Birdwatchers have a term called ‘gist,’ which means: general impression of size and type. The first impression of a bird gives the birdwatcher a clue to the identity of a bird. One of the great frustrations for a birdwatcher however is getting the gist of a bird but not being able to determine the actual identity of it beyond all doubt. Usually this requires the use of a pair of binoculars, or in some cases a telescope—particularly on an open plain or lake. The unaided eye cannot make out enough detail.
Similarly, the unaided human soul is incapable of knowing God as he really is. All our ideas about God are bound to be suspect. Even at our best and most profound we do not see the features that distinguish the essential nature of God. We have notions of God that are true as far as they go, but they do not go far enough.
Consequently, we tend to fill in the blanks with our own imagination and invent God in our own image—literally! We view God in the likeness of our parents, authority figures, and sometimes with the fanciful projections of our own imaginations. Most often, human images of God tend to be either ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Ivan the Terrible.’
The problem is that the God who is does not appear in the field guides of gods and religions. He is wholly other than the gods of human invention. He is not Allah, or Vishnu, or the ‘guy in the sky.’ God is a community of love. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The only way we can know him is to share in the authentic knowledge that Jesus Christ has of God the Father. Jesus gives us aided vision of God, so that we can really know him as he is. As Paul has it in his first letter to the Corinthians, “But we have the mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2: 16).
This is where the Holy Spirit steps in to take the truth that is in Christ to make known to us and to give us a share in the relationship that Jesus the Son has with the Father. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “For you did not receive a Spirit that makes you a slave again to fear; but you received the Spirit of sonship, and by him we cry “Abba Father” (Romans 8: 15). The gods of human invention all end up driving us into fear and slavery, but by the Holy Spirit we are ushered into the ‘mind of Christ.’ We see what he sees, know what he knows and find ourselves at home in the warm embrace of our heavenly Father in Christ.
Finally, we are secure and free.