Our Perception of God: Why it Matters
A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This has become copiously problematic for our culture today for one reason: idolatry. I don’t say this to be harsh or radical, or to imply that our culture has fallen to the objectified worship of ancient or barbaric gods. What I mean is that our perception of God, for better or for worse, molds in our minds ideas about God that may not necessarily be true about him. Over time, what originally began as an idea perpetuates and is later mistaken as reality, leaving us with a self-made god.
Growing up, I was constantly missing the mark. If it wasn’t with my failing grades at school, it was my misbehavior at home. And like all good parents should, mine made me very aware of it, disciplining me so that I might straighten up my act. Because I missed the mark so often, though, and because I became so aware of it, I began to believe that I’m just the kind of person who misses the mark. I believed that that was the primary truth about me. What I didn’t realize was happening, however, was that because I believed it about myself I also believed that was how God viewed me too. When I thought about God, then, I thought about One who is always disappointed and frustrated with me because I constantly miss the mark. This became my reality. This became my god.
C. S. Lewis spoke a lot about reality in his books. In fact, I’d submit that this is the big idea woven through all his works, which is helpful to us here: reality is iconoclastic. An iconoclast is a person who breaks idols. We might have an image of God—be it from a sermon given, a book we read, a song we heard—that’s been helpful to us and grows our understanding of him. But if we hold on too tightly to that present and helpful understanding, it can compete with our having a growing understanding of God. The image once helpful, if our grip is too tight, can become an idol. In the same way, if we have an image of God that is not helpful, an image that hurts us and keeps us down, an image that we maintain either by choice or ignorance, that can also become an idol to us as we elevate one particular idea and it’ll inevitably damage our relationship with God.
But God in his mercy always kicks out walls of temples we build for him. He wants to give us more of himself, not who we think he is or who we would have him be. He can show me that, yes, while I miss the mark and am disappointed in myself, he’s not always disappointed with me but always delights in me. And he might show you that while you’ve experienced deep pain and disappointment in life, that he’s just and one day everything will be put right.
Although if we’re unwilling to search further and reach deeper for a fresh understanding and vision of God, what’s holding us back? What insecurities are at play in our lives? What might we not yet know about God’s love that would grow us and make us whole? Or what hurt and brokenness might be exposed in us that would be healed with a new understanding of God?
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