Just to make sure we’re on the right track when it comes to thinking about the nature of God here are a few more words that more fully describe austerity. Caution, carefulness, cutbacks, decrease, meanness, skimping, thriftiness, harshness, recession, rigor, regulations, sparingness, stinginess, and hardship. Whoa, that’s just not the God that we see reflected in Jesus life and ministry.
What is the end result of this mis-representing God’s nature to us? This leads a person to an excess worry about personal behavior. Avoiding bad behavior becomes an obsession with this kind of thinking and avoiding the spiritual excess of emotion. It breeds the idea of needing to act in a certain and religious way and all the while these frames of thoughts drain our spiritual energy and love for God. It impacts our daily thoughts and it certainly impacts our worship. Who in their right mind would want to come closer to a God who is so stern and potentially angry at our behavior.
The only picture God chose to give us of Himself was Jesus. God was so protective of His identity that He would not allow Moses and all of Israel to make an image of Him. It was because He knew only Jesus could do that.
The love of God Jesus showed us was one of lavishness, joyfulness, bountifulness, wonder, mysteriousness, and steadiness un-rattled in the storms of this life. There are many sections of the Gospels which would exhibit this but one of my favorites are found in the context of John 8,9, & 10.
Chapter 8 is the woman taken in adultery, her execution stopped by Jesus and sent on her way completely transformed from her encounter with this Jesus. It’s the dialogue around that expression of God’s love by the Pharisees and Jesus which sheds so much light on how we are to think about God. Take a look at the difference between the Father Jesus is talking about and the God the Pharisees think they are serving. In fact, in these chapters Jesus tells them Abraham is not your father but the devil is who they are most like.
John 8:31 …you are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
John 8:37 …and yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your heart for my message.
John 8:48…The people responded, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along you were possessed by a devil.” “No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father – and you dishonor me.”
It’s hard for us to get our minds around the Father Jesus is pointing to here and if we’re honest we often think more like Pharisees than the God Jesus is showing us. Jesus told them in John 8:37 ”…yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you.” These religious leaders had no capacity to get their minds around the love of God the Father. Things weren’t just out of focus like a child needing glasses; they were actually completely blind to the love of God.
In Chapter 9, John seems to indicate that right after this argument Jesus went and healed a man blind from birth. This whole chapter proves the point I’m making here but for the sake of brevity I’ll only include a few verses.
14 because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him. (Reckless)15 The Pharisees asked the man all about it. So he told them, “He put the mud over my eyes, and when I washed it away, I could see!”16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath. (Austerity)
Their view of God stands out so much here doesn’t very concerned that things been done right on the Sabbath and not be reckless by disobeying the letter of the law. They continue,
29 We know God spoke to Moses, but we don’t even know where this man comes from.”30 “Why, that’s very strange!” the man replied. “He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know where he comes from?
This is one of my favorite lines in the Gospels because the blind man who’s been taught to respect his elders comes to the realizations that these religious leaders can’t explain what has just happened to him. He tells them,
32 Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he couldn’t have done it.”34 “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.
Spoken just like the religious elite who always know better than everyone else they expel a man who has an unexplainable event happen to him. So, they kick him out and Jesus reaches for the man who was formerly blind.
35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man? ”36 The man answered, “Who is he, sir? I want to believe in him.”37 “You have seen him,” Jesus said, “and he is speaking to you!”38 “Yes, Lord, I believe!” the man said. And he worshiped Jesus.39 Then Jesus told him, “I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.”
It’s simply amazing to me that Jesus reveals His mission to a man who was formerly blind rather than to all these religious scholars all around. But the Pharisees weren’t done here they were ease dropping on this conversation,
40 Some Pharisees who were standing nearby heard him and asked, “Are you saying we’re blind?”41 “If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.
That’s the indictment against religion all together isn’t it? That it claims to see clearly but for the most part its actually clueless. God is moving on here in Jesus. Revealing more to the Jews through the Messiah than their tradition will allow them to receive. One of the great mistakes gentiles and protestants make here is that we take up this “Old Testament” picture of God and put it forward rather than seeing the past for what it was, an incomplete view of God.
Practice: Today, ask God to reveal the places in your mind and heart that you still approach Him from an unhealthy view. If you have time, journal back and forth with God. I believe He will speak with you!