I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you. – Jeremiah 31:3
I am reading a book right now called “The Holy War,” by John Bunyan. I have read “The Pilgrim’s Progress” several times and I was super pumped to realize that he wrote another book. I’ve only read the first few chapters, but the story begins with a loving God, “Shaddai,” creating a perfect place, “Mansoul,” and the Devil, “Diobolus,” plotting and scheming to convince the inhabitants of Mansoul that Shaddai is not who He says He is. Of course, the plan of Diabolus is executed flawlessly, and the people’s view of Shaddai becomes distorted.
As I read the story, I thought of conversations I’ve had with believers and non-believers alike. Many have a distorted view of God. In the verse I have chosen for this week’s WMD, God says that He has loved us with a love that is everlasting. That is what He says, but if you talk to enough people about God, they reveal the opposite belief. Most believe God to be egotistical, someone who plays favorites, a manipulator, and someone who imposes His rules upon mankind. They certainly don’t describe a loving God who looks out for our best interests and is worth giving their life to.
I wonder where this comes from? There has to be a “Diobolus” element to it. I mean, if I were the devil and wanted God’s prized creation to hate Him, I would begin by ensuring that His subjects could not see Him as He really is. I would make sure there was a distorted view.
It took me a while to figure out that I had been deceived. When I first got saved, I did see God as the big tyrant in the sky who made all the rules and couldn’t wait to send people to everlasting torment. Since I really thought this was who He was, I did whatever I had to do to be right with Him. I asked Him to save me and asked for forgiveness every time I committed any sin that I knew about. After several years of this type of thinking making zero difference in my life, I almost gave up. I remember pressing on after hearing a sermon about how it was God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. The preacher flat out said that until you see God as loving and kind, you will never desire to serve Him.
He was right.
I want to please God right now with every fiber of my being. Yet, I know I don’t always please Him. I still make wrong decisions and do things that don’t represent Him well. Yet, I don’t feel a pressing need to rush and ask for forgiveness like I used to. I think of examples where my own kids have flat out done wrong, never asked for forgiveness, yet I have forgiven them. I forgive them always because they are mine. It is when I really get a sense of His presence that I just can’t stop crying and saying I’m sorry . . . I don’t even know what I’m sorry for, I just know that, in His Holiness, I feel so unclean, and so unworthy to be there. It is the greatest feeling this planet offers.
Every person that enters into this world must simply decide whether or not they want to be His. This is the real decision one makes to receive salvation. It is not a decision to automatically start following all of His rules and doing everything He says. It is a decision to allow Him to begin the step-by-step remodeling process. It is a decision to trust that He will restore you over time into what you were originally created to be. If you receive Him as your Heavenly Father, then He receives you as His son or daughter and pours out His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness upon you. If you reject Him, then He continues to allow you to be the star of your own story. He allows you to call your own shots and live your life the way you see fit.
If you are rejecting Him, you do not know Him, nor do you see Him correctly. I am so sorry that countless preachers like me, and people who call themselves Christians have represented Him so poorly. He really is a good, good Father.
This goodness does not mean He is passive and just allows you to continue on the path that you are on, do whatever you want, and be however you want to be. Of course Dad has rules, but He doesn’t mind taking years to teach them to you as you grow in your faith. He is not the abusive Dad who beats you up for every little mistake. He is perfect in all of His ways. Everything He does is corrective in the best possible way.
Would you really want Him to be any other way?