Since the beginning of time, there have been many man-devised idols of bizarre appearance. Men have always bowed down to the ground before carved stones, wood or even photographs. But only one God is God!
Today, the world is filled with homespun ideas of God. Man has indeed created many gods, and lords, but none of them is the one, true God. The ideas that mankind have labeled “God” fall far short of the God of the Bible! In all the world, there is only one God and He is dynamically alive, wonderful and great. No one may decide for themselves who He is, what He’s like or how He is to be worshipped. Our Creator has distinct characteristics and a faultless intellect – magnificent beyond imagining. How do we find the truth about that One and Only God?
Today, when one reads in the Bible about the commandments forbidding the worship of idols and false gods, most people think only of ancient times when the world was filled with pagans worshipping all manner of strange and frightening gods. And certainly that is true. From the beginning man has turned away from his Creator and established counterfeit gods to take His place. Likewise, in our modern world, even in what many consider “Christian” countries, the god being worshipped is not the true God. Whether modern or ancient times, few people throughout history have understood who God is and the relationship that God wants to have with His creation.
Consider ancient Israel – the people our Creator chose to work with as an example of His government on Earth. For many generations they had been growing as a people without a way to worship God. They were living as slaves in a foreign land with many foreign gods. They were miserable and longed to be saved from the terrible conditions they were forced to endure in Egypt. Their Creator heard their cries and initiated their rescue, which involved a great many wonderful signs and miracles. Those ancient Israelites knew who had saved them. Beyond a doubt they understood that the incredible miracles, which took place before their eyes were the work of the God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The one, true God. The Creator of all.
But almost immediately, they began to forget Him and wanted to revert back to the gods of Egypt that had become so familiar to them. Very soon after their escape into the desert, Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive instruction from God. Meanwhile, the children of Israel became restless and demanded of Aaron (Moses’ brother who was left in charge in his absence): “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Exodus 32:1 New King James Version throughout unless otherwise noted)
They made a beautifully designed calf of melted gold. Everyone was very pleased with it and they prepared for a feast, with dancing, singing and drinking. Pagan? Yes. But they did not call it pagan. They did not name it what it was. It was called a feast to God — to the Eternal! “So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” (Verse 5)
Of course this golden calf was not the real God! The real God condemned this, saying, “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” (Psalm106:20 English Standard Version). The real God, great and glorious was upon the mountain called Sinai with Moses!
That historical occasion was prophetic of what mankind has done ever since. Modern man is no different from the ancient Israelites. He has built his own gods, and called them “God.” And for almost 2000 of those years, he has often made his own saviors and called them “Jesus Christ.” None of these man-made gods could begin to live up to the magnificence of the true God – our Father or the true Jesus!
God says Israel of the Bible created her own gods. “You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, (pagan gods) your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.” (Amos 5:26). When God speaks of these idols in scripture, He calls them what they are – pagan gods with names such as Moloch and Chiun. But the people of Israel called these idols “God.” And modern man nearly always calls his idols “God” just as the golden calf of ancient Israel.
Ponder for a moment what this means. Is the name of an object, the object itself? For example, the word “apple” is not the apple itself. If the word “apple” was universally changed to some other word, it is still the same piece of fruit! By the same token, what about God? If people worshipped Baal, he would still be Baal, whether he were called “Baal” or “God.” If people worshipped Mithras, he would still be Mithras, whether he were called “Mithras” or “Jesus Christ.”
Israel called the golden calf “God” — but it was still a golden calf! Tragically, some people have created their own gods in their minds and called their god “God” — but he is not God at all!
In January 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave his now famous “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress. Those “Freedoms” have been long accepted as fundamental human rights by America and much of the world. Among the freedoms Mr. Roosevelt listed was “The Freedom of Worship.” Unfortunately, our society has developed this concept beyond the basics of democracy to mean we are free to worship whoever and however we want. There is only one God and He alone can tell us how to worship Him; “And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
The Bible shows that it is not enough to worship the word “God.” It is necessary to look behind the label “God” to see if the deity being worshipped is the true God. Notice Moses’ example. “Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13)
Moses knew it wasn’t sufficient just to say, “‘God is His name.” “God” had to be defined. The children of Israel were in Egypt where Ra was called “God”; Osiris was called “God”; Isis was called “God.” There were many wrong ideas. God later specified himself as “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage….” (Exodus 20:2)
So it is today. Every individual is beset with a bewildering array of ideas called “God.” Each religious denomination has called its object of devotion “God.” Yet each defines a different “God.” It is important to discover who the one, true God – the Creator – is!
The Bible describes the process of man creating his own gods. “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver on the scales they hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; they prostrate themselves, yes, they worship.” (Isaiah 46:5-6).
Does that sound like ancient image worshippers, thousands of years ago? It does, but man today does exactly the same thing. Today, a person might purchase a picture in a frame where the artist depicted a man with long, flowing hair and soft features. Then the person takes it home, hangs it up on the living room wall and declares, “That’s my Savior!” This is precisely the same process as the ancient pagans and their idols of silver or gold.
The process of creating one’s own god goes much deeper than any physical creation. Where do people get the ideas that they associate with the term “God”? They form from childhood Bible stories, from what their parents and friends told them, from what they read, and from what they want God to be! This is what God means when He says “your gods, which you made for yourselves.”
Religious ideas are not inborn. A child absorbs his ideas of God from his environment. He hears statements about God and detects the attitudes, which people around him have toward religion. A child’s first clear conception of God grows directly out of the feelings and thoughts toward his father and mother. He forms an idea of “God” by the things he is told are “good” and those that are “bad” — by the answers he gets to his questions.
There are three major factors at work in the process: 1) The direct influence of the actions of older persons; 2) direct teachings about God; and 3) the natural development of the child’s mind.
A child may be taught that certain doctrines or beliefs are “ideas of the devil.” Religious prejudices and loyalties develop as the child grows up. The definitions of sin, heaven, hell, the devil, and God Himself are taught according to what other people in their minds have come to believe, which in turn are reinterpreted in the mind of the child. Religion is also identified with social customs and taboos, so what is religion to one is nonsense to another. Yet these widely different beliefs are all described as “the will of God.”
Later in life, a person will carry with him these same or similar ideas. Or he may experience a total revulsion of former ideas, which leads him to adopt a different set of beliefs. Such changes are often based principally on the emotional knowledge that they contrast to his former ideas!
These religious values and ideas about God will change with time just as the religious ideas of society periodically undergo popularization and abandonment.
So man’s “God” changes. But the real God tells us, “I change not” (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).
Few people, when they are baptized, or when they adopt some church as their own, feel it necessary to get rid of their own preconceived religious opinions. Few approach Scripture with the attitude of “correct my misconceptions.” Rather, like ancient Israel, they simply “chose new gods” (Judges 5:8).
Anthropomorphism — What’s That?
Look at history. Long centuries of man’s conflicting ideas of “God” have demonstrated that each nation gives its god its peculiar characteristics, and every individual gives his god his personal peculiarities. The Greek philosopher Xenophanes (540 B.C.) observed that men of different races picture their gods like themselves. The Thracians picture them as fair and red-haired. The Ethiopians see their gods as black. They created gods in their own image. Scholars have coined a word that they apply to any religious statement that depicts God in the bodily form of a man, or that shows God as having qualities of thought, will, or feeling like those experienced by man. That word, “anthropomorphism,” is technically defined as applying the characteristics of a human body or human qualities to God. Philosophers and theologians coined the word because they believe man has a natural tendency — or necessity — to conceive of God by likeness with man himself.
How can different people possibly avoid having totally different ideas of God unless they use a common source? How can OUR ideas of God be anything but OUR personal human ideas — unless we all know where to go to find the real answer?
Is God Like Man?
We must understand how God is, and is not, like man. It’s the crucial key for determining if the “God” we worship is truly God!
The Bible makes many statements about God’s personal characteristics. God walked in the garden (Genesis 3:8). He ate with Abraham (Genesis 18:8). He wrote with His own hand upon the tables of stone (Exodus 31:18). God has ears (Isaiah 59:1). He has a mouth (Isiah 58:14). The Scriptures abound with similar references.
Man is created in the shape and form of the real, living Creator God. Notice in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
This was for a great purpose. Because man’s destiny is to be born as God — to “be like him” (I John 3:2; Psalm 17:15). God from eternity has possessed hands, ears, eyes, arms — and feelings, emotions, reason, will. Therefore God, when He began His plan of reproducing Himself, created Adam and Eve with His body shape, and with a mind capable of creative thought like God’s!
Of course, man is now physical while God is Spirit. And man’s mind, unlike God’s, is limited in power. However, man is wrong to assign his wrong motivations to God! “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
God has feelings and emotions — man has feelings and emotions. But the characteristics of God’s mind are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).The characteristics of the natural human mind — the works of the flesh — are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, contentions, competitions, wrath, strife, troublemaking, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and similar things (Galatians 5:19-21).
In the Dark Ages, man’s god was the motivation for violence, covering the earth with blood. Instruments of torture were invented for service to this god. This god had great churches built for himself and dungeons for men. He was believed to have the clouds populated with angels and the earth with slaves. The Bible shows that this “God” was purely a creation of the evil mind of man!
Consider the countless wars and evil done every day in our world by those who act in the name of their “God!” But this action is in direct opposition to the one, true God. By contrast, the true God had always said, “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) and “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (I John 4:20.) No wonder many people have been upset and horrified by the image of God as an infinite fiend! These gods are not God at all, but are purely man’s creations. God is a God of love, mercy and gentleness.
The True Christian Approach
Man’s approach has always been either to assign his evil nature to God, or to interpret God erroneously in terms of himself. But the teaching of the Bible is that a man must seek to acquire God’s nature and give up his own nature. That is man’s purpose in living! The Apostle Peter states that we are to be “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). The Apostle Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). God’s mind comes by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit! God’s Spirit comes through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38).
Because human ideas are not the same as God’s ideas — because man’s thoughts are not God’s thoughts then our ideas of what God loves or hates, what God will do or won’t do, are utterly invalid unless backed by God’s Word, the Bible! Otherwise, we are as guilty of creating God in our image as any pagan idol maker.
The Bible shows that Christ was the stamped, impressed character image of God, with the mind of God (II Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:5-7; Hebrews 1:3). He is our example (I Peter 2:21). Any opinion of the nature or character of God that conflicts with this example is of our own creation!
Some people have made their god responsible for all human affairs on Earth now which makes their god the god of pollution, war, crime, disease, famine, violence and hatred. But the true God says He is not the god of this world — rather Satan is (II Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; Revelation 12:9). The real God teaches concern for the environment and how to care for it, tells men to live at peace and to love their neighbor. He promises He will heal our diseases and give us prosperity, if we obey Him.
Some have created a “Christ” who is weak and sanctimonious. Others have created a “Christ” who was a notorious leader of an underground liberation movement. Both have created these “Christ’s” out of their own imaginations.
Man creates God in his own image when he says something is “God’s will,” and the Bible does not say it is God’s will. If the Bible doesn’t support it, then it is man’s will alone. We’ve seen the creation of these “gods” when people group together God, the Bible, and the goals of a certain political party or when they declare a certain war is “God’s” will.
People create God in their own image when they say God has given exclusive privileges or rights to their class, their race, their color, their ethnic group.
Paul said, “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (I Corinthians 8:5, 6).
Remember that ancient Israel decided that God – the God who rescued them out of Egypt – looked like a golden calf. They sadly settled for a concept of God resembling a dumb ox. They failed to perceive the glory of the true God, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth…” (Exodus 34:6). They settled for a vastly inferior product.
The truth is, our Creator earnestly desires to have a close, loving, family relationship with his children, which includes all mankind. In order to have that loving bond, the individuals involved must know and understand each other very well. Our God knows each one of us completely, but until we know our God, we will miss the magnificent connection with Him that He so desires and offers us.
Search the scriptures and discover the glorious, incredible wonder of the one, true God.