Do we put God in a box?
It seems like a silly question. The kind of problem that a philosopher would ponder endlessly. How can we put the Eternal Creator in a box? It is impossible as God rules over all things. He existed before anything in the universe was formed. Yet in some ways, this is exactly what we attempt when our will clash with God’s.
It is an all too common occurrence. When we allow our beliefs about God to be defined by our plans, hopes, emotions, and preferences rather than by God Himself. We transform the Perfect One who sits on the throne of all things and into something that reflects our own brokenness. This should never be so.
We are self-centered creatures. We like our comfort, our ideas, and most of all our control. We like to rule over our own lives. So when our will conflicts with God’s, the temptation is to change God to suit us. God reveals Himself to us in the Bible and through His Son, Jesus. It is God’s greatest gift to mankind. It doesn’t seem to be that great, though, when it stands between us and what we want…women, power, money, whatever the flesh is demanding at the moment.
Our Version of god
It doesn’t seem like outright rebellion we justify to ourselves. “Did God really say?” a familiar voice hisses in our ears. We are just changing God a bit. Not coincidentally, this new improved version agrees with our urges. Our flesh takes refuge in this false version of God. It does not want to submit to the real one. As a result, we manufacture an idea of God and His righteousness that is more palatable to us. We put God in a box.
It is similar to cherishing our favorite family heirloom. We transform God from our Lord and Master to a god we keep safe on a shelf in the house. We craft an ornate box with felt lining to make it seem special. Occasionally, we bring our god out to be admired. We tell everyone about the great little god and his fancy box. But this god has no real impact or involvement in our lives.
Taking a Hummel collection out every once in a while makes us feel good, but doesn’t drive any decisions or change behavior. We don’t need to listen to a god we have created. It is simply a small reflection of us in all our brokenness. When we want to sin, we create a talisman that allows us to do so without feeling bad about it.
The Bible presents this picture repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. We know the Israelites are familiar with Yahweh. They saw Him on Mt. Sinai, were fed by His manna and walked through seas parted by Him. They know there is a real God who cares for them. Yet, they descend into cycles of idolatry despite this knowledge and experiences. They do so for a simple reason. The idols allow them to do whatever they want to do. Sex, drugs and the ancient version of rock and roll are all endorsed by the false gods the Israelite clung to.
God calls them to holiness. Idols call them to sin. The Israelites choose idols when they want to sin. In contrast, we don’t tend to revert to carving statues of Baal. That would be a way to openly rebellious. We just change God’s nature to suit our desires. It has the same result, just a different methodology.
God is Limitless
The real God is never limited. So if we have created a version who can be dictated to, that is not God. No matter how much we try to put ourselves on the throne of our lives, it always is occupied. God is not challenged by our attempts to take away His position. He is just saddened by it.
If we enjoy a certain activity and the Bible speaks against it, we block that portion of the message from reaching us. “God would want us to enjoy ourselves“, we tell ourselves. If we are involved in a relationship that the Bible says is sinful, well, god in a box is all about love. We really love the person and our created god can’t tell us not to do so.
Thanks to the fleshly nature we still carry around with us, all of us still have varying layers of junk. You know, the bad things we savor and try to do despite knowing they are not good for us. Thanks to Jesus, we are offered a choice every time our sin conflicts with God’s plan. When our prejudice, comfort, pride or other fleshly impulses are challenged by the Holy Spirit, we are free to choose.
Do we let God and His truth freely reign in our lives, even when it is hard?
Choose to Follow Jesus
If we choose God then the Holy Spirit helps us. Holiness is not easy. It is wonderful, though, when it is powered by God. The alternative is to set up our own little throne for our lives and place ourselves on it. We then craft our own little god to serve us and justify ourselves in our eyes.
God is the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End, He serves no one. Any god we create is never real. Like the idols of the Old Testament, it is just there to allow us to justify our desires.
Our choice leads us either to joy, the power of the Spirit working, growth in the Lord and true fulfillment or to sin.
What are the wages of sin again?
Are we being stretched? Are we being challenged? Is God is taking our preconceived notions right now and dashing them with His truth? Great! This means that we are interacting with the real King of Kings. He will always cause us to examine ourselves and want to be better. He is perfect. We are not. God outside of our limits is exactly where He should be.
His ways are so much better than ours. We all know there is no such thing as a god in a box.
Tom Neary is loving life as an on fire follower of Jesus. Helping others see to the glory of Jesus and to live abundantly in Him is his mission. He is a Christian, husband, father, lawyer and a regular guy called to teach God’s Word simply. To check out more of what Tom is doing visit pastorunlikely.com and calvarycatonsville.com. Tom has also just launched a podcast “Come Let Us Disciple” focused on informal discipleship.