Monday, March 06, 2006

Creating God in Our Own Image

This morning as I was driving into work, I was listening to a CD of the Psalms. As I listened to Psalm 50, I was struck by the words in verse 21: "These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you."

How easy it is for us to assume that God is like us; that He overlooks certain sins and obligations. "After all," we assume, "He understands what I am going through and what it is like in this world."

Over the past few weeks, we have all, undoubtedly, become aware of the controversy and violence that has surrounded the republication by several European newspapers of a set of cartoons depicting Muhammad. Who would have ever thoughts that drawing cartoons could be such a dangerous occupation, as the artists have gone into hiding for fear of their lives? At the present rate, we are soon going to have to add "editorial cartoonist" to the list of the world's most dangerous jobs right next to deep sea fisherman, iron workers and lumberjacks.

But all joking aside, the issues involved are complicated and need to be discussed, but without the threat of violence.

But there is one other thing that needs to left behind: naïveté and the attitude that says, "Oh, let's just all get together and overlook our differences. After all, we're really all the same anyway."

This latter attitude was reflected in a recent interview on CBC television in a report of a Muslim protest here in Ottawa. Some Christians had joined the protest to show their support and to try to open a dialogue with their Muslim neighbours. Now, I have no problem with that, but I do take exception to what one of the Christian women said when she was asked by the reporter to explain why she was there. She said, "I'm here to show my support as a Christians because really we are just on separate paths to the same God."

Is that really so?

When the Muslim calls upon Allah, is he/she addressing the same deity as when you and I pray to God? Are they simply different words for the same god, or perhaps to the god behind the gods?

When they say, "We respect Jesus," are they referring to the same Jesus as we are?

Or am I just playing word games here?

In 2 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul speaks to a church not significantly different from our own in many ways. Many of the concerns that the Corinthian church struggled with are similar to those of many Canadian churches.

Paul loved this congregational deeply and so it was great concern that he wrote in 2 Cor. 11:3-4:

"But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough."

Paul refers here to a "different Jesus," a Jesus contrary to what he preached to them. When someone says, "I believe in Jesus," ask, "What do you believe about Him?" The Muslim says that Jesus was a great prophet but He is not God and did not die on the cross. This is not the Jesus of Christianity. This is another Jesus and the differences are profound. The Muslim Jesus will save no one. You cannot believe just anything about Jesus and still claim that He is the one and same person as the Jesus of the Bible.

This problem was not unique to the Corinthians. In Galatians 1:6-9 Paul writes:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed."

Why would someone preach a different gospel? What would be the motivation for this warping of the gospel? In Galatians 1:10, Paul writes, "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

He goes on to say, "For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."

You see, we are not free to think of God or think of Jesus however we like. We are not free to create a God or Jesus that we or others are comfortable with.

We may only worship God as He has revealed Himself. Only God can reveal God. Anything else is idolatry.

In Exodus 20, the Lord says, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."

In this prelude to the 10 commandments, God begins by identifying Himself. He refers to Himself by His personal name "I AM" YHWH. "I am YHWH, your God who delivered you."

He is not the God behind the gods of this world: Allah, Buddha, Brahma, Baal, Zeus. These gods do not point to the same god, for what they tell you is contrary to how YHWH has revealed about Himself. God Himself will tell you what to believe.

It is vital to understand that when the Bible speaks of the religions of this world, they are not seen as a sign of man seeking after God; they are seen as evidence of man's rebellion against God. This is why the Lord says in Psalm 51:21-22 to those who create God in their own image, "But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!"

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