Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Reinventing God

‘Have We Forgotten Who God Is’ is the title of an article by Kate Smedley in a recent edition of the on-line publication, ‘Christian Today’.

Razor sharp in her perception, Ms Smedley cuts to the chase: “As Christians around the world fight for the right simply to own Bibles and worship without fear of death, here in the UK, we are seemingly preoccupied with making Christianity palatable to the masses. The problem is, that in seemingly 'dumbing down' the Christian faith, we risk distilling the presence of God into a 'one size fits all' figure created in our image, rather than the other way around.”

For many Christians it means attending a ‘fast moving’ Sunday service where the worship often consists of facile, repetitive theologically questionable worship songs, some prayer and a simple ‘vanilla’ message. Such a form of service is designed to avoid offending anyone and meet the needs of the congregation by portraying God as a benevolent ‘uncle or grandfather figure’, who gives people things!

Often a simplified version of God’s Holy Word like ‘The Message’, by Eugene Peterson, written in street language, to improve accessibility, is used. Sadly such versions of scripture have merely served to further distort the understanding of who God is. With only 38% of the 16-44 year old age group reading the Bible daily, sanitising, simplifying and rewriting God’s Word in the linguistic style akin to the SUN newspaper has had little effect.

Contrast the UK view of God with that of believers in North Korea, who are daily prepared to risk execution or imprisonment of themselves and their extended family for simply owning a Bible. It is clear that North Korean believers have a true understanding of who God is.

Later in her article, Ms Smedley rightly focuses on the key question: Have we lost sight of who God is? One answer comes from Cistercian monk Michael Casey. In his recent book, Casey points to a lack of reverence for God amongst 21st century Christians which he sees as 'an indication of deficient understanding'.

What are the key things which Christians need to understand about the nature of God? Here is a summary of key elements:

Ø  God is an eternal spirit…..One God has always existed as three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ø  God is by nature sovereign. He has absolute authority over the entire universe and everything in it.

Ø  God is omnipotent……all of His ways are right. Whether mankind thinks God’s ways are ‘fair’ is an irrelevance.

Ø  God is immutable…….he does not change, being the same ‘yesterday, today and forever’.

Ø  God is holy. This is the most important element of God’s nature. Holy means ‘set apart’. Holiness is the foundation of all other aspects of God’s character. God’s holiness makes Him the ‘consuming fire’ that will judge all sin.

Ø  God’s wrath is based on His holiness. He has a righteous anger against sin. Because God will judge every person who has ever lived, everyone needs the gospel message of grace and salvation.

Ø  God is literally the essence of love. His love is eternal. Because He is immutable, His love never changes. It is perfect and holy. It is God’s nature to love. In His love for the world, He Himself came to earth in the form of Jesus Christ to redeem us. Nothing less than a perfect sacrifice would do.

When believers truly come to know even a fraction of God’s nature, their worship is transformed from the banal and narcissistic to the truly genuine, because it is founded on the clear understanding of who God is, and a personal reverential relationship with Him.

When next worshipping the Lord God Almighty in spirit and in truth, singing and clapping along with songs such as, ‘we bring a sacrifice of praise’, believers should remember the words of Psalm 51: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

The Bible makes it clear that only those who come before the Lord with such an attitude are deemed to be true worshippers.
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