This weekend I visited my brother and sister-in-law in Allen, where I attended my nieces baby dedication. On the drive back home, I listen to a sermon by Tim Keller. The sermon was entitled: The Gospel and Your Self. You can access it by clicking here.
In his sermon, Tim Keller asks the question:
Is God a REALITY or a CONCEPT in your life?
Your answer to this question will make all the difference, and it will have eternal consequences. Before I tell you how you can know that God is a reality or concept in your life, I want to define for you the two words at hand.
Reality: Something that exists independently of all other things or ideas concerning it. It is something that exists outside of your mind, and it has the power to influence you.
Concept: A general notion or idea. Meaning it is something that exists in the mind and is not independent of your mind.
How do you know if God is a reality or a concept?
(1) You know God is a reality in your life when you allow Him to change your beliefs and actions.
When you quit saying things like: I like that God is loving and merciful, but I don’t like that God has a wrathful side. I don’t think it is wrong to have pre-marital sex if someone is in love. I don’t believe racism is wrong, even though the Bible condemns it. I believe the Bible is true, but I don’t think God is right about homosexuality, even though the Bible clearly speaks against it.
Unless you allow God to change your beliefs and affect the way you act, then God is a concept to you. He is not real, and He is not your Savior or the Lord of your life. God is just someone who you believe can help you live a better life. Someone you can get something from, but you are not willing to give things up for.
(2) You know God is a reality when you realize you are a sinner.
God is still a concept to you, if you do not realize your own sinfulness and need of a Savior. When God is a reality, you understand how holy He is and how sinful you are. If God is just a concept to you, then you think you are alright, you’re not that sinful, you are not so bad.
Why do you not see your sinfulness when God is a concept to you? Because you have constructed a God that does not push against, or reveal, your sinfulness. He does not challenge your ideas, or actions because you have constructed Him to fit neatly into your world. When you construct a God in your mind, you are not going to construct a God who is going to tell you that you need to change. Rather, you are going to construct a God who tells you that you are alright. However, when your God does not cause you to realize you are a sinner, you do not have a real God; rather, you have a God who is a figment of your imagination.
(3) You know God is a reality when you are willing to go on Mission for God.
God is not a reality for you unless you are willing to tell others about Him and the life He has given you through Jesus Christ. If you have no desire to present the Gospel to others, or even live in a way that reflects God’s work in your life, then God is a concept to you. He has not affected your life, and He is not your Savior or Lord.
I know, pretty weighty and bold words to say that God is not someone’s Savior and Lord, but if God is just a concept, then He is not your Savior and Lord. You have not accepted the reality that God exists, for if you had, then you would allow Him to change your beliefs and actions; you would see yourself for who you really are, a sinner; and you would be willing to tell others about Him. Until these things happen, God is nothing more than a concept for you, someone you have constructed in your own imagination to make yourself feel better. He is someone who fits into your agenda, rather than someone who sets your agenda.
There is hope and it is in the Gospel, the saving power of Jesus Christ, which has the power to change your life. It has the ability to make God a reality in your life. And you don’t have to clean yourself up in order for that to happen. All you have to do is trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and allow Him to control every aspect of your life. When you admit that you need a Savior, God has become a reality to you, rather than a concept, or construct of your imagination.
4 thoughts on “Is God a Reality or Concept in Your Life?”
Hello Mr. Lewis,
I found this blog after performing a google search “when God is a concept and not a reality”. The reason I was searching for something or someone that addresses this, is because it is something that I have am struggling with. I know that God is just a concept for me and not a reality, and it has been very difficult for me to excercise faith or genuinely repent when I have no reality of God. He is just an idea, or someone Christians keep preaching about who I know I need to get right with, but don’t know how to come to someone who is invisible, and who I can’t seem to grasp outside of my mind. I am really interested in finding out how to bridge this gap. For me, I intellectually assent to Christianity, but there is serious disconnect between what I believe in my head and what I accept in my heart.
That said, I agree with everything you have written and I actually heard that sermon by Tim Keller, and found that it was insightful. I also love your definitions of what a concept and a reality is and how it differs. But here is where I would like some clarification. You mentioned that when God is a concept, “you do not realize your own sinfulness and need of a Savior. When God is a reality, you understand how holy He is and how sinful you are”. I totally get this. However, what I don’t get is when you said “When you admit that you need a Savior, God becomes a reality to you, rather than a concept, or construct of your imagination.” These two things seem to contradict each other. From my own experience, and from what I understand you to have said, because God is a concept, I can’t see my own sinfulness or my need for a Savior. But then you are also saying, that when I admit my need for a Savior (and I assume that comes with seeing your own sinfulness), God will become a reality. That’s confusing. Because I can’t do that if God is just a concept, yet I need to do that in order for Him to become a reality.
Since I have been struggling with this personally, and no amount of self effort on my part has made any bit of a difference, I would be glad if you can help with this.
Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you reaching out for clarification and understanding. To answer your question:
The post is directed at those who claim to be spiritual or religious, but not necessarily Christian. I meet a number of people who say they are spiritual or religious, but don’t hold to any religious system such as Christianity. I believe they have a concept of God, but He isn’t a reality to them. I outline in the post why.
When I say, “When you admit you need a Savior, God becomes a reality to you, rather than a concept, or construct of your imagination.” What I mean is that: those who recognize their need for a Savior recognize that God is real, that He is really there and He really requires something of us. He requires we live according to His commandments.
We can’t leave it there though because those who recognize God requires these things of them also recognize they can’t live up to God’s expectations. In other words, they recognize they are sinners who need a Savior. Essentially that is the gospel message. When someone truly believes the gospel, then God is a reality to them. He is not longer a figment of their imagination or something they make up. He has become real.
To clarify the sentence you pointed out in your comment, it would probably make more sense to say “When you admit that you need a Savior, God ‘has become’ a reality to you, rather than a concept or construct of your imagination.” We aren’t going to admit our need for a Savior unless we actually believe God to be real.
I hope that addresses your question. I am going to amend my post to reflect what you pointed out in your comment.
If there is anything else I can help out with, just let me know. I would be happy to dialogue more and help you on your journey.
Thanks for the clarification. I think your amendment makes a lot more sense.
Thank you for your reply. This was a good post.
No problem. I am glad my amendment helped. Thanks for reading and commenting.