and rescue us and liberate us you will react in love. This is where it happens. This is where the sick get healed. This is where the damaged get repaired. This is the love of God expressed in the power of faith.
That is why God left room for interpretation in the Bible. He wants us to wrestle with who He is with Him. He wants us to “argue” a while about His nature with Him. He wants us to challenge our fallen nature way of thinking and question the status quo (fallen world) and look for His character. He wants us to find ourselves at the point where we will actually argue with God about who God is to God. This is where the breakthrough happens. This is when our faith to faith ignites a fire of God power to see circumstance change. This is when we know He is good and refuse to doubt or believe otherwise and we will actually defend His goodness to Him. Don’t believe me? How about Abraham?
Gen 15:5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (ESV)
Abraham gets to know God through God’s promises and their relationship. He believes that God has a character that is good. Abraham believes in a loving God that will keep His promises. You must understand that for Abraham this was a huge stretch. Any god of the time would have been an angry and supreme god of hostility and vengeance. The gods of Abraham’s time would not even associate with man. Abraham had to go against his fallen nature to believe in a kind and loving God that was unheard of in the world.
At one point Abraham has this crazy “argument” with God about who God is. He challenges God in His intentions. God has given Abraham an opportunity for a “faith test” to see if he can grow from faith to faith. Knowing the nature of God, Abraham challenges God’s plan to destroy Sodom:
Gen 18:23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? (ESV)
He goes through this “bartering” discussion where he gets God down to 10 righteous.
Gen 18:32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (ESV)
He is arguing for God’s nature. He is arguing that God couldn’t possibly kill people “on their team.” That faith thing is rising up inside of him and he is so convinced of a good God that he is willing to risk it and stick to his convictions.
I don’t know if you have ever thought of this story that way. For me it really jumped out when I was thinking about all the misleading perceptions of God, especially in the Old Testament. Could it be that God leaves the “raw material” there so we can search Him out? Could it be God is asking us a simple question “can you believe that I am really that good?” That understanding of a good God is what died for us in the garden. We hid from love and love came to the rescue. I believe He is challenging us in our fallen thinking to believe in His loving nature and refuse to agree with an ancient, fallen Adam view of an angry God. I believe He calls each of us to the top of the hill and challenges our thinking. I believe that He dares us to step out of religion and into relationship. I bet He is turning up the intensity of His desire (wrath) to call us into a wrestling match.
Listen, it is easy to believe in an angry God. That is our fallen nature understanding. That is what religion teaches to manage people with fear. That is what the devil is whispering in our ear. That is what circumstance, influenced by the enemy, has proven to us over and over. That is what our situations dictate as we question “why would God let/do/not…whatever?” Could it be that He is challenging us to the cage match of our lives like Jacob who God calls Israel (wrestles with God)?
Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to step into the ring and have it out. Maybe we are supposed to let our old understanding die and instead have a nice long exchange with the one who made us. Maybe we are to let the Holy Spirit in us reveal God’s love for us. Maybe when we insist on religion and an angry God that needs appeasement, we are not in the ring at all.
You decide. I want some faith tests! I want to get to the place where you could put a gun to my head and I wouldn’t even flinch. Instead the faith-to-faith tests will have grown me to the point that I would argue with God Himself about how awesome He is.
This post is already too long so check out Moses:
Ex 30:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord…(ESV)
Abraham had a faith that we can all find. The “gun to the forehead” for Abraham was the threat of a failed promise. Even when he is climbing the hill to sacrifice his son he does not waver. He believes that God is that good.
Gen 22:8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. (ESV)
Abraham isn’t lying. He has passed the faith test. He is certain about the good character of a loving God.