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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Making God into Our Image

One means of communication is to take that which is known to explain that which is unknown. Thus, Jesus told parables which related to what people knew to explain the things of God which they did not know. However, parables cannot be used to explain all things. Metaphors such as "as far as the east is from the west" are used to explain the action of God. But all the parables, metaphors and adjectives fall short of explaining the attributes of God. Why? Because we have no example or anything that approaches who God really is.

The Greeks created gods in their own image. Their gods showed jealousy, hatred, greed and all other human failings. They murdered and cheated on each other. They were powerful but not any better than their subjects. Holiness was an unknown attribute to the Greek gods.

Many people today wish to believe in a god but cannot fathom a god who is like our God. They cannot make themselves believe Him to be omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. They cannot understand His absolute purity in holiness, mercy, justice and love. So, they make up cute stories of how busy He is when they pray. They don't ask for some things because they believe it is too much for Him to do. They claim that they are alone when they can't hear Him. They make Him of the same character and attributes as themselves.

This is not lessened when speaking of holiness. Since they cannot imagine a god who is purely holy, they excuse their own sins. They gossip about others and say it is merely telling the truth. They judge as if they have the right. They do not understand that they do not have the right to judge because they are not holy and capable of judging. God, on the other hand, is holy.

Humanity judges holiness by its impurities. We say that a person has a "holier than thou" attitude toward others because this person believes himself to be more pure. God's holiness cannot be described this way. His holiness is described by its purity.

Mankind can hardly imagine pure evil or pure holiness. There are really no examples for man to relate to for each person known who is considered to have exhibited the greatest evil has also had moments of kindness. Each person who has shown himself to be of the highest moral character has had moments of evil even if that evil is well hidden. God has no impurities. He is absolutely holy.

Mankind cannot fully understand the need for death of Jesus as the sacrifice for sin without some understanding of holiness. Sin is falling short of God's glory. Sin has a penalty of death since the holiness of God cannot tolerate sin. Sin cannot go unpunished. The holiness of God cannot be tarnished. Thus, the record of sin must be esponged from the sinner. Jesus' holy blood was spilled to pay that penalty which allows for holiness to enter the life of the believer. The glory of God returns to the believer.

Each and every sin has one payment. It is always the holy blood of Jesus Christ. Thus, we are saved by the blood of Jesus but we also will be saved by the blood of Jesus when we stand before our Lord. Our reconning of our sin is inhibited by our softing of holiness. If we make God like ourselves our sin never looks so bad. We rarely confess these sins because they are hardly considered sins if God is not so different.

And then we stay out of His presence. We are like those people who travel to Nashville and take tours of the country music stars houses. They feel they have experienced something of their country idol because they have seen his or her house. My wife used to lead a Bible study next door to one of these famous stars. She told me that people would get out of the tour buses and pick the flowers in the country stars flower beds to take home with them. But even though they had seen the house or even picked their flowers, these fans had never met the star. That's about how close some people get to the prescence of God.

The Bible records that Isaiah found himself in the Temple with the Lord. He heard the angels singing. He noticed the majesty of God. He was devastated by his sin. He knew that there was a difference. He knew he was undone if God did not purify him. He was either going to make God unholy by his presence or God must make him holy. An angel takes a piece of the burning sacrifice from the altar and puts it to Isaiah's lips. He is made clean by the sacrifice. We, too, are made clean by the blood of Jesus.

Therefore, if we continue to make God into our image, we shall ignore our sins, refuse or forget to confess them and find ourselves unable to really worship in His presence.

True cleanliness comes in the recognizing of dirt and the desire to have it eliminated rather than tolerated. Knowing that there is no one like God in His holiness should reveal our own dirt. It should create in us the need to confess and be cleansed of all unrighteousness.

Trying to create God in our own image is no god at all.

1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV) 2 "There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Isaiah 6:3-7 (NIV) 3 And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

1 John 1:9-10 (NIV) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.


Anonymous said...

A timely reminder. Indeed, there is none like Him; all things were created by Him; He is the Creator. Even Man was only created in the image of God; we are NOT created as gods, and we cannot fully comprehend all of our Creator God. But there are enough aspects revealed in God's creation to let us know enough thing about Him, that we are of no excuse of NOT acknowledging Him, as the one and only Almighty God (Romans 1:20).

As Ps Prentis pointed out, we still need to describe God as best as we can, in order that we could relate to one another in relation to the subject of God. Because there is only one of Him, and we cannot find another, we can only depict Him drawing from aspects of His creation which point to Him. We can NEVER find an object or person who truly represented God absolutely; Jesus, as man before He was crucified, was the closest we encountered; but there isn't another.

So, whether, it is in terms of nature-attributes (like holiness, love, faithfulness, etc) or personhood-attributes (like God, Creator, King, Father, even Friend), all the time, we are speaking metaphorically, or in "close approximation", of particular aspect(s) of God. Nothing or no one fully describes God.

How holy is holiness of God; how faithful is the faithfulness of God; how great is the love of God; how great is the wisdom of God? We use scenario or superlatives (e.g. triple repeat of the word, "Holy") to describe; even then, they are meant to describe the far-end of the spectrum; where is the end, we really have no idea. But one thing we are always to note, inadequate as they maybe, these human depictions, the reality of the great majesty of the attribute(s)/aspect(s) of God is/are real; and we are to embrace them. In other words, don’t perceive smaller; don’t reduce God to our level.

In one of my previous blog entries, “We are without excuse”, I stated that we are to pattern after God, NOT the other way round. In other words, we are the metaphor, and God is the object; or even whatever of creation, it is only the metaphor, and God is the object and particular aspect(s) are being pointed to. I put here a portion of that article:

“there is a patterning of the metaphor of certain aspects of the object, and is NOT the other way round. For example, on the subject of begetting, just because begetting in Man suggested a counterpart, it does NOT mean that the Holy Spirit is a female. It also does NOT mean that since there is the Father, and the Son, there must be the Mother, or that the Holy Spirit is the Mother or the Holy Spirit must be a female. We are created in the image of God, we are a creation given a certain manner of multiplication in numbers or pro-creation, but it does NOT mean that when we, as a child, have father and mother, it necessarily means that the Triune is Father, Son and Mother. We have to be very careful in using Romans 1:20 to back our argument for saying, erroneously, that the Holy Spirit is the Mother or is female, for God is gender-neutral (Those interested in understanding of the gender-neutrality of God, can read my separate article – “God is gender-neutral, He is spirit”).

Please pardon me for being crude; that God created man to shit the way we shit does NOT mean that God likewise shit the way we shit or even shit at all. We are His creation, created in His image, in some respect, we pattern after God, but God does NOT pattern after us.

COnt. on next page...

Anonymous said...

Cont. from preceding page

I am NOT saying there is no relevance of Romans 1:20 even in a matter of shitting. This is how I will look at it: Wow! Look how wonderfully the whole digestive system of man is. We consume food by the mouth; the food passes through our body, yet is still outside of our body. Various secretions come out of our body to digest the food; and the nutrients then get absorbed into our body, leaving the waste, which passes along, without its decay hurting the lining of our body, and eventually leave our body in controlled fashion. How can such a system just happened, someone must have “engineered” it. How great are His wisdom and knowledge! What great power He has! And that someone, is the Divine God. This is how men are without excuse; not because we shit, God also must shit!””

While I can agree with Ps Prentis’ “Holiness was an unknown attribute to the Greek gods”, I do NOT think our God is without such attributes as jealously or hatred, and some of what we called emotional attributes. In human terms, jealousy, hatred and love are connected “issues”; we can talk about God in terms of being with love, then we can accept use of such terms as jealousy and hatred. Is God never with jealousy? Is God never with hatred? Of course, there is NIL jealousy and NIL hatred within the Triune God; but there is jealousy of God for the love of men – “You shall worship no other gods, except your LORD God”; and there is hatred of God for evil – “God hates evil”. Although we tend to use the word, personification, actually, God is of course, no inanimate object or animal. God is also NOT a force, that some people like to depict God as, but rather God is a being, and for most intent and purpose, I don’t picture Him, less of a person, but rather as the perfect person with perfect self-control.

A perfect person with perfect self-control (see, a human depiction of God!), is who God is; and so, when God is angry (God is with anger, NOT God is without anger!), He is angry with perfect self-control; I say, “He is exhibiting holy anger”. Was Jesus never angry? No, Scripture did describe the time that He was angry. Was God to be without sorrow? No, there was at least one occasion that Scripture painted the picture that God was sorrowful (The Flood). Is sorrow NOT for men? No, there is such thing as sorrow is a good thing, and that is godly sorrow. But don’t reduce God to our level; just because we are lacking in self-control does NOT mean God is like that, too!

As far as holiness, apart from being set apart for God, there is really very little revealed to us about what holiness is, in Scripture. Unlike love, anger, wisdom, etc, holiness is most “foreign” to men, even though the correctness of our understanding, of those in the other class (of love, anger, wisdom, etc), is often of doubt. Believe me, when the subject of love is raised, people just have things to say (right or wrong is another matter), but when it is the turn of holiness, everyone shys away! Righteousness is akin to being in agreement with God, closely connected to godly wisdom, but somehow, it’s still NOT another word for holiness. My own belief is that righteousness is “combination play” of mainly of God’s holiness and wisdom, the two prime attributes of God.

Truly we cannot fathom God fully. Job said clearly in Job 11:7-9 -

7 “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than the heavens—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave —what can you know? 9 Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea.

This was quoted by Isaiah, of God (Isaiah 55:8-9) –

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

COnt. on next page...

Anonymous said...

Cont. from preceding page

Sometimes, it is how we tend to resolve “unresolved matter/loop”; some of us, tend to resolve it by insisting, and therefore, choosing to adopt notion/concept where everything is explainable; and so, some of us, erroneously choose to have “God patterns after us”. For example, in the example that Ps Prentis mentioned; when we are too busy, we do NOT answer others, so we figure, that is also the case of God, thus making it explainable why we “got no reply” for our prayers. And another example: Some people are healed, some are NOT, in order to resolve the unexplainable “matter/loop”, some choose to think of God as the Healer like the human doctor; it is either He is NOT able for the case, or He is NOT willing to do it, or He is NOT of the right mood; in other words, we bring God down to our level.

What is so wrong about bringing God down to our level? God at our level, is a God lacking in holiness; that is what is wrong with that. My own conviction is that the most fundamental and most important nature-attribute of God is His holiness (hint: what is cried out, day and night, before the throne of God?); everything is ultimately subject to His holiness. God must satisfy His own demand of holiness. Even the love of God is subject to His holiness. And correctly, I believe the love of God for men, as portrayed in Scripture is the love unto righteousness (`ahab love), a love subject to demand of His holiness, lived out {by God} according to His wisdom. Bringing God down to our level, is making God like men, lacking in holiness.

“Even so, Lord, the depth of your holiness and wisdom, I understand NOT; but I just accept you are holy, and you are wisdom. Lord, I accept who you are, and I submit accordingly, and I try to be as holy as you are, by being mindful of your righteousness; in other words, I try to be as agreeable to you, as I can. Lord, I accept that “the secret things belong to you, but the things revealed, belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow them” (Deu29:29); and “it is the glory of {you} God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings {of us}” (Prov 25:2).

God, you are NOT the “Don’t know what!”, yet I reduce NOT, you, to my level; you are God, first of all, meaning there is none like you, none greater than you, none exist before you {no one created you}, none as holy as you, and none as wise as you; afterwards, you are also love, faithfulness, father, king, lord, friend, and the many “names” you are.”

Anthony Chia, high.expressions