Most of us who have grown up in church have been taught that God is in heaven up in the sky somewhere. He sits on a throne and Jesus sits next to Him at His right hand. This is a common teaching that starts in Sunday school. However, as we grow up in the faith, we need to consider these images we have established in our minds carefully. If God is Spirit and if He is omnipresent, why then do we associate Him with an image of an entity that is located in one place, in heaven?
For most of my Christian life, I’ve had an image of God. When I closed my eyes to pray or worship, I related to this image of Jesus in heaven. But the scriptures make it clear to us that we are not to have an image of God. Idolatry is often associated with making an actual object and bowing to it. Israel, time and again struggled with such idols. For them it was a physical image they bowed to.
However, consider this carefully with me. Is there a difference between a physical image and a mental one? Jesus said: “whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). The outward act is no different than the act committed in the heart. The same is true for any image we have constructed even in our mind. The instruction of God is plain: “Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). The difference between Israel and the modern church is of course that the image the church has drawn is an image based on the attributes and characteristics of God as relayed in His Word. However, this does not justify the need for an image. The fact is an image may represent a notion of God but it is not God and it does in no way come close to relaying the actual nature of God.
Only by the Spirit can we commune, relate and know God. “The true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship Him” (Jhn. 4:23). Who are true worshipers? Those who worship in spirit and in truth. Notice the Father is not seeking their worship per say but the worshiper. He is more concerned with the source or nature from which the worship emanates, for it has to come from the right nature. A nature that is spirit and truth is the Spirit of Christ in us. This One is the image and likeness of God in us. This One is the worshiper the Father seeks. On the contrary, the natural man cannot comprehend spiritual things and in its attempt to do so conjures up images to help him relate with God. But be certain, that image is not God. This natural man is the one that associates the place of worship with the mountain top or the temple, a physical place, a physical heaven.
The reason we’ve conjured images of God is because we’ve attempted to perceive God by our natural mind. In our desire to grasp God, our natural mind has stepped in to help us relate with Him. However, “the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cornth. 2:14). Only the spirit man can perceive and relate with God. That is why worship has to be in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).
Christ the Image of God
Notice the only image God is represented by is Christ: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15). The word ‘image’ there is synonymous with likeness. Jesus Himself during His earthly ministry said: “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). Now does this mean we are to have an image of a man with a beard in heaven. Surely not, firstly, we haven’t seen Him physically to do that. Paul also says: “even though we once did estimate Christ from a human viewpoint and as a man, yet now we know Him no longer in terms of the flesh” (2 Cornth. 5:16). Secondly, what Jesus was referring to was regarding nature. He was one in nature with the Father: the same character, the same will, the same love, the same passion, the same word.
God is everywhere. The idea that God is in heaven is shattered by this word in Psalm 139:7-12: “Where can I go from thy spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold though are there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Amen! God is omnipresent. He is not just in heaven, He is also in hell, in fact, He is everywhere. He sustains, propels and guides the universe by the word of His power. I see God in everything, the sun rose this morning by His doing, the very life in every tree and animal is orchestrated and sustained by God. If God were to step away from the earth for a mere fraction of a second, everything would cease. He is El Shaddai. Consider the following scriptures: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth…. And He is before all things and by Him all things consist (cohere, are held together)” (Col. 1:17 Amp.). I love Rom. 11:36: “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things.” The Amplified reads: “For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him” (Rom. 11:36). What a glorious plan. God’s ultimate agenda is to be “all in all” (1 Corth. 15:28). The Amplified rendering of the same verse states: “be everything to everyone, supreme, the indwelling and controlling factor of life.” This fullness is to come to fruition through the church, the body of Christ: “Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and who fills everything everywhere with Himself)” (Eph. 1:23 Amp).
May God help us remove any image of God we have erected in our minds and may He by His spirit cultivate the nature of Christ in us so that we can relate to the Father in spirit and in truth and be conduits through which He fills all.