The God of the “Thou shalt nots.”

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“God is a constant kill-joy” was the phrase I heard from a friend long time ago.

Now as a Christian, that view however betrays my experience walking with God and how he is portrayed especially by the psalmists in the Old Testament. But as much as I wanted to react differently, I find myself reminded by the similar person I used to be when I was not yet a Christian. Because I held the same view. That is, God must be a person who solely takes pleasure in saying Thou shalt nots. And to me, that’s not the God I want to believe in. Let alone the God I want to serve.

Ironically, now that I’m a believer, I begin to realize that that god I once thought to be – a kill-joy who solely pleasures prohibiting his creatures the abundance of life, does not exist! More importantly, I understood that I had a wrong view of life.

I thought life was just about our individual self-indulgence and happiness. I never thought that life was, is, and will be about God. Or as C. S. Lewis, in one of his radio lectures perfectly described the condition I once had: “History [is]…the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.“[1]

But the more I dwell on the Scriptures, the more I begin to understand the character of God. God doesn’t want us to have the counterfeits. He abhors it as much as he abhors its results upon us. God is not against joy, he is against counterfeit joys. God is not anti-pleasure, he is against counterfeit pleasures. God is not against a good life, he is against the seemingly good life. God is the source of joy, pleasure, and good life. He can’t go against his character, let alone his will. Or as the Psalmists say: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”[2] Our risen Lord even said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”[3] The goal of his prohibition is our protection.

And in him, though we may sometimes find ourselves with misgivings, and fall into account of who he is, but he gives grace. “Grace means that no mistake we make in life disqualifies us from God’s love. It means that no person is beyond redemption, no human stain beyond cleansing.”[4]

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

[2] Psalm 16:11, ESV.

[3] John 10:10b, NIV.

[4] Philip Yancey, Grace Notes, 277.