God’s character is described in detail throughout His Word. Sometimes when we read Scripture, we have a difficult time reconciling the words that describe God with our own understanding of God. This may happen because our knowledge of God has been influenced by factors which caused us to develop a false view of Him. For us to grow in relationship with God, we must correct our false views.
Luke, age 30, grew up in an average middle class family. They attended church and Sunday school together every week. Luke has memorized Scripture verses which he quotes regularly and can name, in order, every book of the Bible.
Each of us is specially created by God with our own personality, temperament, gifts and abilities. We each live in our own unique environment. Our inherent traits combined with our environmental influences will determine how we interpret our experiences. This is how we make sense of our world. However, we do have natural limits; not enough brain power to know everything or enough time to experience everything. Our desire to protect ourselves emotionally conspires with our own sinfulness to slant our perception of reality. Past experiences will have an effect on our present point of view. With different variables providing input, we do not always interpret our experiences correctly.
Luke has a very likeable personality, is outgoing and charming, and relates to women better than men. He is also very gifted musically. He sings and plays several instruments well. He is the minister of music at his church.
Unfortunately, our human tendency to misinterpret our experiences can affect our view of God as well. It is common to project the strengths and weaknesses of our parents onto God. It is also common to project other human characteristics onto God. False views of God can make it very difficult to relate to Him. Because of these false views, many people are struggling to establish and maintain a healthy, Biblical view of God.
Luke’s father was distant and detached when Luke was growing up. He was a quiet, solemn man who rarely smiled.
Some of the common false views of God are a God who is impossible to please; a God who is emotionally distant; a God who is condemning; a God who is unreliable and a God who abandons.
Although Luke appears to have an excellent Christian walk, he views God as emotionally distant and impossible to please. He constantly feels as though he is letting God down and that God is not particularly interested in him. He secretly believes that he has failed God. He has trouble referring to God as “Father.”
The situation is not hopeless. Once we are aware that our views of God are false, we can take some concrete steps towards correcting them.
Luke recently joined a small men’s Bible study with several men from outside his church. As the group progressed, the men began to bond emotionally and share with each other more deeply. Luke became aware that many of the men in the group had a different view of God than he did. They were convinced God loved them and they seemed to have an intimate relationship with Him. Luke was surprised by this and gradually began to share his views of God in the group.
Identify False Views
The first step is to identify our false views of God. Exactly what false character traits are we assigning to Him? We must consider ideas that we wrestle with or ideas that we have trouble believing are true. It can be helpful to look at a list of false views that people typically have about God. Some of those are mentioned in the paragraph above, but this list is by no means exhaustive. It frequently happens that we have two competing views of God; the view presented in Scripture and the view based on how we have interpreted our experiences with God. It is as though we have a God we know with our thoughts and a different God we know with our emotions.
One of the older men in the group, Richard, helped Luke realize that his views of God did not line up with Scripture. He encouraged Luke to explore more fully his views of God.
The next step in correction is to identify the sources of our false views of God. How did these false views arise? It is helpful to realize that most of our false views are based on our early life experiences, mainly involving our families. After listing our false views of God, we must spend some time identifying and describing the feelings that these views cause. For some of us this will take some time, but for others the feelings will quickly surface. We must then ask ourselves some questions. “Have I ever felt these same feelings earlier in life? When and in what circumstances did I feel them?” These experiences and the feelings they cause will often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.
As Luke talked more about his views of God with Richard and the group, he began to feel sadness over the lack of connection in his relationship with God. In a fairly short time, Luke was also able to connect those feelings of sadness to his relationship with his father. He realized that he had assumed God was just like his earthly father, cold and distant.
Reinterpret Our Experiences
The third step in correction is to reinterpret our experiences. We must look back at the experiences that contributed to the development of our false views of God and ask Him to show us what He was trying to accomplish in those times. We must also ask Him to reveal His heart towards us. We should try to use our head (scriptural) knowledge of God when asking Him for these revelations. Feelings can be unreliable and we need to be objective, so we may also need someone else to help us to see God’s perspective. It is important to be honest with God about our emotions during this process. If we are angry with God we should express that anger to Him. He knows our hearts anyway, and if we are honest with Him, He can heal our hearts.
As Luke continued to process his feelings, he leaned on Richard a lot for feedback and guidance. He realized that he was angry at God for the lack of connection he had with his father. He felt God had deprived him. Richard helped Luke express his anger to God. He helped Luke explore his past openly and pointed out instances where it had appeared God was there and caring deeply for Luke in the midst of his need. They prayed together for insight, grieved at Luke’s loss and talked for hours about God’s characteristics.
Determine And Reinforce A Right View Of God
The fourth step in correction is to determine and reinforce a right view of God. One important way to accomplish this is to meditate on the truth of who God is. We must read and study Scripture, think about it, ponder it and absorb it into our hearts and minds. We must ask others to help us recognize when we begin to rely on our feelings; feelings that are contrary to what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. We must create new experiences to help us internalize God’s truth. This means that in spite of what our feelings may be telling us, we will make faith-choices based on the truth of God’s Word.
Richard became a substitute father for Luke during this time. Luke began to experience the way a connected father would interact with his son. Richard helped Luke learn for the first time how to read Scripture with his heart. He directed Luke to Bible passages that would tell him of God the Father’s love for his children. Gradually, Luke began to let go of his false views of God and to develop a relationship with God that stunned him with its intimacy.
For some of us, correcting false views of God will be a relatively easy process. For others, the process may take longer and be a more difficult journey. Developing and reinforcing right views of God can make a tremendous difference in our relationship with Him. Right views of God will allow us to be more obedient to Him and more compassionate and loving to others. They will deepen and expand our adventure of living with God.
Luke is now able to say with absolute certainty, “God the Father loves me.”
• Looking at the Exhibit “Correcting False Views of God,” work through a false view of God that you struggle with.
CORRECTING FALSE VIEWS OF GOD
Correcting false views involves several steps:
1) Identify false views of God that you have:
a. We often have two competing views of God.
b. One view is the one presented in Scripture. The other is the one based on how we interpret our experiences with God. (Note David’s change of perspective when he took his struggles to God in Psalm 73.)
2) Identify the sources of these false views:
a. Most false views are based on early life experiences, primarily involving our families.
b. These experiences often taint our interpretation of our experiences with God.
3) Reinterpret your experiences:
a. As you look at the experiences that contributed to the development of your false view of God, ask Him to show you what He was trying to accomplish in those times and what His heart is toward you (Romans 8:28).
b. You may need help being objective since it is easy to just react to your feelings, which may be unreliable. Ask someone else to help you see God’s greater purposes in your life.
4) Determine and reinforce right views of God:
a. Meditate on the truth of who God is.
b. With the help of others, recognize when you begin relying on your feelings instead of what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.
c. Create a new experience to help you internalize truth. This involves making a faith-choice based on the truth of God’s Word, in spite of what your feelings say.
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