I think God has gotten a bad rap. Many people have the wrong view of God because of His arch-enemy, Satan, who from the get-go has tried to convinced mankind that God is something other than what He is.
As a deceiver condemned to eternal damnation, Satan’s goal is to convince God’s masterpiece creation to turn away from Him. He attempts to do this by skewing our view of God. Paraphrasing Satan’s words to Eve, he said: “You won’t surely die if you eat of this tree. It’s just that God doesn’t want you to be as smart as he is.”1 Right there he planted the thought that God is not trustworthy.
Our opinions about God are formed in early childhood based on what we were told by our parents. We basically see God the same way our parents did. Another factor that influences our view of our Heavenly Father is what type of earthly father we had: kind and gentle, or not-so-kind and not-so-gentle. Lastly, our view of God is formed by what our religious teachers taught us about Him.
When asked: “When you think about God, where does your mind go first?” we would have different answers based on those factors. Our answers might be: Righteous judge; Condemning critic; Tender heart; or something esle.2
But whatever our answer is, it is a mindset—an attitude, belief, conviction, frame of mind about something. A mindset is just that: set! It is with us for life unless something or someone comes along and shows us a better way.
Mindsets are hard to change. Expert James Clear says, “There are many reasons why it can be hard to stick to good habits or develop new skills. But more often than not, the biggest challenge is sitting between your two ears. Your mind is a powerful thing.”
The old saying, “If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” is true. There is tremendous power in a mindset.
Be it good or bad, we all have a mindset of who God is and what His character is like. Christians believe He is an eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God that loves mankind. Those are good mindsets. But what about our mindset of how this eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God relates to us—members of a fallen race who are anything but perfect?
Thousands of religions around the world teach different ideas about God, and many are what I call “performance-based religions.” They teach that if people are good, God is pleased with them; and if people are bad, God is not pleased with them. Requirements for followers of performance-based religions range from extremists who tell their converts to kill people for eternal brownie points to those who define how women should wear their hair.
Even God’s chosen people added 600+ commandments to the Ten Commandments. In so doing, they created a “performance-based theology.” In New Testament times, Jewish Christians tried to put new converts back under the law of circumcision. The Apostle Paul challenged them with the message: grace is enough!3
Salvation-by-grace denominations also encourage believers to keep track of their performance. How many of us made check marks on our Sunday school envelopes for being at church, bringing a Bible, giving an offering, studying the lesson, and inviting a visitor? If we did those things, we got a perfect score. If we didn’t, we got something less.
Throughout most of our lives, we have struggled with the something less that we fear doesn’t please God.
So what is wrong with performance-based practices? That is simply not how God relates to us! Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.4 He provided a way for us to be holy and acceptable to God by His works at Calvary. In short—Jesus plus nothing!
The truth is that God wants to have a love relationship with us and not be the judge of our good and bad performance. But only when we change our mindset about this truth will we be able to experience intimacy with the Almighty God.
An exciting journey awaits those who are willing to change their set mind. ~Janie Kellogg
1Genesis 3:4-5; 2Angela Thomas, Beautiful Offering; 3Galatians 5:1-6; 4Romans 5:8