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by Jacob Ninan
From ancient times, people have been creating their own gods by their imagination. Some people converted their fear of what they could not understand into gods whom they had to placate. Some others tried to accommodate their god within the domain of their philosophy. Others began to worship anything supernatural as a manifestation of god.
But when we come to Christians who profess to know God as revealed by the Bible, even here is a diversity of understanding that describes this one and only true and living God. Leaving heresies and cults aside, even among what we would describe as evangelical Christians who consider the Bible as the inspired word of God and that salvation is only by His grace through our faith, there is such a divergence in understanding when it comes to details. Existing churches have been split and new churches have been formed based on different people's understanding of what the Bible says and how things should be practised.
Let us look at how different Christians have their own definitions and descriptions of God even though it is the same God they all believe in!
At one level, there are those who see God as a benevolent grandfather sitting in heaven, eager to fulfil every whim and fancy they express to Him. This God is so sweet that He does not point out any embarrassing things in their lives, and all His conversation with them is about blessings and promises. They become petulant, like spoilt children, when their prayers are not answered, and they even consider leaving this God aside.
At another level, we find people who are willing to 'ask Jesus to be their Saviour' or even get baptised if that would ensure their place in heaven. The single goal they have in coming to Jesus is to avoid hell and to get into heaven. Once they have paid their 'insurance premium' for this, they carry on with their lives practically just as they used to earlier.
Some others have responded to (false) teachers who promised them that once they came to Jesus, all their earthly problems would be over. No more sickness, no more poverty, no more break-ups - Jesus would solve all their issues. They too are willing to pay their 'premium' in the form of church attendance, paying tithes, giving seed money, fasting, etc. But for them, God is just a nice benefactor for their life on earth.
Many of the people in the above categories may not even be born again, and according to the words of Jesus, may not actually enter the kingdom of God even though they think they will (Jn.3:3,5). It is fearful to think of the penalty that might come upon the preachers who misled these people, especially if they did it knowingly for their own gain!
All these people have created different boxes by themselves and placed their God inside. That is all they know about God. They do not realise that God is too big to be placed inside any box and that if they want to know Him better they need to keep looking outside and beyond their boxes. As Solomon said, "Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!" (1Ki.8:27).
Then, there are people who are born again and have become children of God through faith in Jesus as their Saviour. As God's word says, His seed has been placed within their spirit and they have thus received a new attitude of not wanting to disobey God and sin any more (1Jn.3:8,9). But unfortunately, many of them are not nourishing themselves through the milk of the word (1Pet.2:2), and strong meat later (Heb.5:14) because they have assumed that now that they have come to Christ everything is settled and there is nothing they ought to do. So, the box they have built around their God confines them to a one-time event of coming to Christ and the rest being taken care of by God.
Some believers have built a veritable strongbox around their God with the word of God! They emphasise the sufficiency of the word and its inerrant and infallible nature, and look no further than the word for all matters! They study the word in Hebrew and Greek, use concordances and lexicons, compare different translations and arrive at many truths with which they build the impregnable sides of their box. They become hard and inflexible and give no freedom for the Holy Spirit who inspired the word and who acts through different people and circumstances in His own inimitable ways. They do not realise that they need their spiritual eyes to be opened to see the things of God because they are satisfied with their own intellectual analysis (Eph.1:18). They have not understood that God is even bigger than the Bible! They have also made the mistake of treating the words in the Bible like engravings on stone and forget that it is a living word that is powerful enough to separate human thoughts from divine ones (Heb.4:12). For these people, God is confined within the intellectual box they have created!
The box which some have created rule out anything miraculous or supernatural. They have safely kept out all such events involving Jesus and the apostles as belonging only to that time, and now they need only intellectual understanding to manage their own lives. While life on earth is becoming more and more difficult (2Tim.3:1-5), Satan and his demons are also becoming more and more active. These are times when we would need active support of God through even miraculous ways. That is what God has promised His people, saying that when the enemy brings up an attack, the Spirit of God will rise up in support (Isa.59:19 KJV).
In creating such a box, these people are not saying that God is incapable of doing supernatural things. Theoretically they assume that as a fact of His omnipotence. The problem is that they do not expect God to intervene in their lives in any supernatural way and have reconciled themselves to taking only natural paths. Since they do not expect God to do miracles, they do not ask Him for any, and therefore they do not receive any. Isn't this a big limitation of their box because of which God is not able to do for them what He wants to? Jesus could not do many miracles in some places because of people's unbelief (Mk.6:5,6).
A very common box which people make is where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not there anymore. Even though the Bible spends a lot of space instructing us about them and their operation (1Cor.12-14), many people actually extract only Chapter 13 out of them and discard the rest as being applicable only to Corinth! Or they assume that these gifts were only available to attest and prove the anointing that was only on the apostles at that time, even though the apostle Paul exhorts the people of Corinth, and through that us also, to earnestly desire spiritual gifts (1Cor.14:1). But within this box, there is space only for natural gifts and talents!
For some other Christians, their box does not allow for any activity of Satan or his demons in their lives. Some of them assume demons are only mythological characters which Jesus referred to because of the prevailing beliefs of the people. Some others assume that since Jesus has won total victory over Satan on the cross, they are completely safe from any trouble from demons. Of course, there are other Christians who seem to believe that all problems are due to the work of evil spirits and they are busy casting them out! But this box does not allow for the several warnings in the New Testament about how we Christians need to be careful not to give any place for the demons in our life (e.g., Eph.4:26,27). Several people are actually suffering from demonic attacks of various types, but since their box does not contain this possibility, they continue to address their problems in other ways, without success.
Some Christians have attributed sovereignty to God in such an absolute way that they have placed all responsibility, for everything that happens, upon Him. How convenient! This box is very popular because we do not have to take the responsibility for our mistakes or for taking any action from our side! God will save whoever He chooses, and He will transform their lives even without their cooperation! In fact, they will not be able to resist it if they tried!
Whichever box we are keeping God in for ourselves, isn't it good to realise that God is too big for any box? There is so much of Him our little minds cannot understand. Isn't it wise to keep an open mind and heart so that we can get to know Him better, even if it means we will have to change some of our 'personal' assumptions?
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, December 2018
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