by Jonathan Hamilton
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” – A.W. Tozer
That quote sums up an idea that the Lord first brought to my heart something like ten years ago. A decade later, it is not nearly fully developed but it hasn’t been a passing fad. It has been a recurring theme that I cannot shake, nor do I want to. It is this: an improper view of God is incredibly detrimental to one’s relationship with Him.
The first times I remember this idea entering my mind were probably somewhere in my late teen or college years (early 2000’s). My dad sparked these thoughts first, if I remember correctly, with comments to me after talks with hurting and misguided Christians. His thought was that many of the problems that Christians face seem to go back to this root issue of having an improper view of Who God is. In his case, he was encountering improper views of God that his counselees owned which were directly related to being raised by an earthly father who was so unlike the Heavenly Father that their image of Him was badly damaged and distorted.
Now I am fully aware that many Christians (most of whom I haven’t even discovered yet) down through history have hit on this same thread of ideas long before my dad. Even going back to A.W. Tozer, we’re still only talking about the most recent 5% of Church history here. But this is where the progression of thought started for me.
Following my initial introduction to the idea, it lay somewhat dormant for a while; occasionally – and always briefly – coming up again throughout college in ways I didn’t even recognize as related to the central theme of my view of God.
But after marrying in 2007, and going through the most difficult decision my wife Stephanie and I ever had to make (this could be a whole series of blog posts to the praise and glory of God’s sovereign work in the lives of His children), the Lord brought it up once again. In early 2009 we began teaching the college Sunday school class at our church here in Michigan. In early 2010 this view of God issue had became so compelling to me that I decided to teach through the book “Our God is Awesome” by Tony Evans. I am not saying that the best approach to develop your view of God is to read some guy’s book, though that can be a helpful secondary source. Regardless, I believe the Lord used that class to continue developing this idea and desire.
[By the way, I’m hitting the high points here. Due to my lack of journaling discipline, I’m sure I’ve forgotten far more than I remember of this journey.]
Soon after entering the role of a staff pastor at Bethany Baptist Church this past Summer (2013), it came up again in the most direct and clear way yet (and finally became a more disciplined and biblical pursuit in my life). I was looking for a Wednesday night teaching tool that would help me give our teens a chronological overview of the Bible. This is something I felt would not only help them, but me too, with an understanding of the big picture of Scripture and the unfolding of redemptive history. I had no idea that I was on the brink of a study that would begin to significantly affect my view of God.
After starting into the lessons in the Fall, it became obvious that the historical Genesis accounts are not merely true stories of actual events related to men of faith and flesh who lived thousands of years ago. They are about God Himself. What’s more, they’re not merely about the mighty and powerful acts of God. They are about his nature and character, His very heart! From chapter one of Genesis, God’s glorious character is on display and we do ourselves no favors by failing to see it.
This Winter, another layer developed as my church small group began a study called “Behold Your God” written by John Snyder. No, it is not magical material. Its Driving Purpose isn’t a Church-saving rethinking of ecclesiastical marketing methods, but merely seeing God as He actually is. Unlike a majority of
Christian fodder on the shelves at your local What’s-My-Imaginary-Idol-god-Done-For-Me-Lately Mart (or online at CBD.com where today’s specials include instant classics like “The Daniel Plan Cookbook” and John Hagee’s sermon-inspiring “Four Blood Moons”), this one forces us to Scripture to see God for Who He is; not for what He can do for me, or my family, or my church, or my bankroll, or my Furtick-esque square-footage, or even my favorite team. The theme of the material is “Rethinking God Biblically,” and as promised, it has repeatedly turned my eyes away from itself and myself and towards the God of the Bible through its faithful pointing to theologically rich passages like Isaiah 40, Isaiah 66:1-2, and Job 38-42.
Editor’s Note (that’s just a fancy way of saying that I’m still the one writing, but I’ve switched from author to external policing agent who corrects or clarifies myself to my audience): This isn’t intended to be an infomercial for “Behold Your God,” but it is in fact a part of this story, so I included it. I could have anonymized it, but then some of you might have asked for the name so I just cut out that step.
I’ve found that as my eyes behold Him in the pages of Scripture, I desire to point others to Him as well. There is great joy in sharing with others the truths He reveals there. So with that in mind, my intent is to make a category on this blog entitled “God Is” which will be nested under the “Theology” tab on the blog’s front page. This will be the first post it contains, but I intend to add posts to this in somewhat of a series format over the course of this blog.
I pray that God uses them to spur an unquenchable desire within you to begin, or continue, an Exodus 33-like pursuit of Him – for the sake of nothing but Him.