WHAT IS GOD REALLY LIKE?
DOES HE HURT AND KILL PEOPLE OR NOT?
CAN WE KNOW?
The God of the Bible is a Being who is often misunderstood. Very few people serve God out of love. Even very devout people reserve a place in the back of their minds for the inevitable disaster that God might bring upon them, or upon a friend, or worse, upon a close loved one. I have seen people who have been Christians for years become embittered and hateful toward God because they felt He either brought some kind of sickness or destruction into their lives directly or they felt He just stood by and allowed the tragedy to happen when He could have stopped it. Why? If God is love, why did He let it happen? Or worse, WHY DID HE DO IT? May I submit right now that every question we are considering here can be answered ONLY in the light of the Cross of Christ! I will not expand on that idea right now. I will come back to it later, but I just want to insert that concept into our discussion at the beginning to give us a reference point, a bench mark, as it were.
GOD IS ON TRIAL BEFORE THE UNIVERSE
Whether we want to believe it or not, our beloved Heavenly Father is on trial before the entire universe. Through the centuries, Satan has successfully painted Him as a GOD OF WRATH AND VENGEANCE with such consummate skill and alacrity through religious institutions and zealots that nearly everyone today looks upon God as a Being to be feared. When I first began sharing this concept with church groups, the most devout members of the church would usually be the first to protest.
“But, Pastor Clute,” they begin, “God does kill people. He does destroy. What about the Flood? What about Sodom and Gomorrah? What about this and what about that?” they continue, in their efforts to perpetuate this concept of a God of Wrath and hatred and vengeance about which the medieval church taught people for more than a thousand years, and which even Reformation preachers believed in, although the emphasis was upon His love more than His wrath by that time.
What about you, friend? Is your mind closed or open? Is it sealed shut with your preconceived opinions and prejudices or are you willing to reason together with me for a while as we consider this important study on the CHARACTER OF GOD? I ask you only to reserve judgment until we have considered all the evidence. God is actually on trial, for murder. Do we want to indict God for murder before we have heard all the testimony? I don’t think so.
There are hundreds of statements in both the Bible and in contemporary religious literature which seem to indicate that God does destroy, that God does hurt, maim, and kill people. In fact, God Himself seems to say, “I destroy.” The Bible states it over and over again in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 2:6; Deuteronomy 32:39.
In Isaiah 45:7, the Lord says, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” And yet in the New Testament, He says just the opposite: We…declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5.
Both texts are true. They do not really contradict each other. They can be explained. They can be harmonized, but only if you want to really know the truth about God and about Jesus Christ and about His plan for your life. Jesus is real. Jesus is true. Jesus is love. Jesus wants to live in you and guide you and implant His own character in your heart and life. Will you let Him do that? He can make life new and beautiful for you. He can give you a glorious new start. Even if you have been a church member for 60 years or more, He can give you a new beginning again and take away the nagging doubts and the fears and the perplexity you may have.
I find that church people need Jesus the most. They are in the church, but not in Christ. If that statement upsets you even a little bit, that is proof positive that Jesus’ love has not filled your soul completely yet. I know, for I have had the experience myself.
Remember that it was the most religious group of people who ever lived on the earth who killed the Creator. Is it possible that we in this generation are repeating their history step by step? What a horrifying thought! Let us get down on our knees and pray to God that we will not kill the Savior again by our wicked unbelief.
EVERY MYSTERY IN THE UNIVERSE IS ANSWERED IN THE CROSS
The cross of Jesus Christ is the Divine key that will unlock every mystery in both the secular and sacred realms. In fact, the entire history of man is like a giant murder mystery. Who is really responsible for all of this human carnage and bloodshed? The light flowing from Golgotha’s hill will chase away the shadows and reveal truths hidden from the foundation of the world.
We don’t need to be afraid of God. He will not hurt us. The cross proves that. If He ever would have lashed back, it should have been then. And He never changes, Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8. Therefore, the cross will explain all other mysteries as we behold His face seated on His eternal throne of glory. Even now, by faith and personal experience, in His day by day communications with us as He leads us in the paths of His own choosing, we can know His character by these gracious manifestations of His loving guidance.
But, it takes the cross to break our hearts and open our eyes. That is why we must continually be looking at the cross in order to understand the mystery of Godliness as well as the mystery of iniquity. See I Timothy 3:16 and I1 Thessalonians 2:7.
GOD THE FATHER REVEALED IN CHRIST
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ Jesus, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19.
This text is an amazing revelation. Here we see that God the Father was actually crucified on the cross with His only Son. Even Satan saw God revealed in His true character. But, like anyone who has taken a stand for something he believes, Satan was too proud to admit he had been wrong. But he was wrong. Dead wrong. But, he would rather die than admit his error, and so he continued in his rebellion against God the Father and Jesus His Son.
You see, friend of mine, Lucifer is the prodigal son who never came home. The Great Controversy is really a family feud and you and I are caught in the middle. We must decide whether the Father is really all He claims to be or not.
Lucifer, who has become his own Father’s enemy, or Satan, which means “adversary,” in the Hebrew, has been carrying on a campaign of hatred and slander against the Father and Son for nearly 6,000 years.
The controversy is about to come to a close, and the majority of the world still do not know what God is really like. Lucifer sinned or rebelled in the full light of sacred glory. Lucifer was the covering cherub. He knew and understood more about the Father than anyone else. Therefore, he could do untold damage to the Divine government. His rebellion was unthinkable and unbelievable, and yet it happened. Lucifer’s ability to make the Father look guilty was beyond calculation. Would the Father retaliate? Lucifer made his decision to never obey the Father again.
Yes, Satan took his stand against his Heavenly Father because he did not want to admit he was wrong. Because we are sinful beings, we have the exact tendency to do the same. No one wants to admit he is wrong. It is only as our hearts are broken and as we surrender to the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit that we can receive power to admit that we are sinners; that we have erred by our wrong choices and are in need of pardon and forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ.
And only as we look at the cross can this change take place in our hearts. Any other type of “conversion” leads to proud Pharisaism, self-righteousness, empty works instead of Spirit filled fruit. Unless our will is yielded to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our lives will be characterized either by an attitude of active rebellion or of passive indifference.
The first is a failure on our part to stop sinning, and the second is a failure to let God work through us to do righteous deeds of mercy. Both are a result of broken fellowship with the Father. Therefore, it is vitally important that we understand how beautiful and wonderful the Father truly is.
THE MORE WE KNOW ABOUT GOD THE BETTER HE LOOKS TO US
The reason we do not show and tell the height and depth of God’s love is because we have not fully seen or experienced it ourselves. But our Father is so merciful and loving. He encourages us to pick up and go forward in our lives with this new understanding of His character. How can we refuse such graciousness? What a joy to tell others of our Wonderful, Heavenly Father.
My father was not as religious as my mother, but he attended church from time to time. I had wanted to enter a religious high school, but was not able to do so, because it was my father’s belief that I would learn more in public school. He knew I wanted to be a minister and counseled me on how to be a success in that line, but he felt I would be better off finishing my last year in the public school I had been attending. The Lord worked through my father to give me much counsel in many things, and I trusted his judgment and submitted to his authority. He encouraged me in my decision to enter a Christian college and was supportive in all my studies for the next four years.
In the fall of 1956, when I was only 18 years old, I entered a liberal arts college to study for the ministry. All my life, my mother had taught me about God. I had also studied the Bible on my own, but still there were many passages I could not comprehend. Yet, I had a wonderful experience with Jesus and became involved in religious activities.
MY FIRST INTRODUCTION TO THE CHARACTER OF GOD
One of the most brilliant and wonderful teachers I have ever studied under had a theme he threaded through all his lectures and classes. The theme was,”God is a loving heavenly Father. He destroys no man. Man destroys himself.” It was during this period that I began to form an image of God in my mind. It was an image of a Being that loved me so much He came to die. God became a Father who wept with me in all my trials and disappointments. I came to love and worship this heavenly Father very devoutly during my late teens and early twenties. This understanding of God has carried me through many fiery trials and deep waters. And yet, I was still very legalistic and sometimes pharisaical. I had not yet learned the full truth about the Father’s great heart of love which I am going to share with you in this book. I hope to take you step by step into the Father’s heart. We will deal with God’s character in terms of simple logic, using as much Scripture as I feel is necessary for you to understand the principle I am trying to present. Then we will answer some of the basic questions that seem to always come up.
Next, we will consider the supreme objective of Christ’s Messianic mission to planet earth. We will show the Father’s relationship to all of His creatures, even to Lucifer. Yes, especially to Lucifer. We will use Bible narrative and the symbology hidden in these stories to go deep into the Father’s great and magnificent heart of love.
Finally, we will have questions and answers and then some additional thoughts and concepts on God’s character which were either not brought out clearly enough, if at all, or not expanded upon. Most of the people who disagree with this concept of God (that He does not kill), do so with a zeal worthy of a better cause, and they show by their very words, actions, gestures, and facial expressions, that they not only believe God kills, but would feel justified in doing so themselves if the circumstances permitted and if the occasion (as far as they were concerned) demanded it.
This attitude, my friend, is the inevitable result of rejecting the fullest revelation of the character of God that was ever given — EVEN THE LIFE OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR, CHRIST JESUS!
I have said it before, and I will say it again, if you can show me one time in the life of Christ where He killed someone, I will believe God kills, for Christ was God, and the Bible says God never changes. See Psalms 89:34; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; and James 1:17.
But in order to show that many hard-to-understand passages and experiences in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, as well, can be explained, I am writing this book. More evidence is coming to my desk every day, and the Holy Spirit is revealing more and more how this whole concept ties in with the final controversy over the Sabbath. It is truly an unbelievable experience.
SOME MINDS LIKE CONCRETE
Someone once said about those who close their minds to new ideas, “their minds are like concrete, all mixed up and permanently set.” Well, I suppose we all are like that at some time or another. None of us are infallible, and that is the reason we must be patient, kind and gentle with one another, especially those who persecute us.
Just think what a tragedy would have come to the early church if one of the Christians had decided not to be like Jesus for a few minutes and had assassinated Saul of Tarsus. What would have happened? Why, the Jews might have rounded up every Christian they could find and brought them to trial for conspiring to murder their priests.
At least they would have tried to get the Romans to do it, and they would have had a legitimate reason for suspecting them. Secondly, the early Christians would have lost their witness to the Jews and all the then-known world. Thirdly, they would have had a bad example which would have brought in a “gospel of violence,” neutralizing the power of the non-violent methods of Jesus. And fourth, the greatest apostle of the New Testament would have been dead before he had a chance to get converted and become Paul, the bold one for Jesus.
But, under the power of the “early rain,” this did not happen. Today we are expecting the Latter Rain to fall on us. Can we be expected to be any less than were the early Christians? Or is the Lord expecting more from us today since we have more light? What do you think? If the Lord Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God’s true character, then we must go to the cross and stand in its light and glory and plead for power and strength to be like Him. Are we willing to go all the way and be crucified with Jesus? May the Father grant us strength to do it.
THOUGHTS TO INSPIRE YOU TO READ THE REST OF THIS BOOK
“Man’s mind — stretched by a new idea — never goes back to its original dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes.
“The more we know of God, the higher will be our ideal of character and the more earnest our longing to reflect His likeness.” “Mount of Blessing”, pg. 19.