You Read Your Bible…Did You See God?
by Berry Kercheville
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were introduced to Jesus because John the baptizer pointed him out as he walked by. However, Luke’s account indicates that the fishermen continued in their business for some time before Jesus called them to be his apostles. They had readily accepted him as the Messiah and had seen his miracles. Jesus even healed Peter’s mother-in-law. But their perception of Jesus changed on the day Jesus performed the miracle of the fish (Luke 5:1-11).
You remember the story. These four fishermen had worked all night but had caught nothing. Jesus appeared on the shore in the morning, and upon learning of their lack of fish, told Peter to let down the nets. Peter resisted, but then relented: “But at your word I will let down the nets.” The catch was so great that they filled both boats and the boats began to sink. Peter was the first to get the point, getting his eyes off the fish and onto Jesus. His reaction is notable. Peter fell down in the midst of those flopping fish and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
Interesting response, isn’t it? Peter seemed quite comfortable around Jesus up to this moment, but suddenly he had a new awareness of Jesus which exposed his own sinfulness. We are reminded of Isaiah when he was taken before the throne of God. His knees knocked and he cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips…for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). Please understand the difference in Peter before and after the miracle of the fish. Peter had already seen miracles. Peter had already recognized Jesus as the Messiah. But Peter had not yet seen God. When he saw God, it changed him. It not only changed him, but it made him ready for service. Jesus responded, “Fear not, from now on you will be catching men.” Mark it well; no one is ready for the service of the Lord until he or she has come close enough to see the glory of God, resulting in a deep recognition of one’s sinfulness. The concluding words are, “And they left everything and followed him.”
In chapter seven of Luke, we are offered another picture. Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to dine with him. As a Pharisee, Simon was obviously a student of the Law. He was concerned about being “clean” before God and was careful in his religious disciplines. Simon would have been considered a godly man of the strictest sect of the Jews.
In contrast to Simon, a woman entered the house. She was a sinner. No, not a sinner like other sinners; she was a known, public sinner. Everyone knew this woman, and she wasn’t a pretty picture. But there was a favorable difference between this woman and Simon. The woman did not just see a popular man named Jesus; she saw God. The evidence of this is in her response. There is no more moving scene in scripture. A blatantly sinful woman in the midst of a crowd of men, falls down at Jesus’ feet and cries so uncontrollably that she saturates his feet with her tears. Upon seeing the dirt from the dusty streets flow from his feet, she lets down her hair and wipes them clean, anoints them with expensive ointment, all the while repeatedly kissing his feet.
Simon was not impressed. Instead of compassion, he is disgusted that Jesus has allowed this sinner to touch him. In response to Simon, Jesus told a parable. There were two debtors, one owed 50 denarii and the other 500. When neither could repay, and the creditor forgave both debts, who would love him more? Simon answered correctly, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” Here is Jesus’ answer: this woman loved much because she was forgiven much, “But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
What caused the woman to recognize the greatness of her forgiveness? She understood the greatness of her sin. But what caused her to feel the weight of her sin? She drew close enough to Jesus so that she stepped into the presence of God. She saw the glory of the Lord. Simon was religious, Simon knew the scriptures, and Simon was faithful to the Law, but Simon had not seen God. Since he had not seen God, he was not impressed with the weight of sin. Since he did not see himself as a very bad sinner, he was not appreciative of forgiveness. Since he was not appreciative of his forgiveness, he did not love! He did not love God passionately and he certainly did not love nor have compassion on anyone he deemed a worse sinner than himself.
When You Read Your Bible, Do You See God?
What is God’s goal for us as we read and study his word? It isn’t to know the facts. It isn’t just to find what is right and wrong or on which side of an “issue” to take a stand. It isn’t to find verses to stick on a coffee cup. It isn’t to manipulate texts into sweet sounding sermons that give us a psychological lift for the rest of the week. The study of scripture is a study of the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:16). The Spirit has searched “everything, even the depths of God,” and “no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11). God did not give us a “book” to study. He gave us the revelation of the very depths of his being so that we can see his glory. When we see his glory, it will cause us to loathe ourselves for our sins and love him deeply and passionately because of his grace and because of who he is (Ezek. 36:25-31). And when we continue, “with unveiled face to behold the glory of the Lord,” we will be “transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).
A Christian where I preach approached me recently and said something I have heard many times in the past. Her words went something like this: “Over the past few years I have gradually begun to realize that I had been reading the Bible incorrectly. Now that I read to discover God and to be amazed at his glory and who he is, for the first time in my life I can truly say that I love God. I no longer just obey the rules because God gave rules. Now I want to please him, I want to draw closer to him, I want to know him and love him more and more. Now I am becoming transformed into his image, the image of the glory of God.”
Indeed, God’s commandments by themselves will not transform us. It is only when we see God that “his love will be poured out into our hearts by the Spirit whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5).