Dear Pastor Lawyer,
This time, I have a good question. At least I think it’s a good question. It has me stumped. I was previewing some devotional material on Android and one of them said that the key to understanding God isn’t what we think about God, it’s what God thinks about God. So what does God think about God? What are some Scriptures that address God’s self image? Does God have good self esteem? Is God confident and sure of himself? How can understanding how God relates to himself help me understand God better? Is God like me or more like you, or is God an individual reflection different for each person?
The comment about needing to know what God thinks about God rather than what we think about God is correct. The problem with our thinking about God is that we tend to make God in our image rather than studying him for who he is and then asking him to make us in his image.
The way we make God in our image is to ascribe our character or the character of others to God. For example, we might say to ourselves, “What would God do in this situation?” And then we would say something like, “Well, if I were God, I would do thus and such.” Then I would continue down that line of thinking and assume that God would do thus and such just like I would have. Or I might think a certain thing and assume that if I think it, then God also thinks it. And thus God begins to look an awful lot like me.
What we need to do is to study God with ourselves out of the picture as much as possible. This means working to not interpret the things we see in the Bible with ourselves as the prime character, or as the post you sent me the other day said, the “star of your own movie.”
The hard part is that it is difficult to get ourselves out of the way. We naturally interpret everything through the lens of our own head. We compare things to ourselves, we contrast things, we judge things, we weigh things. We are always either better or worse than whoever we’re comparing ourselves to. We have a difficult time getting out of the way because we live inside ourselves.
This is why the Bible calls us to come and die to ourselves (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35; Luke 14:27; Romans 6:4–8; Galatians 2:20). Dying gets us out of the way so that we can see God for who he has revealed himself to be. Dying to ourselves allows us to read the text without always asking, “What does it have to do with me? I can read the Bible knowing that God is in it and will do with me whatever he wants to do with me. But it isn’t about me, it is about him. And knowing this also frees me up to discover who he is from his perspective.
You should look up and read the passages I’ve referred to above. Here are a few other texts where God is talking about who he is: Isa 42, 53 is talking about Jesus; Isa. 43; one of my favorite passages is Zephaniah 3:14-17. This passage is a description of what God thinks of us, but it reveals God in a very cool light. God rejoices over us with rejoicing. Here is a link to a page that has a list of passages that reveal the character and nature of God. It would be good to go through the list. Don’t forget to read the context. Remember a text out of context is a pretext for a proof-text. Proof-texts are bad because they can prove anything; and nothing.
God often looks different to each person. But this is because of a combination of things, not all are bad. The first reason, I alluded to above is that we read our Bibles with our own lives in mind. When we read the Bible this way, God begins to look an awful lot like whoever is doing the reading. This isn’t good.
Second, we are all in a different places in our lives. This means that we always read the Bible from our life context rather than from a purely disconnected vantage point. This may be bad, but it isn’t necessarily bad. God is really big and we can only see parts of him at one time. It is similar to the blind guys checking out the elephant. As long as we know we are blind, and God is bigger than we can imagine, we’ll stay humble and know that we don’t know God as well today as we will in 10 years. We should always keep this aspect thing in mind as we study God.
These life contexts can affect our Bible study in at least two ways; first, as we go through the various things in our lives, God reveals himself to us in new and glorious ways. Suppose, you just lost your job for no fault of your own. You run to God and he fills you with confidence that he has something better in mind for you. Now your view of God has changed and you see him in a different light than you did before.
Second, you might study different things about God at different times. Suppose you did a Bible study on the Grace of God (Ex. 34:6). You might end up thinking God is all about grace and forget that he is also love (1 Jn. 4:8). But then you do a study on the love of God and you learn something completely new about God. This all factors in to what we know of God and it is different for every person. So, God looks different to each person who lives with him and loves him.
I hope this helps.