The irony is that when we reshape God into our image, the result is not the bolder, more confident faith we imagined, but spiritual deformity. God designed the human heart to be complete and free in himself—that is, the true version of himself. As appealing as rival conceptions of him may appear on the surface, they never quite fit. They’re not God enough.

Exodus 32 tells us that as soon as the people made this golden image, moral mayhem broke out. “They celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry” (Exod 32:6 NLT). “Pagan revelry” means “open orgy.”

In the same way, our reshaped God feels liberating at first. But inevitably, we become like what we worship. If our conception of God comes out of our hearts, which are by nature spiritually dark (Jer 17:9), rather than illuminate our darkness, our “God” makes it worse.

Some ancient tribal cultures loved violence, for example, so they fashioned gods who gloried in conquest. As a result, they became increasingly cruel and violent. Jews of Jesus’s day were proud of their Jewish heritage, and so they saw God in increasingly nationalistic ways. Those of us who have grown up in a consumeristic Western culture envision an Americanized Jesus who is one part genie, one part fan club, one part financial advisor, one part American patriot, and several parts therapist. Our “God” makes us more narcissistic and materialistic, not less.

Those in progressive, liberal cultures often prefer to think of Jesus as a morally permissive deity wearing Birkenstocks who functions like a big cosmic blanket in which they can curl up and find themselves. In doing so, they become more and more licentious and self-absorbed, not less.

Problems in our behavior always trace back to corruption in our worship. Saint Augustine called stress, worry, anxiety, strife, jealousy, and dissatisfaction smoke rising from the altars we’ve erected to our false gods. Trace the trail of this smoke back to its source, and you’ll likely find a distorted or incomplete view of God. For example,

  • If you tend to be harsh and judgmental toward others, you have not experienced God as gracious.
  • If you find yourself rarely in conflict with society around you, your God is not transcendent.
  • If you worry a lot, your God is not the good, wise, and sovereign God of the Bible.
  • If you can’t shake the feeling that you are condemned, your God is not a faithful, redeeming Father.
  • If you argue all the time about theology but never tell anyone about Jesus, your God is not a savior but only a professor.
  • If you find yourself constantly jealous of what other people have, your God is not glorious and all-sufficient.

Like the children of Israel, we go searching for a God to better suit our felt needs but end up drowning in a sea of fear, despair, and moral chaos. Our reshaped gods, whom we hoped would bring us security and comfort, are utterly incapable to give us the love, fulfillment, and assurance for which we yearn.

God created us for himself—gods of our own making will never do the job. They are not God enough. Like the children of Israel, we have to choose which god to pursue: an infinite God who will sometimes confuse us and contradict us, or a small god that neither satisfies nor saves us.

Greear, J. D., and David Jeremiah. 2018. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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