July 12, 2011

You Thought I was Just Like You

So says God to some of His people in Psalm 50.21. And it caught my eye as I read it this week. How many times do I act as though God were just like me? How many times do I bring Him down to my level? Surely more than I realize! So it got me thinking. What are some of the ways we might fall foul of the accusation that God made against the Israelites there in Psalm 50? What are some ways that we are prone to shrink God down to our own size? Let me list just a few …

Flippancy. When we refer to God as ‘the man upstairs’ or ‘the big fellow’, it seems to me as though we are treating Him like we treat one another; as though he were just like one of us. It’s one thing when we don’t take one another or ourselves seriously. Sometimes, in fact, it is quite appropriate to call ourselves or others by quaint or silly nicknames. But is that how the created thing should speak to His Creator? We can’t find a single instance of it in Scripture. So, while it is right and good to refer to God in familiar terms (as our Father, and as our Friend), it is belittling to jest about Him, or call Him by names that denote far less reverence than the Bible ever uses. And we ought to be careful, even with the best intentions, of doing so.

Distrust. How easy is it, when something difficult happens, to doubt whether God will really be able to come through this time. Of course we’d never say it that way. But our fretting, and worrying, and taking matters so quickly into our own hands shows that we are (at least temporarily) thinking of God as though He were a bit like us; as though His hands just might be tied like ours are. When the truth is that God is infinitely able to come through no matter what the circumstance or problem. And we ought to trust Him to do so!

Pettiness. Isn’t it a common thing, for many Christians, to become bitter over offenses committed against us … and to use God’s justice and hatred for sin as an excuse to hold on to our own petty lack of forgiveness? I think it is! It is easy to try and pass off our bitterness as righteous indignation; to be able to treat people with contempt, or talk about people viciously, all the while convincing ourselves that we are only saying about them what God would say! That was part of the problem in Psalm 50. The people were slandering one another, and assuming that God would back up their words. Why? Because they thought He was like them … holding grudges, and harboring bitterness, and behaving pettily, and so on. But God is not like that, is He? He is not like us in this regard at all. God’s forgiveness is full and free because Christ died for us. And so, when we sin and repent, He casts our sins into the ocean of His forgetfulness, and remembers them no more. And we ought to do the same.

Imagination. Isn't imagination a good thing? In most spheres of our thinking, definitely so! But not when it comes to our conceptions of God. The second commandment specifically warns against imagining God, especially in a physical sense. Why? Because, when we try to imagine what God looks like, we have nothing visual with which to compare Him except created things … which we are expressly warned not to use as likenesses of God! And so, when we do so, we inevitably end up imagining God in our own image and thinking that He is just like us … because we are all we know with our own two eyes! It would be better for us to simply accept the fact that God is Spirit; and that, even in His incarnation, we do not know exactly what He looked like. And, rather than imagining His face here and now, we ought to long for that day when we will truly see Him face to face, there and then! In that day, it will still be true that God is not like us. But in that day, miraculously (1 John 3.2), it will also be true that we will be like Him!

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