Fashioning our faith

What if our ideals of who God is were found to be false, at worst, or misunderstood, at best? That He does predestine souls to hell, just as He categorically predestines souls to heaven. If we came to realize that the God we worship would do what we consider the unthinkable? That He does ordain all pain, just as He providentially provides all pleasure. If our beliefs in how we assume God works were challenged to the point that it shattered us to the brink of doubting our dedication to the God we have fashioned according to our feelings? That would be life altering and this God of whom I speak is all about the alter. The proverbial elephant in the room question here is: would we still love and adore Him if we knew, without question, that He is the One that brings about all that we call suffering, all circumstances that we categorize as unfair, and all that occurs that we consider unpleasantness in our daily walk?

For many, this is an easy quiz question with an emphatic “yes!” as the answer; however, for those who’d begin by offering rationalizations or logical, even biblical, explanations before giving a concrete answer, I ask, what is it that causes your hesitation to join the resounding “yes!” group? It is absolutely understandable that we’d earnestly give a defense for God if someone were claiming that He is something that He isn’t, but the uncomfortable questions have an answer and that answer is: God is sovereign, so, yes, He reigns over all and God is just, so, yes, He condemns as well as saves. Black or white. Yes or no. Accepted or rejected. He draws, directs, and decrees the line and where everyone and everything in His creation is placed in regards to it. The murky part comes as we attend to how we respond, whether we’re able to accept who He says He is, what He says He does, and let the why’s take a backseat. More times than not, our sensitivities and sense of fairness become the culprit when we’re unwilling to hold dear that He is wholly culpable for the “all” of life.

There are countless verses, passages, and entire books within our Bibles that continue to convict me of this, even though several books, commentaries, and articles appear to guard against this most precious part of our holy God. We’re told to disregard His acts of justice, wrath, and anger that our human minds deem as cruel and unloving. Speakers and authors redirect us towards “the God of the New Testament: loving, merciful, gracious.” This is preposterous. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). New Testament declaration that our Trinitarian God is unchanging. God Himself tells Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). Old Testament declaration of these immutable traits He holds unceasingly. Cannot our minds, being in love with God, handle the entirety of His being and all His attributes? The very thought of extracting any part of the immeasurable character traits of the God of the entire Bible is one that ought to be tossed out, if even it needs to be trashed repeatedly as we’re approached with these inconsistent views of Him.

It’s often said that context is key, in regards to many things besides biblical interpretation; might I also interject that consistency is also key? Our Lord is constant, consistent, and concerned primarily with bringing glory upon Him. If we delve into the wavering and meandering methodology of molding Him into what we believe He ought to be, we are gravely risking becoming idolaters, of ourselves. Making Him into what we sense is righteous and just, instead of letting His Word instruct us as to who He is and teaching us that whatever He wills for in our lives is trustworthy and true. Humanity has fallen and it is God who’s picked us up, dusted us off, and given us direction through Christ. This lovely God, portrayed for us throughout Scripture, has shared with us how He does His work and, even when it’s hard to digest the dire acts He brings about, we love him all the more for his unchanging nature. For in that unchanging nature, “He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4) and, “Before I formed you in the womb I chose you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). The consistent God we worship, in all His glory, is something to be thankful for; knowing that He’s got this, His whole creation, under His wings of control and constancy, is a penetrating position of peace for us.

So when we’re confronted with the words of man, causing us to question or reconsider the audacity of our Creator in how He brings about fruition of all things, we have an answer. “This is what the Lord says – the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it” (Isaiah 45:11-12). These words from God aren’t meek, encompassing full acceptance for all, or offering us, in any way, the right to recharacterize who He is. If we can receive what we consider blessings in our life and accept that our Savior has promised us access to eternal life with Him, we can also wholeheartedly accept that our Lord can destine some to hell and bring about unrelenting trials to endure, as the Bible so reveals. It’s okay to view God as He portrays Himself. He doesn’t need us to carve up a false, or misleading, image of Him to attract others in hopes that they’ll find Him. Because, of course, in His sovereignty, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). Our faith ought to be fashioned according to His Word, regardless of whether it’s culturally in style or not.

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