Did you know it can be dangerous to study about God? Some time ago I came across a survey taken among children, asking them to fill in the blank: “God is ________.” One boy wrote, “God is the smartest one of all, and He didn’t even have to go to school, because there were no schools in His time.” A little girl said, “God is always around when you need help, but only with important things, not your homework.” Another wrote, “God is the only one without a birthday because He was the first one.” Finally, a fourth child said, “God is everywhere…like the air. We breathe Him in and out. He don’t mind.” As cute as their answers may be, they point out the first danger in studying about God—
Danger #1: Imagination and Speculation. Why is imagination dangerous when studying about God? Because that’s the stuff heresies are made of. Star Wars is a good example, for what happened when George Lucas speculated about God? He came up with a god that is very different from the God of the Bible. He came up with the Force—the idea that instead of being a personal God who loves us and made everything out of nothing, god is an impersonal force that fills the universe with power. That allowed him to craft a fascinating story but it is contrary to what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that rather than being part of creation, God is holy and distinct from everything He made, and that the only way to have Him living inside us is by repenting of our sins and inviting His Son Jesus to come and live in our hearts as our Savior.
Or to say it another way, you cannot find God on your own. Instead, what has to happen in order to know God? He must reveal Himself to you. Like a window with the shades drawn, you can speculate as to what’s on the other side of the curtain, but it’s not until God lifts the blind that we are able to know Him in spirit and in truth. But the good news is He has done that. He has revealed Himself to us through creation, then more precisely through the Bible, but most important of all, He has shown us what He is like through the Person of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:46) So in all our studies about God, the first thing we must do is seek Him through the revelation of His written Word, not through human speculation and imagination.
Danger #2: Pride. The temptation, as we learn more about God, is to become proud of what we’ve learned. The Apostle Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” (1 Cor. 8:1) You’ve met people like this. Know-it-alls with big heads and small hearts who like to compare themselves with the less learned thereby growing more and more impressed not with the goodness, grace, and glory of God, but with themselves and their own finite knowledge. As a result, their hearts grow ever colder toward God and harder toward others.
Danger #3: Knowledge without Relationship. This is the tendency to collect more and more data about God without meeting Him in a personal way. Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees for this. For though they knew much about God and were proud of all they knew, Jesus said it did them no good. They were like white-washed tombs—bright and shining on the outside, but dead on the inside because they had never opened their hearts to His Spirit. For that reason, He calls us not to be mere hearers of His Word but also doers of it. And to become doers of His Word, we must pursue the qualities that go far beyond knowledge—qualities like faith, humility, patience, and compassion. So let me caution you before we continue our study. Go beyond the facts to the fundamental issue. Make sure in all your learning that you remember the most important thing of all—knowing Christ and being transformed by His Spirit.
One of the things I have had a chance to do a lot in recent years is travel, often to unusual places. Moldova is such a place. I have traveled there to teach the Bible. I do not enjoying traveling to Moldova. It is hot, dirty, smelly, and when I teach there, I usually sleep on someone’s couch and eat food that does not agree with me. So when asked to teach my last class there, I tried to get out of it. But with no one else able to go, I finally agreed. Guess what! Instead of being miserable, it almost turned out to be fun. Did conditions change? No. Things were worse than ever—no indoor plumbing, 100 degree heat, 90% humidity, and no screens on the windows which meant either roasting in the heat or fighting dive bombing mosquitoes all night long. So what made the difference? I took a friend along, and rather than letting the unpleasant things we encountered make us miserable, we turned them into a source of humor. We laughed about everything!
I share that not to bemoan my travels into Moldova, but to underscore what I’ve been learning in recent years. I don’t have to make the journey through life alone. There is Someone eager to go with me wherever I travel, and His presence makes all the difference in my life. Knowing Him gives me a peace, a courage, and a strength that transforms every unpleasantness into a new opportunity to know Him better and grow more like Him. That’s a journey I plan to continue as long as I live, and I invite you to join me with this promise. If you use this learning opportunity to go beyond collecting information to seeking His presence, you’ll find yourself becoming a very different person because no one who has ever experienced God in a personal way has remained the same.
(Next week’study: “Stendahl’s Syndrome: The Holiness of God.”)