Study Guide: How Clearly Have We Seen God?

Sunday April 23, 2017 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This weekend we kicked off our new sermon series, Glimpses of Truth. For the next six weeks Greg will be covering the ways in which the Spirit of God was consistently working in the hearts of God’s people to reveal as much of God’s true character as possible. Throughout the Old Testament we read many examples of how the spiritual immaturity of God’s people determines their understanding of God’s true character. Never coercing nor shaming, but through love and immeasurable patience, God meets us exactly where we are and carries us on to the full revelation of Godself that is finally found in Jesus Christ.

Extended Summary:

On the journey of faith, we all start somewhere. And that somewhere is nowhere but the beginning. In the beginning of our journey, we are spiritually immature, young, and weak in hearing the voice of God. And it is precisely in this stage of infancy where God meets us; constantly accommodating to meet our needs, to slowly reveal more of Godself and God’s will, and faithfully bringing us into greater spiritual maturity and truth.

As we read through the Old Testament we find stories that tell of the misguided conclusions from God’s people. Conclusions that suggest God is raging with wrath; or that God is a nationalistic, war-hungry, child-murdering God. When we read of these stories without an understanding of the context in which they were written, we too fall into the practice of misguided conclusions. We must take into account the clumsy process of spiritual development. Why? Because we all start at the beginning and the beginning is never the place to form our conclusions.

To illustrate the ways in which God accommodates God’s people to bring them into a fuller revelation of Godself, Greg explains the story of Aaron and Moses pleading with Pharaoh to let them take a 3-day journey into the wilderness. “But Aaron and Moses persisted. ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us,’ they declared. ‘So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.’” [Exodus 5:3].

What conclusion might we come to if we fail to take into consideration the process of Aaron’s and Moses’ spiritual maturity? More than likely we would conclude that God is an angry God, eager to kill Aaron and Moses with plagues or swords if they fail in persuading Pharaoh to let them go. But is this a true picture of God? Does this conclusion reflect Christ on the Cross? Of course not. Sometimes what people hear or say about God, in this case, what Aaron and Moses say about God, actually says more about that person than it does about God. Sometimes the question is not, “What is God saying?” but rather, “What are you hearing?” The condition of our hearts and the point that we are at in our process of spiritual maturity determines what we are hearing. An immature heart produces immature hearing.

Prior to the Incarnation, the people of the Old Testament had glimpses of the truth of God’s character. Hebrews 1:1-3 articulates it this way: “God, who gave our forefathers many different glimpses of the truth in the words of the prophets, has now, at the end of the present age, given us the truth in the Son. Through the Son God made the whole universe, and to the Son he has ordained that all creation shall ultimately belong. This Son, radiance of the glory of God, flawless expression of the nature of God.” Aaron and Moses had only glimpses of the truth of God. Through prophets and in-breakings of God’s spirit, the people of the Old Testament had different glimpses of God’s true character. So when we read of the ideas Aaron and Moses had about God, ideas which suggest God is eager to kill with plague or sword, we must pause and ask, “What were they hearing?” instead of “What is God saying?”

The crucified Christ is the lens through which we are to see the true image of God. In the Old Testament, God gave glimpses of truth. But now, in this present age, God has given us the whole truth, in the Son. The son is the radiance of the glory of God, the very essence of God, the flawless expression of the nature of God. THIS is the true character of God, the image that God is so faithfully carrying God’s people along into seeing.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Even in this present age we can still carry immature, broken images of God’s true character. What is your image of God? Do you see God as the Old Testament people understood God – wrathful, angry, nationalistic, etc? Do you see God as impatient, annoyed with your sinful condition? Or do you see God as the Jesus revealed God – faithful in love, always accommodating to meet us where we are at, sacrificial, etc. Take a moment to reflect on your image of God.
  2. In what ways does this understanding of God accommodating transform the ways in which you read through the biblical narrative? How does this change the way you understand God and God’s relationship with people?
  3. Knowing that we need to understand the place we are at in the process of our journey of spiritual maturity before we can make conclusions, how might this change the way you love and relate to other people? How might it change the way you see your own self?
  4. God meets us exactly where we are at and walks with us toward full spiritual maturity. Keep this promise and truth at the forefront of your mind as you move forward in your journey and as you participate in the journey of others. Watch and see grace multiply!