In an age where mankind reigns supreme, and God – if he is thought to exist at all – is merely an appendage to us and our whims, the biblical gospel is very easily and so often dumbed down into a bowl of humanistic mush. Our message then becomes just so much sentimental, syrupy slush.
And God of course takes a real hammering in such scenarios. He becomes our buddy, our pal, our heavenly butler who exists only to do our every bidding, and exists to keep us happy. He is a “nice” God in other words. He would not harm a fly, and he is ever ready to keep us pleased.
Needless to say that such a picture of God is nothing like the biblical picture of the One True God. God is called many things in Scripture, and he is described in various ways, but a nice God he is not. He is labelled in various ways, such as holy, just, righteous and almighty, but I am not aware of him being called nice.
And there is a good reason for that. If we simply take a moment to consider what the word ‘nice’ means, you can see how it is not exactly an apt description of the Lord of the universe. One online dictionary had this to say about the word:
giving pleasure or satisfaction; pleasant or attractive.
“we had a very nice time”
Synonyms: enjoyable, pleasant, pleasurable, agreeable, delightful, satisfying, gratifying, acceptable, to one’s liking, entertaining, amusing, diverting, marvellous, good…
While a relationship of faith, repentance, obedience and trust may well give the child of God some of these things (eg., satisfaction, enjoyment), it is pretty hard to see how God lines up with such terms. Yes our God is attractive, in a sense, and yes we are to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ and so on, but the notion of a nice God is mainly a human idol, not a biblical reality.
Certainly God is loving and gracious and merciful and patient, etc., and we thank him for these attributes or qualities. But he is also a holy God, a righteous God, a perfect God, and a God of justice. So we dare not take him for granted, treat him lightly, or pretend he is just like us.
I have written about such matters before, as in: billmuehlenberg.com/2016/10/03/not-nice-gospel/
And Christians should not try to present such a watered down and humanistic God to the surrounding culture. But so often that is just what believers do, usually to make him more ‘palatable’ and ‘acceptable’ to non-Christians. But that is a big mistake.
We need to present God as who he is, instead of a watered-down, Hollywood version. Leading people to a false god made in their own image will save no one and help no one. So it is time we cease and desist here. But examples keep cropping up of this very thing.
One recent case in point is an outdoor church advertising board. It had this simple message for passers-by:
“God is nice and (s)he likes you”
Pymble Uniting Church
Now I am not trying to pick on just one church here. And I am aware that these things can easily be photo shopped. But I did look up the church in question and the building and the outdoor sign are certainly identical. So it could well be that they posted this particular message.
Given that so many Uniting Churches are sadly so theologically and politically liberal nowadays, this sign could well be accurate (please correct me if I am wrong on this one). And as I say, plenty of other churches and church leaders would think the same way as this one does.
That this poster is so very wrong on so many levels should not be difficult for any biblical Christian to understand. As I just mentioned, one can describe God in various ways, but calling him nice may not be one of them. Especially given how most folks today think – that they are owed everything in life, that we should never be upset, offended and caused any discomfort, etc – this is the last thing a church should be telling them.
Folks are already inundated with the woolly lifestyle and worldview of ‘nice’. They need to be jolted out of their self-centred narcissism and life of comfort and ease, and come back down to the real world. And they need to hear about the God who is there, not one invented by fallen humans.
Indeed, if we simply look at how sinners are viewed in Scripture, we really should not be telling them that God is nice and that he sits up in heaven smiling a lot and winking at us like a doting grandfather or a celestial Santa Claus. Some of those verses about what we are as sinners would include these. We are:
-spiritually sick (Luke 5:31-32)
-rebellious children (Luke 15:11-32)
-lost (Luke 19:10)
-in darkness (Acts 20:18)
-under the power of Satan (Acts 20:18)
-slaves to sin (Romans 6:22)
-spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
-God’s enemies (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
-objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)
-dead (Ephesians 2:5)
-darkened in their understanding (Ephesians 4:18)
-separated from the life of God (Ephesians 4:18)
-in the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13)
-alienated from God (Colossians 1:21)
-his enemies (Colossians 1:21)
-idol worshippers (1 Thessalonians 1:9)
-held in slavery (Hebrews 2:15)
-not a people who had not received mercy (1 Peter 2:10)
-sheep going astray (1 Peter 2:25)
And does God “like” us? Well, yes and no. He obviously is a God of great love if he died for ungrateful sinners like you and me. But he is also a holy and just God who hates sin and can have nothing to do with those who persist in shaking their fists at him, refusing his offers of forgiveness.
If we simply ran with one rather clear and forthright text about all this, we would see how very hollow and deceptive this church board really is. I refer to Psalm 7:11 which says, “God is angry with the wicked every day”. Hmm, I wonder if this Uniting Church will ever dare to run with this text on its outdoor display.
As to God being a she, the simple truth is this: God has chosen to reveal himself overwhelmingly in masculine terms, and we should not be so glib in dismissing this or seeking to change this self-revelation of God. While God is beyond gender, and is a sexless spiritual being, how he chooses to describe himself and reveal himself is very important indeed.
All in all, this was a rather foolish, and even harmful thing to post outside of a church which presumably claims to represent Jesus Christ, the God that exists, and the Word of God. Far better to stop trying to be cute, to stop being so keen to please men, and seek to start pleasing God instead.