Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (NLT)
I turn God into whatever I think of Him.
Dad was a harsh disciplinarian — at least when I was young. I'm not sure where his ideas of discipline sprang from, because he didn't copy the pattern of his parents or grandparents. Dad went by the book. Severe consequences followed broken rules. His parents were more understanding and lenient.
Dad was also legalistic in his view of God. God had rules and regulations that must be adhered to. When they weren't, discipline followed. God was also a God of love, but He was quick to punish when someone broke His laws — not lenient or understanding.
While growing up, I noticed that Dad's view of God bled over into how he conducted his household. Perhaps his idea of God explains why I had a framed set of rules hung on my bedroom wall — a list of do's and don'ts, accompanied by a set of consequences for breaking each don't.
Dad was right in one sense. God does have rules that He expects me to abide by, and when I choose to break them, consequences follow. I suppose that it was the way Dad carried out the process that coloured my view of God as a harsh deity instead of a loving Saviour.
David knew that God had rules, but he also pictured Him as his shepherd — which paints a different portrait. God disciplined him when he went astray — and he did quite a few times — but He also lovingly guided his life journey.
If I think of God as a harsh disciplinarian — sitting in heaven waiting for me to make a mistake — I might still love Him, but my relationship with Him will be somewhat distant — not close up and personal. On the other hand, if I see Him as a grandfatherly type, I might assume that He'll let me get away with anything without consequence — which He won't.
Jesus showed us the loving characteristics of God that the rules of the religious leaders had almost completely obscured. But He also reminded us that God has standards that He expects us to obey. When my view of God is balanced, I'll obey Him because I love Him and because of what He's done for me, not simply because I'm afraid that He'll punish me if I don't.
Let us think correct thoughts about God, so that we will love Him deeply and serve Him intently.
Prayer: Father, may the thoughts that we think of You cause us to have an accurate picture of who You are. Amen.
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