I am heartbroken over the bombings in Sri Lanka this past Easter. According to news outlets, it was a Muslim extremist group somehow linked to ISIS or Al Qaeda. In an article in the Washington Post, written by Jon Gambrell, the tag line for these groups is:
“We love death more than you love life.”
If nothing else, this should illustrate to people that not every entity referred to as ‘God’ is the same. I remember an old episode on the Oprah Winfrey Show where the theme is God. None of the guests were Christians. While taking questions from the audience, one person said, “What about Jesus?” Oprah responded by suggesting that it doesn’t matter if you call it God, Jesus, the Light, Love, just as long as you live a good life.
The Easter bombings illustrate the epic danger in this philosophy. God, for all religions, is seen as a higher being, an authority to which we aspire to please or to unite with. Hindus work to become one with Brahman. Buddhists claim no god. They do not worship Buddha, but he is an example of a person who has reached ‘enlightenment’ allowing him to escape the continual cycles of rebirth. Allah is a very harsh and judgmental god. Islam gives no security of Heaven or paradise. Militant Islam, however, believes that a suicide bomber is an automatic into paradise. Some would say that the ‘God’ of Islam is the same God. But for the peaceful Muslim enjoying life going about their own business who is just as appalled at bombings such as these has a totally different God from the suicide bombers who carried out this atrocity. In the same way, the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who claim Christianity as their religion have a very different God from me. I don’t want anything to do with their God. And this is the point, isn’t.
The wickedness of ‘all gods are the same’ lumps every religious person together and every religion together in a way that has demonized religion in general. Religion is a man-made organization to help people ascend to a higher spiritual level which differs depending on the religion. But don’t assume because you see a Mosque that their belief is the same as others. And don’t assume that just because the name ‘Jesus’ or ‘Christ’ is on the sign of a church that it is the same as others. And you had better know what you believe about God or you may easily be fooled into worshipping a god you never intended to worship or you may hate those who do.
I remember in a History of Religion course I took in college, we were asked to write a paper about any religion. In my study group, there was a Christian girl who decided she wanted to write about the Mormon church. I remember she said that they believed in Jesus and she did also, and so, there was no harm in going to the Mormon church to gather information for the paper. Well, suddenly she wasn’t in class and we asked the professor who said that the girl told him she was moving to Salt Lake and joining the Mormon church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) follow the teachings of Christ. They use the Bible, but the Jesus they worship is different than the Jesus I worship. Do you know the difference?
While the mantra of militant Islam is “We love death more than you love life,” the Bible says that those who love death hate God and all who hate God love death (Proverbs 8:36, NIV). This is certainly not the same God.
Because the nature of a ‘God’ calls for some kind of behavior, worship, or mindset from us, it is imperative we know what we believe about God. How many ‘Christians’ have used the Bible to beat people over the head because of their sin? Yet the same Bible they are using to condemn other Christians says that God doesn’t condemn (Romans 8:1). If you are sitting under a preacher that uses guilt as the main motivator to get you to change your life, you need to know if this is a true reflection of the God you say you believe in. For Christians, the Bible says we have been cleansed of a guilty conscience (Hebrews 10:22, NIV). The Bible teaches the difference between a godly sorrow which leads us back to God because of His enduring forgiveness while worldly sorrow overwhelms us with guilt and feelings of failure. It was worldly sorrow that led Judas to take his own life but godly sorrow that caused Peter to jump out of a boat, swimming with all of his might to get to Jesus, whom he had denied just days before. But this is what I mean…we can’t just assume that what we hear about ‘God’ is a true characterization of God.
For Christians, this is the reason the Holy Spirit prompted writings and teachings to be gathered together in what we call the Bible. This is why God, the Father sent Jesus, the Son. He didn’t just come to die on a cross. He came to reveal the nature and character of God to the world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is referred to as the Word. The life of Christ is God telling us who He is. But if we don’t know the Scripture, we will not fully know God and we might be fooled into believing something about God that is not true.
We believe in a Trinitarian God, but the word ‘trinity’ is never used in Scripture. It is derived from the places where a singular God refers to Himself in the plural (Genesis 1:26, NIV). It is gathered from Jesus’ own words that He and the Father are one (John 10:30, NIV). When Jesus tells us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it is a statement that all of these entities are the makeup of one God. Most Christians are fully aware of praying ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,’ but we don’t know what it means. The three entities of one God makes the God of the Bible very unique.
The Father is pure and holy and hates sin, cannot be near sin. The Son is the mediator who loves sinners enough to come and live with sinners and hang out with them. The Holy Spirit is the helper we have that helps us commune with a God who is Higher than we. Our God hates sin, but loves sinners and wants to be connected to us on a spiritual level and help us escape the dangers of sin.
We don’t always respond to God as He reveals Himself in the Bible. When we are full of guilt, we are responding to God as if He only existed in the Father, but not the Son or the Spirit. When we minimize our sin, we are responding as if He is only the Son who died for our forgiveness, but we are loving what the Father hates and grieving the Holy Spirit. If we love the euphoria of worship, but don’t try to live a holy life also, we are responding to God as if He is only the Spirit without the Father and the Son. I think you can see what I am trying to say even though this is a very simplistic explanation of the Trinity. The point is that to respond to God in a way that we have the relationship and the life He wants to give us, we need to know Him, His personality, His thoughts, His perspective. The Bible says that through the Holy Spirit, we can know the Truth and think as Christ does (1 Corinthians 2:16, NIV).
The more we understand about God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, we closer we can draw near to Him. The less we know, the greater danger of responding to Him as some preacher in church or on television has depicted Him.
We must study the Scripture. We must verify what we are taught with Scripture. We must seek to know God as He reveals Himself in Scripture. So, how well do you know Him? He is not like any other god. The next time someone says that it doesn’t matter what you call him as long as you believe in God, don’t fall for it. Not all gods are the same.
No one is like you, Lord;
you are great,
and your name is mighty in power. (NIV)
Who among the gods
is like you, Lord?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders? (NIV)
Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
no deeds can compare with yours. (NIV)
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (NIV)