How are you looking at God?
Have you ever just wanted to understand God better? You feel God’s presence in your life. But you just want to see things more clearly. Sometimes, with everyone’s differing opinions of who and what God is, it seems like you’re looking at God through a wall of glass bricks and nothing is clear.
Not too long ago, I was in the reception area of an office where there was a wall of glass bricks. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by glass bricks and how they refract and reflect light when you look at things through them.
While I was waiting, someone walked behind the wall. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman. In fact, there was very little I could tell about the person except some of the colors they were wearing and how fast they were moving.
If you had asked me to describe this person based on what I saw through the glass bricks, I wouldn’t have been able to get even close.
Are you looking at God through a wall of glass bricks?
I’ve been thinking about this experience and realized that all too often we are looking at God through a wall of glass bricks, so to speak. What I mean is, that we look at God through our own and others’ limited and fear-based concepts of who and what God is.
The sad thing is that we don’t usually realize we’re doing this.
We “look” at God. We know there is “something” there. We feel a presence. We see, or know there’s a divine power at work in our lives. But we can’t see clearly what’s going on.
And there you have it. When we look at God and His creation, through the distorted lenses of our limited concepts of Him, or through the multi-faceted mental glass bricks of man-made and ecclesiastical doctrines – or you could say, the collective misconceptions of God accumulated over the centuries – we can never see God, what He’s doing, and what He has created, clearly.
A simple example
Let’s say you want to learn to knit. You find the very best knitting teacher in your town and sign up to take lessons at the community center.
But when you arrive for the first class, there’s a wall of glass bricks between the teacher and where all the students are supposed to sit.
As the teacher begins to knit, you can’t see what she’s doing. You can only hear her voice. But now imagine that her voice is distorted by the acoustics in the room because of the glass bricks.
Even though the teacher is going through the exact steps of how to start knitting and explaining things perfectly, you’re not able to see or hear clearly because of the glass bricks.
Where are the “glass bricks”?
Now I know this is a big assumption, but imagine you’re not actually aware of these glass bricks. But actually, they are invisible. What’s distorting your vision is the wall of limiting beliefs in your thinking.
If you come to the class with an attitude that you’re not very good at creative things, and that you’ll never be able to figure out how to knit very well, that’s the wall of glass bricks you’re looking through. Your self-depreciation prevents you from seeing clearly, understanding, and learning how to knit.
If you don’t have those negative assumptions about yourself, you won’t have a problem. You’ll be able to see clearly.
What’s the result? You think the teacher is terrible and can’t understand why everyone says she’s so good. You tell everyone that it’s impossible to learn to knit and that the teacher is no good.
But the problem is not the teacher; it’s the distorted way you’re seeing things.
What glass bricks are you looking at God through?
Now let’s use this example as a metaphor for how we look at and try to understand God. When you look at God though those “glass bricks” of your own and other people’s misconceptions of God’s nature, or your own negative views of yourself, you can never see or hear clearly what God is doing and saying.
Your concept of God is the lens you see God through, and it has a huge influence on what you believe God is capable of doing, such as healing personal problems all the way up to global ones.
But whatever your human concept of God is, to some degree it is limited and can never take in the fullness of God’s being and nature.
And if you’re just praying with the human mind, and even believe God is all-powerful and able to heal any problem, large or small, your prayers can only go as far as the human mind can take you. You can only perceive the limited scope of what the human mind can perceive or reason through.
Limitations of praying with the human mind
Now, this can sometimes be a useful step in our prayers, this reasoning of the human mind, but it’s only when we quit relying on the capacities of the human mind and receive the revelations of the Holy Spirit that we begin to perceive God as God truly is, and not just hold onto our own concept of Him.
When you pray just with the human mind, in a way, you’re kind of just praying to your concept of God instead of to God.
For example, if you think of God as unwilling or unable to heal or solve a problem, or that God is capricious as to when or whose prayer to answer – and there are a lot of people who believe this way – your prayer will probably be more like a petition that you’re not too sure will be answered.
On the other hand, if you have repeatedly experienced God’s healing presence in the past, your prayers will be full of expectation that God is willing and able to solve your problem.
The lens you’re looking through
Your concept of God is the lens you’re looking through. It affects how you pray and what your expectations are.
Recently I talked to someone who had been taught the words of Scripture, “with God all things are possible, ” (Matthew 19:6) and that God “forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:3)
But even though his church taught these words, their actual concept of God was far from these words they said they believed.
To them, God was not omnipotent. They believed in an almost equally powerful evil force, the devil. They talked about the devil not having any power. But in fact they really did believe he had power.
They quoted, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8 & 16) But they put all kinds of limitations and conditions on God’s love.
Just repeating words is not enough
They did the same for God’s ability and willingness to heal.
Just repeating Bible verses about God’s healing power didn’t bring any healing into this man’s life, even though he was taught to believe it was possible.
And then when healing didn’t happen, he and his church had elaborate explanations as to why God wouldn’t, couldn’t, or didn’t heal in any given situation.
They actually were coming up with reasons why God couldn’t heal something. In an odd sort of way, they were more sure of God’s inability to heal than His ability to heal.
Now you may be wondering where I’m going with all this. Bear with me.
I have noticed over many years that what we may say we believe about God is not necessarily what we actually believe about God.
When what we see and believe about God is distorted by human opinions, limitations, and fears, it’s like looking at God through a wall of glass bricks. Nothing is clear.
Why your prayers may not be answered
Now I’m not trying to oversimplify things, but this may be one reason you don’t feel your prayers are being answered.
Do you ever wish your prayers could be more effective? What do you do when you don’t feel God has answered your prayers, or at least not the way you had hoped for?
I know a lot of folks who decide, when this happens, that whatever they asked for must not have been God’s will.
I even know people who get mad at God for not giving them exactly what they pray for. Or they get frustrated.
I had an aunt who said to me once when things didn’t work out the way she wanted, “I just can’t get God to do what I want.”
I think was her basic approach to prayer, just trying to get God to do what she wanted and trying to convince Him why He should do it.
How are you looking at God?
It all comes back to how we see God.
Jesus explains the connection between what he could see God doing and what he did.
Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. John 5:19 NIV
Jesus is basically saying the reason he was able to heal was because he could see the Father doing it. He saw clearly that God was always ready, willing, and able to restore a person’s wholeness.
Jesus had no doubt as to God’s ability to heal. He could see God, and not himself, as the source of healing and wholeness. He must have always born witness to God’s ability to heal before he healed anyone.
If you aren’t healing and helping people the same way Jesus did, it might simply mean, you don’t completely see God doing it.
Speaking for myself, sometimes intellectually I accept the possibility that God can solve and heal any problem or situation. But that doesn’t mean I have always discerned spiritually that God is already doing those things. Just saying and believing the words with the human mind is never enough.
God is God regardless of how we are looking at Him
The beautiful thing in all this is that God is God regardless of how we perceive Him, no matter how thick a wall of mental glass bricks we’re looking at Him through.
God always sees things from His perspective. His vision is never distorted.
Are you looking at things from your perspective through distorted lenses or are you looking at things from God’s perspective?
“Glass bricks” in the Old Testament
The Old Testament has lots of examples of people seeing God through their own distorted perspectives and then thinking that’s the way God is.
When the Children of Israel entered the land of Canaan after wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, God is described as commanding them to kill all the inhabitants of the land, even the women and children. This is Moses talking to them,
in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 20:16-18 NIV
Samuel, the prophet told King Saul
This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ 1 Samuel 15:2, 3 NIV
That’s pretty extreme.
You are free to disagree with me
Now if you take the Bible 100% literally and believe that God actually told Moses and Samuel in those exact words to kill all those people, you’re not going to like or agree with what I’m about to say.
Let’s fast forward to how Jesus taught us to treat our enemies. He said quite simply,
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew 5:43, 44 NIV
To me there’s a big disconnect between how the prophets in the Old Testament described God’s nature and how they told people to treat their enemies and what Jesus revealed about God’s nature and how he told us to treat our enemies.
What’s going on here? Did God’s nature change from the Old Testament to the New?
Could it be that the Old Testament writers were looking at God through their own walls of glass bricks and hearing what God said through distorted mental acoustics?
They lived in a culture that supported this approach to dealing with your enemies, complete destruction. Was that part of the wall of glass bricks?
How were the prophets looking at God compared to how Jesus did?
When the Old Testament prophets saw the sinning multitudes, they preached God’s wrath would punish them and then eventually redeem them. They saw something of God’s redeeming love, but that it was way off in the future.
When Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion. Why? Because he saw how much God loved them and that empowered him to love them as well. That’s why he could say of everyone listening to his Sermon on the Mount, even the sinners in the crowd,
You are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14 NIV
Jesus was not looking through a wall of glass bricks, either at God or the people in the crowd. And because he saw God clearly, he could see clearly everything God saw. He saw the people’s worth, because he saw God see it. He could love the people because he saw clearly how God saw and loved them.
He could heal people because he always saw God as the unfailing source of their health and well-being.
Jesus understood his relationship with the Father
In other words, there were no glass bricks between Jesus and God. There were no distortions in the way Jesus saw his heavenly Father. He understood his inseparable relationship with God.
He put it this way, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV)
And Jesus wanted all of us to experience that same relationship of oneness that he had with the Father. He prayed, just hours before he was arrested, for everyone who would ever believe on him,
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. John 17:21 NIV
In a sense, you could say Jesus is praying that no wall of glass bricks could come between us and the Father to distort how we see Him.
How do we quit looking at God through glass bricks?
So the question really is: How do we get rid of this metaphorical wall of glass bricks we’re looking at God and His creation through? How do we get rid of our misconceptions of who God is and His real nature?
Well, first of all, if there’s wall of glass bricks in our thinking, we have to become aware of it before we can get rid of it. The problem is that we’re so used to it, we may not be aware of it, or we may actually defend the limited and distorted way we see God.
So the first step is to have a humble and willing heart for God to expose any distortions of His nature that may be in our thinking.
How do we recognize these glass bricks that need to be removed? It’s hard because if you believe God is a certain way, you believe it’s right.
There are two things I’ve found really helpful in this situation. Sincerely ask God to reveal His true nature to you and to expose any false concepts of Him you may have accumulated.
And then, look at how Jesus acted, how he lived, how he loved, who he loved, how he prayed, how he treated people.
Compare how you treat people to how Jesus did
Since Jesus only did and said what he saw God doing, it’s safe to say that Jesus’s words and actions give a clear window into the true nature of God.
How do we detect the glass bricks in our thinking? Just compare how you see and respond to people and situations compared to how Jesus did. If you are half-way honest with yourself, the glass bricks, which actually are not part of you, will suddenly become very obvious.
Once we have realized what glass bricks we’ve been looking through, it’s time to humbly and conscientiously remove and reject these false, limiting concepts of God from our thoughts, our words, and our actions.
This isn’t always easy, but keep your eyes on Jesus’s words and actions as a guide.
Instead of looking at God and mankind through a wall of human opinions or man-made doctrines, Jesus always looked through the clear lens of what was true in the kingdom of heaven.
If you’ve been listening to The Bible Speaks to You Podcast for very long, you know I talk a lot about this. If you haven’t listened to Episode 175, Living in the Kingdom of Heaven, it will give you a little more about this idea to think about.
How Jesus looked at things
Jesus began his ministry preaching that
… the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17 KJV
That was the lens he looked at the world though. In heaven, there are no so-called glass bricks or distortions of God’s nature or of His creation. Jesus could see clearly what was true in heaven and he could see it present here on earth, right where we see things from earth’s perspective.
Paul hints at this when he says
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. 1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT
I’ve been using the metaphor of glass bricks. Paul uses the metaphor of a mirror that gives a poor quality reflection.
Then great news is that Jesus has given us a clear view of the Father. He has removed the wall of glass bricks in our hearts and minds, all the things that would try to separate us from God.
Jesus is our model for looking at God
The only way to truly see God and understand His true nature is through observing how Jesus lived. Christ is an open window that lets in the whole, undistorted, un-refracted light of who God is. It is through Christ that God reveals Himself to us.
There’s no way for us to see God clearly on our own, without divine revelation. Jesus points this out and in effect promises that he will reveal God to each of us.
no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27 NIV
Christ has chosen to reveal God to you without any distortions of human opinions, culture, limitations, or fear. Christ is always revealing God’s true nature to you.
Take an honest look at whatever glass bricks may be distorting your view of God. Let Christ dismantle them. Then bask in the undistorted, undiminished light of God’s full glory.
Photo Credit: ratoglass.com
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Matthew 19:6 NIV
6 …with God all things are possible.
Psalm 103:3 NIV
3 …forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.
1 John 4:8 & 16 NIV
8 & 16 God is love.
John 5:19 NIV
19 Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Deuteronomy 20:16-18 NIV
16 in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.
17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you.
18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.
1 Samuel 15:2, 3 NIV
2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt.
3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’
Matthew 5:43, 44 NIV
43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:14 NIV
14 You are the light of the world.
John 10:30 NIV
30 I and the Father are one.
John 17:21 NIV
21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.
Matthew 4:17 KJV
17 … the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT
12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
Matthew 11:27 NIV
27 no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.