If you want to get to know someone, you want to know everything about them: their beliefs, what they like, what they don’t like, their habits, how you can be a better friend or partner to them, etc. Questions are necessary, and they are the backbone of our growth, our relationships, and our understanding. To live a life of faith means asking questions in order to develop a deeper relationship with Christ. This special episode of ANN InDepth, is dedicated to host Jennifer Stymiest and Sam Neves answering submitted questions about faith and belief.
Many of our questions as believers stem from a core misunderstanding of God’s character. Through the multiple questions submitted, the central answer to the variety of questions was rooted in how we see God. Our perception of God is the lens through which we live our lives as believers. Having that central knowledge and relationship shapes the choices we make and protects us against any misinterpretation that could threaten our spiritual foundation. The anchoring point of knowing God in a personal manner, through prayers of surrender and believing the word of God, allows us as believers to follow an “If...Then” structure of logic. If God is a loving God who never calls us to anything without a reason, Then I can trust that He will equip me to handle any mission He gives me.
So what is the central character of this deity, named Yahweh, Elohim, Jehovah, or Adoni, called God? God is a singular deity made up of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Godhead is a triune deity that is the creator of all life on earth. After the fall of man, we as humans were subject to sin because of our choice to doubt God's character. Yet instead of rejecting us and starting another humanity, God developed a covenant with us, choosing to uphold both the human and holy side in acknowledgment of our sinful nature.
The bible itself is a letter to God's people, and an archive of His love. Indeed, God is Love. This is played out throughout the Bible in his interactions with humanity. Yahweh is the example of perfect love, meaning He loves us too much to leave us in a sinful state, therefore will provide discipline and guidance. His love is also faithfulness, acknowledging that we will fail, but providing grace and mercy in our return, it is this truth that we can apply to practices like rebaptism. If we have moved away from the faith, living outside of the church and God's will, and we are able to allow God to be the Lord of life, then rebaptism is a beautiful reminder that no matter our prodigal nature, God is ready and willing to invite us back.
Yet this invitation is just that, an invitation. We are not forced to accept, nor punished by The One who invited us. Here lies the heart of God’s majesty: choice. Understanding that God gives us a choice is a monumental revelation that will shift our perspective from a punitive god and powerless being, to a respectful Lord and Savior and a being with agency. In allowing autonomy, Yahweh is efferming that our decisions have value. Without being given the ability to chose our beliefs, God would be nothing more than a controlling deity without respect or love for his creation. However, in Genesis 1-3, we see the beginnings of a pattern that would be repeated throughout the bible to today. God gives us options, He tells us the consequences of poor decisions, and the benefits of trusting Him. When Eve and Adam ate the fruit, they were practicing autonomy. The consequences of this choice, and every choice that goes against God’s guidance, are the natural result of that action. It is in this that we gain fuller understanding as to why bad things happen, and the judgement at the end of life. God is not punishing to exert power, such power is better shown in respecting the choices of His people. The pain and suffering of this life are the result of a choice, either by ourselves, others, or humanity’s parents.
Even in this, God does not decrease His availability, but provides the bible and prayer as means of active connection. With Christ as our high priest, pentecost, and spreading of the gospel, we have uninhibited access to a God that loves us enough to respect our choices, and celebrate when we chose to love him through our lives. It is this truth that we can rely on again and again in times of questioning. Therefore, when we are wondering whether we are going in a direction God wants, or lingering on a theological quandary, anchoring in the truth of God’s character will guide us back to Him every time.