What is God Like?
True Narratives Smashing Distorted Concepts
“God is Love”
Our father who is as near as the air we breathe, we your children are often troubled in mind, hearing within us at once the affirmations of faith and the accusations of conscience. We are sure that there is in us nothing that could attract the love of One as holy and as just You are. Yet You have declared Your unchanging love for us in Christ Jesus. If nothing in us can win Your love, nothing in the universe can prevent You from loving us. Your love is uncaused and undeserved. You are Yourself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved. Help us to believe the intensity, the eternity of the love that has found us. Then love will cast out fear; and our troubled hearts will be at peace, trusting not in what we are but in what You have declared Yourself to be. Amen.
False narrative: God only loves us when we’re good
~God’s love is conditional, depending on how He feels about us.
~He turns away from us when we’re sinning & the only way to get Him to turn back around is through good behavior.
Have you heard something similar to the “swivel-chair” narrative in your own life?
The world of performance-based acceptance
~We learn performance & conditional love from very early on in life.
[We must teach our children that their actions & not their identity is being evaluated]
~We learn from the world that our acceptance, value, & worth are based on external talents, abilities, & performance. We project this on to God [Psalm 50:21].
~Think of how people answer the question, “What must you do to get God to like, favor, & bless you?” People generally say things like “I should go to church.”
Think about that word choice. Where does that come from?
Has the performance-based narrative been a part of your experience? Example?
~We think we can control how God feels about us by doing those things on the list & avoiding sin.
~Legalism- the attempt to earn God’s favor or avoid God’s curses via pious activities.
This is superstition.
~Performance-based acceptance is a dominant narrative for many of us despite the fact that it leaves us in a state of constant uncertainty & anxiety.
~The good news is that this is not Jesus’ narrative & He seemed to go out of His way to show us this by word & action.
Do you sometimes feel that God’s love depends on your behavior?
~Nowhere does the Bible tell us that God only likes us when we’re doing good things & not sinning.
> A God who welcomes sinners
–Matthew 9:9-13 Calling Matthew the tax collector to follow Him
–They were thought of as traitors & cheats
-Rabbis were normally very selective when choosing disciples
-Jesus dines with him
-The religious leaders did not approve of this at all
If someone were to look at the kind of people you spend time with, what would they assume about your main narratives?
-But Jesus says He came for the sick, the unrighteous. He says-toungue in cheek-that He did not come for the “righteous” [self-righteous].
-We say, “Maybe He can forgive & love them if they promise to improve.” But this is not what Jesus taught. In actions & words He proclaimed that God loves sinners-as they are, & not as they should be.
> God loves sinners
-John 3:16-17 Romans 5:8
“The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving
persons with God Himself at the very center of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant.” [Eph.2:19-22; 3:10] -Dallas Willard
-We yearn to be loved without condition
The prodigal father
~Prodigal means recklessly extravagant.
~Asking for your inheritance was like wishing your dad dead.
~Luke 15:20 God looks on us with compassion even when we have done the very worst to God we can possibly do. When we give Him the finger, He just hugs us tighter.
~It was disgraceful to hike up your robe & run.
~Could’ve had son stoned, but hugged & kissed him- a sign of forgiveness.
~Robe, ring, shoes- signs of restoration, the rights of a son.
Position restored. Lost nothing. Deserved none of it.
~It appears God is very fond of sinners [not sin, He hates it].
The elder brother & me
~The second half of the parable is aimed at the religious leaders who did not approve of eating with “those people”. It was aimed at the ones not comfortable with God’s unconditional love for others. Think of Jonah.
~The elder son had all the privileges & presence of his dad, but did not like it that grace was being shown to “this son of yours”- he refuses to call him his brother.
~The chief point is that it is not our sin that separates us from God, it is our self righteousness. Some would say it is not our sin, but all the things we do, even good, to earn favor & position with God. It is a refusal of grace, & it does not turn God from us, but us from God.
~Sometimes it’s not God’s grace towards rebels we don’t like, rather we have difficulty with it being shown to us. The earning favor narrative is so deeply embedded, that it’s hard to just let go, accept, & rest in it- in what He’s done for me.
The truth about God
~Love (III) by George Herbert
Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of sin and dust
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, & smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”
“Truth Lord, but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.
Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, Good will towards men.
~We are worthy because God says we are, through His Son, not through anything in me. So it is we who refuse God. He will never refuse a contrite heart. This must be more than mere belief, even the demons believe & tremble, it must be faith that takes hold.
~”Just be with Me. I don’t need you to do anything for Me. My desire is for you to love Me & let me first serve you.”
~Then we will serve others & obey Him as a response to God’s love, not out of motivation by guilt. Love is the great & long-lasting motivator, not guilt, shame, or fear.