(Dear Church): Stop Vulgarizing God

“The basic trouble with the Church today is her unworthy conception of God.”
-A. W. Tozer

This topic has been placed in my heart months before, but whenever I try to write on it, I stop in fear that I might get it wrong. No subject intimidates me more than the nature of God, for who am I to dare capture the wonders of God in a page. Yet I know I could run no longer. And so I speak, fully acknowledging that there are people far worthier to speak of this, but also acknowledging that this is something God is asking me to do. As you read this, I hope you be conscious all through out that we tread on incredibly holy ground.

I would never, ever dare add to or subtract from the truths that God has spoken. However, I hope you understand that as much as I try to speak of God in a manner that is as worthy of Him as possible, I also try to speak of this in a way that people would understand. No word can ever capture the immensity of God, but I will try to convey all of this as eloquently as possible. I do not wish to balance out God, for God cannot be balanced. He just is, and so I will simply declare who He is.

Let’s begin.

I cannot count the number of times I have felt the Holy Spirit grieve when people belittle who God is. From Christians using “Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!” as a joke to ministries making God out as how they want Him to be, we have come to a time wherein God’s holiness and perfection are trampled by culture. “Oh my God” and “Jesus Christ” have become common expressions, with a Tagalog counterpart coming out as “Jusko Lord” – and we hear these coming from our own mouths as well, don’t we?

It’s startling to think that we have lost how powerful God’s very name is. His name is holy and sacred, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly. We have put God in the backseat, talking to Him when it’s convenient to us as we drive our lives down the roads we want to go, as if speaking to the holiest and most powerful being in the universe doesn’t deserve our utmost attention. We get bored reading the Bible, like the fact that the One who seats in heavenly places, surrounded by angels adoring and worshipping His every move, wants to convey His heart in words to mundane mortals such as us is not a wonder in itself. We do ministry like God should be grateful that we do work for Him, acting as if the very breath we take and every move we make is not done through His grace and power.

I recently talked to a friend who was in a standstill in her relationship with God. I was digging deep until she said the magic words… “I’ve known God for so long, I feel like there’s nothing new anymore. And besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little compromise since it’s not exactly sin.”

There’s nothing new because as a generation, we have chosen to magnify “God is love” while ignoring the rest of His attributes. A “little” compromise isn’t seen as sin because we have neglected the holiness of God. “God is love” “Jesus is Savior” “God is good” – THE END. As if that’s all there is to Him. It’s time we allow God to break the boxes we have placed Him in, because He is so, so much more than just love and just good. We have to stop letting ourselves be fooled by theology that feels nice, and we have to see God for who He truly is.

I have heard people justify things that are not pleasing to God by saying “God loves me and He wants me happy.” Let me stop you right there. Anything that goes against what God has spoken in the Bible is sin, and sin goes against the very nature of God. I’m not saying God doesn’t love you, I’m saying that He immensely does. And because He loves you, He wants you to stop being caught up in that limbo that you’re in. Yes, He wants you to be happy, because He is such a good God. But He wants you to be happy in truth. And the truth is, God cares more about your holiness than your temporal happiness.

These days we have somehow come to perceive God as a father in heaven who is pleased with every single thing that we do. We think that being a good father means that He should support whatever it is that makes us happy. But that’s not true. It may go against what society says is a good parent these days, but a good parent disciplines and makes sure we’re on the correct path. A good parent aligns us to our God-given destinies, not let us be pulled further away in fear of hurting us. And that’s exactly the kind of parent God is. Him loving you doesn’t automatically mean He’s pleased with the choices you make and the things you do. 

That being said, Exodus 20 clearly states how God is a jealous God. And because He loves you, He doesn’t want to share your heart with anything or anyone else that will take His place. To defend your sin by bending who God is now means that you have allowed something else to overtake God’s place in your heart. Indeed, God hates the sin and not the sinner. In fact, God has sent His Son to die for the sinner. On the basis of God’s love, He has extended His grace and has extended His patience until the Day of Judgment comes. But if the sinner fails to accept His grace and consequently follow Him, then let me say this: on the basis of God’s holiness and justice and righteousness, this same God who encompasses love will eventually send sinners to hell.

I know it’s uncomfortable to think about. It’s making me uncomfortable just by writing about it. But it has to be said. God’s truth is supposed to challenge our innate desire to please what is of the flesh; it’s supposed to go against what has been so deeply ingrained in our culture. As Francis Chan put it, there is a need for those of us within the Christian bubble to look beyond the status quo and critically assess what is in the Bible. We cannot pick out just what we want to hear and believe, then set out to live according to one chapter. God is unchanging, meaning that who He was in the Old Testament is exactly who He is in the New Testament. Don’t think that God was more judging in the Old Testament and more loving in the New Testament. You will also find mercy in the Old Testament and you will also find commands of self-denial and obedience in the New Testament.

Can you imagine how much it must pain God that He is only desired for one of His attributes? It’s like your spouse telling you he likes you because you’re sweet – and only because of that! Our relationship with Him in no way changes who He is; it changes who we are. Think of it this way: it’s like being married to the President of the United States. We have the privilege to talk to him any time we wish to, but it doesn’t diminish who he is. He is still the most powerful man on earth. It is thereby us who have been elevated to being the First Lady. And so I beg of you, be extremely careful how you choose to view God, for this will drive your life. Stop taking Him for granted. Reflect on Matthew 7:21-27, and work it from there.

God is infinitely love, and I cannot exaggerate the goodness of God. It is this love that draws me closer to Him each and every day. I am incredibly grateful for His mercy and grace that sustains me (Isaiah 63:7). He is the Father that awaits the return of the prodigal son; the One whose arms I can run to and trust to embrace me (Luke 15:11-32). He is the Savior who came to serve and to reconcile sinners to the Father; the One I call a Friend and can tell anything to (John 15:14-15). He is the Spirit that surrounds and leads and dwells in His children; the One who comforts and encourages me (Psalm 143:10; John 14:15-29). Yet He is also the God of wrath, who righteously judges and condemns the wicked (Psalm 7:11-16; Romans 1:18-32). He is the Master who asked the ones closest to Him to deny themselves and suffer for His sake (Matthew 16:24). He is the Eternal Truth that convicts sinners and is grieved whenever we vulgarize Him (Isaiah 63:10).

It’s hard to put together, I know it is. But this is where faith comes in. We trust what is written in His Holy Word, and though we can’t fully grasp it, we trust in His mysteries. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Job 38-39). He is such a complex, beautiful being, and it would be an honor to get to explore Him all the days of our lives. I’m incredibly grateful to be part of a spiritual family that acknowledges God’s all-encompassing glory, and I pray that you have such people to walk with too. I hope you don’t mind as I directly pray now.

Father, thank You for all the love that You have showered upon us. Thank You because Your kindness leads us to repentance and that it is by Your grace that we are able to see Your glory. Jesus, thank You for bridging the gap so that we may approach the Father in this way and Holy Spirit, we ask that You open our eyes to the things unseen, open our eyes to Your truth that we may enjoy walking with You all the days of our lives. Cleanse us from previous beliefs and break our mindsets, no matter how painful and uncomfortable it may be. Rid us of our unrighteousness and iniquity as You make us Christ-like and call us holy. Meet us where we need You and how we need You. Father, we long to know You. Give us the hunger to read through Your word that we may know You beyond what we hear from others. May we experience You beyond an intellectual manner, and may Your Spirit lead us into freedom; may Your presence surround us all the day of our lives. Surround us with people who will walk with us as we get deeper into the chambers of Your heart. We utterly adore You for all that You are. Thank You for Your wonder and mysteries, thank You for Your infinite glory. Please come for us. This we ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Why Ministry Will Never Be Enough

This one goes out to those so busy doing things in the Kingdom that they no longer have time for the King.

I was 16 when I became part of the Music Ministry Core Team in my local church. I was the youngest and probably one of the most active. At the same time, I was also heading events for our campus cluster in La Salle. And for the next 2 years of my life, I was caught up in leading Victory Groups (aka cell groups), doing admin work, planning events, volunteering, and counseling that time for God somehow became an afterthought. I had this notion that doing good in ministry meant I was doing good with God. It was okay to lose time communing with God since I was using the time up in ministry anyway. I assumed that since I was blooming and flourishing in the ministry, I was automatically blooming and flourishing in my personal relationship with God.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

You can be thriving in ministry and yet not be thriving in God. You can be so great in evangelizing and volunteering but still lose God along the way. It’s kind of scary because Christians can hide behind ministry, hide behind discipleship, and even hide behind reading the Bible. You can be active in each and every one of these and still end up being stagnant in your relationship with God.

Now please don’t get me wrong, I love ministry. I am still very, very active in ministry. In my current season, I am basically a full time volunteer in church. It is a vital part of our walk with God, and faith without action is dead. However, I feel a need to address the fact that as a people, we measure the relationship of a person with God based on their ministry activity too much. We need to understand that we can be promoted in leadership positions and still reach a plateau in our relationship with God. We can do everything to serve and still be lazy about pursuing the heart of God.

It’s so easy to get passionate talking about what God is doing, about what you’re doing for God, but have you ever gotten passionate simply talking about God for who He is? The amount of time you spend doing ministry for the Lord, have you ever spent the same number of hours not just simply reading the Bible or praying, but actually sitting at the feet of the Lord, waiting on Him, and seeking His heart?

Luke 18:38-42 speaks of Martha, woman active in doing things for God, and Mary, a woman active in waiting at the Lord’s feet. And Jesus said, one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen what is good. Now it wasn’t that Martha was doing anything bad. Jesus understood doing, He himself did so much ministry. It’s just that she lost the essence of God. Jesus was there in her home, His presence so manifest, and she was still focused on doing rather than simply worshipping. It was Jesus + ministry, Jesus + service. But Mary understood that she only needed one thing, she only needed to wait on Jesus. She allowed herself to be captivated by the One who sat on the throne and not be caught up in things she can do for the Him. 

Please do not be deceived in thinking that knowing a lot of things about God is enough. Do not fall into the trap of believing that doing a lot of things for God is enough. I understand that you just want to express your love for God by using your gifts, and that’s lovely. But God could care less about how skilled we are for our greatest gift to God isn’t our gifts, it’s our hearts. And we give our hearts to Him by waiting on Him, seeking His heart, discovering the facets of His character, and loving Him simply because He is.

God doesn’t seek people who can give Him presents wrapped up in neat bows. He enjoys broken perfume bottles before Him, His feet being wiped by a bawling woman’s tears and hair. He waits for people who will wait on Him.

Doing ministry does not always mean having intimacy. But having intimacy automatically means you understand God’s heart to do ministry. Then, our obedience to God comes not from rules, but from trust and relationship. Do understand, Christianity is not a program. Anyone can follow a program. Every other religion in the world also has pamphlets and trainings and excellent services. The one thing that makes us Christians stand out from all these is His presence, our reflection of His glory. And it is the depth of your intimacy that will dictate how much you reflect Him.

That’s why intimacy will always weigh more than ministry.