If we want to stop committing a habitual sin, we should first look at what we are doing and then develop strategies for changing our behavior, right? Wrong. The first step should be to start at the other end—not with ourselves but with God. That is why step one in breaking a sinful habit is to adopt a correct view of God. The more fully we understand the nature of God, the better we will understand how we should live in this world.
In general, we make our decisions on a rational basis. We try to understand the facts and then make a reasonable choice based on what we know (or what we think we know) as well as on what we feel. This is true in all areas of life. Our convictions influence our behavior. For this reason, it is important that we have the right convictions in the first place. And since our convictions about God are above our convictions in all other categories, it is supremely important that we have the right convictions about Him.
Everything about our lives—our attitudes, motives, desires, actions, and even our words—may be influenced, at least indirectly, by our view of God. An improving view of God, then, means we may be energized to recognize our sin and to deal with it in a godly way.
As we begin our attempts to know God better, we should admit one fact: God is beyond our ability to fully comprehend Him. “‘My thoughts are completely different from yours,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine’” (Isaiah 55:8). In the end, God remains a marvelous mystery.
Yet at the same time this God is a God who wants to be known. He reveals to us everything about Himself that we really need to know. And He bids us to come looking for Him. An honest search for Him is one that He readily rewards with a disclosure of Himself. He promises, “If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me” (Jeremiah 29:13).
The apostle Paul, in establishing the guilt of sinful people who did not have the advantages of being a part of the Jewish community, explained that God has placed clues about Himself both inside each person and all around us.
God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. (Romans 1:18-20)
Instinctive knowledge of God placed in our hearts: that is the witness of our conscience. God’s invisible qualities displayed in the earth and sky and all He has made: that is the witness of nature.
But conscience and nature can only tell us so much about God. They reveal generalities and not specifics. To live life in a fully God-pleasing manner, we need more detailed information about who God is and what He wants of us.
The Bible is our most comprehensive guide to the nature of God. It was “inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), and so it preserves God’s own witness to who He is. It is His self-portrait. Above any other source, then, we need to find out what God says about Himself in the Bible. If we will take the time to study what Scripture says, we can arrive at a picture of God that certainly is not complete but that is more than adequate for our needs.
Moreover, we can trust that the God who appears in the pages of Scripture is the same God we are seeking to know better today. “I am the Lord, and I do not change,” He testifies (Malachi 3:6). What He says specifically about Himself in Scripture, and what He demonstrates about Himself through His actions recorded in Bible stories, reveals the real God.
We need to be willing to open up our minds to the biblical picture of God. If we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us from the Bible, He will do so. And as we study Scripture, its picture of God will crowd out our old, mistaken view of God and establish a truer picture in its place.
Click here to continue reading abridged chapter 3: STEP 1: KNOWING GOD