Who God Is and Is Not
Too many people in this world have false information or ideas about God. Some believe there is more than one God/many gods, others have skewered, or fanciful ideas about Him. I will focus on those who have skewered ideas about Him for now.
Where do people get the impression that God is either an angry God, or a God who is “too busy” to worry about everyone? And how to people come to the idea that everyone is in competition for God’s love? Where in the Bible does it say that?! Show me a verse that says “I can’t, I am too busy” (and if anyone thinks of the story of the gentile woman who asked Jesus to heal her child and mentioned dog being fed scraps under the table, then you are forgetting that Jesus granted her request after seeing how strong her faith was (For those unfamiliar of the woman I am talking about, you can read about it in Matthew 15:21-28).
I will concede that there are parts in the Bible, particularly in OT where God was angry with His people or with other wicked people and destroyed them or brought war, famine, and disease to them, but that is not the whole entirety of the Bible. The information about God and mankind does not end there. There are tons of stories about God’s love, God relenting on the wicked when they cried out to Him, God’s mercy, God’s grace, and let us not forget that God loved us sinners so much that He sent His One and Only Son to earth as man (first Jesus taught for 3 years in His adult life and healed many) to die for us to save us from our sins. Then He was raised 3 days later so we could have a right relationship with God through Him (Jesus) based on faith instead of relying on obedience to the law like back with the old covenant. Anyone who sees God as angry and far away/unavailable is either stuck in Old Testament and should read the New Testament (and all of it at some point in their lives, while there is still time, starting with the Gospel of Matthew), or they are stuck deep in sin and deep down they know that their sin is great and can’t possibly imagine that God could still love them/love sinners.
I don’t know about you, but I think that it is kind of strange that God would send Jesus to die if He didn’t love us. It is made very clear throughout the Bible (and especially in New Testament) that the sole reason Jesus came to earth to be born as a human was to die for our sins to save us. Most people are familiar with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Not as many people may be familiar with Philippians 2:6-11, where the Apostle Paul tells us to have the same attitude as Christ (verse 5) and tells us just what that attitude was: “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus became human and humbled Himself and died a criminal’s death, for us! He did it to save us and to set an example of how we must live our lives. We must have faith as strong as Jesus, for He knew God would raise Him and that He would never die again, but live forever, as our eternal high priest, pleading for us at God’s right hand. That does not sound like a cold, distant God, or like an angry God, or like a God who is too busy to deal with our problems.
Speaking of problems, where in the Bible does it say “figure it out yourself” or “God helps those who help themselves”? The answer is nowhere. There are different places in the Bible where God offers for us to turn to Him, to ask for His help, or to give our plans to Him. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all (emphasis on “all” in both verses are done by me) you do, and He will show you which path to take.” In verse 7 we are told not to be impressed with our own wisdom, but to revere the Lord and turn from our evil ways (which makes it clear that it goes against God’s will to depend on your own wisdom or knowledge because it often goes against what God says). While you are in the book of Proverbs, turn if you will, to Proverbs 16. Proverbs 16:1 says, “We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.” Verse 16:3 states, “Commit your actions (or plans, depending on translation you use, I am using NLT) to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” Drop down to verse 9, which says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to rest in Him: “Come to me all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” This does not mean we shouldn’t do anything, since God warns us about what happens to the lazy in the book of Proverbs, but we are not expected to do everything ourselves, and are actually told to include God in all of our plans. He also invites us through the Apostle (and friend of Jesus) Peter in 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you.” And there are other places like the psalms and Philippians 4 where God tells us through the authors doing the writing (inspired by God Himself, as you will find in 2 Timothy 3:16) that He cares about us and to come to Him with our troubles and worries and how He promises to sustain or help us, and give us His peace (that only He can give because His peace is true and surpasses all understanding) and to rescue us or help us through our problems. God would not invite us in so many different passages of Scripture to lay our burdens at His feet if He was too busy or didn’t care about us. Yet He does continually invite us throughout the Bible in both Old Testament and New Testament to give our worries, and our plans, to Him so that He can guide us along the path of life, and so that we do not have to carry heavy burdens (that we were never meant to carry alone) ourselves. It is important to learn the difference between the burdens/load we are meant to carry, and when we are to go to God for help (and often, God will send a person who is willing and able to help to help us, though there are times He will help in unexpected ways so we are to stay open-minded to whatever His solution ends up being to the problem we go to Him with).
For those who question or doubt God’s love (and I admit, sometimes I do this), He tells us many different times throughout Scripture in Old Testament and New Testament He loves us, and shows it in His actions. I already gave the greatest example of His love when I mentioned sending Jesus to die for us. God tells us also in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” Jesus tells us Himself when He was on this earth as a human, in John 15:9 (the first part of the verse), “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me.” I know that when hard times come, it is hard to see how God could possibly love you or could still be with you, but we are assured in Romans 8:35,37, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
If you feel as though God could not possibly love you because of all the bad things you have done, remember the Apostle Paul, who was originally named Saul and went around everywhere persecuting and killing believers for casting out demons or doing other forms of healing, or for speaking about Jesus (Acts 8). But then in Acts 9, Jesus has a conversation with Saul asking why he persecutes Him and then after that, Saul changed his ways and became Paul and went around preaching God’s word to others. If God can save someone who did things as awful as what Saul did, then He can definitely save you; and if Jesus even loved Saul (who later became the Apostle Paul) while he was persecuting Him and His chosen people, then He can love you no matter what you have done.
There are people who refuse to believe because they claim “How can a loving God let innocent people die?” or “How can God let the innocent suffer?” They say the true God could not possibly be God because “a loving God would not let the innocent suffer, die, or let anything bad happen to them.” Nowhere in the Bible does it say that if we follow Jesus that we will have problem-free lives or be free from experiencing any form of suffering or physical death. In fact, Jesus told us if we follow Him to expect persecution (in the book of John). Then Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4, starting at verse 12, to not be surprised by the fiery trials and to feel honored to suffer along with Christ for being His follower. And earlier on in chapter 4 (of 1 Peter 4:1) we are told that Christ suffered and we are to have the same attitude He did when He suffered, in regards to suffering physical pain. So no matter what kind of suffering (or trials) we go through, we must not think God abandoned us, for just as He did not abandon Jesus when He suffered for us, God has not abandoned us either during our times of suffering or during our trials and tribulations. If you turn a few pages back to 1 Peter 1, Peter tells us that our trials test our faith and purify us (like fire purifies gold) and give us and that when our faith turns out to be genuine, we will receive praise and glory and honor the day Jesus is revealed to the world (1 Peter 1:6-7). We may not understand why God lets the innocent suffer or why He lets there be war, famine, starvation, homelessness, and disease, but we must trust that God has a good purpose for them and that those who are faithful to Him will be blessed for their troubles. Look at the book of Job, to see what God allowed Satan to do to him and then at the end where God restores double to Job for remaining faithful and speaking truthfully about Him to his friends during his trials and suffering. It is not up to man to question why God does, or allows certain things (to happen), but to trust that God has a purpose and will bring good from it. I don’t understand why God brought my mom home to be with the Lord back in 2006, but as a child of God, I need to believe He had a good reason and that someday I will understand (and see my mom again), and that God will make good come from it somehow. God does love us, but that does not mean we will live a life without any form of suffering. It does mean He will see us through our suffering and bring us off more blessed than before the trouble or suffering began, if we trust in Him.
One final thing, for anyone who ever thought there is more than one God, God tells us in Deuteronomy 6:4 through Moses, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone (or The Lord is One). That means there is no other God. Make sure that you are worshiping the Right God, the One and Only True God, and also His Son Jesus Christ. Otherwise, come Judgment Day, you will give an account of the way you lived to God and will have to explain why you worshiped false gods and refused to see or hear the truth and live by it. For those who do not have a right relationship with God through His Son Jesus, no matter how good a person you are, the harsh truth is, you will not make it to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus makes it clear in John 14:6, “Jesus told them, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the father except through me.” Also, if you have not been baptized in the name of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, or have not repented of your sins (had a change of heart and in your attitude) or will not confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior (if you miss any of these steps or fail to understand that it is in baptism that you are cleansed of sins and put on Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide you in the right direction) then you will not be saved or make it to the Kingdom of Heaven. I had the great pleasure of witnessing 2 baptisms at my church in less than a week: the first one last Sunday (February 28th), and the other one Wednesday (March 3rd). The one from Wednesday night happened at the end of Bible study and those of us who were there at the Bible study (some of us anyway, including the minister teaching the class) participated in helping the young man (19 or 20) to understand the importance of baptism and he finally understood, after talking with the minister for a few months about God, Jesus, and baptism and the other things like confessing Jesus and repenting of your sins. As long as there is breath in you, it is not too late to enter into a right relationship with Jesus. It is the most important decision you will ever make in your life. It has been nearly 4 years since I decided to be baptized (and was, since it was April 11, 2012), and it was the best decision I ever made! Jesus has been changing my life for the better ever since and can do the same for you, if He has not already. For those of you who are in a soul-saving relationship with the Lord, keep sharing God’s word with others and keep living clean lives that honor and please the Lord.
I leave you with the following blessings: (from Numbers 6:24-26, and Colossians 1:9-12)
“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.”
“We (or in my case, I) ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live your lives will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you get to know God better and better. We (I) also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light.”