Chuck Smith at one of many Calvary Chapel ocean baptisms (1971)

Chuck Smith at one of many Calvary Chapel ocean baptisms (1971)

Spiritual growth begins when people respond to what God is like.

One of my spiritual heroes is Chuck Smith, the former lead pastor at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA.

He was the visionary whose simple Bible teaching became the basis of much of the Jesus movement in the 60’s and paved the way for a new vein of Christian music that became known as Christian rock. I met him at a conference in Nashville in 1983.

He made a statement that still has my gears turning over 30 years later.

He said, “I repented a long time ago of telling people what to do. Now I tell them about Jesus and let them respond to Him.”

That statement was a game changer for me.

For me, it meant that ministry was not about trying to modify people’s behavior but about introducing them to Jesus.

Change starts with knowing what God is like. A simple, clear understanding of God’s heart toward us–and His pursuit of us—provides the best foundation for spiritual development.

Christian education, ethics, Bible principles and doctrine can provide a framework for spiritual growth. But only authentic relationship with Jesus shapes us from the inside out.

And that starts with knowing what God is like.

It’s hard to stay the same when you know what Father God is like as revealed in Jesus.

People need more than values, more than virtues and even more than Bible verses. They need something so simple that we overstep it. They need to know what God is like.

The knowledge of God is just that: an understanding of what God is like.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the KNOWLEDGE OF GOD and of JESUS OUR LORD, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the KNOWLEDGE OF HIM who called us by glory and virtue, (2 Peter 1:2,3 NKJV)

Ask the average church-going kid—or adult—and you are likely to get a doctrinally sanitized answer. They are prone to use terms such as: “creator,” “wise,” “strong,” or some other less-than-relational term. True. Foundational. Doctrinally sound. All void of the personal, relational God that Jesus lived out in front of people on this earth.

How do the kids in your children’s ministry answer the question: “What is God like?”

How do YOU answer the question: “What is God like?”

So what IS God like?

One way to answer that is by looking at the shocking behavior of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. Jesus told this story for one reason: to paint a graphic picture of the aggressive love of the Father.

In those days men wore loose clothing with nothing underneath. The most shameful thing they could do was to run. When a man ran he exposed himself, something unacceptable in that culture. But that’s exactly what the father did when he saw his wayward son returning home. He ran across the field, greeted him and kissed him. The son returned home in shame. Shockingly, the father did something even more shameful by running to greet him. In effect, the father trumped the shame of his son. The father never added more shame to his son. He removed the shame by his action.

So…that’s what God is like. I can respond to a God like that.