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I Believe in God

Welcome to the study series, “I Believe In God". Sounds too basic for you to consider? I hope not because, despite the incredible resources available to us today, there remains a great deal of ignorance about this subject. Take a few minutes to read  Jeremiah 9/23,24 and John 17/1-5. What is their common theme? What is the key word in each passage?

Whenever I am asked the question, “What do you believe to be the greatest need in the Church today?" my answer is prompt and unqualified. What the Christian Church needs today more than anything else is a fresh revelation of God! Without such a revelation the Church will continue to worship and serve a god of its own creation, not the God known by revelation.

Think about this: Every great move of God in the history of the world has been triggered by a fresh revelation of God. The Exodus began with God revealing Himself to Moses. The conquest of the Promised Land began with a revelation of God to Joshua. The Pentecost Event following the Resurrection of Jesus began not with Peter preaching but with the fullness of the Holy Spirit overpowering the disciples.

The fact that you are reading these notes suggests that you would likely be one who says, “I believe in God". But the question we will explore through this series is : "Yes, but which God?" Is He the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture OR is He the God of our creation? The Bible says that we are made in the image of God. However, it is disturbingly possible that we can make God in our image. With that uncomfortable reality in mind, let's begin our teaching series and let us be open to that fresh revelation of God.

 

The Uni student said to the chaplain, “I don't believe in God". To which the chaplain responded, “Describe for me this God in whom you don't believe". The student launched into a lengthy description of a God who was vindictive, distant, uncaring, unreasonable in the expectations He put on us, callous, cruel…and so the list went on. When he had finished the chaplain turned to him and said, “I don't believe in that God either"!!

So many in our world reject what is their image or concept of God. But often they are rejecting a caricature of the true God. What is your understanding? On what is it based? How accurate is it?

[1] WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW GOD?

a. The words translated “know" in the New Testament mean accurate information about & personal experience of the living God. i.e. knowing about God (information) and knowing God (experience). We need both. Why?

b. “Truth without Experience = Sterility; Experience without Truth = Instability". Discuss those two ideas. What do they mean? Can you give an example?

c. We need a balance between truth & experience. Both are vital to spiritual health.

d. Read Psalm 115/1-8 and especially note v.8 “Those who make them will be like them & so will all who trust in them". We become like the god we worship. So it is vital that we worship the True and Living God.

*Daniel 11/32 “….but the people who know their God will firmly resist him".

*John 17/5 “…this is life eternal: that they may know you & Jesus Christ…"

e. So true knowledge & experience of God is indispensable to life's meaning and direction

[2] WHAT FACTORS MOULD OUR CONCEPT OF GOD?

A. PARENTAL MODELS

a. This is true so far as both parents are concerned but especially for fathers! Fathers who are critical, demanding, unreasonable, unpleaseable, abusive or constantly absent provide their child/children with a distorted picture of God.

b. Human experience of an earthly parent readily shapes our concept of our heavenly father. Do you know of anyone whose image of God has been distorted negatively because of their relationship to their parents?

B. CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

a. Church leaders, Sunday School teachers, Church schools, Scripture teachers. These are what we might call the “significant others" in our lives - the next level down from parents on the ‘scale of influence' ladder.

b. The emphases of childhood Bible stories are also significant. If we were raised in a Church community that emphasized God in negative terms, these images can be extremely influential in shaping our image of God. Can you give an example from your own upbringing where this was the case?

C. LIFE EXPERIENCES

a. As noted above, positive experiences lead to “good" thoughts about God - loving, caring, protecting. We are very much pre-disposed in certain ways by what we have been taught especially if it aligns with our life experiences.

b. Negative experiences create & reinforce an image of a vindictive, punishing God. If things “go wrong" that simply proves that God is negative towards me.

c. However, the maturing process also sees our image/concept of God subject to change. Although God doesn't change, our understanding of Him should mature as we journey on.

[3] HOW CAN GOD BE KNOWN BY US?

a. In one word - REVELATION! - God can only be known through His self-disclosure. In other words, human endeavour, ingenuity, effort, study etc. are not the key to the knowledge of God.

b. Matt.11/25-27 - No one knows the Father …….the Son chooses to reveal him. These verses are critical to our understanding of how we can know God.

c. This revelation may come in a number of ways

*CREATION - Ps.19/1-6 - the beauty & order of the created world

*SCRIPTURE - Ps.19/7-11; 2 Tim.3/14-17 - written record of God's self-disclosure

*JESUS CHRIST - John 14/8,9; Col.1/15; Hebrews 1/1-3a - exact reflection of God

*CHRISTIANS - an imperfect expression yet God lives in their lives - incarnation again

*PERSONAL ENCOUNTER - Luke 24/13; Acts 9/3f.

APPLICATION: Jesus came that we might know God and know about God. That's our pursuit over the coming weeks. “I believe in God". But the question is “What kind of God?" What is He like? What are His attributes? The coming study sessions are designed to answer those questions.

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