Christian Living

How to Guard against False Ideas about God

Author Tim Barnett Published on 08/28/2018

In this series, we’ve looked at the danger of false ideas about God. We’ve discussed how they originate and considered biblical examples. We’ve also taken note of one of the most influential sources of false ideas about God: the culture. To illustrate my point, I cited how the Israelites assumed that God must be like all of the other gods of the surrounding cultures. Consequently, they began sacrificing their children as burnt offerings (see Jeremiah 19:3–5).

The tragedy of the Israelites sacrificing their sons and daughters goes beyond their horrible actions. The people of Israel should have known that the Lord hates child sacrifice. But how would they know that? Well, they didn’t have to read God’s mind or get some personal, private message from God. They should have known it because it was written in their Law.

You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:31)

The problem is, the Israelites didn’t know their Bible. They had false ideas about God because they ignored the primary source about God.

Sadly, most Christians don’t know their Bible either. Statistics show that biblical literacy is at an all-time low. People know more about The Office than the covenants. They know more about Downton Abbey than divine attributes.

So, how do we guard against false ideas about God?

The only way to guard against false ideas about God is to fill our minds with true ideas about God. But thinking rightly about God doesn’t come naturally. Our natural inclination is to think wrongly about God. That is why we must look to Scripture—God’s Word—for guidance and authority on what He is like. We need to go to God’s Word because only God can tell us what God is like. And He has. Unfortunately, many of us are too distracted to listen. The prophet Hosea says,

Hear the word of the Lord, O Children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land.... My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:1, 6)

Why was there no knowledge of God? The text tells us. They had forgotten the law of God. They neglected His special revelation to them.

It’s interesting to me that Hosea mentions they have no love for God in the same breath that he mentions they have no knowledge of God. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think there is a link between “knowledge of” and “love for.”

To illustrate, consider the following hypothetical conversation: Someone says, “Tim, tell me about your wife.” And I say, “Well, she has blonde hair, two eyes, and a nose.” They respond, “No, tell me what she’s really like.” And I say, “That’s all I got.”

What would you think about my relationship with my wife? You would likely think I didn’t have a relationship with my wife. From that encounter, would you conclude that I love my wife? Probably not.

The love I have for my wife is connected to the knowledge I have of my wife. It’s my love for my wife that drives my study of my wife. Every husband should have their PhD in the subject of their wife.

In the same way, love for God is always tied to knowledge of God.

John puts it this way:

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21–23)

There are two verbs applied to God’s commandments in this verse: has and keeps. If we truly love God, then we will both have and keep God’s commands. Knowing God’s commands helps us know the God who gives these commands. God’s commands are not independent of His nature. They flow from His nature.

If you want to know God, read your Bible. The Bible is primarily a story about God. He is the main character. Over and over, the Bible says, “God loves,” “God says,” “God does.” Every time we read about God, we get to know what He is like. We get to know His character, His desires, His personality.

Let me close with this from Solomon. Solomon, under the inspiration of God, says,

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1–5)