The Lord is my shepherd . . . (Psalm 23:1)
“You will never rise higher in our Christian life and experience than your image and concept of God.”
I don’t know who said it, but it is true. Because we are made in His image, we can only reflect that which we see of Him. For example, if deep in our hearts we see God as loving and kind, then our lives will reflect that . . .
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7–8)
David’s primary view of God was of a Shepherd. He saw himself as a sheep. He and other psalmists praised Him expressing that understanding . . .
Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:3–5)
However, today’s devotional reading says that we can say these words all day, but still have a negative picture of God in our hearts. Such a view is rarely changed overnight and it cannot be changed by self-effort.
A change of heart requires grace. Some define grace as “God’s undeserved favor” which is true, but too general for me. I want to know exactly how it works. For that reason, I love this old definition; “Grace is being given an understanding of Jesus Christ that changes your life.”
Seeing Him was life-changing for the disciples. This episode from Simon Peter’s first shows his deep image of Jesus and then how further revelation (grace) changed him . . .
Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, (Jesus) asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:3–8)
Peter thought he knew more about fishing than this Carpenter did, but out of respect for Jesus, he did as He asked. Then result revealed that this primary view of the Lord was off the mark. Jesus not only knew where to fish, but that they would succeed. At that point, Peter realized Jesus was far more than he first thought. Seeing Jesus as He is (= grace) revealed to Peter something about himself also, something that needed confessing. He could not even begin to reflect the image of God until he was moved to deal with his sin.
The first time God revealed Jesus as He is to me drastically changed my life — for at that moment, I was reborn and became a Christian. Ever since that day, seeking His face and looking for Him is the preoccupation of my life. Yesterday, God went into a deep place in my heart and revealed that my primary view of Him was contrary to what He says about Himself and not at all what I thought I believed. Now I can see how this primary image of God has affected my life for many years.
I do feel lighter and stronger because He has exposed it and I have confessed it. Surely change only happens by seeing Jesus, and seeing Jesus is grace, amazing grace.