Who is God?

Many of us desire to see God in our everyday lives. If we're honest, at times it can feel like He's nowhere to be found. So how do we practically connect with Him?

March 28, 2024

We start our faith journey with great expectations. We long to see God in our lives but oftentimes it feels like someone gave us a flashlight and it only illuminates long enough to see through the shadows for a few seconds, but never gives us enough time to see clearly what Christianity is meant to be.

For many of us, we live our lives through these shadows. We wrestle to relate to God in ways that leave us, if we were honest, a little bit discouraged, frustrated, or disappointed. And that's what this series is really all about. It's about how we relate to God when we only partially see who he is, and ultimately, how we overcome that.

Will God give me what I want?

One of the most common ways that we relate to God is as a genie in a bottle. Consumerism is central to the American life and values. It shapes this transactional view of faith where spiritual satisfaction comes through goods and experiences. It has influenced our faith to focus on what God can do rather than God Himself.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son. The younger son asks his father to divide his inheritance early, revealing he only values his father for the blessings he can provide, not the relationship itself.
This mirrors how some treat God - as a means to an end, only concerned with receiving gifts rather than knowing God.

The father willingly divides his very life (represented by "bios" or land) between his sons, enduring rejection from his younger son.
This depicts God's willingness to give of Himself fully for those who reject Him.

The younger son squanders his blessings on reckless living, ending up longing to eat pig food.
In the same way, walking away from God leaves one empty.

He comes to realize his father's servants live better than he. His plan is to return and work as a servant, thinking that is the best he can hope for. But the father runs to embrace him before he can ask for forgiveness, dressing him in the best robe and celebrating his return as his son.
The father's extravagant love demonstrates God's willingness to fully forgive and accept without cost or works.

Jesus teaches us with this parable that no joy or fulfillment will come from only valuing God for what is received from Him. Turn from that mindset and experience knowing God as your loving Heavenly Father. The cross symbolizes God's extravagant love in spending all for relationship with His children. Draw near to God not just when needing something, but to know Him for who He is.

How do I earn God's blessings?

A frequent approach in performance-based faith is when one believes they will receive God's blessings and favor if they do good things and avoid bad things. However, this leaves us questioning what went wrong when suffering occurs.

Jesus emphasized the importance of a relationship with God over following rules through the telling of parables like the prodigal son.

The younger son squandered his inheritance but is welcomed home by his father after he repented. This shows God's love is received through personal connection, not earned. He became aware of what a precious thing he had with his Father and wanted that relationship back. However, the older son resented his father's acceptance of the younger son. We can often find ourselves in the shoes of the older brother, prioritizing obedience to commands over relationship with God. However, the father in the parable does not command his older son to join the celebration but woos and invites him.

The father had the authority to command his son but instead, demonstrated the importance of relationship. God's love and favor are received through relationship with Him, not earned through works.

The older brother's moral goodness was actually a form of self-righteousness, as he was unsatisfied with being with the Father every day, despite his privileges. True salvation comes from admitting this, hearing God's invitation, and receiving forgiveness through Jesus rather than relying on one's own goodness. Jesus invites those who are self-righteous to come off the "porch of hard merit" and into God's feast of forgiveness and salvation.


  • Performance-based faith leads people to question God's favor when suffering occurs, rather than recognizing God's sovereignty.
  • Jesus emphasized relationship over rules through parables like the prodigal son, showing God's love is received through personal connection, not earned.
  • The older brother's self-righteousness in the parable reveals how moral goodness can be- come a false salvation if we rely on our own works.
  • True salvation comes from admitting our self-righteousness, hearing God's invitation through Jesus, and receiving forgiveness rather than relying on our own merit.

Does God care about my life?

Others view God as a principle maker or one who sets the rules for life but remains distant and uninvolved. This perspective ties into deism, a worldview that emerged during the Enlightenment period proposing that God created the universe and natural laws which govern it but does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the laws of nature. Treating God as a principle maker can be appealing as it allows one to focus on following rules and building up a resume of good deeds.

This makes us feel we have matters under control through moral and religious performance. However, this perspective ultimately falls short and changes how we understand God's revelation in scripture.

When the Bible is seen mainly as a source of life principles rather than a revelation of God himself, it blocks us from a relationship with God. We use the life principles and forget to connect with the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture reveals that Jesus came not just as a moral example but to accomplish what we could not do through redeeming mankind. We must recognize our need for Christ's redemptive work rather than rely on self-effort. While God's principles can lead to human flourishing, true transformation comes through surrendering to Christ and allowing his spirit to recreate us inwardly.

For those struggling, be assured God remains actively involved and caring for us even when we cannot sense his presence. Christianity is founded upon a saving relationship with God through Jesus, not moral or religious performance alone.

If this is you, turn away from viewing God as a detached rule-giver and the Bible as a self-help manual.


  • Following rules perfectly can become a way to build up an impressive resume and mask our deepest needs, but will never fulfill the longing in our souls or earn salvation.
  • God sees beyond our best performances and facades to the true condition of our hearts, and in his grace patiently works to peel back layers of deception until we admit our need for a savior.
  • While in pain it's easy to feel God has withdrawn, we must remember he who entered our broken world and died for us will never abandon us in our losses but remains active in trans- forming and redeeming situations.
  • Each season of struggle, if met with surrender rather than self-effort, can become an opportunity to know Christ more intimately as our Savior rather than see Him primarily as a distant principle-maker or example to emulate.

How am I going to achieve what God wants for me?

Have you ever felt that when it comes to your faith journey, you find yourself tripping up over the same sin? You wonder, "How am I ever going to achieve what God wants for me?"

Or, you are a part of a church that measures life by how effective you can be for God? Those who did big things for the kingdom were the ones who were celebrated time and time again and unintentionally you begin to believe that you need to accomplish something big for God or you won't matter.

These are examples of approaching God with the mindset that we have to find success so that God's purposes can be accomplished in this world. It's important that we don't prioritize accomplishments in God's mission over our relationship with him, as it can lead to a rebellion where worth is based on what is achieved rather than God's love.

Ultimate joy is not in earthly successes but in the promises of eternal life through Jesus - being adopted as God's child, having peace with him, and being made into his masterpiece for glory in heaven.


  • Jesus warns disciples not to rejoice in their spiritual successes like healing and casting out demons, but to rejoice in their eternal salvation.
  • Prioritizing accomplishments in God's mission over one's relationship with him through love can lead to a rebellion where worth is based on achievements rather than what God says.
  • Ultimate joy and significance comes not from earthly successes but from eternal promises like being adopted as God's child, having peace with Him, and being made into His masterpiece for heaven.

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Tags: faith, with, connection, wishes, finding faith, with god, under god, faith journey, for god, misunderstood, genie, from god, crossroads church, crossroadsabc, relationship over religion, faith misunderstood, over god, the critical journey

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