Sermon by Pastor Ron Thomas

"Show Me Your Picture of God"
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

<<==== Pastor Ron Thomas
Read Great Sermons
and Devotions

[RBC Photo]
Daily on Gospel Web
"Show Me Your Picture Of God"

Introduction: The following is a story told about a little boy in Sunday school. The teacher had given the children some free time to draw a picture. Paper and crayons were provided and the children were excited and went right to it. After a while, the teacher looked over the shoulder of a little boy, admiring his work. The child was drawing a picture of an old man with long white hair and a long white beard. Thinking the boy was drawing Moses or Elijah, she asked him just who it was he was drawing. The boy answered, "I'm drawing a picture of God." "No one knows what God looks like. No one has ever seen Him. He is a spirit." the teacher responded, trying to offer a little guidance. The boy just smiled and said, "When I get through, I will show them what God looks like!"

Do you know what God looks like? What if I told you, that you have a picture of God? You might respond like that teacher, telling me that our God is the "invisible God." While that is true, you possess a picture of God none the less. Locked away in our minds and hearts, we each have a picture, an idea, a concept, of who God is, and what He is like. Consciously or un-consciously, we all form our own portrait of God in our hearts and minds!

Our picture of God is fashioned and formed in several ways, and by several influences.

Our first picture of God comes from our parents, particularly our father. In Matthew 7, the Lord Jesus Christ makes a connection between our earthly father and our Heavenly Father. Notice verses 7-11. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" Jesus makes a connection between our home and knowing God; between an earthly father and the Heavenly Father.

Have you thought about Jesus' picture of God? In Matthew 7, Jesus pictures God as a loving, generous father. Jesus' picture of God brought Him into conflict with the Pharisees of His day. The Pharisees pictured a God of unbending rules and regulations, especially those pertaining to the Sabbath. God only loved and approved of those who kept the rules! To Jesus, God was a loving Father who valued helping and healing people, more than rules. Jesus gathered and ate grain on the Sabbath, healed a man with a withered hand, and rescued someone's ox out of a ditch.

In Genesis 18:19, the Lord affirms this connection as He speaks of Abraham and his home. "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him." The Lord was confident that Abraham was a father who would transfer to his family and children the proper views and values concerning Him and His ways. What a compliment, and yet what an awesome responsibility and challenge to each and every home. As parents, particularly as fathers, we are preparing our children to reject or receive God's love, to follow or forsake God's ways. Does the Lord have the same confidence in us as fathers and parents? Father, how are you portraying God to your children? Is the picture of God we are giving to our children more about rule keeping, or a loving relationship?

Our picture of God is embellished by religious teachers and leaders. Just this last Sunday, one of our newer members was quick to share that she loves her church. She told me that her life has changed drastically since becoming a member. Why? She told me that it all centered upon her concept of God. As a child, adolescent, teenager and adult, religious leaders by their teaching, attitudes, and conduct, led her to believe that God was One whose love was conditional at best. Religion can paint a picture of a God who is unapproachable, hard to please, and quick to punish. Through biblical teaching, her picture of God has drastically changed. She has been introduced to a God who loves her; who is approachable; who is merciful, gracious, and forgiving. The result is a growing relationship with God, and increased spiritual knowledge and strength.

Our picture of God is embellished by our experiences in life. Recently, I have read Elie Wiesel's masterpiece entitled, "Night." It is an autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. Wiesel has been asked if his experiences destroyed his faith in humanity and well as his faith in God. His response was in part, "Auschwitz was not made in heaven and sent down. Human beings conceived Auschwitz, created it, built it, implemented it. So may I tell you, of course I am tempted at times to lose faith in humanity, but I will not. As for God, I am a Jew. In my tradition, we say or at least I say, ‘I can be a good Jew,' which means a good human being, ‘with God or against God, but not without God.'"

A brutal cruel life with little or no comfort in the home, church, school, or neighborhood, can cause a person to conclude that God is cruel, heartless, and uncaring. We have all met people who even doubt God exists at all because of a bad, painful life experience. Minus a biblical world view, people often lay injustice at the feet of God, instead of Satan and sin. They fail to see a God who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the just and unjust alike!

How important is our picture of God? The truth is, we all live out the reality of our picture of God. We all live at the mercy of our ideas about who God is and what He is like. For example, if we view God, picture God, as a passive spectator sitting on the balcony of our lives, whose approval or applause must be earned by a satisfactory performance, then we will become over workers, over achievers, doing, going, striving to win His approval. There are grown men and women who live knocking themselves out trying to win the approval and recognition of a parent! If we view God as cold, reluctant to love and forgive, we will respond with a closed, distant, relationship. When we picture God as a meticulous book keeper logging our mess ups; loving and accepting only those who keep the rules, we will become judgmental, legalistic fruit inspectors, sitting in judgment on those who do not measure up. If God is viewed as a celestial candy machine never saying no, and giving us anything we want, we will end up disappointed and disillusioned with Him.

Everyday there are tel-evangelists who promise that if you financially give to them and their ministry, then God is duty bound to give back to you. They say that giving to their ministry in effect, binds God to make you prosperous! Be careful! God does bless tithing and giving, but we must never picture God in debt to anyone! Picturing God as a debtor, is a dangerous picture. Just ask Job and friends!

A dysfunctional, unbiblical, unhealthy picture of God, will produce a dysfunctional, unbiblical, unhealthy life! Our pictures of God, can make us or break us!

In his autobiography, William Barclay, known throughout the world for his helpful commentaries on Scripture, recounts a personal experience that powerfully affirms our ongoing need to examine our pictures of God. The BBC had asked Dr. Barclay to do a series of talk shows for radio broadcast on the subject of the miracles of the Gospels. Without denying the historicity of the Gospel records, Dr. Barclay stressed the symbolic recurrence of these miracles in contemporary life. "As Jesus stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee in A.D.28, He continues to still the storms that rage in human hearts." When the series ended, Dr. Barclay was interviewed by the producers of the program and asked how he had come to such as view. "I told him the truth. I told him that some years ago our twenty one year old daughter and the lad to whom she would some day have been married were both drowned in a yachting accident. I said that God did not stop that accident at sea, but He did still the storm in my own heart, so that somehow my wife and I came through that terrible time still on our feet."

When the interview was broadcast, letters poured in. Among them was an anonymous letter from Northern Ireland. "Dear Dr. Barclay. I know why God killed your daughter. It was to save her from being corrupted by your heresies." Not having the writer's address, Dr. Barclay could not respond, though he wanted to. He writes, "If I had had that writer's address I would have written back, not in anger, but in pity, and I would have said to him, as John Wesley said to someone, ‘Your God is my devil. The day my daughter was lost at sea there was sorrow in the heart of my God.'"

What does your picture of God look like? Show me your picture of God.

Answer these questions honestly.

What if we asked people in the Bible to show us their picture of God? What would they say? We can only guess.

If Adam were asked about his picture of God, surely he would say, "God is a companion who walks with me in the garden."

Abraham would tell us that God was "a friend." Abraham was the only one in the Bible called, "...the friend of God."

The children of Israel would picture God as a volcanic mountain breathing out smoke, fire, and hail! When God came close, ....they ran in fear.

Moses would describe God as radiant and glorious. He would say, "God makes my face shine." When God came close, he asked to see more of His glory.

Ask David to show his picture of God and he would respond, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."

Isaiah would picture God high and lifted up. He saw a thrice holy God whose presence put him on his face!

John would say that "God is light" and "God is love."

Saul of Tarsus before the Damascus road experience would show us a picture of a God who was hard to please, a "Pharisee of Pharisees." After the Damascus road, that picture changed drastically! Paul began all his letters with, "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

Without doubt, those characters of the Bible, who had the greatest, healthiest, most biblical and balanced pictures of God, lived the best, most praising, productive lives.

How do we get such a picture for ourselves? The answer is twofold.

First: Go to the Scriptures. The Bible provides the most complete, comprehensive picture of God available!

In the Old Testament, picture God as merciful. Hear the voice of God as He cries out in the garden, "Adam, Where art thou?" See God as He sacrifices an innocent animal, shedding its blood, providing a covering for mankind. See God sending a prophet to the wicked city of Nineveh and then forgiving them, sparing His judgment upon their repentance. In Jonah 4:1-2, as Jonah witnessed the goodness and grace of God basically said, "Its just like you to do something like this."

In the Old Testament, picture God as majestic. Hear the voice of God thunder as He shows up in a whirlwind and challenges Job in Job 38:2-3, "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me."

In the Old Testament, picture God as mighty. See the Lord in Egypt, as He unleashes His ten plagues on Pharaoh, getting glory and proving that He is the mightiest. See God part the waters for His people and drown the Egyptian army. He levels the walls of Jericho, creates empires, establishes kings, uses them for His own purpose, and then tears them down!

In the Old Testament, picture God as measureless. To Moses He reveals Himself as the great, "I AM," the self existent One. He is the burning bush, ever burning, yet never consumed!

In the Old Testament, picture God as mysterious. In Isaiah 55:8, God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." Job's friends thought they had his situation all figured out because they thought they had God all figured out. Bad things happen to bad people, and good things happen to good people. If you do good, you receive good and visa versa. The bad things in Job's life were because of some sin! This is what they thought, but they were all wrong about Job and about God.

God does not owe us anything, least of all an explanation of what He is doing in our lives! In any picture of God, make sure there is room for mystery. Paul writes in Romans 11:33-36, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? 36 For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."

For an accurate portrait of God, get your Bible and read. Go to the Scriptures! But there's more!

Second: Go to the Savior. The New Testament, pictures God as the "son of man." In Jesus, God comes close and shows us His face. Paul affirms this in II Corinthians 4:6. He says, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." God is Christlike! Colossians 1:15 speaks of Jesus Christ and says, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature." Verse 19 says, "For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell." John said, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Some have said, "God is Christlike and in Him is no un-Christlikeness at all!"

Jesus revealed God by the words He spoke. In Luke 15, Jesus told the story of a young man who demanded his inheritance from his father. In rebellion he left home and spent all he had on wasteful and wicked living. After he spent all his money, he hit the bottom, came to himself, repented, and returned home to find his father waiting, longing for his son's return, praying, looking down the road. When he sees his son, the father runs to him, embraces him, forgives and restores him, then throws a party. What a wonderful picture of God!

Jesus revealed God by the life He lived. Observe Jesus as He reached out to everyone from a woman caught in the act, to a leper, the rich young ruler, and a tax collector. See Him tenderly gather the little children up in His arms, and then hot with anger, take a whip, clearing the temple of those who took advantage of the needy and corrupted God's house! Watch Him on the cross as He turns to the repentant thief dying there by His side and says, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise!"

Jesus revealed God by the death He died. Think about it, the beloved Son in whom God was well pleased, bleeding, dying on a cross that was meant for us! As Jesus weeps, God weeps. As Jesus suffers, God suffers. As Jesus dies, God dies! We can look at Calvary and know that we are never alone in our pain and suffering.

Jesus revealed God in His glorious resurrection. Jesus was not defeated by the power of darkness and death. The risen Savior demonstrates the death defeating power of God's love! Yes, love does get crucified and people get hurt, but God will have the last word! Jesus proves that with faith in God, there is always hope!

What kind of picture of God do you carry in your heart and mind? It will be revealed in your actions, attitudes, and how you live for Him. The more you study your Bible and the life of Jesus , the more accurate your picture of God will become. Also you will become more effective in showing others a more accurate picture of the God of the Bible.

As you grow in God's Word and the trials of life, your picture of God will change, and continue to develop. It will not be complete until one day you shall see Him face to face. I John 3:2 says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."

Go To Rodgers Baptist Church Home Page