God is not who we imagine

Some of us, if not most of us, don’t focus on the "Good News" part — the conquering of death — while we still must live in various measures of misery. No treasure chests. It’s difficult to see that creation is being readied for a complete restoration. We’re here now. We wonder why there are still dire consequences after his good news. 

God doesn’t work the way we think.

Image by Dean Moriarty

God is not who we imagine

By John Pearring

Acts 9:1-20
John 6:52-59

Here’s something that Christians don’t say.

“Jesus, I have come to believe that you are the true Son of God. Life will be much easier now. I won’t have any more problems. Thank you for taking away all the dangers and woes that have bothered me for so long.”

That’s not true.

The truth? The god we want is likely not the real God. Here’s how you can tell.

Consider these three natural things that happen to us when we contemplate God. First, we believe we need to “find” God. Next, our desires for peace, prosperity, and holiness probably don’t happen after God becomes real in our life. And lastly, getting a family and lots of friends who love us is not proof that we’ve found God. 

“Aaackkk!” you may be shouting. Let’s review Jesus’ “Good News,” and I think you might agree that the proof of God in our lives ends up with a very different message.

The Gospel, or Good News, is a mantra of events. It begins with Jesus’ incarnation, meaning that God entered creation as one of us. He lived a typical life on earth. Jesus was wrongly crucified. After three days, confirming his death as accurate, Jesus was resurrected. Some 40 days later, with his disciples present, Jesus ascended into heaven with a promise to return. 

This good news message fulfills the prophecies of the Jewish testaments. It does not achieve the three things we build in our minds about God. We don’t get to “find” God, setting off on a divine search. We aren’t rewarded with peace, prosperity, and holiness eΩither. Not all of us, and not all of those things. We don’t get harmony in our family and among our friends. Not really. So, what’s this good news stuff?

The gospel message is a fully vested revelation that God not only exists, but he incarnated as one of us, lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. 

I say it’s a “vested” revelation because it is certified and proven. We have an apparent, amazing God that we couldn’t have imagined. The real God is totally unique from our idea of a god.

We get a God who joins us in creation, not a god of money, power, fame, and revenge.

We get a God who took everything on the chin while he lived with us — insults, poverty, hard-scrabble work, and death — and he also experienced the joys of our life, the hard-won challenges, patience, and miraculous abundance. We didn’t get a god who killed off the bad guys, placed folks like us in charge, and then eradicated evil in our lifetime. 

We get a God who conquered death by raising his tortured and murdered body into an immortal one, a wholeness of body and spirit that testifies to our own resurrections.

We get a God in human bodily form who then ascended to the Paradise where our ancestors once lived. He sits as our King, waiting for us to arrive, while in ways we don’t know, he’s preparing a restoration of everything back into Paradise.

Some of us, if not most of us, don’t focus on that part — the conquering of death — while we still must live in various measures of misery. No treasure chests. It’s difficult to see that creation is being readied for a complete restoration. We’re here now. We wonder why there are still dire consequences after his good news. God doesn’t work the way we think.

What do I mean we can’t “find” God? God is already right here. We don’t have to find him. He’s not hidden. Plus, he’s not mad at us. He’s not pouting, disappointed. And, God is not crouching inside a box with tricky buttons that we have to carefully push … just so … to locate him.

Searching for God is unnecessary since all we have to do is allow God to enter us. It’s so easy it’s unbelievable. We want God to be more complicated than that. Searching for God puts us in charge. We want to find the god we’re looking for, not for God to just be there. 

How did this finding thing enter our imaginations? 

We see ourselves as the good guys, fighting our way through a gauntlet to win God. God is a mystery that we have to solve. We must discover him on our own with clever methods of research and deduction. We look under rocks, inside caves, on top of mountains, in deserts and forests, and even under the sea. And tada! There he is. “We found him!”

Some folks say God needs to be located in a secret place, in our hearts or heads. We have to peel back all these awful and distracting parts of ourselves to find him. We have to make ourselves really good, and then we’ll finally get a glimpse of God. Then, we need to make him love us.

That’s all nonsense. God is right here even though we’ve got ugly spots, bad habits, annoying fetishes, and histories we’d like to forget. He forgives all that — when we repent and ask for his aid. It’s so easy that no one immediately believes it.

Our next problem is we strive to live in peace, prosperity, and holiness. All good things, but we don’t control those things. Peace comes from the God who lives in us, not the God we’re looking for. Peace with God and other believers in God happens while we’re being bothered by life, living with disease, hobo broke, surrounded by evil, and constantly worried that some crappy thing or another is just around the corner. Peace with God is available amid awfulness, not after we’ve removed it.

Prosperity is random. It takes everything we’ve got to keep fortune in place for the next week, month, or year. We can lose everything at any moment. We can also be showered with money and assets. Prosperity isn’t bad. It’s just not dependable. The best we will ever feel about things and money is when we give them away, not when we hold on to them.

Holiness is the biggest disappointment. We try rituals, sincere prayer, almsgiving, and being pure as the driven snow. While all of these holy actions remind us of goodness and mirror the character of God, they are just as fleeting as prosperity. Confession and repentance mark our everyday interactions with God. Our returns to God give him the most joy. We can feel his love when we know he forgives us.

Lastly, if we expect that God makes our family and friends love us for who we are because God loves us, then we’ve manufactured god, not met him. We want arguments, violent exchanges, harsh words, and grudges to go away. All should be well in our households and gathering places. That’s how we’ll know we’ve found God, right?

That’s just plain silly. Sure, we want that, but it’s not real. Happy homes and friendships are not proof that we’re in the lap of God. Jesus spent three years with a bunch of knuckleheads. Just like us. He loved them anyway, and even in his frustrations, he shows us that love has many sides. Jesus ran from the crowds, then spent all night healing them. He hid from the apostles, and they followed him like puppies. His family thought he’d lost his mind, and he added them to his ranks as disciples.

Jesus was not an easy rabbi. He is not complacent and agreeable like we want. He told his leadership and the disciples that they were to eat his body and drink his blood. Nobody was thrilled by this. Many Catholics still can’t accept that statement today. Entire Protestant faiths are built upon rationalizations and other less cannibal-like translations about his body and blood. 

Jesus asked those who stayed, “Are you going to leave me, too?” Peter nailed the answer.

“Where the hell else can we go? You’re the incarnated Son of God. You sound like you’re out of your mind, but we’ve got to swallow this mysterious thing you’re saying because you’re the One. Who are we to say no to God?”

Peter must have reviewed the three things we’ve just debunked. God was not hiding. Peace, prosperity, and holiness were fickle. Proof that God is real didn’t translate to family and friends loving him. Everything was not great.

Nope. Peter didn’t know what would come, but he trusted Jesus. Not right away, of course. Peter knew Jesus was exceptional, but he didn’t have all the evidence. After the crucifixion, the resurrection, and ascension, Peter grasped the promised life to come. That’s the gospel message for us, too.

Want peace, holiness, and prosperity? Give this life we live to God for whatever purpose God wants. Translate those hopes into God’s grace instead. It’s no longer our life, where we’re in charge of what God should do. 

Use me any way you want, God, and when you’re done with me, “Hallelujah!” 

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