"Who Is God?" Making God In OUR Image
Losing The Biblical Awe
Exodus 20:18-19; 32:1-4
John L. Kachelman, Jr.
I. We begin a series that focus attention upon a criticaltopic
- GOD! Our personal/private concept of God is the most important
thing in our belief system.
1. No person ever rises above his/her idea of
II. Have you ever given serious thought to the God of your
The greatest factor in religion is not what one confesses
to believe but what one's heart believes God to be. There is a secret law
of the soul that moves one toward their mental image of God (cf. Ro 1:21-23).
2. A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge Of The Holy (1961)
"The gravest question before the Church is always God
Himself ... the most revealing thing abt the Church is her idea of God
... the mightest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God ...
Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious
notions" (p. 1-3).
"The man who comes to a right belief abt God is relieved
of 10,000 temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do
with matters which at the most cannot concern him very long" (p. 4).
Since one's belief abt God is so critical, for one to
corrupt the truth abt God is an inexcusable act (Ps 50:21). "Among the
sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful
to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character.
The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is ... and substitutes
for the true God one made after its likeness. Always this God will conform
to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel
or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges.
A God begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be
no true likeness of the true God ... The essence of idolatry is the entertainment
of thoughts abt God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind ...
The idolater simply imagines things abt God and acts as if they were true"
When idolatry is transferred from one heart into others
and ultimately into the congregation, disaster results. "The first step
down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God
... The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from
what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly
kind. The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is
to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of
Him" (p. 7).
How do you imagine God? How well do you know
God? Does the angelic praise (Rv 4:8b) or the idolatrous form (Ps 50:21)
reflect your beliefs abt God? This is a disturbing query but it must be
asked. Pharaoh's question (Ex 5:2) deserves answering. How will you answer
it? This series will offer you a basis for answering.
III. Think about the way in which God is viewed today.
Visit any church worship on Sunday morning and
you will likely find a congregation comfortably relating to a deity who
fits nicely within their precise doctrinal positions, lends almighty support
to their social crusades, or who is exactly what they desire in spiritual
experiences. But there will be an absence of awe! This group has dared
approach the Almighty God yet they feel no awe; no sweaty palms, no shaky
knees. The atmosphere is totally different from that found in the Scriptures
(Rv 1:17; Hb 12:28-29).
1. "Reverence and awe have been replaced by a yawn of
familiarity. The consuming fire has been domesticated into a candle flame"
2. "Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power
we so blithely invoke?" (Annie Dillard, Teaching Stones To Talk,
3. To be honest, many have accepted a concept of the God
of the Bible and whittled it down to a manageable proportion; they re-fashion
God to fit their expectations and to serve their desires. God thus becomes
the Patron of a specific political party; the Specter for one overruling
cause; the Censor for one specific belief. And so modern man has "exchanged"
the glory of the incorruptible God for a god which will be convenient.
The result -- biblical awe is lost.
4. Is it possible that such has happened in your life?
In this congregation? This is what our series seeks to explore and answer.
I. ISRAEL -- Losing the holy awe at Mt. Sinai!
A. Israel was liberated from Egyptian slavery
by the visible power of Almighty God. The nation marched to Sinai and there
beheld the visible power of God. All of this was too much for the nation
(Ex 20:18-19). Who can blame them for their fear? Their request was just.
But this awe was lost. They wanted a god that was more to their liking.
They did not intend to abandon God, they just wanted a better concept of
Him, one that was more meaningful to them and one that would relate to
their needs (32:1-4).
II. The Church -- Losing the holy awe today!
B. Israel's lost resulted from 3 steps.
1. SHE LOST HER AWE OF THE ALMIGHTY.
She forgot that God was far different from what she could
imagine. She wanted a god who would be useful to her immediate needs, who
would conform to her concepts. Imagining a different deity, she made this
deity never thinking she had abandoned God (32:4b).
2. SHE WAS IMPATIENT WITH GOD'S SILENCE.
32:1. God seemed too distant; too slow; to unaccommo-dating.
They wanted something immediately; something more satisfying.
3. SHE ALLOWED INDIVIDUALISM TO RULE.
"Make us" "We do not know" are terms expressing Israeli
feelings that they ought to be in complete control of the situation. Forgetting
she had yielded to God's control (20:18-19) she pressed the fact that each
had the "right" to make personal demands abt the kind of "god" they desired
The history of religion reveals that there has always
been the temptation to forsake God for other gods. Even in Eden idolatry
was a problem for man/woman sought to be "like" God (Gn 3:5). This temptation
continues to present problems to modern believers.
A. WE STRUGGLE WITH A LOST AWE FOR GOD.
1. Modern minds often hold a greater awe for
the mysteries of scientific technology than for the Almighty God. Confidence
in science encourages us to just wait and all ignorance will eventually
be answered by scientific methods.
B. WE ARE IMPATIENT WITH GOD'S SILENCE.
2. The scientific revolution has pushed God into the shadows
of life. The unknown answers which belong to God (Dt 29:29) are crowded
out by the flood of facts and measurable data. God has been forced into
retirement as totally unnecessary.
3. Reliance upon Science has led many to accept psychology's
conclusion that any "God" is really a projection of one's psyche and is
only the image of that person's desires. Sociology has reduced "God" to
a mere human cultural concept.
4. Today's unanswerable questions exist only because Science
has not yet brought every element of Nature under control. With more time,
more money, and more research all unknowns will be answered.
5. A casualty of this reverence for Science is the Believer's
awe in the Almighty God. No longer do we place matters of ignorance into
the Almighty's hands and find contentment. No longer are we awed at the
thought of approaching the Almighty and will not feel terror as Abram (Gn
15:12), hide as Moses (Ex 3:6), fall as Saul (Ac 9:4), or cry as Isaiah
1. Many feel God's silence means He is distant
from us; unconcerned abt us.
C. WE ARE VICTIMS OF RAMPANT INDIVIDUALISM.
2. Many want to "feel" God's nearness and state the God
of the Bible is not real enough.
3. Many face problems in life that find release through
affluence. So God becomes a casualty. There is no real need FOR God when
we are able to provide our own cures.
4. Those who face problems without available cures cry
out to God but hear only silence -- no reassuring voice; no strong arm
to help. Only acute loneliness and excruciating emptiness of the soul.
This brings abt indifference. Living in a world where technological innovations
have made communication instant, we want an instant answer from God. But
our desperate plea to hear God's authoritative voice is met with silence.
We are tempted to fashion a God that communicates and leads and speaks
to us as we desire.
1. No other country is as prone to this as the
USA. Freedom is our most precious national asset and modern minds have
made individualism a national religion. Whatever else we believe, all will
believe that "each one must believe his/her way and it is wrong to force
group beliefs upon others."
2. In American religion the emphasis is upon a PERSONAL
experience that over-rides everything else. "In the 18th century, it was
possible for individuals to find the form of religion that best suited
their inclinations. By the 19th century, religious bodies had to compete
in a consumer's market and grew or declined in terms of changing patterns
of individual religious tastes" (DMc, 22).
3. The cancerous religious individualism is best portrayed
by a study which quotes a young nurse, Sheila Lawson. She describes her
faith as "Sheilaism." "I believe in God. I'm not a religious fanatic. I
can't remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me
a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice" (Robert Bella, Habits
of the Heart -- Individualism and Commitment In American Life,
4. This devotion to individualism has brought chaos to
our society. Morality, application of laws, personal responsibility, etc.,
have all become subject to individual-ism. Nowhere is this tragedy more
evident than in religion.
a. It introduced a "cafeteria style" religion.
b. It encourages the individual to "invite Jesus into
your heart." And has developed an entire theology on "per-sonal acceptance"
that is swapped for the biblical call to surrender Self to Jesus.
c. It has created individual gods that "fit" our individual
moods. A god who, in any way, threatens our comfort, our liberties, our
self-centered lifestyles is not acceptable. We seek a god who will be tolerant
of everything, condemning of nothing, and demanding of only the pleasurable.
I. Have you ever considered that Ex 20:4,5 was NOT to
pagans but to those who believed in God? A good friend of mine recently
made a genuine confession abt his concept of God. "I'm preaching through
Exodus and last week's lesson was from 32:26-28. I really thought of skipping
that passage b/c it portrays God in a way that I don't like. I was forced
to see a side of God that causes me to recoil; I was very uncomfortable.
But I really had no choice did I?"
II. Here then is a frank analysis of why Believers today
are often guilty of forsaking the God of the Bible for other gods. We have
lost a sense of awe in appearing before the Almighty. We fail to deal with
God's silence when information is exploding around us. We have been born
and bred to reverence individualism more than we reverence God. The tragedy
of making God into OUR image is illustrated by Israel's later history.
The nation did not learn at Sinai the folly of re-designing God to fit
personal whims. Idolatry continually plagued the nation until God would
excuse it no longer. Finally Exile occurred. As Babylonian troops were
marching away the exiles, Jeremiah composed Lamentations. His words underscore
the folly of allowing one's imaginations to fashion God (cf Lam 5:1-3a).
III. This sets the basis upon which our other lessons
will stand. Let us make sure we are not guilty of re-making God in our
image; of re-defining God by the world's vocabulary. Failure to honor the
God of the Bible is essentially self-centeredness -- sin! It is a choice
to follow folly instead of wisdom (Pr 9:10).
Copyright 1999 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no
cost to others.