John 12:44-46 Jesus summed it all up when he cried out, “Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark. 47-50 “If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world. But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own. The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.” (The Message)
Jesus said that eternal life was to know God:
John 17:3 And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent. (AMP)
Jesus said this:
John 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (ESV)
And He reminded us of God’s “commandment” which sums up all the law and the prophets:
Matt 22:34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
And John told us this:
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (ESV)
And remember that the “propitiation” is Jesus as the “mercy-seat.” He becomes at-one-ment (atonement) with our sins and takes them into Himself and receives the wages of sin which are death and does not lift a finger to discipline us, to rebuke us, to hurt us, to defend Himself, to chastise us…NO…He forgives us. We can know forever that God forgives us. He demonstrates how far He will go for us to know that He forgives us. He will go all the way to the grave at the hands of men to show us beyond a shadow of a doubt that He forgives us. Even more than that He takes in all our sin, lets us sin against Him, lets us pour out our wrath against God, reject Him completely, consumes the power and consequences of sin into Himself so that it kills Him and…you got it…forgives us. He takes away our sin and any possibility that we might doubt He forgives and restores and saves and heals and delivers and reconciles and sacrifices and serves and dies and lifts up and so so so much more. We should never ever again doubt the nature of our God. He is that good.
Jesus came to set us free from our perspective of an angry God. He gives us permission to step into the light and see God is good, God is savior, God is with us. We get to dump our old perspective of a vengeful, blood-thirsty, genocidal maniac who kills children. That is what man is capable of not who God is. When we judge God’s nature by His actions, when we draw conclusions about who God is based on our observations of an ancient relationship we miss what Jesus came to do. We miss the revelation of God in Christ. We miss the opportunity to embrace our Father, live in Jesus, be filled with the Holy Spirit and walk this Earth as a Child of God.
So what do we do with all those images of God that are inconsistent with Jesus? First recognize Jesus is the truth, period. Then let the Holy Spirit open your eyes in amazement to a Love that exceeds your capacity for understanding.
Imagine a great diplomat (Bill) who goes to another country to establish a relationship. Bill is desperate to help this country with all sorts of humanitarian aid. They have suffered great loss in famine and natural disaster. Bill loves these people and knows that he can make a huge difference in their lives with the resources of his country. On Bill’s first visit he wants to make sure he honors these people. He wants them to know that their interests are his interests. He wants them to know that their values are his values. He will do anything to ensure a great start to a lasting relationship. He so much wants to help them that he will comply with any of their customs or practices so they will know he cares for them.
When Bill arrives at the airport he is met by a group of leaders. The head of the State Department comes up to Bill and spits in his face. Bill is astonished. He is completely taken off guard. He looks at his interpreter and the interpreter has read his mind. He says this is the custom of these people. If Bill doesn’t return the gesture it will insult his hosts. In an instant Bill processes a list of options. He can refuse on the grounds of personal integrity. He can refuse and suggest that they need to comply with his customs since they are (of course) more civilized. He can comply with their customary greeting but what will the people at home say? What will happen when this hits the news? They won’t understand will they? Someone will see this exchange and declare Bill has lost it. Maybe someone who doesn’t like Bill will suggest that Bill’s character is in question. What if people begin to suggest that Bill is actually uncivilized or rude or gross?
Bill processes quickly and remembers his purpose, the hurt people, the desperate need for help and his passion for the needy. He spits it the guy’s face.
Over time this relationship grows and grows. Some years later Bill tells this statesman that he didn’t like the whole spitting thing. The statesman knows Bill’s heart and is moved to tears. He declares “what a man of great love to do something that was so contrary to his person just because he loves me.” The two men embrace and share a love for each other that goes far beyond agreements between countries or supplying food or helping the needy. Their love is deep, way deep. Their love is intimate and personal. They are one in spirit and nothing could ever come between them. They have shared and enjoyed life together.
Can you “see” that this is what God has been doing with us all along? Can you see that God “appears” to be something that is contrary to His nature because of His desperate love for us? Jesus became sin, looked like sin, looked like a criminal, was called a sinner, hung out with sinners, saved sinners, forgave sinners, lived with sinners, had relationships with sinners, called sinners His family…and was not a “sinner.” God is not a murderer or a destroyer or a punisher or a genocidal godfather trying to rid the planet of “sinners.” He loves us all. He loves us so much that He will come all the way down to our level to prove His love for us.
I hope you can embrace this image of God. It is the image that Jesus reveals to us. It is the true image of God. It is the good news that God is good. It is the gospel that Jesus is with us. It is the glory of God in us. He still meets us where we are today just like He did then. Let Him in so He can show you Himself.