"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie" - Romans 1:25
The quality of our relationship with God depends on the way we imagine God. Which means that what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. Our spiritual health and wellbeing depend on a trustworthy image of God.
The problem is there are so many distorted images of God in our world - and even in our churches. Is God angry? Full of wrath and fury? Is God apathetic, disengaged with human affairs and careless of our pain and suffering? Is God discriminatory, electing some to eternal salvation while consigning billions more to hell?
How did we come to the place where it is so hard for us to actually see God for who he really is? This question takes us back to the beginning. Out of love, God placed the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in the Garden. It was God's way of reminding human beings that we do not have the right or the capacity to judge God, others or even ourselves. God alone is the judge, which is good news because the "LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression." (Numbers 14:18).
But the serpent took God's loving protection and gave it a diabolical spin. He told Eve that the reason God forbid her from eating from the tree was because, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Satan painted a petty and untrustworthy picture of God. He made it seem like God was threatened by the potential the forbidden tree offered Eve.
Suddenly Eve's image of God became marred, and since her picture of God was no longer trustworthy, she stopped trusting God. In other words, the original sin was not the eating of the forbidden fruit, that was only the result. The original sin was buying into a distorted image of God.
The good news of Christianity is that God looks like Jesus. God has always been like Jesus. We haven’t always know this, but now we do! Jesus announced, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14v9). Jesus is "the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Satan distorted Eve’s picture of God and he’s been distorting peoples’ pictures of God ever since. He knows that if he can instill a fearful, untrustworthy, or apathetic picture of God in our minds, we will fail to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength.
Behind all human rebellion and sin is a faulty picture of God.
In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul tells us our core sin is exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25). We suppressed the knowledge of God that we should have derived from the creation (vv. 19– 20), and as a result we created idols to take the place of our Creator (vv. 22– 23).
We reversed the originally intended order. Human beings were created to 1) worship and serve God and 2) to rule over all created things in God’s name. Instead human beings came to 1) worship and serve created things, and therefore (2) the created things came to rule over us.
Paul says it is for this reason God's wrath is being revealed from heaven (v. 18). There is that awful word, "wrath." Doesn't this prove God to be an angry and vindictive deity? The answer depends entirely on the nature of God's "wrath."
"God's wrath is His withdrawl"
Paul says God “gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts” (v. 24). Because they “exchanged the truth about God for a lie,” God “gave them over to shameful lusts” (vv. 25– 27). Because “they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,” God “gave them over to a depraved mind” to the point that they became “filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity” and were “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice” (vv. 28– 29).
Greg Boyd explains, "Because the consequences of sin are organically related to the sin itself, God only needs to stop protecting people from these consequences for them to experience divine judgment."
God is the source of all life. When we sin and walk away from his loving protection, death and destruction are the natural result. God's "wrath" does not involve Him actively, violently punishing sinners, but rather releasing them to go down the self-destructive path they have chosen for themselves.
In Romans 1 Paul says God in his wrath gives us over to our strongest desires. But in Romans 8 we read that God in his love gave himself over to die for us! God is not a violent, angry or apathetic deity. He’s a beautiful God who would do, and has done, anything and everything possible to save us from our self-destructive sin and restore us into a life-giving relationship with Him. God is love and we know this by looking at the cross.