What is God like?
True narratives smashing distorted concepts
O Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers & the wise but the God of the prophets & apostles; & better than all, the God & Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express you unblamed?
They that don’t know You may call upon You as other than You are, & so worship not You but a creature of their own imagination; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know You as You really are, so that we may perfectly love You & worthily praise You.
In the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
Why we must think rightly about God
~What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. Belief influences behavior. It is foundational.
~The most significant fact about you is not what you at any given time may say or do, but what you in your deep heart conceive God to be like.
~A right concept of God is basic to practical Christian living. It is the foundation of our worship, & where it is inadequate or out of plumb, the whole structure will sooner or later collapse.
~The person who comes to a right belief about God, what He is really like, will be relieved of ten thousand temporal problems.
~A low view of God is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.
~It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound & our inner attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. You will never worship one whom you do not trust in your heart.
~”Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” & goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; & that is heresy of the most insidious & deadly kind.” -A.W. Tozer
~Psalm 50:21 Do not make the mistake of thinking God is like us.
What are you seeking?
Would you like to have abiding peace?
Would you like to have a heart that is filled with love?
Would you like to have the kind of faith that sees everything- even your failures & losses- in light of God’s governance for good?
Would you like to have the kind of hope that endures even in discouraging circumstances?
Have you tried for this? Begged God for it? Gone to church for it?
Do you want to be a Sermon on the Mount kind of person who loves their enemies & worries about nothing?
Do you believe this is possible? Or have you made “agreements”?
It is, and comes from one Source, & one Source only…
It starts with knowing God as He really is, though His Son Jesus Christ. John 17:3
How do we become like Christ?
The problem is not that we don’t want to, or that we are not trying, but we are not training. We have never been taught a reliable pattern of transformation.
If you change what you are thinking, what you are doing, & who you spend time with, you will change your life.
You must desire to do the work & the HS will change you, not your own willpower.
False Narrative: We change by our willpower
~The will actually has no power
~It is the human capacity to choose, but doesn’t actually do anything
~It’s more like a beast of burden that simply responds to the impulse of other influencers
~The 3 primary influencers on the will are:
1] Mind– what we think determines our emotions then decisions then actions. We are what we think about.
2] Body– need (food, water) manifests in feelings (hunger, thirst)
3] Social Context– people around us, peer pressure. You become the average of the three to five people you spend the most time with.
~The will is not strong or weak. Like a horse, it has only one task: to do what the rider (mind influenced by the body & social context) tells it to do.
*Therefore, change-or lack thereof-is not an issue of the will at all. Change happens when these other influencers are modified.
The good news is that we have control over these influencers. When new ideas, new practices, & new social settings are adopted, change happens.
Jesus’ Narrative: We change by indirection
~He understands how people change, therefore He used stories to communicate
~If we adopt Jesus’ narratives about God, we will know God properly & right actions will follow
~We change not by mustering willpower, but by changing the way we think which will involve change in actions & social environment
~Indirection- Doing what we can do in order to enable us to do what we cannot do directly
~Peyton Manning & wet footballs-practice off the spot
~You can’t change by simply saying, “I want to change.”
Examine what we think, what we do, & who we are interacting with. What are our rhythms of life?
If we change those, & we can, then change will come naturally to us.
This is why Jesus said His “yoke” is easy.
If we think the things He thought, do the things He did, & spend time with like-minded people, we will become like Him. Phil. 2:5-11
A Reliable Method of Changing our Hearts
The Triangle of Transformation involving 4 basic elements:
1] Change the stories in our minds
2] Engage in new practices
3] Reflection & dialogue with others on the same path
4] All under the leading of the HS
Step one: Changing our stories
~“Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.” Proverbs 4:23
~Significant experiences shape us. We live by stories.
Who am I? Why am I here? Am I valuable? These questions get answered early on in life.
What is important? Who is successful?
From the pulpit, classroom, books that tell us who God is, what He wants, & how we should live.
The stories & images Jesus tells to reveal the character of God
~We are shaped by our stories. Once in place, they determine much of our behavior without regard to their accuracy or helpfulness.
Once stored in our minds, they stay there largely unchallenged until we die.
Here is the main point: these narratives are running (& often ruining) our lives. That is why it is crucial to get the right narratives.
~Find your narratives so you can measure them against Jesus’. His are truth because He is the pre-existent Son of God. He Himself is truth, so the key is adopting Jesus’ narratives. Jesus revealed His Father to us- the God pulsing with goodness, beauty, power, & love. To know the God of Jesus is to know the truth of who God really is.
~In order to change, we must first change our minds.
Jesus’ first line to His opening sermon in the gospel accounts is:
“Repent [metanoia], for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Rom.12:2 Col.3:2
~Our family, cultural, & religious narratives might have their roots in the kingdom of this world.
~Adopting Jesus’ narratives is a way we come to have the mind of Christ [Phil.2:5]. Once the right narratives are in place, change will begin. But getting the ideas & info right is only the beginning.
~”That our idea of God corresponds as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts of Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions & may require an intelligent & vigorous search before it is finally unearthed & exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.” -A.W. Tozer
Step two: Practicing soul-training exercises
~To deepen the true narratives, & make them real, not only in our minds, but in our bodies & souls. Belief influences behavior.
~Wise practices with the aim of training & transforming our hearts by deepening our intimate relationship with Christ.
~Athletic type training> I Cor.9:25 I Tim.4:7-8 II Tim.2:5
~Essential not optional for transformation & growth [maturity, sanctification] !!!
Step three: Participating in community, partnership
~Best in a group
~Because we are created to be relational, growth will be slow, if not impossible, in isolation for most people.
~Isolation & withdrawal is different than solitude which is necessary for spiritual growth
Step four: The work of the Holy Spirit
~HS orchestrates the events in our lives with the single aim of making us disciples of Jesus.
~The HS & narratives
John 14:26 John 16:13 I Corinthians 12:3 Romans 8:15-16
Two most important relationships in our lives:
1] Jesus as Lord & Master
2] God as our Father, Abba
and both of these come by the work of the HS
~The HS & soul training
-When we open the Bible & begin to read slowly & listen for God, the HS illumines our mind & gives us a direct word from God.
-Pray Romans 8:26
-As we give ourselves more & more to God in soul training exercises, our ability to hear increases.
~HS & community
I Corinthians 12 Acts 13:2-3
HS is there leading us to a deeper love of Jesus & father
Transformation: The fruit of the Spirit Galatians 5:22-23
~We cannot just grit our teeth & become patient. It is the work of the HS, developed from inside out, like a tree.
~When the HS has changed our narratives, we begin to think differently.
*As a result, we begin to believe in & trust a good & loving God who is strong & powerful. We begin to see how Jesus lived a perfect life that we cannot live & offered that life to the Father on our behalf, setting us free from having to earn God’s favor. The Atonement.
*And as we engage in soul training exercises, especially in group, our confidence that God is at work in and among us increases.
This creates an inward change that manifests itself in outward behavior. Doing flowing naturally from our being.
Come & See
~Ask ourselves over & over the all-important question, “What is it that I really want?” What we truly desire, what we are most passionate about, will determine how we organize our lives.
~Jesus has called you to be one of His apprentices. This is not because of your strength & skills, but because He knows that if you learn how to think as He thinks & do the kinds of things He did, you can live an amazing life- one that is characterized by patience, forgiveness, love, joy, & peace.