Our Thoughts About God Define Us

What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. –A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

This is the opening sentence in Tozer’s classic The Knowledge of the Holy. It’s also one of those sentences that I need to read and re-read in order to grasp it. Tozer is telling us that everything we believe, everything we do, every sin with which we struggle, every attempt to understand who we are and what it means to be the church is rooted in our thoughts about God.

In seminary I was introduced to David Seamands’ teaching about how original sin warps our view of God. Seamands argues that because of sin, our understanding of God is skewed and twisted. God’s communication to us is always perfect; our understanding of his communication, not so much.

Because of sin, we are more apt to believe false views of God than true, biblical ideas of God. Our sin causes us to envision a Legal God who keeps an accounting of all that we do (we’d better hope that the good outweighs the bad, though we know that it never does); a Gotcha God who waits in hiding, like a State Trooper parked out of sight on the interstate, hoping to catch us doing something wrong so that he can punish us; a CEO God who is simply too busy running the world and all the important stuff in the world to be involved in our lives; a Pharaoh God who is an unappeasable task master—no matter how much we do, he is always upping the ante, asking for more; or the Scrooge God whose sole purpose for existence is to take away from us all that we enjoy.

These ideas of God which, by the way, look an awful lot like us, make it very difficult for us to trust God, to believe that God is who the Bible says that He is, to place our lives in His hands, which is why Advent is essential for God’s people.

The ancient church fathers establish the four Sundays of Advent as a built-in means of readjusting our skewed view of God. Advent provides an opportunity to contemplate God who is almighty and sovereign but also loving and full of grace. Advent is a time to reflect on God’s willingness (actually, a better word is desire, yearning, passion) to establish relationship with his creatures by leaving all that is pure to take on human flesh and bone and become one of us. Advent reminds us that God is patient and kind, compassionate and merciful to people who don’t deserve it, and He treats us this way because he loves all of his creatures and because he wants relationship with us.

So, here’s my question for us: What’s our false image of God that Advent can help to correct?