n the West today, and in America especially, we live in a time when humanity is large and God is small. Man is the measure of all things. It has not always been this way, of course, but this is the reality of our day, a reality that exerts a pervasive and powerful influence on us.
The greatest need of every true believer (and nonbeliever) today is the recovery of a right view of God. From this flows everything else. As A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”1 This is so, says Tozer, because, “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.”2
We don’t have to look far to see a quintessentially American example of this today. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, widespread among millennials, is a view of God they seem to have picked up from their baby-boomer parents. Its main tenets are as follows: (1) A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth; (2) God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; (3) The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; (4) God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; (5) Good people go to heaven when they die.3
This reductionist and narcissistic view of God is very comfortable and easy to live with. It makes no real demands, has no cost, and allows one to live as one pleases with no concern about one’s sin and accountability to God and therefore no concern about forgiveness and reconciliation with God. This recently invented god is certainly not the God of the Bible, and it has the extremely serious effect of keeping people from the true God and the salvation He offers in Christ. This is only one of many substitute gods on offer in the American “marketplace of religion.”
It is not too much to say that the lack of the knowledge of the true God lies at the root of the problems that beset our personal lives, the church, and the culture. In this article, I would like to briefly describe the picture that God has given us of Himself, His Son and His creation. I will follow the gradual progression and form of God’s self-revelation found in Scripture. In an article of this size, I can only sketch some of the main contours of God’s attributes and hope that you will be inspired to seek broader and deeper understanding in some of the good books that are readily available.4
Our Approach to Learning Who God Is
As we seek to learn more about God, we need humility. It is good to remind ourselves that our Creator is infinite and we are finite. That means He is ultimately incomprehensible, in the sense that although we can indeed know Him personally, we can never fully comprehend Him. He says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, / neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. / For as the heavens are higher than the earth, / so are my ways higher than your ways / and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8–9).5 God doesn’t tell us everything we might want to know about Him (we cannot handle it); but He does tell us everything we need to know. He does this by accommodating Himself to our finite limitations. With that we must be grateful and content.
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