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July 4, 2010
Let Us Change Godinto Our Image
“Professing to be wise,they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:22-23). As Paul describes the depths to which man had fallen, he notes that man exchanged the glory of God for things inferior. Doesn’t that just jump right out at us? Don’t we see how unsophisticated ancient man must have been to somehow come to the conclusion that God was some “bird” or “four footed animal” or “crawling creature”? Aren’t we constantly intrigued as archeologist uncover ancient idols and altars and temples of these ancient pagans?
“The form of corruptible man” — did you even notice that phrase? Before Paul even mentions animals, creatures, or birds, he says that man has exchanged God’s incorruption for man’s corruptible form. It wasn’t just the ancient pagans that had a problem is it? This tendency to “exchange” God continues right into today. It is about the “form of man” and how man views himself in relation to God. man is constantly attempting to “make” God in “our” image.
Perhaps the most common thing is that so many have changed the glory of God into the image of individual man himself. After enumerating the evil man had done, God makes the remark, “You thought I was just like you” (Psalm 50:21). Man deceives man and thinks he can do the same thing to God. Remember the story of Ananias and his wife, Sapphira? They were deceiving their fellow man and they thought that lying to the Spirit was no different (Acts 5:1-10). Is this not because that man conceives God to be like unto himself? Man hides from other men. This makes him to think that God is like man and we can hide from Him, too. Think about Adam and Eve and their response after their sin: “and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Man makes God into the image of the individual in so many ways.
Man has changed the glory of the image of the omnipresent God into the image of a local god. The Arameans of long ago thought that God was a local god. As they came against the people of God, they “filled the whole country.” They were confident that God would only be local — a god of the hills but not a god of the valleys (1Kings 20:28). Apparently some Christians think that God is some kind of a local god, perhaps a god of only where they live. Do we think that God stays home when we go on vacation? God is everywhere (Psalm 139:1-10).
Man has changed the glory of God into a god of ethnicity — the great white father or perhaps the great black, brown, red, or yellow father. Who could even think that God even has a color? God is spirit: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Also, He is interested in everyone — not just some particular ethnic group: “For God so loved the world …” (John 3:16). Why would anyone think about the color of God other than because he has changed the image of God into the likeness of man?
In a similar way, man has changed the glory of God into the image of a national god. Do you think of God as an American god? Really! How do you conceive him? Do you think he may be more interested in Americans than he is in Russians? What about Chinese, Brazilians, or Croatians? God is the God of all people. “… He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth …” (Acts 17:25-26). An Italian preaching brother once joked that we ought to go on and learn Italian because we would have to know that to speak to anyone in heaven. Joking aside, isn’t that the way we think? Don’t we think that God is “our” God — that He puts us first? The reality is that any nation must put God first to be successful and that any nation that does so will be exalted. “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
Some have the tendency to change the glory of God into a god of time — that He only watches and sees at certain intervals. Some think that God is a god of the day and not the night. Jesus, speaking of Himself the Light, makes a comparison and contrast of those that commit evil in the dark and those that come to the Light (John 3:19-21). God is the God of both — He sees in the day and the night: “Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You” (Psalm 139:12). We can’t act one way during the day and another way during the night. Some seem to think that God is a God of the Lord’s Day but not of Saturday or any other day of the week. He is not bound by time.
Some have changed the image of God into some kind of a great cream-puff god. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the informal use of “cream-puff” denotes something “weak” or “ineffectul.” Some seem to think that God is a god of love only and that eventually he will save nearly everyone because of his great love. But that is a changed image of God. God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16-19). God will punish those who do not obey him. (2Thessalonians 1:6-9). Remember the kindness and severity of God (Romans 11:22).
Thinking of the exchanging of the incorruptible image of God, we realize the change doesn’t have to be into some metal, wood, or stone idol of an animal, bird, or crawling creature. The thing most often found is an image of God as ourselves — with our shortcomings, our flaws, our inabilities. The ancient Greeks and later Romans) come to mind. They indeed had images, but they were so “modern” that they had begun to hold to their gods in human form — gods who were complete with all human foibles — gods who were involved in drunkenness, fornication, lying — you name it. Their gods weren’t in control, they were controlled. It is the same today. Everyone wants their god to make them “feel good,” a god that doesn’t condemn (at least not too harshly), a god that is no better than themselves.
I want a God who is just, holy, righteous, and in charge. I want a God who is creator and sustainer. I want a God who loves me, but punishes wickedness and disobedience, who chastises me when needed. I want God, the one and only true God, who blesses with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Don’t you?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.