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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Worshipping a God Made In My Own Image

Apr 7, 2018

We have only two choices: we either worship the one true and living God, or we worship one of our own devising. There are no other options. We either run with God and his self-revelation to us about who he is and what he expects of us, or we just make things up as we go along.

There are countless millions of people who have chosen the latter path. It is the easy path to follow. Following the true God means letting him call the shots, and recognising that we are not the centre of the universe. Following a god of your own devices is easy – you effectively are just worshipping yourself.

Even more tragic, many of these folks actually think they are worshipping the real God, and that they are real Christians. But when you reject God and his revealed truth as found in Scripture, and substitute a god who simply represents the spirit of the age, then you are worshipping an idol, a false god.

Examples of this are of course everywhere to be found. We see it happening all the time, and the social media provides us with endless cases of this. Consider just one example of this that I found on a friend’s post. He made a comment about the Israel Folau case.

It had to do with the star rugby player speaking biblical truth about homosexuality, and how repentance is what is needed to keep sinners out of hell. I wrote about that here: billmuehlenberg.com/2018/04/06/folau-and-unacceptable-truth/

But a person seeking to pass himself off as a Christian was not at all happy with this, and offered this comment in response:

“It’s not a question about voicing an opinion. To oppose same-sex marriage is voicing an opinion. To state that God’s plan for gay people is Hell, is stupid. My God teaches me love and forgiveness. My God does not teach hate and discrimination. My God does not tell me that loving somebody else is a sin.”

I offered a brief reply of my own to this fellow:

“It seems that the god you worship is really just yourself, and certainly not the God of the Bible who has made it clear what he thinks about these matters. There is no forgiveness without repentance; we are of course to discriminate between good and evil, just as God does; and God clearly does tell us that homosexuality is a sin.”

But it is worth expanding a bit more on what he said, since it is such a clear case of a person making a god in his own image, and that of the surrounding secular culture. First, how could any Christian say that what God has told us is stupid?

That hell is the destiny of all those who reject God and cling to their sin is fully affirmed throughout Scripture. So it is never stupid to simply share what God has said about such important matters. It is however stupid to imply that God is wrong, and that mere man knows better.

And notice that the God he projects is simply a partial God of the Bible. Is God a God of love? Of course, but never in isolation from his holiness, his justice and his righteousness. And does God forgive? Of course, but only when we come to him on his terms.

And those terms, as Jesus and the disciples made perfectly clear, is repentance and turning from our sin. There is no forgiveness without this. This is the heart of the gospel message, and no one honestly reading the gospels and epistles could miss this.

And does God really not hate or discriminate? Um, no. Anyone reading the Bible knows how foolish these claims are. They are patently false. God hates sin, he hates false religious worship, he hates evil, he hates that which turns people away from him.

Since we are talking about idolatry here, let me mention just one passage – of many dozens – that speak of the things God hates. Consider Deuteronomy 12:31: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates.”

False gods and idolatry are at the top of the list of what God detests. And because of this, God is the most discriminating being there is. He always discriminates between right and wrong, true and false. He expects his people to discriminate as well.

And when this guy keeps talking about “my God,” as if he owns God, he is making it pretty clear that he means ‘the god of my liking and my point of view’. This is a god that fully approves of and endorses everything this guy says and does. This is a god which happens to be fully in alignment with what he and the world believes.

All up, his beliefs are fairly evident here: there is no hell; god judges no one; homosexuality is just peachy; and anyone disagreeing with me is a hater. That is the god he has created – one in his own ungodly and unbiblical image. Thus when he speaks about “my God” he is really just speaking about himself.

The bitter fruit of idolatry

Idolaters love to justify themselves. It seems this fellow was another one of those trolls who just loves to argue, but is never willing to learn. He came back with plenty of comments that I and some others tried to respond to. He even asked where the Bible condemns homosexuality.

After we supplied some passages for him, he simply changed tack, and started accusing us of being judgmental and hateful. Yep, that is how the other side argues! Forget the evidence and the truth, and just lash out when people dare to differ and offer biblical responses!

Of interest, early on in his comments he even admitted that he did not know the Bible very well. Yeah, well that much was obvious. I encouraged him to spend less time in public arguments with others, and to spend more time actually reading and studying the Bible.

But it seems his preference was to do the former. As I said, he has made God into his own image, and he alone will decide what is right and wrong, true and false. That is the epitome of idolatry, and that is exactly what will send a person to a lost eternity.

So I finished by telling him it was rather futile discussing this with him any further, and that I instead would pray for him. Sometimes that is all we can do with such folks. They refuse to listen to Scripture, and they have hardened themselves to any biblical correction, so we just pray for them.

Let me close with a few terrific quotes on idolatry and why it is so pernicious. We must avoid like the plague this strong tendency to try to remake God into our own image:

“Every one of us is, even from his mother’s womb, a master craftsman of idols.” John Calvin

“Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him… To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.” R. C. Sproul

“Idolatry is of all sins the most hateful to God because it is in essence a defamation of the divine character.” A. W. Tozer

“The religions that man creates are actually attempts to escape having to face the true God. We invent religion — not because we are seeking God, but because we are running away from Him.” James Montgomery Boice

“If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself.” Tim Keller

“Beware of manufacturing a God of your own: a God who is all mercy, but not just; a God who is all love, but not holy; a God who has a heaven for everybody, but a hell for none; a God who can allow good and bad to exist side by side on earth, and will make no distinction between good and bad in eternity. Such a God is an idol of your own creation as real as Jupiter or Moloch; as true an idol as any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple; as true an idol as was ever moulded out of brass or clay. The hands of your own notions and emotions have made him. He is not the God of the Bible, and aside from the God of the Bible there is no God at all.” J. C. Ryle

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5 Responses to Worshipping a God Made In My Own Image

  • Yes, as soon as someone says or writes “my god” there’s a very good change they are not referring to the one true God of the Bible but rather a god of their own making.

  • This is a great article with Biblical truths that lead the reader to examine his own thoughts, motives, and actions. Throughout my Christian experience, I occasionally have been appalled by professing Christians who view right and wrong as whatever benefits them at any particular moment. I even had one relative tell me that she was not bound to tell me the truth about anything because I did not attend her particular independent church. Where in the Bible does it say anything like this? Just try reminding such a person of what the Bible really says and be prepared to see a very hostile reaction. Of course, such people accuse anyone who opposes their ideas as being “judgmental,” and they love to counter any mention of sin with their claim, “But there is forgiveness.” The problem is, as you mentioned, that there is no forgiveness without repentance because God does not ignore sin or force forgiveness on anyone; the person has to realize what he is doing is sin and has to ask for forgiveness and repent or “turn away from sin,” which is what repentance means. Thanks again for illustrating this issue so very well.

  • I remember coming to this turning point 6-7years ago, I was in AA which as I saw it was my church, I was about 13 years clean and sober, and the revolving question in my mind was what am I truly admitting when I say I need to come to believe in a Power greater than myself which can restore me to sanity. Is it that I am of unsound mind and nothing within myself can make me sound of mind, and that it must be greater than human power and thus not manmade, I’d spent decades looking for escape clauses to the truth of the Christian faith, my opt out to appease my God consciousness was Christians including my folks were a pious group of people that were hypocritical when they chose to be and were weak for depending on a saviour.

    I’d know of course, deary me the delusion, I’d spent decades spent in a bottle, in dodgy relationships,in retail therapy, looking to fill the vast void with the right job etc etc trying to appease the inner hurricane. I’d got as far in my massive brain to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to God that I consciously choose to believe in. I knew I didn’t have the ability, no matter how hard I’d tried to navigate my will or my life as I wanted, I always failed. I was powerless, so I chose inwardly to make the decision to give God the keys to all of my life, I thought that was my doing ) then I thought yeah but what am I handing the keys over to?? What am I putting my faith in ?? The decision without construct is no decision at all, it’s merely an acknowledgement of God and of change of hope, when I drew closer to God how do I enter his kingdom ? Or was I still alluding to having the divine right to have my own God and manipulate that as I saw fit.

    I came to understand (as God illuminated) that the God of the bible asks me to have no other Gods but him, he says he is a jealous God and fully deserves my obedience to him and him alone, this startling observance immediately put me at odds with all other beliefs, it puts me at odds with new age spiritual beliefs, because my Gods says I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me, the funny thing was when I was reading the big book on page 62 that day and it said “he is the principal we are his agents, he is the father we are his children” so I then was spurred on to ask how does one so dirty and disheveled enter the kingdom of heaven ) and God led me to a man that led me through that journey which included stopping, hearing, turning back, faith and solemn repentance. I was awakened through evidence that God was real and that came to me in a overwhelming way, from archeological digs to manuscripts to A series of events that were so coincidental it left me speechless. I also came to see that my faith was the acceptance of a greater fact and the rejection of lesser facts, I saw that when you allow the evidence to be truth this evidence then leads to yet more truth, and through that faith is more substantiated.

    I saw the trouble then with AA in the spiritual part as without the strong meat of spiritual truth of the Bible how can you grow, there’s no where to go or grow if you are just feeding on your own insights that lay outside Gods word, I was trying to sustain myself on my logic and mental capacities which was the very thing that has brought me into AA, I could understand myself all I want but where does that leave me ?? Back where I started with my own logic which leads to being perplexed by my own inadequacy, dependant on cliches to motivate self, and seeking those gurus that feel they can tap into my unique neurological design to give me good guidance and direction, so I’m giving my life to people who I have to trust and see as self righteous, how can they actually align me with who God created me to be ?? I’d trusted in these self serving Pharisees before that stood me in stead for a few days and then abandoned me when the going got tough and I couldn’t overcome that which they seemingly had mastered by self control. So this how i was living my life, I was hanging out in AA with my thinking and taking comfort in the next meeting or phone call that pacified my disillusionment. What a frail existence indeed eh, fraught with the realities and complexities of life and continual juggling of ones own rationality or indeed lack of it.

    Is AA the POWER greater than myself ? Do I gps all the meetings so my sensitivities and will never have to suffer my own fragility, understanding is great, comradere is fantastic, but what was to hold me in stead, where was my salvation, where was this fourth dimension everyone wanted but never attained, what would flow peace through me, give my life order and direction, it obviously couldn’t come from a fellow human being !! I could see at this stage that peace is not a psychological state but it was a spiritual gift and state, being such it will have spiritual results, a substantial lack of it was like an alarm telling me things have gone wrong, so how did I get peace at last ?

    Well God saved me from me, he brought me home, he saved me, he brought me before the cross, I believe in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, peace was attained by God in my heart by being led to certain centred truths, thus I was emancipated from self seeking, I was not at the whim of a secular shrink, or my next thought but in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, not a pill, not a mental clairvoyant, not glued to the AA unspoken mantra of not abandoning your safe harbour of AA and it’s gurus ). I had to face the truth, and it was vivid, my self seeking was of nil affect, no one in the rooms had led me to truth, nietski, Steiner, goethe, oprah, tolle had come no where near the plans God had for me, I started to notice how people find a connection, an answer, a life design, a simple correlation that was as brutal and short sighted as, as it had worked for them it must be the answer others need also. So they were making themselves the captains of others fate, they play God, they are saying God is deficient, they are saying I AM the WORD the truth and the light, so if you start on that path your destiny resides in the hands of human intellect, a self designed prognosis, none of which is the word of God nor reflects his glory, I thank goodness that Almighty God is bigger than the toils of satan and I pray I may always remember how lost I was and what that journey entailed so I may humbly point to the cross whether in the rooms of AA or anywhere else in the world x

  • WELL PUT… ……My heart was so convicted from this article. It just woke me up with a jolt, I’m sure many of us have made up our own god who excuses us from some of our wrong doings.
    I certainly don’t want to be someone who God says to me after I die. “I never knew you, depart from me”, all because my convictions came from the world and it’s humanistic values of false love instead of the convictions of sin coming straight from the Bible itself.

    I’m sure “ Sometimes “ we rebuke so called “Condemnations “ we think are from the Devil attacking us, because we think it is our right to be the Holy Spirit in our own lives again setting up our own self -made god , making excuses for us.
    We all need to value the Holy Spirit’s convictions as more precious than gold.

  • I also say, “Well put, Bill.” As an aside, I hope you’ll forgive my snickering at your use of the word, “discriminate.” I suspect it’s true over there, as it is here in the states, that the word is no longer properly understood by the masses. But you are correct, God does discriminate and expects us to do the same. (I’m not snickering at you, but rather, society’s ignorance of definitions at times).

    I also agree with the other person’s response that the moment someone says, “My God this or that,” you’re fixing to hear what his make-believe God thinks. You just know it’s going to be the one he’s made into a comfortable and permissive being who never ruffles the guy’s feathers.

    I reject unbeliever’s notions that believing God and His Word is a fix that comforts us with pat answers for any given situation. How often have the trials and tribulations of life made me wish God’s answer was different…that it would let me do what I want to do? Why can’t I just stay mad and not forgive; why can’t I seek vengeance; why can’t I take that brother who wronged me to court? But God often has a different way, not the way my fallen nature would love to respond. To obey God is not always easy for the believer, though in the end, if we obey Him, He gives us the peace that passes all understanding. God is Who He says He is and what He says He is…no amount of my trying to form Him into the image I might want Him to be at the moment (for my own comfort) will change that. You could not possibly have hit the issue more on the head!

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