I think that there are two very dominant and dysfunctional views of God out there.
The first is The God of the Carrot. This is the God who’s always teasing you with more rewards or promises of eternal blessings if you’re just faithful to do what he says. His mantra is, “I’ll reward you if you do.” Many follow this false image of God out of selfishness.
The second is The God of the Stick. This is the God who bashes you over the head if you do something wrong, and threatens to beat you to death if you don’t do what he says. His mantra is “I’ll punish you if you don’t.” Many follow this false image of God out of fear.
Others worship a bipolar God with both of these characteristics. They never know where they stand with him because they’re never sure if he’s going to bash them or reward them. But they hope that their good deeds outweigh their bad so that they get on his good side.
There’s a third kind of God. This one’s not a tyrant, nor is he a tease. This is The God of the Cross. His mantra is, “I love you either way.” Those who follow him do so joyfully. They trust him implicitly because they know he is good and he is for them. They are not afraid of him or trying to use him. They know that this God is love, and it changes everything.
Here’s where things get crazy. One of the reasons why people follow The God of the Carrot and The God of the Stick is because they’ve been told that this is what he’s like by their preachers and their leaders.
Here’s where things get complicated. God is a God of justice, and he is a God of rewards. We see his desire to bring justice and blessing all throughout Scripture. But those aspects of his character flow from his love. It’s when they’re taken out of that context that he becomes a monster.
Here’s where things get clear. Hebrews 1:3 says,
“The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God”.
We’re told in Colossians 1:15 that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. If you want to understand who God is, look at Jesus. And when you look at Jesus, here’s what you’ll see: a God who loves you so much that he died for you. There is no clearer picture of the true God than that.