Hi, my name is Lang and I’m a recovering porn addict. While there’s definitely no singular reason for this, and I accept full responsibility for my decisions, a really BIG reason behind my addiction was lies I believed about God. I think these common and widespread untruths keep us fearful, anxious, and divided, holding us back from living and loving more freely and deeply. Rewriting these stories finds me clean for almost TEN YEARS to the day, free, and more jazzed about Jesus than ever! With that in mind, I’d thought it’d be helpful to go through and discuss some of these untruths.
First, a few notes on where I’m coming from and drawing these conclusions from will be helpful. How do we “know” what God is like? I’ll start by saying I think when it comes to the BIG stuff like the Divine, love, death, the universe, and so on, it’s SUPER helpful to stay humble and hold our conclusions loosely; meaning this blog is me doing the best I can with what I have. Next, I find the Wesleyan Quadrilateral REALLY useful when it comes to talking and thinking about God. John Wesley, leader of the Methodist movement came up with this paradigm some 200+ years ago, saying scripture, reason, experience, and tradition (i.e. community) should all equally come into the conversation when it comes to determining what we say about our Creator. I find this especially important because truly if we use the Bible alone we can make God out to be pretty much anything we want, from beautiful to monstrous. Finally, when it comes to whom God is I start and end with Jesus, as I believe the Christ was the full revelation of the Divine. And I measure these conclusions by the fruits they depict and bring, whatever shows and produces more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control I take to be True, good, and accurate about God (these are the fruits of the Spirit Paul lists in Galatians 5.22-23). With that in mind, here … we … go!
God is Violent and Angry
Somehow culturally we’ve come to view God as Thor. Now, I love Thor in the Marvel movies, but if you’ve seen them you know he solves pretty much EVERYTHING via violence. His go to is to smash and punch it out. Without realizing it, we’ve come to think the same is true of our Source. I’ve heard it said: In the beginning God made us in the Divine image, and we’ve been doing the reverse ever since. My point is humanity (especially the U.S.) has a violence problem. We try and solve wrongs, injustices, and violence via … violence. We have wars to end wars … only they don’t. We have capital punishment to stop violence … only it DOESN’T. We ostracize, imprison, and cut people off when they do us wrong, thinking it’ll make them better … yet this does NOT work. My point here is God is NOT like this. There is 0% violence in the Source of Life and Love. Jesus flat out says Love is the Law, and not only is harming NOT part of loving, Jesus also tells us to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and pray for those who persecute us. Does God ask us to do what God doesn’t do? Of course not!
God Doesn’t Like You
If a parent declared on national television that they don’t like his/her child, how would you view that parent, not very highly, right? Yet, and I didn’t even realize it this starkly until recently, we commonly believe our default destination is hell. We regularly think that because we aren’t perfect, that God disapproves of us. A common Christian narrative is if it weren’t for Jesus dying for our sins, God wouldn’t even be able to look at us or be in our presence. How crazy is that? Here’s what I’ve found to be True and bring SO much life it’s ridiculous: God is wildly and immensely pleased with you. Papa is ESPECIALLY fond of you! I think the “Papa” is extra helpful and could be equally replaced with “Momma”, because we know God is NOT a man. I point that out because Jesus regularly and frequently refers to God as “Aba”. We easily miss the intimacy and beauty of this because it’s usually translated “Father”. While that’s okay, the formality of “Father” misses the closeness, tenderness, and affection that Jesus attributing to our Creator with the name Aba, or “Papa”. This tender, loving image is who the Christ invites us to bring to mind when we think of and relate to our heavenly Parent.
God Uses You
I don’t know about you, but having lived the bulk of my life in Christian circles, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something along the lines of: “I just want God to USE me.” Really? Do you USE your kids? We use tools, NOT people, and the same is true for God. God doesn’t “use” us, God loves us, God relates to us, and God connects to us. I think the Divine does use situations, events, experiences, and the like to help us grow in Light and Love, but does NOT see us as tools to be used. A paradigm shift I’ve found helpful on this topic is: As opposed to using us, our heavenly Parent ENJOYS us.
God is Distant
Do you know the Lord’s Prayer? “Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …” I mention that because of the first phrase, which names our Creator as being distant, elsewhere, and in “heaven”. The thing is, that’s a mistranslation. This is in the New Testament, which was written in Greek, and the Greek word here is plural, making it “heavens”. In antiquity there were three tiers to “heaven”. The heavens were made of our air/atmosphere, the stars/space, and throne of God. My point here is Jesus literally invites us to say: “Our Papa, who is in the air we breathe, the universe “above”, and in a place where everything is as it should be.” THAT, I think, is a game changer. It’s a reminder that God is WITH us, near us, close to us, and in us at ALL times. God is NEVER distant. Our Creator is a Being of relationship, intimacy, and love, who is always as near and dear to us as our next breath.
I think this is a good place to pause for now. I have several more to write about, so there will at least be one more blog in this series, and maybe more 🙂 What do you think so far?
Grace and peace,
Lang my brother, I can relate with you. I too have been ensnared in the sin of pornography for many years. You make valid and accurate points on certain concepts of God, yet I am still concerned with other points you made. God being near, that was wonderfully put and insightful!
This concerns me however.
“we commonly believe our default destination is hell. We regularly think that because we aren’t perfect, that God disapproves of us. A common Christian narrative is if it weren’t for Jesus dying for our sins, God wouldn’t even be able to look at us or be in our presence. How crazy is that?”
Without Christ death and resurrection we wouldn’t be able to be in the presence of God. Recall that the Holy Spirit came and indwelt within believers only after the ascension. Christ had to be raised up just as the serpent in the wilderness. (Numbers 21) Without the resurrection, death would not have been defeated. Select people were able to speak with God before the resurrection. Moses talked to God when He manifested Himself as a cloud or pillar of fire. However, Moses couldn’t say God dwells within me as we can today. God didn’t change, but the way He mediates on our behalf has. The law never made anyone justified, but by the power of the blood of Christ we are made justified and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we are made sanctified. The fact of the matter is this, Hell is indeed our default destination. We are at enmity with God before our conversion. We wage war against Him and it is only when we surrender that we are adopted into the family of God. It isn’t due to perfection however. God knows we are incapable of perfection, that is why we rely on Christ to be our mediator. No, we are separated from God when we are outside of Christ and the Spirit because of our denial of Him. If we deny the Son then we deny the Father, there is no other way to Abba other than through Christ.
John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father EXCEPT through me.”
My brother in Christ, I would like to encourage you in all that I’m saying. I do not mean to challenge your ministry, however, it is prudent that we hold one another accountable as brothers in Christ.
Thanks again and I appreciate your vulnerability. Very courageous, sir! I would simply ask, while affirming the Cross is central and more important than we can imagine (I’m going to talk about it in the next part I believe) if that’s true how Jesus? How was Jesus with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes? God was amongst us in our all bruises and beauty before the Cross.
Very true, He has been present among us since the beginning. For all things were created through Him. However, death had yet to be defeated. A great epistle to read concerning the necessity of Christ’s death is Hebrews. Particularly chapter eleven onward if I’m not mistaken. I would urge you to look over Hebrews concerning that.
Hmm so, is your question how was Christ able to be in the presence of sin before the Cross? As in, the presence of sinful people?
As we know, Christ never sinned, so He Himself was never in the “presence” of sin, because it did not dwell within Him like it does us. Sin can’t dwell within God as we know, but God can dwell within sinful people, for we are. Jesus knows that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Yet, He chose to dine and fellowship with those who acknowledge their sinful state, rather than those who claim they have covered their sin (Pharisees, Sadducee, etc.) Now, there is a passage written by Paul that is perplexing, saying “He made Him who knew no sin TO BE SIN on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21
What that means in terms of the aftermath of Jesus taking on the sins of the world…I don’t have an answer for you. Other than Christ has taken the punishment of our sins upon Himself. God’s wrath was poured out on Himself so that we don’t have to experience such death through faith. (I caps “to be sin” because that’s the perplexing part to me.)
I don’t want to say something that’s untrue, I have ideas on what Paul is saying, but maybe look into it by listening to other pastors or asking your own pastor about it. I’ll do the same. 🙂
Here is the full context of that – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Corinthians+5&version=NASB
The Cross, the death, and the resurrection are all the foundational events/truths of our faith. Take out one and the whole thing crumbles. During His time in “the pit” Christ lead those in paradise out of Abraham’s Bosom and into Heaven. He defeated death at that point and made it possible for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Beforehand, God only spoke at the mercy seat in the Tabernacle and Temple or to His prophets either directly or indirectly. The law was set up to guide the Israelites, but it could never cover their sins. Everyday sacrifices were being made and every year the high priest performed the atonement sacrifice. Even then it had to be repeated time and time again. In Christ, we don’t have to constantly cover our sins with the blood of lambs. John the Baptist proclaimed this –
“The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.” – John 1:29-30
The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Therefore, Christ is our lamb, our final sacrifice. He has to save us from something (sin) and we MUST place our faith in Him. It is not enough to try to do good to offset the bad, because that method always leaves sin uncovered. By grace, through faith in Christ we will always be covered.
Hopefully I answered your question in some roundabout way. I tend to get long winded and whatnot, I apologize.
Perhaps, alter your thought process with what you are saying. I understand that you saying God has unlimited unconditional love. So, think of it like this. God has unconditional love for us, He sent His Son to die for us after all. God also has wrath, but it’s CONDITIONAL. You are right that a good Father would not strike his child…without reason. God is loving because He does discipline us. Would God truly be loving if He never corrected our steps? How would we ever come to an understanding that we are broken without Him, if we never realize that we are broken to begin with? God undoes us so that we may see how unholy we truly are and how HOLY He truly is.
Good points and thoughts. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition they view the Resurrection as a universal resurrection (i.e. not just Jesus). The point being that Jesus literally took everyone out of Hades (which is Death, not Hell). Interesting stuff to ponder. What do you make of God via the prophets repeatedly saying He doesn’t require and want sacrifices, in context of Jesus? I take it to mean that WE needed the death of the Christ, but God did NOT. There’s SO many cool atonement theories like Christus Victor (older than penal substitution, which most Americans take to be the ONLY one, when it’s not by far) and scapegoating theory from Rene Girard. I LOVE Brian Zahnd’s book “Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” (and he has AMAZING sermons at Word of Life Church). He says (I’m paraphrasing): Christ died to go into hell and fill Death with Himself, so that when we die, ALL we experience is Christ.
Well sure, universal resurrection is discussed between Martha and Jesus in John chapter 11. Eastern Orthodox tradition, is that what denomination you’re more inclined with? Death is what Jesus saves us from, this is true. It’s spiritual death however, if we deny Him then we are not saved spiritually. Christ is indeed omnipresent, so He has filled death/Hell with Himself. I suppose we will just have to agree to disagree on this point, He has not filled Hell with His love, but rather with His wrath. Those who do not enter by His gate are not His sheep (John chapter 10) when people die they are either apart of His fold or they are not. There is no lukewarm water in the kingdom of God. There is a universal resurrection yes, but all will be summoned before the judgement seat of God and will give an account. Without Christ atonement people will be doomed. Love still exist even with this being the case, God is a just God as well. He is beyond our comprehension, but it is dangerous waters to say ALL will experience His love upon physical death.
Again, thanks, Travis. Great discussion and thoughts. As an aside, I got a Masters of Divinity in 2014 (MDiv is the usual pastor’s degree), so haven’t come to any of these conclusions loosely or lightly. 🙂 Anyway, I think some parts of us for sure, and perhaps some people, will experience Christ’s Love as unpleasant (or worse), but that’s merely Light and Love cleansing us from the foreign “infections” that aren’t those (much like a doctor does). I’m with ya on the judgment and standing before Christ, which I also think everyone gets an equal chance to say yes to God/Jesus/Yahweh/etc. What I mean by that is MANY of us (if not all) have traumas, hurts, losses, histories, stories, cultural baggage, and on and on that lead us from God, show a false god to us, etc. I trust somehow, someway God will level the playing field.