Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Review: Made In Our Image

Made In Our Image. Steven J. Lawson. 2000. Doubleday. 224 pages. [Source: Borrowed From Friend]

I am so thankful to have discovered Steven J. Lawson this year. He has turned out to be an author who does not disappoint! The first section of Made In Our Image focuses on a society that likes--even loves--to remake God into their own image.  What we think about God is so essential, so important. What is shaping our image of God? Think about it. Consider. Is "our God" the God of the Bible, or, are we reshaping God and fixing him to our own liking, perhaps trying to sell him to more people? The second section of Made In Our Image examines who God is, what he is like, his attributes, his character. The third section focuses on the individual, the personal experience of knowing, fearing, loving God. All of it was good--really good. I think the book is very relevant. In many ways, it is similar to A.W. Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy. The books share the same focus and goal. Both books are excellent by the way! 

From the introduction: This is a book about God. Not God as we might loosely imagine Him to be, but as He truly is--holy, awesome, sovereign, righteous, and full of love and goodness. I believe that there is one area of our theology that is most lacking in the church today, it is our understanding of who He really is. Our most rudimentary problem is that we do not fully comprehend who He is. Our thoughts about Him have become very unclear, fuzzy, and oblique. The result of this distorted view of deity is that it leaves everything else out of focus as well. Whenever we lose a right view of God, everything else gets out of perspective. (15)

Favorite quotes:
The most important thing about you is who you believe God is. (25)
Who we believe God is impacts every area of our lives--our attitudes, priorities, choices, and even our destiny. The true knowledge of God is so vast and overreaching that it is the only subject large enough, and powerful enough, to define and determine every aspect of our lives. (25)
The greatest sin anyone can commit is to distort the true knowledge of God. Vandalizing God's image--not with spray cans or permanent markers, but with loose thinking, partial truths, and bad theology--is at the center of every sin. (32)
A demeaned view of the one true God is the result of a pattern of compromise--from watered-down sermons presenting a low view of God to the trendy music of Christian performers who crossover to secular markets but forget to carry the Cross with them. (32)
Too often, we allow our surroundings and imagination, instead of Scripture, to govern our thoughts about who God is. We often project our self-limitations on to our picture of Him, resulting in a god made in our own image. This is the curse of the user-friendly god--namely, low views of Him who is high and lifted up, finite views of Him who is infinite and beyond our comprehension. (62)
Our definition of God should not be left up to our own imaginations; it must be determined from the pages of the Bible. When it comes to defining who God is, individual speculation is no more valid than a roll of the dice. The God we are talking about is the Creator of the universe, the original being, the sovereign ruler of all that is. He is the sole judge of all that is true and false, right and wrong, good and bad. He is the One who communicates to humankind generally in nature and specifically through the words of the Bible. (63)
What is the primary truth about God that we must grasp if we are to have a high view of Him? More than any other of His divine attributes, God has revealed Himself to has as being absolutely holy. Arguably, God's holiness is the most important of all His attributes. It constitutes the core of His nature, the essence of His attributes. It constitutes the core of His nature, the essence of His being, and the crown of His character. If our thoughts of God are to be worthy, the primary truth that should govern how we perceive Him is that He alone is perfectly holy. If we are to properly understand who He is, we must grasp the true meaning of this central aspect of His divine being. (77)
In the minds of so many people today, even some in the body of Christ, the user-friendly god has voluntarily limited his control and given free reign to the actions of people in order to give them unconditional liberty. This restricted ruler is slightly sovereign--enthroned, but not empowered; presiding, but not prevailing; trying, but not triumphing…This is the user-friendly god. But is this God? Has He really chosen to limit the free reign of His sovereignty? Is He limited by the choices of man? Or is God really the supreme ruler of the universe, exercising total control over all the works of His hand? Rest assured, God is in complete control! (93)
Only when we understand that He judges sin--all sin, even our own sin--can we appreciate His glorious grace for what it is. The darkness of God's wrath showcases the flawless gem of His unmerited mercy toward us. But remove the dark background of His wrath, and our appreciation of the brilliance of His amazing love fades. The gospel is not good news until we first know the bad news. The good news of His love does not truly become good news until we know the bad news of His wrath. (109)
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible presents a consistent picture of a holy God who reserves wrath for sinners, who is angry with the wicked every day, and yet, who, at the same time, loves sinners with the strongest, most tender love. (110)
Despite this biblical account of God's wrath, I frequently hear people talk about God as though He never punishes sin. Many today have adopted the user-friendly god who never judges sinners. Choosing not to entertain frightening thoughts about God's wrath, they favor a feel-good approach to the Almighty. But this approach indicts God. In a court of law, if a judge knowingly acquits the guilty, he himself becomes corrupt, guilty of the same crime. Along this same line, if God is to be the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, he must punish sin, or He Himself would become guilty of it and from moral necessity, topple from His throne of holiness…There are others who believe in God's wrath, but choose never to talk about it or warn lost men and women about it. Their silence is deafening. (113)
Far worse than the physical torment He endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers was the spiritual suffering He endured at the hands of God… Only those who have died without Christ and now endure God's eternal wrath in hell can even begin to comprehend what Christ endured on our behalf… Jesus suffered a wrath equal to the eternal wrath we would suffer forever in hell if we were to die without Him. He who is infinite, the Lord Jesus Christ, suffered in a finite period of time--a few hours upon the cross--what you and I, begin finite, would suffer in an infinite period of time in hell… If God were ever to withhold His wrath against sin, it would have been in the case of His own Son. But He did not--because all sin must be punished! God, who did not spare His Son, will not spare us from being the object of His eternal wrath if we die in our sins. But because God's Lamb bore heaven's wrath for our sins, we need not suffer His vengeance. This is the good news of the gospel. The redemptive wrath of God, unleashed at the cross, means we need not face eternal wrath in hell. When we put our faith in Christ alone, we escape the wrath to come. God will in one way or the other pour out His wrath on every sin ever committed. Every sin will either be pardoned in Christ or punished in hell. God is that holy. (120-1)
Whenever we elevate God's love to a preeminent place in our thinking without first considering His holiness, sovereignty, and wrath, we distort the true picture of God. We reduce His love to syrupy, sentimental mush and turn Him into a user-friendly god who pats us on the head instead of delivering us from condemnation. (125) 
Our view of God has everything to do with how, or whether, we glorify Him with our lives. A diminished view of God demeans the worship we give to Him. The higher our view of God is, the greater our adoration for Him will be. Conversely, the lower our view of God is, the lower our worship of Him will be. Our worship will rise no higher than our thoughts of Him. (162)
No one giggles his way into the kingdom of God. All who enter through the narrow gate that leads to life come with godly fear, brokenness, and mourning over their sin. (Matthew 5:3-4, Matthew 7:13-14) As we walk by faith on the narrow path of the Christian life, we grow in our proper reverence for God. (196)
Fearing God is a heart attitude of worshipful submission to Him. It is a reverential awe for God in which we recognize Him for who He is--the holy, sovereign, righteous God who loves us and desires to have fellowship with us. In coming face-to-face with His holiness, we are overwhelmed and struck with the sheer glory of His being. Fearing God means to live a God-centered life in which our entire beings revolve around Him, not ourselves. It means we take Him very seriously, not superficially. (197)
Reverencing God comes from receiving His Word into our hearts. To know Him is to fear Him. (200)
Whenever we weaken our understanding of who God is, we weaken our resolve to resist temptation and we fall into sin. The most loving thing I can do for you is to lead you to fear God. The wisest thing pastors can do for their congregations is to teach them to fear God. If parents want their children to live pure and godly lives, they must teach them to fear God! (203)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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