The other day I was watching a television preacher who was telling his congregation about what God was doing and what He wanted to do. In his sermon, one could see how this preacher viewed God. But after viewing for a short while, I got the distinct impression that the God the preacher was proclaiming bore only slight resemblance to the God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures and in Christ; the One who is sovereign and majestic and the center of the universe. The congregation probably thought what they were hearing was, in fact, truth about the God of the Bible. But, sad to say, that was not the case. Too many churches today seem fundamentally ignorant about the nature and the attributes of the great Creator God. Without fear of contradiction, I would say that the church today in North America has a terribly low view of God.
Several months ago, we mentioned in a blog a little bit about the terrible distortion of God which is now found in so much of “the church.” It goes by the label “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” MTD is quite a mouthful, but essentially it says that there is a God (of course), and He has suggested what is right and wrong (though nicely and without threat of judgment). His primary desire is that we are happy. And to that end, He will definitely work with us to make us happy. If we run into difficulty, He is at our service to help straighten out our problems so that we will be happy. He is there when we need Him and He is delighted to make us happy because we, not Him, are actually the center of the universe. This, of course, is really bad doctrine; and really bad doctrine has a bad effect on us. MTD, it seems to me, is just one step above (maybe not) the Star Wars perspective of the good, benevolent side of “the Force”.
A few weeks ago, I picked up and re-read the little book, “Knowledge of the Holy” by A.W. Tozer. It is a classic on the Person of God and is a must read for all serious, thinking Christians. If you haven’t read it, you really need to. If you (like me) read it years ago, I would encourage you to refresh your mind and your soul by giving it a good read again.
Tozer wrote the book sixty years ago because he sensed that:
“The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.”
And this is not just an academic, theological issue since it directly impacts the way we live as Christians and the way the Church operates in this culture. Tozer rightly observed that not seeing God with clarity through the lens of scripture “is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.” Tozer, of course, did not originate this idea but it is found again and again in the OT prophets (like Malachi) as well as in the OT wisdom literature. Tozer then drives the sword of the Spirit deep into us when he declares without stuttering:
“It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous and inadequate.”
Especially since the 1960s, the Church has sown to the wind and is now reaping the whirlwind. God is looking more and more like us, and this is to be expected since so much preaching/teaching fashions God to resemble man. The Church at large has been so desperate to be relevant that is becoming more and more irrelevant because it has nothing really to offer beyond “the Force is with you and wants you to be happy—if, of course, you can work him into your schedule”. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between the Church and the culture these days. It is difficult to have serious exposition of the Scriptures about the God who is revealed in the Scriptures if you are essentially running a religious entertainment center. Someday people are going to be shocked when they face the God of Scripture and realize that the “church” was essentially lying to them about this great God.
To reverse this sad trend is not easy, nor can it be done quickly. Tozer says it clearly: “If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.”
The Scriptures inform us that a proper view of God is truly the starting point spiritually (Prov 1:7; 9:10; Psa. 111:10). We can see ourselves correctly only after we begin to see God correctly. It is spiritually fatal to compromise this point. Life simply cannot be lived well when our concept of God is not what the Bible says. It takes time and a diligent study of the Word of God to begin to see the attributes of the God of Scripture. And while we will never fully comprehend Him, we do know that He has revealed much about Himself that we can understand. Pastors of churches need to feed the sheep with wholesome doctrine and cease attempting to entertain the sheep Sunday after Sunday. This wholesome teaching includes dealing with the very nature of our God. It will take some time to kill off MTD (and related falsehoods) and getting a hold of a copy of “Knowledge of the Holy” might be a great start.