To See God

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: The first "sunglasses" were developed in China about 1430 AD using smoke to tint lenses. Ironically, the primary function of these blackened glasses was not to reduce solar glare! Instead, Chinese judges routinely wore them to conceal their eye expressions in court—their evaluation of evidence was credible only if it remained a secret until a trial's conclusion! Sunglasses are still worn by police to conceal their eyes from suspects while scrutinizing evidence. The Bible teaches that we have a heavenly Judge who sees everything, including the thoughts of our hearts. We need to see Him clearly too!  

A New Point of View
When I was growing up in New York City, it was a “cool” thing to make fun of the police with my friends. We called them “pigs.” We took great pride in sharing stories of how we had insulted a cop without getting caught. One time while I was driving a stolen car, I pulled up next to an officer and asked him for directions just so that a friend and I could later mock his stupidity. Cops were the “enemy.”

But my whole attitude about the police changed one night when, flipping through the television channels, I happened to see a very graphic news story.

A building was on fire. The camera captured all the drama of firefighters rushing in and out to save lives and spraying water on the building. People were trying to climb off the roof onto a ladder. Then another camera focused on the doomed building’s main entrance, which was engulfed in flames as smoke billowed out the windows and doors.

Suddenly, an officer rushed out from the door with a blanket in his arms. Smoke was coming off his singed clothes. A fireman hosed him off as he rushed through the crowd to a clearing, where he laid the bundle on the grass and unwrapped it. Inside was a baby—unconscious. Ignoring the pain from his burns, the officer administered artificial respiration seeking to revive the unconscious infant.

My whole concept of policemen as the enemy radically changed when I saw the man willing to risk his life to save the people he served. I soon realized that maybe I was the bad guy and the police were the good guys.

That’s the way it is with God. For many years, I thought God was against me—a great big policeman up in the sky, watching and waiting to see me doing something wrong so He could thump me with His billy club! He was only there to restrict my happiness. But then I saw a new picture of Jesus dying to save me. John 10:10 says, “I have come that [you] may have life, and ... have it more abundantly,” and I realized that Jesus wants us to give up only the things that hurt us!

It’s in the Eyes
To simulate one-hundredth of a second of the complete processing of even a single nerve cell from the human eye requires several minutes of processing time on a supercomputer. The human eye has 10 million or more such cells constantly interacting with each other in complex ways. This means it would take a minimum of 100 years of supercomputer processing to simulate what takes place in your eye many times every second. (Source: Missouri Association for Creation)

Ninety percent of all the information that comes into our brains comes through our eyes.  Most of us consider sight the most important of our five senses. Even Jesus compares our eyes to spiritual understanding and discernment, saying that if the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch (Matthew 15:14). One of Jesus’ frequent miracles was to open the eyes of the blind.

I think the reason so many people have trouble being Christians and staying Christians is that they don’t know where to begin. Wherever I go, I ask people what they think is the first step in salvation. Even people who have been church members for 50 years will usually say the steps are: repent, believe, accept, and confess that you are a sinner. But I don’t believe that any of these are step number one!

The first step in the process of salvation always begins with seeing the Lord in His holiness and our Savior on the cross.

Seeing the Christ
John 1:29 tells us that one day, when John the Baptist saw Jesus walking by the Jordan River, he pointed to Him and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

Later, two of John’s disciples say to Jesus, “Master, where are You staying?”  (v. 38). And Jesus says to them, “Come and see.” In that same chapter of John, when Philip came to Nathaniel, he says, “We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth” (paraphrased). 

Nathaniel didn’t argue. Philip then beckoned, “Come and see” (v. 46). In fact, just in the first chapter of John, there are more than 26 references to light and sight! We are finding again and again that we need to see the Lord.  Even when we go to the end of the Gospels and look at the thief who died on the cross next to Jesus, we find all the steps in salvation. He saw Jesus hanging on the cross. He probably heard Jesus say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34–42).

The thief watched all these acts and deeds of kindness with no hostility or aggression, and seeing God’s goodness helped him become aware of his own badness. You see, the Bible tells us it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You,” Job said. “Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5, 6).

Even the apostle Paul was converted as a result of seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–9).

Now you might be thinking, “Didn’t Jesus plainly say, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’?” (John 20:29). Yes, He did. But He was speaking of people who keep demanding some physical sign or 3-D vision. But when I speak of seeing God here, I’m not suggesting that you fast and pray until you have some angelic visitation or a personal revelation of the Almighty in Technicolor.

I’m talking about the eye of faith that sees Him in His Word.

Of course, when Jesus arose from the dead, the Bible says the disciples were overjoyed when they saw Him (see John 20:20).

In the same way, as Christians, our greatest joy will come from seeing that the Lord is alive and with us always!

Climbing a Tree
The Bible tells us that Zacchaeus wanted so much to see Jesus—who He was—that he climbed a tree (see Luke 19:1–10). When he saw Jesus’ goodness, and when he saw that Jesus accepted him, he then saw his own sins. He repented, confessed, and was willing to pay back with interest. And Jesus said that salvation had come to him. All this happened very quickly after he saw the Lord. Yet I believe that even though Zacchaeus first saw the Lord after he climbed a tree, his clearest vision of the Lord came when Jesus climbed the tree and died for him! Incidentally, the name Zacchaeus means “pure,” and didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God”? (Matthew 5:8).

When we see God on the cross, when we see God in that year that our King died, then we are more willing to love Him and to serve Him.  This is the first step—to see God!

You Are What You See
I really worry about young people today. Throughout my childhood, I had what I consider normal American heroes. I always pictured myself being like Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. (I will confess, though, there was a period in my life when I hoped I could be like Superman!)

Today, the heroes of the young are often diabolical or mutated cartoon characters. Or worse still, twitching and drug-crazed rock stars complete with metal studs and tattoos. The folk proverb, “You are what you eat,” is also true of your mental intake.  

There’s a biblical principle in that we become like what we worship or behold. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). I think that’s the main reason for all of the violent, unstable behavior in our young people. They spend so much time watching violence, deception, and sex on television that it can’t help but have some definite effect on their lives. You are what you see.

To Be or Not to Be—Elvis?
Born in a modest, two-bedroom house, Elvis Presley would become the most famous entertainer in the world. He sold so many albums that you could place each of them side by side at the equator and circle the globe four times.

With strong Christian roots, Elvis often quoted his favorite book, the Bible. His favorite verse was 1 Corinthians 13:1. But Elvis’ meteoric rise to fame was far less remarkable than his ultimate plummet into darkness.

The once energetic, healthy Presley suffered a drug-related cardiac arrest at his home in Memphis, where overeating, drug-use, and other self-abuses were rampant. When he died, Elvis had earned nearly $250 million, but his estate was valued at less than $10 million. Another famous verse that supposedly haunted him later in life is Matthew 19:24.

His extravagant, idolized lifestyle is still celebrated today. Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. makes more than $50 million a year from licensing “the King’s” image alone.

Sometime ago, I was preaching in a small church in northern California. After the service, my wife and I were invited over to a member’s home for dinner. Another guest, named Joe, was very interesting, and he soon related a tragic testimony.

When Elvis Presley was first beginning his career, Joe went to a concert and was overwhelmed with the way all the women responded—they fell down, took off their clothes, and swooned as Elvis gyrated his pelvis and sang. Something snapped in Joe’s mind, and he thought, “I’d like to be just like Elvis Presley.”

(When I was growing up, my mother used to write songs for Elvis Presley, so I saw him a couple of times in person. Thankfully, I was not as impressed!)

Not long after seeing Elvis, Joe went home and purchased all of his records. He wallpapered his room with Elvis posters. He dyed his hair black and bought a guitar. He stood in front of a mirror for hours and tried to look like and sing like Elvis. He listened to the records again and again, never tiring of hearing his idol croon.

Any time Elvis had a concert within 400 miles, Joe was there! He went to all of the singer’s movies, filled his house with Elvis paraphernalia, and what’s even more pathetic, he did this for 20 years. Think of it—20 years idolizing, imitating, and worshiping Elvis Presley!

By the time Elvis died, Joe had become so good at imitating him that he started working in nightclubs around the country. He began making thousands of dollars a week for his Elivis imitation. People who saw him said it was eerie, because Joe seemed just like Elvis. He sang and played the guitar just like Elvis, he walked like Elvis, and he looked like Elvis.

When I met Joe, he was nearing 50 years of age and Elvis had been dead for more than 10 years. Yet Joe was still making up to $10,000 a concert in the Orient imitating Elvis Presley.

Joe had come to church in this small town for a little while hoping to break away from his old life. He had Christian roots as a child. He told me, “I don’t even have my own identity. I have been living like someone else for so long that I don’t know who I am.” So after a short time trying to go to church, Joe felt he had nothing else to fall back on and returned to imitating Elvis.

I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of church we would have if we all “idolized” Jesus Christ the way Joe idolized Elvis Presley. He’s the only individual in the Bible we are encouraged to worship and emulate. If we spend all our time wistfully gazing at Hollywood idols or watching soap operas like “As the Stomach Turns” (or whatever it’s called), we’re going to be a mental mess.  But if we spend our time looking at Jesus every day, we cannot help but become like Him!

We need to see God.

Biological Burps
There are many ways to see God. His Word, of course, is the most reliable. But God also reveals Himself to us through other people and through the things He has made. Isaiah 6:3 tells us that angelic creatures in the presence of God called out, “The whole earth is full of His glory!”

But many people cannot see the Lord through the things He has made because their vision has been obscured by the cataracts of evolution.

One of the big struggles I had in accepting Christ, and the Bible in particular, was that I grew up believing in evolution. Virtually all the schools I attended taught that people are nothing more than a highly developed strain of monkey. That doesn’t offer much purpose for life, does it?  If we just evolved from a primeval puddle of mud somewhere, and if, when people die, they just turn back into fertilizer, then there’s really no purpose to life. I believe this false teaching of evolution is largely responsible for the high rate of suicide among teenagers. What can we expect if we tell them life is nothing more than a biological burp? I am convinced that everyone’s philosophy is affected by our environment—by the things that surround us. 

Evidence of God
Growing up in a big city, I was continually enclosed by things man made. I heard the screeching of brakes and the roar of traffic. Wherever I looked, I saw concrete and glass, flashing lights, and more manmade things. I came to the place where I put my trust in people. And since people were telling me we just evolved, I believed it.

Then, as a teenager, I spent about a year living in a cave outside of Palm Springs, California, and there I began to get a whole different perspective on life. I was now surrounded by the things that God made, and it had a profound influence on me.

Whenever you look through a microscope at the things we humans make, you can see flaws and mistakes. But when you look through that same microscope at the things God made, you see infinite perfection. We have two choices. Even the scientists know this. We’re either here by accident—by things blowing up—or we’re here because of an intelligent design and a plan.

Circular Reasoning and Then Some
When I went to school, I remember asking my science teacher one day, “Where did the world come from?” He told me, in essence, that the world came from the sun when it exploded and developed into our solar system.

“Well,” I asked, “Where did the sun come from?”

He said the sun came from another galaxy. When the Milky Way was formed, there was an explosion out there from two gas masses that ran into each other and exploded.

But then I asked, “Where did the gas masses come from?”

I know it doesn’t sound scientific to say that matter can create itself, but ultimately, even scientists have to acknowledge that something has always existed. We can look at all the organization and design that we see around us and believe that it all came from gas particles that always existed and started exploding, or we can believe that there is an intelligent God, a Creator, and He’s always existed. I think it is more logical to believe that my roots go back to a loving heavenly Father—

and not two gas masses and particles floating out there in the universe that accidentally collided one day and blew up. 

A Flower, Single Cells, and New York City
When you look at all the evidence in nature, even intelligent people need to agree that there is a Master Planner. A friend of mine, Dr. Lolita Simpson, walked up to me one day to show me a flower. She said, “Doug, I want to show you something. See this flower?”

I thought, “Isn’t this sweet, this dear old saint is going to show me a flower.”

But she showed it to me through the eyes of a scientist. She said, “Now here you see five petals, and they’re surrounded by five leaves, and inside are five little stems, and it’s all perfectly symmetrical. There’s organization, there’s design, and fragrance too. This could never happen by accident.”

Design, organization, and plan do not come out of chaos. That would be like suggesting you could throw a bomb into a junkyard and get a space shuttle when the dust settled—or that you could throw a grenade into a print shop and get an Encyclopedia Britannica! The simplest form of single-cell life, when carefully studied, reveals more complexity than New York City at rush hour!

God in the Family
Even if we could come to the place where we believe that everything evolved, and if micro-organisms did just start splitting, dividing, and growing into larger forms of life, then I wonder where did the need of male and female come in? When people get ready to start a family, why don’t they just start splitting and dividing? Isn’t that how they say it all happened? Why would there ever be the need for two completely different genders, male and female, that could not reproduce without an act of love and cooperation?

And what about the birds? I’m a pilot, and I know a little about aerodynamic design. Back when I believed in evolution, I was somehow able to picture these sea creatures slowly developing arms and legs and crawling farther and farther out of the water for longer periods of time. But I always had a problem picturing lizards running off cliffs, trying to develop aerodynamic design with feathers and hollow bones before they hit the ground. And then, if they did hit the ground and survive, how could they pass it on to their offspring?

After they are hatched, many birds develop feathers and jump out of the nest. Then bingo, they know how to fly and play on the air currents with no lessons at all. The tiny little caterpillar spins a cocoon around itself, and within a few hours after it emerges, pumps blood into its new wings, fans them a few times, and takes off to play on the air. The suggestion that all these things happened by accident seems all the more ludicrous and outrageous.

A Puddle of Oil
Two friends were walking in a parking lot together. One believed in creation and God, and the other believed in evolution. The evolutionist said to his creationist friend, “Oh, I see you got a new car!  Where did you get it?”

His Christian friend shrewdly responded, “Well, I went out into my garage one day and there was this puddle of oil. I left it alone. Over a period of weeks, as I watched, gradually a skateboard oozed up out of the pavement—then it slowly evolved into a Volkswagen bug. I drove it for a while and pretty soon it turned into a Honda Accord, and ultimately it developed into this Ferrari!”

Of course, the evolutionist responded, “Cut it out! Where did you get your car?”

His creationist friend said, “Now wait a second. You don’t believe that my car oozed up out of the pavement, because you know that when you see a car with organization, design, planning, and working systems, somewhere there is a carmaker. Just because all the different cars and all the different road-traveling vehicles have tires, headlights, and windshield wipers doesn’t mean that one evolved from the other.

Ford did not evolve from Chevy, and Chevy didn’t evolve from Chrysler. They all share things in common because they operate in a common environment. In the same way, there may be similarities between men and monkeys and other creatures, but that doesn’t mean we all evolved from each other. It means we all share the same environment, and so God gave us certain things in common.

Taking Time to See God
When you see a car, you know right away that somewhere out there is a carmaker. The human being is a far more complex machine than any automobile; so likewise, we know that somewhere there is a people maker.

The Bible is where He reveals Himself to us. In many of His parables, Jesus turns our attention to the things God made (Matthew 6:26). Even in this world tainted by sin, we can see abundant evidence of God’s power, wisdom, and love through the things He created.

The whole earth is full of His glory, and we can see God through the things He made, but we need to take the time to look. Jesus says, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all
men unto me” (John 12:32 KJV).

When we see Jesus lifted up for our sins, the goodness of God will lead us to repentance, and we will love Him when we see how He first loved us (Romans 2:4; 1 John 4:19).

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