Ever the Same
By David B. Smith
I have a favorite relative who has given up on God. After years of trying and failing, then a lot of hard knocks and wounds — some of them self-inflicted — his daily posts on Facebook announce that he’s far happier as an atheist.
Why? What went wrong? If “God is love,” then why do so many of his children, like the prodigal son, want to take the family inheritance in hand, turn their backs on their Father, and move to a far country?
This is maybe the greatest challenge for the Christian church today: a vibrant rediscovering of the compelling goodness of God. In one of my favorite books, The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes in his preface: “The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.”
My older brother Dan has made this the great singular theme of his successful ministry for more than 35 years: the admirable character of God. In the sermons I’ve heard him preach, he reminds his flock of the constant goodness of God. God does not waver; He does not change his mind; His agenda never undergoes revision. His attitudes toward you do not percolate randomly between 50 and 92%; He is always committed toward forgiving every sin, giving you every blessing, filling your life with abundance, answering every prayer with the finest — and most far-seeing and perfect — possible reply. Our prayers nurture the friendship, but they don’t cajole God into loving us more, or adding bonus blessings and Christmas packages He wasn’t already intending to bestow. When it comes to His interest in each of his created children, God’s dial is always set at 100%.
It’s true that a casual (or even a rather determined) Bible reading of both Testaments can leave a seeker apprehensive about the emotions and judgments of the invisible Being who sent the Flood and the ten plagues of Egypt. It’s helped me, though, now that I am not just a dad with two daughters, but suddenly have four grandkids to adore and be utterly crazy about . . . to aspire to the same kind of steadfast goodness that the Bible expresses about God. For the Lord is good and His love [mercy, KJV] endures forever (Psalm 100:5).
So ponder each hard-to-interpret story through the corrective lens of a concerned Father whose love is unfathomable and relentless. In Luke 15, Jesus tells three rapid-fire parables — lost sheep, lost coin, lost prodigal boy — in order to convey the all-out determination God has to rescue His wayward prizes. His anger against sin is a righteous indignation; his remedies are always redemptive. Only in the last extremity — because free will, though dangerous, is one of a parent’s greatest gifts — does God quell the rebellion and take final steps to remove all hurtful influences from His universe.
Two naughty high school boys once threatened Karli, my ten-year-old daughter, as she biked her way to school. I don’t know if there was much holiness mixed with the testosterone as I pinned those twerps up against a chain-link fence and warned them that if they ever laid a finger on my flesh and blood again, why, I would remove their heads from their bodies. God’s protective fervor against our spiritual enemies is more sanctified than that! But we can be thankful that His character is one that stoutly defends our spiritual security.
Tozer uses the elegant word immutable to give us assurances that God can be a trusted and permanent Father to us. “He never differs from Himself,” he writes. God’s commands are reasonable and constant; His promises unchanging; His rewards guaranteed. He’s not like a politician who has one set of legislative principles during the primaries and presidential debates, then another on January 20 when he takes the oath and walks into the Oval Office. We can come to Him with absolute confidence, knowing that from the very beginning of time — and through the endless centuries of our own eternity under His gentle care — He will be our loving Parent.
David B. Smith writes from California. (3 of 28) His web page is Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information. Biblebay