10 New Testament passages that shape how I think about God

10 New Testament passages that shape how I think about God December 3, 2014

1. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death… (Phil 3:10). Both suffering and resurrection—times of great difficulty and times of triumph—are expected and normal parts of the Christian life.

2. …unless you change and become like children… (Matt 18:3). As children trust their parents with no thought of an alternative, Christians are called to trust God—which is both comforting and challenging.

3. …do not worry about your life…look at the birds…consider the lilies… (Matt 7:25-34). Worry should be as impossible for followers of Christ as it is for birds and plants, which by definition are incapable of worry.

4. …the truth will make you free… (John 8:32). The truth—knowing Christ—will make you free, namely free from yourself to be free toward God.

5. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us… (1 John 4:12). The difficult and often counterintuitive act of loving one another is the closest we get to seeing God.

6. But while he was still far off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran… (Luke 15:20). The parable of the lost (or, mistakenly, “prodigal”) son. The father has no thought of judgment toward the son, only welcome…and he can’t wait to get started.

7. …your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). Intimacy (union) with God is the present reality and hoped for goal of the Christian life.

8. …there is no longer Jew or Gentile…slave or free…male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28). What humans use to divide between each other for power and control—ethnicity, economy, gender—mean nothing to God.

9. Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? (John 8:10). Whereas our tendency is to punish and exact holy retribution, Jesus shows us that God’s default mode is to forgive and encourage us to move on and begin anew.

10. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… on either side of the river is the tree of life… Rev 21:1; 22:2). The entire biblical story is summed up. The Bible ends where it begins; creation is restored. Everything else in between, God’s story as a whole from Abraham to Christ, is about how God makes that happen.


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  • Great verses. That last one really moves me! What an awesome, grace-filled summary of the Gospel.

  • Jason

    #3 surprised me. This verse was always used (in my experience) to make people feel inadequate in their faith; that they were being unfaithful or not trying hard enough because they had worries. It also perpetuated the idea that if you were a good christian God would take care of your needs, and if you struggled (mostly financial) then you were not doing the right things so God didn’t bless you.

  • Judy Buck-Glenn

    That is a wonderful summary. And to me, number one is perhaps the most important, because I think the place where most people lose their faith is in times of suffering–their own, or that of a loved one. And they ask why God allows this. (I have noticed they usually only ask the question when it is personal, which is probably human nature.) But to understand that suffering is not something we get a free pass on, but is a part of every human life, and that it doesn’t mean God is absent or uncaring or punishing us–that is profoundly important to know and to hold on to.

  • Lars

    Trying to process this. As a Christian, you should expect to suffer for your belief (1), then accept that suffering as a child would (2), or better yet, as a duck would, allowing it to roll right off your back (3) in order to be free (4) to believe in a being you cannot see (5) that loves you like a father (6)? That’s a big ask but the bigger one in this scenario, for me anyway, is why the long and tortuous detour so that things finally end up exactly where they began (10)? I can see the how, but I just can’t see the why. Why this particular process was necessary, or what was gained by it.

    • Striker

      One cannot be expected to process that which is incoherent. When we get to the ‘why,’ any possible answer is monstrous, in the face of which we must either bend our knee to a monstrous god or rebel and claim our liberty.

    • John Powell

      I want my kids to grow up, be good and generous, make a contribution, get married and have more kids, to whom they will do the same things. I don’t mind the screw-ups, failures and mistakes, but I do want them to learn, grow and accept my wisdom. They don’t see it now, but I think they will over time. I like that. Its a story with conflict, highs and lows, good and bad, hopefully some fun and risk along the way, and there is always the possibility of tragedy that would leave me reeling. Such is life. Somehow I see God telling a story that is not too unlike the one we live here. He is a father with, I believe, similar desires for us. I would rather have this life, imperfect as it is, than not have it. It is a gift, and one that I think matters. I especially like point #10 when God makes right all the wrongs of history and presents us with life the way it was always meant to be. I hope to be there with all of my family and friends and we can start life anew. I don’t really think this will help answer your questions, but for myself I can only answer it by enjoying life now in light of what is to come. I will understand more then, but I have enough now that I agree with and can live by that it gets me through. I don’t have to know it all, but I have to be convinced enough of what I do know that it suffices. You may need something more or different than me, so best wishes and perhaps my perspective has some value for you.

      • Lars

        Thank you both for your replies, which illustrate why this remains my favorite my favorite blog on Patheos. It’s rarely strictly for the choir, and the coherent and incoherent are given equal voice. There is a part of me that feels exactly like Striker but can’t quite accept the position that if God exists, it’s only as a monster. If there’s a monster, it’s one of our own making. And if God is love, well, we’ve made that God as well. And if God doesn’t exist, it’s certainly an extraordinarily persistent and adaptable concept!

        As a parent, I want the same things for my kids, for them to be kind, generous, and better adjusted than I will ever be. I’m just not convinced believing in God is the best way for that to happen. Do I teach them that it’s up to them to make the world a better place or that it’s ok if they don’t because there’s a White Horse God that fixes everything in the end anyway? If there is that kind of God, and He does, that’s pure bonus but I’d rather they learn to be self-reliant and self-determinate. They’ll make mistakes, suffer consequences that I hope will not be too severe, and cultivate their own wisdom in the process. I will be there for them as long as I can but I know it won’t be forever. But…, what if I could? What if I could intervene and lessen or eliminate those consequences? Wouldn’t that also make my children puppets? It would to me and that’s why I have a harder time believing in an interventionist God than a God who simply recused Himself after the Big Bang, or no God at all.

        “Life the way it was always meant to be” seems like a beautiful sentiment but I’m not sure that we don’t already have that. As far as we can tell, human life has always been more or less the way it is now – which is, as you note, “a story with conflict, highs and lows, good and bad, hopefully some fun and risk along the way, and there is always the possibility of tragedy that would leave me reeling.” – in other words, exactly as we might expect life to unfold if there was no one was in control. And if conflict gives meaning and context, what does endless perfection, if that’s the way it was meant to be, give us?? Perhaps we become the angels in the next creation story and it’s the conflict that is eternal. That’s a depressing thought, but not entirely unlikely given the biblical arc we’ve lived thus far. Like you, I want to be convinced too but I’m struggling with how to trust a God who foresaw the untold sorrow of His own fallen creation and went through with it anyway vs. a God who flat out never saw it coming. I’m nowhere close to throwing in the towel on this so I’m always glad to get other perspectives and I appreciate you taking the time to offer your’s.

        • John Powell

          Lots to think about. I see the Bible as one big story that reveals a passionate, creative and yes, loving, being behind it all. It is no mistake that what begins with the garden of Eden ends with very clear images of the garden of Eden, only better and never ending. All the stuff in between tells of a father trying to woo back his children who have gone wandering and are disinterested in him. Eventually, he does everything he can to show them his real self and real heart. My point in telling about my kids is because I think our life is patterned after God’s, and that is how he feels about us. I believe that in eternity we will remember everything about this life and that the only way to really know God’s love is to have experienced it in the midst of failure and conflict. That would be my attempt at some resolution as to why God hasn’t just fixed everything already. One – he loves people and wants them all to come home, and two – they wouldn’t really know him if it weren’t for the messy world we live in as contrasted to the world he has envisioned all along and will eventually bring to pass. Ok, just my two cents. Enjoy.

  • Cynthia

    Loved all of these beautiful nutshells of truth, but #6 touched me most, because we all want to be forgiven and welcomed back, and because we need to forgive and welcome back.

  • Mark K

    I have tried to choose on or two of these as the most important for me to focus on, but simply cannot. This is truly a profound grouping of texts, critical for thinking about the message of the NT.

  • Michael Brady

    I loved all of the passages you chose, but #s 1, 7 and 9 are my favorites. Two of my favorites are phil. 2.5-11. Rev. 1.8