Making A God

 

   One of the most important things in life is that we have the right sort of a god. Religion has a profound influence upon the lives, not only of Christian people, but of those who are under Christian influences, and those who are under false religions. It is important therefore that we have in our mind a correct, tho of necessity only a partial knowledge of God. There is but one God, but the picture of that God that is in the minds of men differs greatly. As this picture differs in different minds, we differ in our concepts of the reality.

  Within the past week someone wrote to me and spoke of God's "casting men into hell, then watching them sizzle in a lake of fire." This is a crude and altogether erroneous idea of God. Nevertheless, one who believes in such things cannot but be profoundly affected by such a belief. The heathen idea of God is often of a fearful being, vengeful and terrible. Such a god inspires fear, a terror, and often despair. The instinct of the worshiper is to try to placate such a god. The heathen may fear this type of a god, but he cannot love him. Happiness cannot come into his life through such a god. A god of this sort exists only in imagination, but the effect upon the life is just as real as tho such a god were real.

  The idea we have of God will profoundly affect our lives. The god we have is the god we create in our lives; that is, God means to us in our consciousness and in his influence on our lives what we picture him to be in our mental conception of him. Someone has said, "God created man in God's image, then straightway man created God in man's image." The Greek and Roman gods had the form, the characteristics, and the passions of the men who created them. The gods of the heathen are made in their own likeness mentally, morally, and spiritually. In olden times a Greek said, "If the camels had a god, he would have four feet and a hump."

  The development of the idea of God among the Hebrews can be traced in the Scriptures. Before Israel went into Egypt the idea of God seems to have been of a universal God, a God who was God of all the earth and not of a special people. But during the captivity in Egypt, surrounded as they were by idolaters and they alone holding the idea of the true God, he became to them the God of Israel. After the Exodus he became to the great body of the people little more than a tribal God. He was viewed in the same light by the nations round about them. It is true that the most spiritual, including the prophets and spiritual teachers, had clearer ideas of God. But we do not find a general conception of him any higher than a tribal God until we reach the era of the Psalms. In these we find both ideas—the God of Israel, and the God of the earth and all nature. As we go on through the Major and Minor Prophets we find a clearing and expanding of the idea of God. This made an end to idolatry in Israel.

  In the Old Testament Isaiah has the greatest conception of God. But it is Jesus who reveals him as he is. The God revealed by Jesus is a God of universal character. He became not only the universal God, but the universal Father.

  The idea of God develops slowly. When the gospel is carried to a heathen land it is difficult for the people to grasp the Christian idea of God. It dawns on them only a little at a time. This is true even in Christian lands. Even today the views of God held by many people differ widely from God as Jesus revealed him and as he is revealed in the Christian Scriptures.

  What sort of a God have you, reader? Sum up the various ideas of him you have and see what he is in the aggregate. How does he impress you? How do you feel toward him? Do your ideas of God bring happiness into your heart? Do they cause you to love him and trust him? Does contemplation of him start the joybells ringing in your heart and the song to come to your lips? To some people God is a giant to be feared. We do not sing in his presence—we try to hide. When we fear we do not sing. If we fear God with this slavish fear, how can we be happy?

  One of the secrets of the singing heart is to make a God who will inspire us to sing. God in reality is a God of that sort. If we know him as he is association with him will be the source of life's sweetest and most satisfying fountain of joy.

  Jesus identified the greatest source of human happiness when he said, "That they may know thee." Again, he said to his disciples, "Let not your heart be troubled.

  Ye believe in God." To him that was sufficient reason why one should not be troubled. But some people believe in God and it is that very belief which causes them to be troubled. They do not see God as Jesus saw him. The God they see has different characteristics—characteristics that inspire fear rather than love. They worship him with the idea of placating him. They do not look upon worship as communion with him, as a sweet, soul-satisfying fellowship, the source of life's greatest joys and blessings.

  Perhaps it would be of great value to all of us if we should read the New Testament carefully with the idea in mind of finding just what it teaches about God. Let us try to get Jesus' idea of God and John's idea and Paul's idea. When we have done so we may be amazed to see how much our own ideas of God have differed from theirs. God may come to mean something entirely different to us.

  Let us briefly view the outline of the picture of God painted in the New Testament. First, we are told that "God is love." A God of our mind that we as Christians fear is not the real God. John 3:16 tells us, "God so loved the world," and Paul asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" Again he says, "That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge" (Eph. 3:18-19). We might profitably spend days considering these Scriptures. Think of them, dear reader, until they mean to you in your innermost heart just what they say; until God's character actually becomes love in your consciousness. Then you cannot fear him, you cannot shrink from him. You will love him.

  God's loving, gentle, forgiving, pitying character can never inspire fear. We need not fear his justice, for his justice is only for those who will not have his mercy. Really to know God is to love and to trust him. Note particularly the following facts: Only those who will not believe have cause for this slavish fear.

  Those who have cause for fear do not fear him, as it is written, "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Therefore, only those who have no occasion thus to fear God do thus fear him. The true God is the God of the open heart, the Father who loves his creatures. He is not a God afar off. He is a God who is near. He is not harsh, and stern, and vengeful. He is high, and powerful, and glorious, yet he condescends to walk with us in the lowly vales of life. He condescends to talk with us in the quiet of the evening. He has a listening ear and a tender heart.

  He is our Father, and as our Father loves us as sons and daughters. "Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord almighty" (II Cor. 6:18). Sometimes an earthly father must be stern. But his sternness is because he loves his son and desires the best for him. The loving father disciplines his son, not for the father's own pleasure, but for the son's profit. The sternness and the discipline are the special, not the ordinary attitudes of God toward us. His constant attitude is one of tender, solicitous love.

  God is not only the God of the open heart but he is the God of the open hand. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8: 32). His promise is that he will "not withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly." He desires that we be happy. He desires that we be supplied with everything that will contribute to our happiness. Truly he is the God of the open hand.

  He is also the "God of all comfort" (II Cor. 1: 3). The Psalmist said, "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Ps. 23: 4). Paul speaks of him on this wise, "Blessed be God, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (II Cor. 1: 3-4). The Holy Spirit is the "Comforter" (John 14: 26). Reader, is this the picture of God you have in your mind and heart?

  He is the God of justice. The Bible says, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18: 25). A number of times Jesus is called "The Just One." His justice is always tempered with mercy. It is never separated from his love. If we have the picture of God in our minds that David had in his mind we shall feel as he felt. He had sinned. The prophet gave him the choice of three evils as punishment. He said, "Let me fall into the hands of God." God's promise to the Christian is that he "shall not come into condemnation." What then if God be just? "Mercy rejoiceth against judgment." It is God's delight to forgive; therefore if we submit to him we need not fear his justice.

  He is a faithful God. "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son" (I Cor. 1: 9). Again and again it is declared that God is faithful. Peter calls him "a faithful Creator" (I Pet. 4:19). The Psalmist says, "Thy faithfulness is unto all generations" (Ps. 119: 9O).

  God is the God of goodness. The Psalmist exclaims, "Oh how great is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee" (Ps. 31 :19). And again, "He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (Ps. 33: 5). "The goodness of God endureth continually" (Ps. 52:1). And again he says, "Thou crownest the year with thy goodness" (Ps. 65:11).

  He is not a God afar off. Paul said to the Athenians, the Lord is "not far from everyone of us; for in hum we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:27-28). "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him" (Ps. 145:19). And Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28: 20). And he has promised, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

  The foregoing is a very partial picture, a very fragmentary outline of the character of God. But if we study the picture as it is painted in the New Testament until God comes to be to us what he really is, and if we then enter into relations with him such as he desires to exist between himself and us, we then shall know one of the secrets of the singing heart. Too often God (to us) is only the reflection of our fears and doubts, of our consciences, and of our peculiar characteristics. In reality he is what he reveals himself to be.

  To Moses God revealed himself thus, "The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exod. 34: 6-7). He promised Moses, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (chap. 33:14). Our thoughts of him should not disturb us. His presence shall give us rest.

  We should dwell before him in confidence and trust. He is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. He is the Father of tender love and constant care. He would enter into all our troubles, our sorrows, our joys. He has said he would rejoice over us with singing. He has said he would have us without anxiety, he would have us abide in his love, partake of his peace, to rejoice with "joy unspeakable and full of glory," and sing the songs of victory and trust.

  One writer has said of the Bible, "It tells us that at the heart of the universe there is a heart, that God is love, that that love is the moving spring of his activity."

 

 

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