Is Your God Too Small?
From the series God As He Longs For You To See Him
What comes to your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you. Do you believe that? Today on Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram, Chip explores how we tend to view God...and how our perception of Him radically alters our view of reality.
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About this series
God As He Longs For You To See Him
How would you describe God!? Awesome? All Powerful? Creator? While we cannot know Him exhaustively, we can know Him truly. And God longs for you to see Him as He truly is. This fascinating series studies seven attributes of God. As you begin to see God for who He really is and what His true desires for your life are, it will change the way you pray, the way you live, and the way you think about the world around you.More from this series
The year, as best I can figure it out, was about 1961, maybe 1962. I was about seven or eight years old and back then family vacations, where you have the big, blue station wagon. And it was a long trip from Ohio to Virginia. And so we folded down the back seats and we had this little pad that went all the way in the back and my parents drove all the way through the night. I never knew why, but I now know.
And there were three of us kids and mom and dad would trade off on who would drive. And I still remember, maybe until the day I die, because mom had just traded with dad, he was going to do the duty, and you had to rotate. And we left the back window open so that you could lay back in the station wagon, feel the warm air, and then you could look straight up and see the sky.
And I was laying just like this and my mom was laying right next to me. And it was one of those nights, it was absolutely pitch black, no city lights, no cars on the highway, it must have been in the wee hours of the morning.
And I had one of those times that we probably all remember, a very intimate conversation with my mom and I felt so secure and so loved and I still remember I had my hands behind my head and we were both looking at the stars.
And I did what eight-year-olds do sometimes. I said, “Wow. Wow. Who made all of that?” And my mom put her arm around me and she said, “Chip, God made all of that, and much more.” And then I asked that question that probably parent knows is coming one day, and I said, “Mom? What is God like?”
Now, I’ve got a question for you. If your eight-year-old son or daughter or grandson or granddaughter or nephew or niece – if a little eight-year-old came in a very vulnerable moment, because I’m going to tell you, whatever she was going to tell me, at eight years old, I was naïve, I was vulnerable, whatever she said, I was going to buy it. I trust my mom. So it’s going to be pretty important that what she tells me is accurate.
And what I want to ask you right now is: What would you tell an eight-year-old in one sentence if they asked you, “What is God like?” What would you say?
If you are wondering, I have put some notes that might help you because I want you to do a little work. In the next line in my notes, I asked the question: What words would have to be in this one sentence, explaining it to your eight-year-old?
Well, He’s loving, He’s holy, He’s kind, He’s compassionate, He’s infinite. Ooh, gosh, how are we going to explain that one to an eight-year-old? What concepts would be very hard or aspects, to get your arms around, how do you take this infinite, eternal, triune God and explain it to an eight-year-old in a way that, for where they are at, they could fully grasp, not exhaustively, but accurately, who God is? What would you say?
Here’s my premise: If it’s not clear to you, it is going to be very foggy to them. The clearer your understanding of who God really is, not what you think Him to be, not even what you have heard Him to be, but the clearer you are on who He actually is, the clearer it will be to those you explain it to.
And you say, “Well, what’s the big deal? Is this that important?” Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and I know I might be subject to exaggeration on occasion in my life. Hyperbole, even. But I am going to make a statement and I think you can take this to the bank. Your view of God is the absolute most important thing about your life.
Nothing in all your life will impact your relationship to God, your relationship to people, your self-view, your decisions, your purpose, everything in your life, consciously or unconsciously, comes back to one thing: Who do you privately conceive God to be in your heart?
Why is that so important? Look at your notes with me. I John chapter 3. It’s a very interesting passage. The apostle writes and he says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God and we do not as yet know what we will be like, but we know that when He appears,” when Jesus returns, “we shall be like Him” – why? “for we shall see Him as He is.”
Theologians have a big word for this but the point is: The moment when you see Jesus unveiled, in all of His glory, whoo, you will be transformed and you will be like Him.
In fact, the apostle Paul, II Corinthians chapter 3, as he is trying to explain the difference between the Old and the New Covenant. It says, “But we all,” New Testament believers, “with unveiled faces beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
In fact, what he is saying is: Spiritual growth, transformation, becoming like Christ, sanctification, all those words, at the heart of it is when you get a glimpse, an accurate picture of exactly who God is, in your experience, and each of those glimpses produce a transformation, where your life, your heart, your attitudes, your soul becomes progressively like Christ.
Nothing is more important than seeing God, not as you perceive Him to be, but as He actually is.
A.W. Tozer, one of my favorite, tiny, little books called The Knowledge of the Holy, on page one, writes this: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.”
Listen to this, “Worship is base or pure as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason, the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself. And the most portentous fact about any man,” and I would add, any woman, “is not what he or she, at any given time, may say or do but what he, in his deep heart, conceives God to be.”
Just hypothetically, what if he’s right? What if this is true? What if the most important thing about your life, your future, your relationships, and all that you are is whether you have a clear, accurate picture of who God is?
He goes on in this quote and he says something that fascinates me and I believe it’s absolutely true. He says, “We tend, by a secret law of the soul, to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.”
We are going to start a journey together and for the next eight weeks, my goal, as best we can, is with vigor and passion, we want to see God with 20/20 vision.
As much as it is possible for human beings to get an accurate, clear picture of who the Creator of the universe is, what exactly He is like, we want to encounter or see or embrace and know God as He is, because what you’re going to learn, until you know Him as He is, you will never become all that He has created you to be.
Now, if you’ll open your notes, you’re going to see that I have put, basically, a little study guide together. And if you see a lot of verses in here and feel somewhat overwhelmed, that’s good. It’s by intent.
This is a basic study guide to help you see God with 20/20 vision. I’m not going to cover all these verses, but I’m going to cover more than you ever dreamed I would try in one hour.
I want you to walk out of here with a sense of overwhelmedness, of truth pouring on your soul, where you realize God is so much bigger, so much more holy, so much more loving, so much more wise. I want you to walk out of here feeling like, I’m only getting a little thimble dip into the character and into the love of God and there are buckets available. There are vats available to know Him.
And to do that, this is purely introductory. And then in the next eight weeks, we are going to, as though we could, though we can’t, examine the character of God as though His character were a diamond and we will look at different facets called “attributes” of what He is like, and how understanding and applying them will literally transform your life, transform your prayers, transform your relationships.
But this basic study guide is going to begin with three facts that are just very basic that lead us to three questions that we need to ponder. And so if you have a pen, pull it out, because I want you to jot some notes because I will give you a homework assignment. You will never discover who God is by listening to someone else. You will discover who God is when you dig and we will discover exactly how to do it.
So three facts we need to consider if we are going to see God with 20/20 vision. Fact number one is that God is not like us. Let me just repeat. God is not like us. We are made in His image and there are similarities but God is not like us.
Now, in the next few minutes, I am going to overwhelm you with passages of Scripture. And if you feel like you are drinking out of a fire hose, it is with complete intentionality.
I’m going to ask you later in this message to look up each of these verses yourself so that God can speak to you directly. But I am just literally going to let the truth pour forth so that you have this sense of being backed up and going, Whoa. Maybe my God was too small.
And if I was trying to convince you from Scripture that God is not like you, I would start in Isaiah 40 and I would ask you to follow along as I read where God is speaking, “‘To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look at the heavens. Who created these?” he says. “He brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and might and strength, not one of them is missing.
“Why do you say, O Jacob and complain, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my cause is disregarded by my God?’ Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord, Yahweh, the I AM THAT I AM, is the everlasting,” or eternal, “God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and His understanding no one can fathom.” He is not like us! People get tired; God never gets tired. We get weary; God never gets weary. We don’t understand. God never has a question come to His mind. He is all-powerful, He is all-knowing, He is all-wise. He is not like us.
On your own, please, check out II Samuel 7:22 and then the passage that rings my bell, if you will, about how different God is is what Paul writes as the doxology of one of the greatest books in the Bible.
After describing the free will of man and the sovereignty of God and the complexity of all of life, he steps back and says, “Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?’” Answer – no one. “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” Answer – no one. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever and ever! Amen.”
From Him, God is the source of everything. Through Him, He is the instrumental cause of all that exists and, ultimately, it’s to Him, for His glory. He is not like you, He is not like me. And we get that, that’s step one. We tend, unconsciously, to think that God is, we think of a Mother Teresa. She is so loving. Well, I wonder what God is like. He must be one hundred times more loving that Mother Teresa. Wrong.
As loving as Mother Teresa is or your mother or a great friend, the love of God is in a different category! It is unfathomable! The love of Mother Theresa is like a little tiny thimble and God’s love is like the oceans of all the worlds of all the planets in all the universe. He is not like us. That’s the first step to understanding Him.
The second is to consider fact number two. Left to ourselves, we tend to reduce God to manageable terms. In other words, we shrink Him. Left to ourselves, there is this great, grand, awesome, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy God and it makes us so uncomfortable we go, Zzzzip! Zzzzip! And we want to find a box and we want to tame Him and we want to see Him and we want to manage Him.
And then instead of falling down as servants before this awesome God, we try to get Him to be our servant and use Him. And you say, “Ingram, you’re getting a little strong here. I can’t believe you would say that about me. I’m mildly offended!”
Well, it’s true of all of us. Listen to Romans chapter 1 and watch the progression of the invisible, immortal, awesome God and what we, as people, do. The apostle Paul writes, “For although they knew God,” they had it clear, “they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their,” notice where the change occurs, “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools,” and watch the exchange, reductionism, “they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Do you see it?
Left to ourselves, we reduce God to manageable terms. Now, notice there is a very long passage: Job 38 to 42. I would challenge you, lovingly, gently if you want to see this process, get yourself a Diet Coke, a cup of tea, Santa Cruz Roasting, put your feet up, and read Job 38, 39, 40, 41, and 42. And you will watch a series of people grapple with how great God is and they will, one by one, put Him in different little boxes that are manageable.
The last passage here is Exodus 32:1 to 6 and this is the classic passage. This is what we all do. Do you remember the story of Moses? And there is all this power, they have seen God’s power. The Red Sea parts, okay. The cloud by day and you have the fire by night. They have manna.
Well, Moses is going up to get the Ten Commandments and while Moses is away, the cats are going to start to play.
Follow along – Exodus 32:1 through 6. And what I want you to listen for as I read is how, because of the uncertainty and the unknowing and the problem with not being in control, how this group of people, although they have seen the hand of God, miracles, and rescue, how they reduce this God that they can’t see, with all this power, who just delivered them, into something that they can control.
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him.’” He’s AWOL.
“Aaron answered them, ‘Well, take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and they brought them to Aaron. And he took what they handed him and he made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioned with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ When Aaron saw this,” that people were starting to worship, “he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow we will have a festival to the Lord.’ So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. And afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”
And the revelry here is not like a worship service. It had to do with base sensuality, it had to do with casting off restraints, it was a party not unlike Animal House.
Now, did you notice what happened? “We can’t see this God, and so we are going to take something that we have and we are going to make it, and then we are going to call it god, and then we are going to worship it, and then we are going to create religion – burnt offerings to it – and then we are going to create religious exercises that we really want to do anyway in the name of religion.”
It happens all the time. Now you’re saying to yourself, Well, you know, I don’t make idols. I can’t remember the last time I went home and said, “Excuse me, honey! Go to the back bedroom, going to bow down to the statue in the kids’ bedroom forty-five times. I think it might do some good.”
Now, you don’t do that. I don’t do that. You know the idols we make? We take this God of the Bible who is all-wise and powerful and we shrink Him down. And so what we do is we make Him the self-help genie.
And instead of worshipping Him and knowing Him and us being servants, who want to understand His mission and following Him, by faith, not being able to see, and He is totally not tame and we can’t control Him, and He is awesome and powerful, and we trust.
We, little by little, work the verses around and we come to the conclusion that the real goal in life is to be happy. Happy, happy, happy, happy, happy. The real goal in life is to be fulfilled.
And so we take the Bible verses and God and we mold Him around and we say, “Let’s see, if we read the Bible in the morning, if we pray a few prayers, if we give some money, if we go on a missions trip, if we read some Christian self-help books, we are going to have these unbelievable, intimate, deep marriages. All of our kids are going to turn out right. They are never going to have any problems. We are going to be upwardly mobile in our jobs. We’ll never be depressed, we’ll never be sad, bad things won’t happen to us. Life will be wonderful if we just obey.”
And ultimately what we are saying is what we worship is our own happiness. What we have said is most important is our personal fulfillment and we have created and reduced a God who is supposed to fulfill our agenda. And then when our friends get cancer and our kids don’t turn out right and we don’t have this incredible bliss in a fallen world with our marriage, then what do we do? “What’s the deal, God? I have been going to church regularly. I pray, I’m giving, I’m…”
And we have a little molten calf. I’ve got news for you. That’s not the God of the Bible. He may give you a great marriage, your kids may turn out great, but you live in a fallen world and the goal of worshipping Yahweh, the goal of knowing and understanding Jesus the Messiah is that He is all that there is. He is the way and the truth and the life and we are disciples and we follow Him and we do what? We die to ourselves daily and there is an agenda.
And His promises are: In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer; I am with you and I will give you peace and I will help you through the troubled marriage and I will give you grace. And this health and wealth and fulfillment gospel is idolatry. And there are a lot of people very disappointed with God because they have been taught or believed that the Bible promised a lot that it never did.
Actually, it promises a lot more. There is a lot more to life than fulfillment.
The second thing we see in our day, by way of reducing and reduction of God is what I call the new “salad bar religion.” With the pluralism that’s happened, I remember sitting on the plane with a young gal, probably late twenties. And we began to talk and I was opening my Bible and reading a little bit and she goes, “Oh! Are you spiritual?” And I said, “Well, yeah! Actually, I don’t want to get into it, but everyone is spiritual.” She said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, we have a Spirit that resides in us and there is a vacuum in our heart and God wants to have a relationship with everyone!”
“Oh, wow! Well, we have a lot in common!” I said, “Well, tell me a little bit about you. What do you believe?” She goes, “Everything!” I said, “Well, what do you mean ‘everything’?” She goes, “Oh, everything!” And she named the group and it’s a cult and she says, “Uh, yeah. I just, you know, I like this part of Buddhism and I think that’s really cool and I feel good when I do that. And Judaism brings that. I like that. Jesus. You know, He’s got some really nice stuff. There’s some stuff I don’t care for but I like this out of that. And, actually, I dipped into Hinduism and I’m not sure, maybe I have had three or four, six former lives. I’m not quite sure but I kind of like the reincarnation. I like this over here, the heaven part I like. The hell part I don’t. The justice, I don’t think God could be like that. I think He’s always loving.”
And she created this amazing god out of the salad bar of all religions, picked what she wanted and said, “I’m spiritual!” Could I help you? Who is she worshipping? Who is she worshipping? She is worshipping herself. She has, by fiat logic, said, “I must be all-knowing, I must be all-wise, I must be all-powerful, and I must know all that there is to see the truth that is truth in all the different forms of men reaching after a god. And I am the one who will determine what that is and I am the center of the universe and I will make up all my rules so that I can ‘be happy,’ therefore, I am god.”
If you are going to see God with 20/20 vision, number one, you need to understand, He is not like you and He is not like me. And left to yourself, you will have an unconscious tendency to reduce Him into manageable terms.
Is it really possible to completely see God just as He is? Can we really, in this life, pull back the curtain and the shroud of mystery and say, “I have seen all of God!” And the answer is no and yes. I’m trying to keep it fairly confusing. No and yes, is the answer.
And you say, “Chip, what do you mean by ‘no’?” Follow along, carefully. Notice what it says in Exodus 33. “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘Show me Your glory.’” Translation: I want to see all that You are. “And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, Yahweh,” or, “the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.’”
So to answer the question: Can you see all of God, exhaustively, fully, as He is – and stay alive? You see Him for who He is. He is so grand, so holy, so majestic, so totally other. If you ever saw Him, whoo, you’re toast.
And yet, we are not going to look at Him, but did you notice I put some other verses down there? John 4:24 says the Father is actually seeking and pursuing people to be worshippers of His in spirit and in truth.
And in John 14, we alluded to it during the Lord’s Supper, the disciples were having this struggle. They had come to believe that He was, in fact, God the Son. And it’s the very last night together and Thomas, Jesus says, “I’m going in a way that you know and da, da, da,” and Thomas says, “Hey, time out, Lord. What do you mean, ‘The way that we know’? I don’t get this. Show us the way.”
And Jesus, I’m sure, with compassion and His head tilted said, “Thomas, I am the way. And not only that, I’m the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me. And don’t you know by now that the Father and I are one?”
And then Philip raised his hand and he said, “Lord, show us the Father! I don’t get this, man, you’re talking in circles. Give us a break. If this is our last night, I’m getting really concerned. Show us the Father!”
Do you remember what Jesus said? He said, “Philip, how long have we been together? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” You see, note this very carefully, you can know God truly, but not exhaustively. What you know of Him can be one hundred percent accurate, but because of who He is, you can never know all of Him.
Even to the point, are you ready for this? A lot of people think that heaven is going to be filled with people floating on clouds, drinking iced tea. That is not a biblical view of heaven. There will be service, there will be relationship, but God, His love is infinite; His holiness is infinite. You know what infinite means? It means you look down the bottom of this well and there is no bottom at all.
It means that for eternity upon eternity upon eternity upon eternity, you are getting to know Him and see Him, but you will spend all the rest of eternity probing in to the goodness and the love of God and the holiness of God and the majesty of God.
And through all eternity, you will learn and you will grow and you will be in awe. That’s why so much worship is happening in heaven. It’s not like they are just having ongoing church services the whole time. It is that you will see God and see Him ever expandingly, but He is infinite; you will always be finite.
You will live forever but you had a beginning; God had no beginning. He is totally other. That’s why the word holy is used of Him. It doesn’t mean just that He is pure and righteous. Holy means He is other.
I can just see that some of your heads are hurting right now. This is good! Because we are growing up in a Christianity where the only thing that matters is how you feel. And God gave you a head and a heart and hands and He wants to transform all of them. That’s why He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength.”
And so is it possible to completely see God just as He is? No. Not exhaustively. But truly.
Final point I want to make is, How does it work? How can I see Him in this fallen world, in this body? Listen very carefully. Okay? The story of the Bible, put very simply, is that this high, holy God created the world. There was a coup and mankind rebelled against God that produced a chasm between God and man. The Bible calls it sin or missing the mark.
God, out of His great love before the foundations of the earth knew that we would rebel and so the Trinity had a conversation and the Son said, “I will go and I will die in the place for all the people out of our love. They don’t deserve it. The only way they will have relationship with a pure and holy God is by a perfect sacrifice. I will go and I will live upon the earth, I will live a perfect life, I will raise the dead, I will fulfill seven hundred prophecies so it is objective, and they will know that I am, in fact, God. And then I will give up my life and I will die upon the cross, Father, You could pour out Your just wrath on Me. Everything they deserve, I will take. And I will be their sin payment.
“And then, so they know it’s true, I will rise from the dead, but it won’t be in secret. I will walk upon the earth for forty days for over five hundred witnesses in space-time history, and then I will commission them and I will empower them and then those who come to believe, the instant they believe, the Spirit of God will come into their heart and to their life. And they will be adopted into God’s family, they will be placed in the body of Christ, they will be sealed with the Spirit of God, they will be granted spiritual gifts, and that Spirit, dwelling in them, will manifest the very presence and power of Jesus.
“And He will lead and guide them into all truth, so that that Spirit, dwelling in them, will illuminate their mind into what is true in His Word, and they can pray. And that Spirit will bear witness with their spirit that they are actually children of God, with assurance and love, and will give them direction and power to live out a supernatural life.” That’s what Christianity is all about. That’s what it is.
I Corinthians 2:12 through 14 says, “The way then that you see God is the Spirit operating in you.” Look at verse 12, “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, the Holy Spirit,” – why? “that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
It is only when you are born a second time. You must turn from your sin, receive Christ as your Savior, so the Spirit comes in and the Spirit in your life is what gives you ability to understand what you already possess in Christ.
In fact, he goes on to say, “This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom,” in other words, it’s not an intellectual game, “it is in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths and spiritual words.” Here’s why some people don’t get it, verse 14, “The man, the woman, without the Spirit, does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
Some people don’t get it and they don’t get it because the Spirit doesn’t live in them. And if you’re here today and you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, if you’ve never said, “I desperately need – this is who God is and this is who I am,” right in your seat, right now, just start talking to God, “Oh, God, save me. Forgive me. Come into my life.” He will!
And when He does, you will have new spiritual eyes. That’s why Paul prayed in Ephesians 1, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may,” – what? “comprehend the surpassing greatness of His power that dwells in you.”
The second question that is raised is, Well, what must I do to see God as He really is? And if I really want to see God with 20/20 vision and if this is so important, let’s see, what should I do? Should I go into the back bedroom, take a chair, face it against the wall, sit down in the chair and say, “I want to see You! I’m ready! Ollie ollie in free!” How do you see God?
Is it passive? Are you expecting that He is just going to, whew, come through the night some night? How do you see God? Answer? Two words. Seek Him. Seek Him. Seek Him.
Let me give you an Old and New Testament promise that says, Jeremiah 29, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Knowing that God is good, knowing He has a good plan, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me or seek with all your heart.”
Seeing God is not a spectator sport. It will require everything in your being – your heart, your emotions – and say, “I want to see You! I want to know You.” In fact, listen to the very lips of Jesus. Luke 11. He says, “I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Are you seeking?
I mean, let me ask you, right here, among us, Are you seeking after God? He promises: You seek Him, you will find Him. Knock, “God, I want to know You!” Are you knocking? Are you praying? “God, I want to know You!” He says that if you seek Him, you will find Him. In fact, a great illustration in case you think, Well, maybe I don’t measure up.
He says, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” He says no one would do that, not even a bad father. “Or if he asks for an egg, will he give him a scorpion?” No, no way. “If you then,” human beings, “though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask!”
The reason we don’t know God better and see Him more accurately, on the continuum, it isn’t His issue. He wants you to see Him and to know Him and behold Him and be transformed and to experience His love and His grace and His holiness way more than you want it. But the condition is the ball is in your court. The ball is in my court. You have to seek Him.
Now, I hope there are some of you that are saying, This may sound dumb, I don’t know how. I mean, I would like to seek Him but you were being real funny about going and sitting in the chair in the bedroom. Well, if you don’t do that, what do you do? I’m glad you asked that question.
Open to Proverbs chapter 2, okay? Open it up. Proverbs 2, right in the middle of the Bible, find the Psalms, go right. Proverbs chapter 2. Five brief verses explain exactly how to seek God and tell you, when you do the first four things, that you will actually know Him.
Do you have a pen? I’m going to ask you to write something in the margin of your Bible. First thing it says, “My son, if you will receive My sayings and treasure My commandments within you,” write in the margin of your Bible, Intake of God’s Word. The first step to seeking God is you have to get in God’s Word for yourself. “My son, if you will receive My sayings,” not just be aware of them, “receive them,” did you notice the word, “treasure My commandments.”
Second, verse 2, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding.” Put in the margin of your Bible, Attitude. And underneath it write, Be teachable.
The first step to seeing God with 20/20 vision, intake of His Word. The second is with an attitude of teachability. Show me. If You’ll show me, I want to learn. I’ll change.
Third, verse 3, “For if you cry out for discernment, lift your voice for understanding.” And write in the margin of your Bible, Passionate prayer. This isn’t, “Oh, God, it would be nice. I would like to know You. It would be a wonderful little thing in my life.”
This is, “Cry out for discernment!” When is the last time you said, “God! This is me, Chip, I want to know You! I want to see You! I want You to pull back the mystery of life and reveal Yourself to me. I’m serious! I am inclined to get into Your Word. I want You to know I have a teachable heart. If You show me, I will respond.” And then you ask.
And then notice verse 4. Verse 4 says, “If you seek her as for silver and search for her as for hidden treasure,” in the margin of your Bible write, Priority, intentionality. Knowing or seeing God clearly means that it is a priority. You do it with intentionality. You don’t do it when you have time and other things are done.
How many of you, seriously, if I told you and if it was true, “There is a million dollars buried in your backyard,” now let’s pretend you have a backyard like mine. It’s not very big. There is a million dollars buried in your backyard. How many of you would walk in, let’s pretend your husband or wife, a couple of friends walk in and say, “Well, hey, I wonder what’s on the game today.” “Well, I don’t know, honey, but maybe a little bit later we will search for the million bucks because we have twenty-four hours. If we find it, it’s ours. If we don’t, okay. So I’m going to go the mall, I think I’ll pick up a burger and maybe we can do something later and…”
What would you do? I’ll tell you what I would do! I’d call my friends, I’d call my family, I would work out negotiation, “You can get this part of it, here’s your shovel, let’s go baby!” And, bam! The neighbors say, “What are you doing? Are you a fanatic?” “No, I’m not a fanatic, I want a million dollars! You get a shovel, I’ll give you some. Come on!” And I’m going to dig and I’m going to make that a mess until, Ahhh, wow! Got it.
And God says that if you want to see Him, if you want to be transformed, if you want to experience grace, intake of His Word, the teachable spirit, you cry out passionately in prayer, and you make it the kind of priority you would with the same passion that you would look for treasure in your backyard, what does verse 5 say? What is the result of those four things?
“Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and you will discover the knowledge of God.” Seeing God with 20/20 vision is discovering the knowledge of God. Did you notice? It says, “You will do it.”
A teacher, a pastor, or a preacher can’t do it for you. You will discover because you dug, because you cried out. We have a whole generation of people that are getting their spiritual diet second and third hand. “I listened to this guy, I read this thing, I listened to this tape.” I got news. All that is fine and good, I mean, it’s my job. But it is no substitute for you, God, your heart, this Book, your soul, crying out.
Because when wisdom and the true knowledge of God comes, it is birthed in your heart. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It is birthed in your heart and you discover it and God wants it for you.
The final thing I want to touch on as we close is, How, then, would you know if you have an accurate view of God or not? That’s a logical question, isn’t it? Can we really see Him for all He is? Well, no, not completely. But, yes, accurately.
And how do you do it? Well, you have to seek Him. Well, how do you know if, in fact, you really have an accurate, true view of God or whether you are just fooling yourself?
J.I. Packer in his book, classic book, Knowing God, does a study in the book of Daniel. And he makes these four statements as the measurement or the test of whether we actually know God, seeing Him accurately or not.
And I am going to read these and here’s what I want you to do. Do you have your little pen out? If you don’t have one, just mentally do it. I am going to explain, very briefly what they are, and then I want you, in your heart of hearts, you don’t have to share it with anyone, do an evaluation of how clearly you see God, how accurately, right now, you see God, by your own estimation.
Test number one is that those who know God have great energy for God. When you have an accurate view of God, you have energy to get into His Word. When you see things that are wrong in the church, you have energy to lovingly fix them. When you see people in need, you have energy to move in for God. You have energy to pray. He is a priority in your life, in the midst of a fallen world.
If you have energy for God, you have a pretty accurate view of Him. If that is a “ten,” and, I believe in God and I think it’s wonderful, and there is no energy for Him, that’s a “one.” Where are you? Where are you? Mark it down.
Second test is those who know God have great thoughts of God. When you know God, there are times in prayer you will hear yourself talking about His majesty and His glory and His righteousness and His holiness and His purity and you will sit in quiet silence and, at times, be overwhelmed with His greatness. And you will have the desire to learn about His greatness. You will have great thoughts of God. He will be high, He will be esteemed, He will not be your buddy, He will not be Santa Claus, He will not be your self-help genie. He will be God. And you will be creature.
On a scale of one to ten, what are your thoughts about God? What comes to your mind when you bow your head and start to pray? Is He the fix-it man, the self-help genie, or the King of kings and Lord of lords and Creator of the universe who is infinite and eternal, compassionate and holy, and yet eager to be your friend?
The third test is those who know God show great boldness for God. When you have an accurate view of God, in a fallen world, and you have to decide, What does everyone think or what does God think? People who really know God are bold for God.
The early apostles, read through the book of Acts, the greatest evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with gifts. It’s boldness. Now, they recognized Peter and John as untrained and uneducated men, as having been with Jesus. Why? Because they went against the whole establishment.
Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. Bold! “I’ll tell you what, we are not going to bow down, we are not going to be politically correct. If we burn, we burn.” If you are bold about your convictions and you don’t really care, reverently and lovingly, what other people think, you have an accurate view of God. And if you have a secret fear of, I’m a Christian, what if they ask me, “What about this?” and…then you don’t get it. Where are you, one to ten?
Fourth, those who know God have great contentment in God. When you have an accurate view that this God is all-knowing and all-powerful and He is sovereign and He is good and He is for you, you can have tribulation, but you’re not uptight and you’re not anxious and you’re not worrying and you’re not on the phone all the time, What about this? What about this? What about this? What are we going to do about this?
You say, “There is tribulation and it is a struggle, and the King of the universe, with all His resources, who gave His Son for me and dwells in me, will work this out and it is hard and I have some ups and downs. But I have a peace that surpasses understanding.” And those who have great contentment in God are revealing they have an accurate view of God.
Now, by the way, if you think I did my evaluation and got all tens, you’re out to lunch. Okay? I look at this list and that first chapter in this book is worth the whole book to me. And, boy, I look at that and I think, Wow. Wow, do I need to grow.
Now, are you ready for the challenge? You know what we did? This is the introduction to the series. For the next eight weeks, we are going to, together, take all that we can know of God, like a diamond, and look at the attributes so God can align clearly our view of Him.
Here is the challenge, are you ready? I challenge you to be here, without missing, for the next eight weeks. There is nothing more important than getting an accurate view of God.
If you have a business trip planned, we will write you an excuse. If your plane tickets are already purchased, you know? But I am talking about that kind of commitment.
Second, is this isn’t going to happen by listening to me. Second is I want you to open up the middle of this, your basic guide to 20/20 vision, and this week, look up those verses. And look them up with a pen in your hand and circle a few things and write down a few personal thoughts. When you get in God’s Word, God will speak to you. You will discover.
Third, just in case you think I haven’t lost it already, I want you to go out and either buy, The Knowledge of the Holy, by Tozer, or, Knowing God, by Packer. And some of you will say, This is thicker, this is thinner, I’ll go this way. Others will say, This is cheaper, this is…
I don’t care which one. We have it in the resource center. These two books, I can’t imaging being a Christian on this planet, and not reading it in my lifetime. They are that fundamental. And then I want you to read the first chapter for next week. I will be calling, checking on study hall.
Finally, as you launch into this journey together with me, I’d like you, before you pray, not necessarily around the dinner table, but before you pray, I’m going to ask you for one hundred and eighty seconds. And before you have your time of prayer, I want you to shut your eyes and just think, Okay, three minutes, before you open your mouth and do anything, I want you just to think about who God is, what He is like.
Maybe it’s out of the passages, maybe it’s out of one of the chapters in the book, maybe something you remember from this message. But for just three minutes, really think about God. What is He really like? And after three minutes, then talk to Him. And I am going to suggest your conversation will change. And I am going to suggest that some things might happen in your life, of which you will be deeply grateful.