God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.Gen 1:31
The church today has three major obstacles preventing a healthy trust in God and growth into his destiny.
Those three are:
- We start the bible in Gen 3.
- We believe that faith is based on right, that is correct thinking.
- We expect Jesus to come back any day.
All three will lead to major problems:
- We have a skewed and negative self-image and image of humanity.
- We do not value faith, but certainty, and therefore no growth.
- We think that we have done all and can now stand (Eph 6:13).
Let’s unpack each of them.
Our Image of Humanity
We belief that something is deeply flawed and wrong with humanity. We all are prone and drawn to sin and deeply evil within.
We interpret the story in the garden Eden as moral fall, and since then try to wash off our guilt. We tried it following laws, behaving righteously, and lately by confessing Jesus.
And still we see others through this lens: they are profoundly evil, unhappy, lost, sick to the core without Jesus. They often just do not know. But they will, if only after their death when they will be in hell forever. Justice served.
But for us, humble as we are, it is clear that we need Jesus and therefore we are saved. As long as we do not waver and doubt.
That leads us to the second obstacle.
Faith is Thinking correctly
Once we have decided upon, or have been told about the right way to belief, we hold fast because we fear hell like hell. We believe that if we doubt, we will fall prey again to our profoundly sinful nature.
Faith means trust, not knowing. And even knowing in Hebrew does not mean correct thinking and intellectual knowledge. It means knowing intimately, that is having a trusting relationship.
Of course there is doubt and doubt. Doubting that God exists is different from doubting that he is as I think he is. The first might lead me away from God, while the second will allow for a more in-depth knowledge of God, not about God. And still, God is bigger than both kinds of doubt, and so is his love for us.
We tend to make ourselves an image of God. God used to be the power god of Israel, defending them against their ill-willing neighbors.
He became the angry old man, later even the angry old white man in the sky that will punish all disobedience for eternity.
Next, he became Jesus, the graceful, forgiving God that gave his life for us, but when we do not accept that offer, still is the angry old white God the Father that will punish all doubt and unbelief in eternity. Jesus died to sooth God’s anger at least for those that accept him.
How do you see God: sweet little Jesus, the lamb of God, the lion of Judah, the judge?
Since we are, as I pointed out above, deeply flawed and cannot do anything about it without God, we need God to put things right.
In most crime stories, at some point the police tells the family of the victim that they will get the criminals and that they will find comfort in justice served. I love it when the answer to that is: that will not bring back my husband, will it?
Our image of the God that will finally serve justice to all unbelievers has us live in fear to leave the belief system we are in that we were told was right and will bring eternal freedom in heaven. Because leaving it, we might just end up in hell, won’t we?
Thus, we replace faith with certainty and do not allow any other thought. We have even come up with strategies to tame our thoughts: proclaim bible verses aloud, because thought cannot be fought with thought.
This might be OK if you think about sinning – which would lead us into a whole other discussion about what is sin – but certainly not when you think about God and faith.
But is there even a reason to go further in our relationship with God? Let’s have a look at obstacle number 3.
Jesus will return any Day
Our belief that Jesus will return any day tends to prevent us from new adventures with God.
Either we already believe what we have to, and it’s only our intensity of pushing into and our measure of faithfulness and obedience that keeps him from coming, or the number of believers has not reached the number God has in his head, or we cannot do more and reach more than we have reached in our faith, and Jesus will do the rest when he returns and we are transformed.
Luther, wenn asked what he would do if he knew that Jesus came back the next day, answered that he would plant a tree.
Our worldview prevents us from growth. Man will blow it anyway, my beliefs are correct, and Jesus will return and clean up the mess soon. So let’s just convert more people to our certainty, sorry, faith.
Let us for a moment replace the relationship with God and look at marriage.
I have some letters from my wife. I tend to think that I know my wife. But still, she surprises me all the time. She is so different from what I think.
Don’t you think that God is different from what you think?
I think that he is inviting us to get to know him forever better and better, and we stick to our image that is extrapolated from who we are ourselves.
We want revenge, and therefore God has to be a punishing God. And since he is more than we are, his punishments will last forever.
We want to be accepted, but it usually comes with a price in behavior and freedom of communication and expression. Therefore God needs us to do things in order to be acceptable, and even if it is only that we believe in Jesus’ work at the cross and our personal need of it.
What if – and I just ask you to allow the thought:
- Man is very good, as the creation story tells us?
- God wants us to trust him, not to think correctly about him?
- He will not come back for another 10000 years and wants us to grow instead of stand?
What is there to lose?