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Jackie Hill Perry on What We Believe About God

Jackie Hill Perry on What We Believe About God

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Not many people would dare call God a liar out loud, lest they be guilty of blasphemy and kept from forgiveness. What the mouth doesn’t say, though, the heart still reveals. How we live is the evidence of what we believe about God. If Lord, we serve. If Creator, we’re humble. If Savior, we trust.

All of the above wasn’t discerned without help. It was communicated through the world and the Word. The problem with our nature is that it corrupts our minds, inflates our ego, meddles with our vision, and darkens our understanding so that when God decides to tell us anything, we determine its integrity by how we feel over who God has revealed Himself to be. That is not to say that all unbelief is emotional, but it is to say that our decision-making in regards to what we believe about God is never isolated from our affections.

‘Holier Than Thou: How God’s Holiness Helps Us Trust Him’ is available now.

Before we are unchained from sin, as slaves and lovers of it, truth is resisted because it demands something from us. It tells the heart what the heart refuses to acknowledge. That it is not as happy as the smile it manufactures or as full as it claims to be. It is a scary thing to hear the truth and actually believe it as that. If through the power of another’s resurrection, we actually decide to finally agree with God, that He is the Creator of everything and therefore has claim on everything, including the heart, mind, and body, then we are obligated to give to God what He rightly deserves: our entire self. This is an impossible thing if in fact you believe what the devil has told you. That you are all the god you need. That every gift given to men, including everything from sex to the sun, is yours to exploit. To squeeze the beauty out of everything until it is no longer good but god. The inevitable consequence of not believing what God has said about Himself is to take what God has made and call it Lord. Among other things, not believing that God is telling the truth about sin and death must mean that there are no consequences, no hell, no judgment. If He is just love and not judge, which is no love at all really, then we can rebel without accountability. This is the pseudo-freedom that sinners prefer. Life on their terms. Heaven and hell at the same time. If we are brave enough to actually believe that God is who He say He is, we are left with one choice: worship. But if we want to be the center of attention, the source of our joy, and the final authority of our lives, then, in our minds, God cannot be holy; he must be just like us. A sinner.

It is good news that the maintenance of God’s righteousness is independent of our faith in it. Whether we believe He is holy or not, He will always be what He’s always been. God’s eternal sinlessness means many things, but in the simplest terms, to us, God cannot lie. He is “not a man that He should lie” and He is the God who “never lies.” (Num. 23:19; Tit. 1:2). As holy, God sees things as they are. The ultimate realist who will never distort the truth or be ignorant of it. The one who provided Eve with an alternate reality said, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). The words might’ve sounded sincere, as in, true. Authentic. Liars are like that though; good ones, that is. Able to lie without breaking their smile. Being at ease with deception is suitable for Satan because according to Jesus, he is the “father of lies” who “doesn’t abide in truth” and when lying, he speaks “out of his own character” (Jn. 8:44). There is a world of difference between Satan and God, you see, but in our struggle to believe God, it’s as if we sometimes suspect that God assumes a different, darker nature. That when He says that “nothing can separate us from the God’s love” (Rom. 8:38), we refuse the notion as being real towards anybody and especially us. How many of our sins began with the belief that God didn’t love us truly? Who is it, then, that we believed on those days? Not God.

One way Jesus addressed Israel’s unbelief is by engaging them with a question on his moral purity. He said, Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell you the truth, why do you not believe me?” (John 8:46) If this same question were asked by anybody other than God, they would be a narcissist, blind, or both. The disciple whom Jesus loved wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Any human that stands next to God’s law, lifts up their haughty head, and tells the world that they have been just as good as it requires is lying. Only Jesus can stand next to the law and it be a spitting image. Only Jesus can say what He said about Himself and it be true. Such as how he always does what is pleasing to God (Jn 8:29). Always. As in, at all times, consistently, perpetually, night and day, the Son pleases the Father. This testimony was confirmed by the Father who spoke over the Son during his baptism with the ultimate affirmation, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). Without the Father’s witness and the Son’s sinless life, every claim made by Jesus would certainly be delusions of grandeur and worse, Jesus would hold rank among the false prophets of old. About this C.S. Lewis said, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.” 

It seems like a reach to say it as C.S. did, that Jesus is either God (and thus holy, not a liar) or that Jesus is a lunatic. But how else could you describe Him if he were lying about being the resurrection and the life? About his claim that He and the Father are one? About his statement that before Abraham was, He was too, claiming eternality? About his declaration that He has authority to forgive sins and that if someone decides not to believe him, they will die in their sins? There is no grey area when it comes to how evil it would be if Jesus were lying about these things. Offering Himself up as bread to the hungry and water to thirsty only to turn around and be neither food nor drink but a liar in need of both. If this were the case, we would be wise in our denial of Him. No one with good sense should give their allegiance to a lie. However, that is not the option we are given because he is neither lunatic nor false prophet, He is the way, the truth, and the life. As C.S. Lewis added, “You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.” 

If there is anything I want you to take to heart, it’s this: because God is holy, all that He says is true and all that He does is good. In John’s gospel alone, Jesus says “I tell you the truth” upwards of twenty-five times. Jesus was being repetitive to prove a point. That all He has said is true because He in fact is a truthful person. To say “I tell you the truth” means Jesus is assuring us not only of the importance of whatever statement he makes; he is equally assuring us of his true and holy character behind those statements. The message is trustworthy and right, he wants us to know, and so is the mouth who declares it. Or consider Jeremiah 2:5 where God says, What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?” Having an erroneous view of the unblemished ethical nature of God tempts us to doubt His word, leading to the denial of His worth. If His character isn’t trusted, His words won’t be believed.

Adapted with permission from Holier Than Thou by Jackie Hill Perry. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing.

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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