Seeing and Knowing God
There are many scripture passages that seem to suggest that the way people view God often says more about them than it does about God. Our perception of God, as well as other spiritual truths, is conditioned by the state of our heart. Jesus’ most important teaching on this matter is found in John’s Gospel where Jesus told the Pharisees that they lacked the capacity to discern how Moses wrote about him because, despite their diligent study, “the love of God was not in [their] heart” (Jn. 5:42). Whether one is able to see Jesus in Scripture, he’s saying, depends on something far more important than diligent study. It depends on a heart relationship with God.
Along the same lines, the story in Luke 24 of the two disciples with whom the resurrected Jesus walked on the road to Emmaus tells of how they were unable to recognize him in his resurrected form or to see that Moses and the Prophets wrote about him until “their eyes were open” as they broke bread together (Lk 24:30-32). As Jesus several times suggested in other teachings, one can only “see” and “hear” what their heart allows them to “see” and “hear” (e.g. Mark 4:9). Indeed, this teaching, along with a host of other Scriptures, suggests that unless the Spirit of the resurrected Christ opens our heart, we will remain blind to the way “all Scripture” points to Christ.
We find the same insight in Paul’s writing. Most importantly, he taught that just as a veil was placed over Moses’ face to shield fellow Hebrews from the brilliance of God’s glory, so too unbelievers have a veil over their minds that dulls their spiritual perception (2 Cor 3:15). Paul himself testified that, prior to his conversion, he lacked the capacity to see Jesus as anything more than a mere human. As with all unbelievers, Paul’s spiritual eyes were “blinded” by the “god of this age” so that he could not “see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). Only when the Spirit removes this veil in the mind and heart of a person, and only when God makes “his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory,” can we see this glory “displayed in the face of Christ” (4:6).
So too, Paul writes that only by the work of the Spirit can a person be “made… competent” to be a minister of “a new covenant” by acquiring the capacity to understand Scripture according to “the Spirit” that “gives life” instead of “the letter” that “kills” (3:6). And it is only as believers “with unveiled faces” gaze upon this Christ-centered glory that they are transformed “with ever increasing glory” into Christ’s likeness. (2 Cor. 3:7-4:6).
As you begin this new year, the Spirit is at work in your heart so that the abstract truth about God’s love and glory might be made real and personal to you. May you embrace a greater sense of dependency on the Spirit by fixing your eyes on Jesus and beholding the glory of the Lord, and allowing that glory to transform you.