The title of J.B. Phillips' classic book got it right: "Your God is Too Small."
The God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is vast beyond our comprehension, beautiful beyond our appreciation and wonderful beyond our imagination, Sayles writes.
Many of us have, sometimes without our knowing it, substituted a paltry and puny God for the great and gracious God made known in Jesus.
We've manufactured a god from our fears who is limited, narrow and tame – a little god who does nothing saving, surprising or amazing. This god of our own making is easygoing, predictable, safe – and boring.
This small god we have made diminishes our souls and shrinks our world because this meager god is strictly local.
The little god is stingy with mercy; there is only enough for our kind of people – our nation or tribe or race or family or social class or religious group.
This diminutive deity can't change anything in our world or in us; the best we can hope for from such a god is sympathy and advice.
This tiny, tin god is a totem for the status quo, so we hope less and less for the justice and peace that would rearrange and transform everything.
What many of us need is to recover, or to discover for the first time, a sense of wonder at the mystery and magnificence of God.
The God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is vast beyond our comprehension, beautiful beyond our appreciation and wonderful beyond our imagination.
God encompasses everything we understand and fail to understand, what we have discovered and what remains hidden, what is near and what is far. God is above and beyond, among and within, high and holy, close and compassionate.
And God's love is breathtakingly all-embracing. This compelling prayer comes from the New Testament Book of Ephesians:
"I pray that, according to the riches of God's glory, God may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
The prayer asks for the capacity to know what is always beyond full knowing: the breadth and length and height and depth of God's love, a love that includes everyone and everything.
It radiates with grace that envelopes all our shame and guilt, and it shines with dazzling glory that fills every dark corner of our hearts and our universe with hope.
Guy Sayles is pastor of First Baptist Church of Asheville, N.C. This column first appeared on his blog, From the Intersection.