“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” -Gary Zukav
The statement above is just an elaborate way of saying perception affects reality. However we perceive something will determine how we react and respond to situations in life. If this is true, I want to ask an important question…How do you perceive God? What I have observed is most Christians are EITHER in one of two camps when it comes to the nature of God. Camp 1 – God should be revered and feared because he is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. Camp 2 – God is love, and his grace, mercy, and compassion are unconditional. Both camps hold an accurate, but partial view of God, and finding yourself in one camp exclusively is problematic.
I challenge any person to go through the Bible and do a word study on “fear God.” You would probably be surprised how many times the phrase appears. Notable men of God, including Moses, David, Solomon, etc. had a healthy fear of God. These men understood righteousness and wisdom came through an understanding of the majesty and power of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Ps. 111:10). Solomon, after saying everything in the world is vanity other than God himself, concludes Ecclesiastes this way: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13). A HEALTHY fear of God and an understanding that God is different from us is essential for any person desiring to be considered righteous and wise before the Almighty. The problem with perceiving God exclusively with reverence and fear is there is a tendency to see God as distant and waiting to invoke wrath and anger upon all who fail to obey his commands (this mostly stems from an inaccurate view of fear). This produces a life that strives to remain faithful out of fear that God might cast them into hell. PROBLEMATIC. We must always remember that heaven is not a place for those that are scared of hell, but a place for those who love God.
Camp 2 is the loving, merciful, relational, and compassionate side of God. This side is very prevalent in Christendom today, especially amongst those in Generation X and Generation Y. Turn on the radio or listen to a sermon from someone in this generation, and most likely grace and mercy will be mentioned. This is good, and I am encouraged by this recent shift in understanding God. I grew up without EVER hearing a sermon on grace. I did not perceive God as merciful because I grew up in the first camp. Every person needs to come to a knowledge of the unending and unconditional grace and love of God. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith. One of the great truths that I rest in comes from this verse – I do not have to be good enough, but I simply have to put my faith in God. The problem, however, with perceiving God exclusively as a God of grace and mercy is it tends to water down sin under the banner of grace. Many love grace because they feel it gives them a free license to say and do however they please. PROBLEMATIC. We must also understand that, although God is gracious and hears our pleas, he is different than we are. He has NEVER sinned, nor has he ever been tempted by sin. He takes sin VERY seriously. Remember it only took ONE sin by Adam and Eve in the garden to sever the perfect, harmonious relationship God designed for man.
The reality is that camp 1 and camp 2 are NOT mutually exclusive. A complete view of God encompasses His reverent fear as well as His unconditional grace and love. To rest exclusively in one camp or the other is to have an incomplete view of God. And honestly, this is what makes God so amazing and holy to me. He has unending, infinite power which should cause us to fear him, but he also has unending, infinite grace and compassion, which should cause us to give glory and honor to him. Imagine a man who had an unbelievable amount of power, such as Pharaoh or Caesar and someone who had great compassion, such as Mother Theresa. Now combine these two and throw in infinite amounts of both power and compassion, and you have God. WOW! When we begin to perceive God this way, our reality will be changed. We understand that we do not have to be scared of God or try to earn our salvation by our deeds because of the grace of God, but at the same time, we follow faithfully because our salvation has already been earned through the blood of Jesus, and we take sin seriously because we acknowledge that God is different than us and will judge us. As Dr. John Perkins said, “We work from our salvation, not for our salvation.” Perception is often reality…how do you perceive God?