How To See God (Matthew 5:8)

I want to see God.

Then again, want might be the wrong word.  “Want” implies that I’ll be able to go on with life without the desire fulfilled, doesn’t it?  I want a pumpkin spice latte, for instance, but will I survive without it?  Sure. I’ll settle for what’s at hand and keep that particular want in the back of my mind until autumn when pumpkin spice lattes are again in abundance.  It’ll keep.

As good as my favorite coffee may be, it’s not like a drink I do need: water.  Water is necessary.  I couldn’t wait until October for my next drink of water.  It’s essential to my well-being… to my life.  I, quite literally, would not survive until October without it.  If I couldn’t find it in my own home today, I can assure you that I’d go out and search for it… I’d do whatever it took to obtain it.

So, no, it’s not only a want I’m feeling when it comes to God.

Although I long to see Him, the Father who formed and loved me from the beginning, this runs even deeper than an emotion of desire.

I need His comfort and His wisdom.  I need His peace that transcends my situations and His presence that brings deepest gladness to my soul.  I need Him to be with my children, with His church, with me.

need Him.  I need to hear His voice.  I need to see Him.

Because this world, it is under attack by an enemy who has no scruples, no conscious, no kindness.

We live in a culture which says yes to lust, to greed, to seducing our children into a raging appetite that begs for more pleasure and is never satisfied.  There are violent uprisings, threats of nuclear attack, the unknown-but-certain next environmental disaster… there are diseases rampant and families hungry and so many without a place to safely lay their heads at night.

There are the personal, daily sorrows like a child pushed around on a playground, his head hanging low in shame, the frustration of another bill to pay, husbands and wives going to bed angry with each other… every day there are both small and large hopes deflated by harsh words and difficult situations.

There are days that can begin with wonder and delight in meteors dancing across the early morning sky and end with the images of murdered children flashing across the news.

So, yes, in this world where joy and despair can be only a second… a breath apart… I need to see my Father at work, to know that He is bringing all things together according to His purpose.

Yet this is what I’ve been wondering: do we look for the light of Jesus as often as we take notice of the darkness?

I’m sure you’ll agree ~ it is easy to point out the consequences of sin around us. We see them every day.

For us, the children of God, shouldn’t His handiwork outshine all else in our lives?

Is it possible that, without us even taking notice of it, satan has bound us up in a chain of disbelief, distraction, or apathy?  Have we allowed our expectations to be lowered, our hearts trying to find satisfaction in the things around us?  Have we forgotten that our God is alive and able to do exceedingly above what we could ask or imagine?

The question isn’t whether or not God is at work ~ He is the Author of life from beginning to end.  The question is this: are we looking for Him? Have we prepared our hearts… our spirit-eyes… to see Him?

In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus promises this ~ “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

I thrill at the word shall.  It does not allow any room for ‘if’, ‘maybe’, or ‘if you’re lucky’.  It is a promise ~ it is a certain, unwavering truth that we will see Him if our hearts are pure before Him.

If you’re like me, maybe you draw back, a little alarmed at the word ‘pure’.  Maybe you, like me, wonder if that means our hearts must be perfect to see Him… and fear that we won’t be holy enough to qualify.

If that’s the case, here is step one: Jesus Christ gave His life and bore our sin so that we can be righteous before God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

By His grace, our hearts are made new and holy before God.

It is nothing we achieve in our own attempts to be ‘good’.  It is freely given to us, the gift of hearts made right with the Father.  Receiving this gift is, of course, the first piece of living in this blessing promised to us by Jesus.

Step two is digging into the word “pure” and understanding what it means here in this Sermon on the Mount.  The Greek word translated into pure is actually “katharos”.  Katharos is defined as ‘unmixed, unadulterated.’  In other words? One hundred percent.  Purely committed.

To see God, our hearts ~ the center of our being, out of which everything we do flows ~ must be wholly surrendered to Him.

We must be undivided, full of only one thing ~ His Spirit.  We must be focused, dedicated, given over to the pursuit of obedience to His Word.  If we want to see Him, we have to be looking with one hundred percent of our lives.  The first and greatest commandment, Jesus said in Matthew 22, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Even in this, we are not left in our own strength. In Ezekiel 11:19, God promises “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

This tells me that God will put the right spirit and the right motivations into my heart if I ask Him to do so.  David did ask Him to do this very thing in Psalm 86 ~  “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided (pure) heart, that I may fear your name.”

I’ll never get over the marvel of His grace ~ our Father gives us what we need in order to please Him!

But, oh, we need to make the choice to keep our hearts wholly His.  We make choices every day ~ this is why we are told in Proverbs to guard our hearts and in Ephesians to put on a breastplate of righteousness.

We can, whether it is a conscious choice or the danger of non-choices (that ever-dangerous current of complacency) find pieces of our hearts given over to other things.  Anxiety, perhaps, or people.  Pleasure, maybe, or ambition.  The enemy is, always, trying to steal our hearts away… and, sometimes, for me?  It has been by simple distractions… small choices that put up little dividers in my heart.  Easily removed, I would think… and not a big deal… but walls are made brick by brick and not all at once.

Every choice matters.  Little choices set the precedents for bigger choices.

Plain and simple, heart-space cannot be shared by my fleshly desires and the Spirit of God.

We cannot serve the things of this world and the Creator of this world.  We cannot serve two masters.  A double-minded, double-hearted man or woman is unstable in all their ways.  Joshua said to the Israelites ~ “Choose, this day, who you will serve.”  It is a choice we must make.

The question is this: do I need God ~ do I need to see Him ~ more than I want the things of this world?  Do I love Him more than I love what I have in this life?

Will I choose to pursue His presence instead of the new episode of my favorite show?  Will I talk my problems out to Him before I call my mom or my friends?  Will I give my time to Him instead of to that new book of poetry sitting on my nightstand?  First thing in the morning, do I open His Word to renew my mind in Him or do I check Facebook and my blog reader?

God does give us good things in this world… friends, hobbies, music, art ~ I am not saying that these things are wrong.  However, we have to make sure that our first love is the Giver of these gifts and that we seek Him before all else.  Paul wrote this in Colossians 3:17 ~ “Let every detail in your lives ~ words, actions, whatever ~ be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” (MSG)

So at the end of the day, have I consciously done everything like I am doing it all for Him?  Do I obey Him or my own will?  Do I surrender all of me to His purpose?

When my actions speak, are they saying that I choose Him with an undivided heart?

Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m being a little extreme about this giving up of self.  I know that it seems like a hard thing to do.  I can only tell you what Jesus taught:

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34)

Again, in Luke 14:33, He speaks about the cost of following Him: “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.”

But with the cost comes the promises!

Listen to these words of Jesus in John 10:10 ~ “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

And remember His invitation in Matthew 11 ~ “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We find that when we take up our cross, when we deny ourselves to follow Him, He is already there before us ~ bearing the weight, filling us with His own life and the power of His resurrection.  Jesus, giving us a ‘better life than we ever dreamed of’, gives us rest for our souls!  We find that when we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4)  When we are weak, His Spirit gives us power. (2 Tim. 1:7, 2 Cor. 12:9 ) When we fall short, His grace still reaches us. (Rom. 3:22-24)  When we face temptation, we find that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! (Phil. 4:13)

Remember that He chose ~ with no shadow of turning or change – to love and redeem us, giving His all.  He does not leave us wanting, when we have an undivided heart seeking after Him.  He gives us Himself, just like He did so many years ago on a Roman cross.

It is with awe that I consider this, how He did not hold back from the cross… and He gave Himself fully because He cherishes my heart.  It’s a miracle any way I look at it, that I can offer my heart and bring Him delight… that the God of parted seas and chains broken will reveal Himself to me when I look for Him with my everything.

Can we even grasp the magnitude of it, the blessing of seeing Him?

When Jesus said that we would see God, He said the Greek word ‘optanomai’… which means to not only see with the physical eyes, but to also grasp, comprehend, understand, and to be aware of what one sees.

This means that we will be able to discern His hand at work in our lives. With hearts pure ~ seeking Him wholly ~ we will see His glory declared in the heavens, His grace in the good and perfect gifts in our lives, His comfort in all the personal ways He uses to communicate His presence to us.

For me, it can be as small as spotting the first flowers of spring.  It can be a kind email from a friend.  It can be a verse on the page that speaks boldly into my heart… joy-giving words that I need to hear.  It is the knowledge that when I open His word and speak to Him, He is there with me.  I can keep company with Christ, the King of Glory, and He is my friend.

My hope, my ability to hold onto joy, to gratitude, to freedom from chains of depression and anxiety?  It is all only due to Him… to knowing who He is and my faith in His proactive work in my life and in this world.

For my heart to stay open and beating in abundant life, His presence is essential.  His love is necessary for my heart’s survival… because sometimes He guards us from the pain around us, but sometimes the cup doesn’t pass.  Sometimes we will suffer.  In this world, Jesus said, we will have many troubles.  So, yes, it is non~negotiable.  I need Him in the good times and I need to know, in the pain, that He is with me.

He said that He is with us always ~ so don’t be discouraged if you are in a season when, even with your heart wholly His, you don’t feel His presence or immediately see Him at work exactly as you might hope.  Remember that we are still in this world in which we see as through a glass darkly… and remember that we will have seasons in which He does require us to walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes we must wait on the Lord and be of good courage, knowing He will strengthen our hearts as we patiently trust Him (Psalm 27:14).  He is faithful to every promise and so we willsee Him when our hearts are pure ~ but in His perfect timing, as He works to make us more like Him and works all things for our good.  No matter how we feel, we can trust His plan for us… and we can believe, with hope, that He will reveal Himself to us when and in the way that He knows is best for us and for His kingdom… “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)

This promise, this beatitude, it is breathtaking in its hope. We will see Him, the God of all, in our lives… because, yes, He is with us.  He is Emmanuel.  We can’t see Him with our physical eyes, but we see Him with our spirit-eyes.  The miracle of Easter isn’t only that Jesus came in a body of flesh, to die for us, and rise again… but that He stays… alive in us.

He abides in us and we in Him. He is the vine and our branches need His life~source to blossom, to thrive.  In this way, we become image-bearers of our Savior.  In this way, our life becomes His.  We are salt.  We are light.  We are the disciples, taking the blessed Bread of Life, broken for us, and feeding the world around us.

Just like on a crowded hill-side long ago, we find that there is more than enough to fill every need.  There is more than enough to satisfy.

Having seen Him in our lives and being witness to His mercy calls us to another side of this story ~ others seeing the love of Christ in us.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. (2 Cor. 2:14)

Jesus commanded us to share our good news, to make disciples from one end of the earth to the other… because He is preparing a place for His bride. (John 14:1-3) And He would have all men and women drawn to Him, leaving none to face eternity without Him.

Do you remember that Greek word for ‘shall see’ ~ optanomai?  It is used many, many times in the New Testament… for the day when Jesus shall return for His own.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)

This is the other half of the meaning of ‘see’… because we will, one day, have faith turned into tangible-as-the-computer-in-front-of-me sight. There will be no “dark glass” between us and the Lord. We will be literally made new, whole, and our vision perfected. We will be with Jesus. We will be with the Father.

I yearn for that day now like I never before imagined that I could.

Something in me ~ in all of us ~ cries out for reconciliation between reality and the peace we long to see… for justice… for assurance that things will not always be like this.  We want to know that wrongs will be righted… that light will prevail over darkness so fully that darkness will have no more place in the world. We understand, instinctively, that there is another way… that we weren’t meant for darkness and death.

In the turmoil, I think of Job and I echo his words. “I know my Redeemer lives and I shall see Him face to face.” I say it and say it again, digging my feet firm into the foundation of His truth… that He is victorious over satan… and His Kingdom is the only one that shall stand.

The Word warns us of turbulent days.  Scripture says plainly that what is right will be said to be wrong and what is wrong will be called right.  Scripture says that people will be deceived, the Word twisted around for selfish purposes… that the earth itself will shake and disasters will befall it.  These words are reality in our world today.

But Jesus also says that when all of these things come to pass, look up ~ for our redemption draws near.  And He, who has overcome the world, is our redemption!

Please hear this plea from my heart ~ don’t take it lightly, this Beatitude of pure heart and eyes to see.  It is everything to us, to our eternities.

We must see Him now, we must give Him our hearts wholly, so that we will have a place in His Kingdom.  It is no fickle want; we need to see God.  He is our Living Water, essential to our very being.  He satisfies the true desires of our hearts.  He is necessary for our soul’s survival.

Closing our eyes and refusing to let Him have Lordship over our hearts means an eternity without Him.

He came to the earth so that we would not perish, but be reconciled to God through His blood. He came so that we could abide in Him, living free and forgiven, while on this earth… and so that we can be forever in His presence, at home in the Kingdom of Heaven.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!” (Phil. 3:20~4:1)

Now is the day to choose… and will you choose Him?  Will you choose life… life abundant and eternal?  It is not a choice that you will stand alone in ~ for Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me (Psalm 54:4) and we know that He who began this good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus! (Phil. 1:6)

It is not in our own strength that we follow Him, but in the power of our Lord.  As Paul said, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Cor. 15:57)

He will, in unfailing love, lead the people He has redeemed.  In His strength, He will guide them to His holy dwelling. (adapted from Exodus 15:13).

For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.  But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.  I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:9-20)

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ ~ the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ ~ yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death,and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”(Phil. 3: 7-14)

(For other thoughts on the Beatitudes, please check out the following links: The (Non)Pursuit of Happiness, Eternal Perspective, To the Heavy-Hearted, Giving Up, “You Gotta’ Have What I Have!”, and To Love Mercy.)

 
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