In the 1920s, Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Wise words from the radio personality and writer. People form impressions inside of two seconds, and it can take us years to change our minds.
What was your first impression of God? For those of us who sat through years of fire and brimstone messages, God looks down on us like an angry judge. Others think of him as an absentee father or someone who looks the other way when harm comes to us.
If those are your views, God wants to reintroduce himself to you. Here are five false impressions we’ve picked up about the Lord.
1. God saved you because you prayed a prayer and walked an aisle.
Throughout the Bible, God describes himself as the one who knew the end from the beginning. Paul wrote, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ in accordance to his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:4–6).
Before he said, “Let there be light,” God knew your name. He knew the exact moment of your birth and the precise moment of your re-birth into his family. In fact, your salvation isn’t even about you. He adopted you through Christ because he wanted to and to the praise of his glorious grace. The Lord saved you to show the world his glorious grace.
2. God is frustrated with your progress.
Anyone who has built or renovated a house knows the aggravation that comes when materials don’t arrive on time or weather prohibits progress. Unmet expectations breed frustration, and it is for this very reason that God cannot experience frustration over your spiritual growth. He expects you to fall and make mistakes. He knows you can’t attain the perfection that you desire—that he requires. Jesus achieved perfection for you. He absorbed God’s wrath toward you. He imparts his own righteousness on you. He has paved the way for your adoption into God’s family. And just as a father cheers his one-year-old on as the child learns to walk, so God delights in your progress.
3. God the Father is angry and vengeful in the Old Testament, and Jesus is gracious and forgiving in the New Testament.
One thing that sets Christianity apart is the triune nature of God. We worship one God who exists in three persons—Father, Spirit, Son. But these three persons are one God, and God never changes. The Old Testament paints a picture of a compassionate, gracious God who is slow to anger. He pleads with his people repeatedly to come back to him so he can bless them in the land he gave them. In turn, Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables at the temple complex because they were cheating his people.
God the Father sent Jesus, his Son, because human beings are sin-committers. We are idol-makers. And the only way to reconcile us back to God was for Jesus to live the life we couldn’t live, die the death we should have died, and take the punishment for our sin. God the Father rightly expresses wrath toward sin. But he also sent his Son, fully God and fully man, to absorb that wrath so that he could meet us with grace and mercy.
4. God has a great big plan for each of our lives.
Here’s why this is a dangerous thought — it puts us at the center and makes God’s plan revolve around us. The truth is that God’s plan was firmly in place before he created the world. His plan was and is to reconcile us to himself so we can live forever with him when he ushers in his eternal kingdom.
God’s plan does not center around people. It centers around Christ. But you have a role in his plan, and you will never disqualify yourself from it. God can and will use anything and everything you go through to pull you closer to him, and he will use you no matter where you are and what you do.
5. God wants to keep women down.
Nothing could be further from the truth. God commanded both Adam and Eve to rule over the earth and subdue. Moses’ sister, Mariam, led worship for Israel. Deborah governed over Israel as a judge. And you would be hard-pressed to find someone more pro-women than Jesus. We know from Luke 8:1–3 that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, and many other women followed Jesus and ministered to his needs. In other words, they were disciples.
When Jesus was at Martha and Mary’s house, he told Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing. While Martha bustled around the stove, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, learning along with the other disciples—something women in ancient Palestine were not allowed to do.
Not to mention that in a society that devalued women, Paul spent eight verses in his letter to the Ephesians telling husbands how to love and cherish their wives sacrificially.
Women were not simply allowed to pray and prophesy; Paul expected them to.
No one has championed the cause of women like the God who created them.
Throughout the pages of Scriptures, God in his triune state presents himself as compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. He beckons each of us to press in and know him better. Not because he needs us, but because he delights in his children. In this case, let’s allow God to give us an accurate impression of his character.