If the truth sets us free, then it's safe to say that a lie holds us back. What we believe about the nature of God is of infinite importance. We are either growing in freedom or we are becoming disenfranchised. There is one foundational truth about God’s nature by which every other aspect of His nature should be measured: God is love (1 John 4:8).
Jesus is the perfect expression of what love looks and sounds like, of what love does. He is perfect theology.
A true view of God will free and empower sons and daughters to live like Jesus. We have been designed and created to know God as love and to be transformed in this truth. But slipping into a false view of God as angry, vengeful, waiting for you to live up to His standards or whatever else can hamper your witness and your personal spiritual life.
A true view of God will free and empower sons and daughters to live like Jesus.
There are many different false ideas we put on God, but here are a few signs that you have a wrong view of God.
1. You're Motivated by Shame Instead of Love. Feelings of shame or condemnation are often the evidence that you believe God’s opinion of you is determined by how much you have pursued Him or, obeyed Him or loved Him.
First, God never communicates using shame or condemnation—those feelings come from elsewhere.
Second, you get no say in how God feels about you. God is love, and His heart toward you is perfectly displayed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son.
Third, “we love because He first loved” (1 John 4:19). Your devotional life is always meant to be a response to your revelation of His love, not motivated out of a fear of His anger or disappointment.
2. You’re Scared of Being ‘Outside’ of God’s Will Instead of Trusting That He's Guiding You. God’s will isn’t a mystery. It’s not some giant puzzle He’s waiting for us to figure out or forever live outside of what He wants for us.
Being overly worried about figuring out what God wants for our lives betrays a lack of trust that He has a good plan for us, that He is the one in authority and the one ultimately guiding our lives.
If we get too caught up worrying about what we’re supposed to be doing, we may miss what God desires us to see right where we are. Jesus also told us in Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for the Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.” We can pray with confident faith for things that are of the Kingdom of heaven to come on earth and for God to use us in His bigger plan.
3. You Feel a Need to Defend the Gospel Instead of Reveal the Gospel. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy conversation about faith, but when you feel a need to “defend the faith" at all costs, you have a misunderstanding of Jesus. Jesus didn’t live, die and rise in order to defend a set of ideals, principles or beliefs. He never defended a Gospel, He revealed it.
Jesus had one mandate: reveal His Father. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14: 911).
God doesn’t need to be defended, but He loves to be revealed. To be honest, the best “defense” of the Gospel is sons or daughters living as expressions of love in every aspect of life.
Our main responsibility as a Christians is to reveal love.
4. You Equate Hardship With Holiness. If you tend to equate pain and suffering with holiness and a Godly life, you have a misunderstanding of God’s heart.
The verse in Matthew 16, “take up your cross and follow me” is certainly an invitation to follow Jesus in every way, and trust in the midst of pain and suffering is part of the Christian life, but pain and suffering are not the point. In fact, even Jesus’ suffering and death were not the main point—resurrection life was always the destination. “For the joy set before Him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
“Take up your cross” is not a celebration of suffering with Jesus; it’s an invitation to live in the power of the resurrection. Yes, sacrifice is a part of the journey, but suffering is not the high road to holiness. A Godly life is about living in the joy and power of resurrection life.
5. You're Trying Harder Instead of Being Transformed. Jesus didn’t live, die and live again so you could try harder. He overcame in every way so you could be transformed.
Feelings of spiritual inadequacy are often the evidence that you may have a misunderstanding of His perfect love.
Jesus lived 30 years without doing any miracles. Then, after He was baptized, His Father declared, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). It begs the question, what was the Father pleased about? Jesus hadn’t done anything yet.
It was the Father’s pleasure that empowered Jesus to do all the things He is famous for.
Discipline and principles are important, but the Christian faith was never meant to be about “trying harder,” it’s about becoming sure in God’s love. Only through the discovery of God’s love and pleasure are you empowered to do the “greater works” Jesus promised and the pastor is preaching about.
This article originally released with RELEVANT in 2014.
Jason Clark is an author, singer/songwriter, speaker and director of A Family Story ministries. His mission is to encourage everyone he connects with to know and grow sure in the love of an always-good heavenly Father. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now.