Recently I finished reading Perry Marshall’s new book, “Memos from the Head Office.” The book drew my attention because it has received nearly 100% five-star reviews so far. It’s about how entrepreneurs consult God to make business decisions. It’s rare to see a business book written by a bestselling author in this category talking about God.
That is a very practical book about discerning God’s will. You don’t have to be in business to enjoy this book because it applies to your daily life, relationships, and leadership. If you want to align your life and decisions with God’s will, you must develop the discipline of discernment.
At times like this, when we are socially distanced due to the prolonged pandemic, our close contact with God is essential to maintain our well-being and sanity. God is not just an imaginary friend to keep you company when you are lonely. According to Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is a practical guide, counselor, and advocate for your daily life and work.
In fact, Jesus said that you could see God if you meet the one condition—a pure heart. That is what the sixth blessing is about. We have talked about five blessings in the past five weeks. If you have followed the steps, you are about ready to see God at this stage. Let’s review the steps.
1. Consciousness: without consciousness, there is no progress.
2. Abandonment: we must abandon everything that keeps us from moving forward.
3. Reliance: we learn to rely on the abundant resources available for us to move mountains.
4. Edification: edification feeds our spirit just as education feeds our mind.
5. Forbearance: forgiveness and tolerance are the only way of living a holy life.
6. Refinement: how to condition our spirit to see God. That’s our topic today.
6. Refinement: how to condition our spirit to see God. That’s our topic today.
8. Endurance: The week after next.
If you put them all together, it forms the acrostic CAREFREE. Carefree is not the same as careless. It’s childlikeness Jesus repeatedly told us to live—a life free of stress and anxiety so that you can shine your light brighter and broader and live life to the fullest as Jesus promised.
Now, let’s proceed with today’s topic on seeing God based on what Jesus taught.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today, we will focus on the sixth blessing in the Beatitudes. It’s from the Gospel According to Matthew 5:8. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Mt 5:8).
[This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
A little girl was drawing a picture in her classroom. The teacher asked her what she was drawing. She said, “God.” The teacher said, “Oh, no! You can never draw a picture of God. Nobody has ever seen God.” The girl said, “They will when I am done!”
Children are born with a sense of divinity. Jesus often uses infants and children as our models for spiritual maturity. We often think maturity means becoming sophisticated, but it’s the other way around. As T. S. Eliot said,
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T. S. Eliot
So, our journey to maturity eventually leads us to where we started and to know it for the first time. That’s good. That means we will grow up to become a child and see God.
Jesus said if we have a pure heart, we will receive the blessing of seeing God. It seems our journey to maturity is like a refining process to purify our hearts and see God ultimately.
“Seeing God” can be confusing if we don’t read the Bible as a whole. God said to Moses when he requested a chance to see God,
“You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Ex 33:20).
Paul also said, “God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:29), so it’s impossible to see God and live. Some people take these verses out of context and assume we cannot see God at all. However, just ten verses before this verse in Exodus says,
“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Ex 33:11a)
If you look at these verses in the context of the entire Bible, there is no contradiction at all because when it says people saw God face to face, it was usually at a downgraded version of God. For example, Jacob saw God in the darkness of the night. Job saw God through observing God’s fantastic creation. William Blake wrote,
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.” ~William Blake
Since God is omnipresent, people with a spiritual eye can see God’s presence everywhere.
For example, our eyes cannot stare at the bright shining sun because it could damage our eyes, but we can safely enjoy the big and beautiful orange sun at dawn and dusk. Even during the day, we can wear a pair of sunglasses to protect our eyes and see in the bright sunshine. In other words, we can see a downgraded version of the sun.
In the same way, when the Bible talks about people seeing God face to face, it is usually in a safe condition for people to see. Sometimes God appears as people, and sometimes in nature.
According to Jesus, the condition to see God is through a pure heart. King David asked God to create in him a pure heart so that he could be in the presence of God. He wrote in Psalm 51:10-11,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps 51:10–11).
So, if you want to be in the presence of God, ask for the blessing of a pure heart. However, be careful what you ask for because a pure heart does not come easy. Like pure gold that must go through a crucible, a pure heart might require a refining fire of adversity. God says through Isaiah,
“See, I have refined you, but not like silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it.” (Is 48:10–11a).
Life is full of adversity. Sometimes, God allows adversity to refine us. I hope the current pandemic does not break us but refines us for a pure heart. If we can see the tests and trials of life as a refining fire, we have a positive attitude because we know the outcome is a fruitful future.
Notice the last sentence, “for my own sake, for my own sake, I do it.” God purifies us for God’s own sake, so your desire for a pure heart is likely to be granted because it is also God’s desire for you to have a pure heart. It glorifies him.
Jesus also used pruning a vine as an analogy of purifying us,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” (Jn 15:1–2).
The Father prunes the vine so that it will bear more fruit—for God’s own sake. Being pruned or refined is a painful process, but It’s worth the pain because seeing God is priceless. It leads to Enlightenment, which is the next blessing that we will discuss next week.
Now let us talk about refinement. What is pure gold? 24-carat gold is pure. What is a pure heart? Based on what Jesus said, the heart that sees God is pure.
Let’s look at the life of a couple of people who have been through the refining fire and ultimately seen God: Jacob and Job. Jacob saw God face to face and said,
“For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” (Ge 32:30b).
Jacob was on his way back to his home in Canaan after spending twenty years away, but he stopped and spent a night alone before arriving home. He was afraid of seeing his brother, whom he had deceived two decades ago. That night, he met God and wrestled with God.
The Bible said that God could not prevail against Jacob. Interestingly, God could not win against the 97 years old Jacob. That implies that it is a downgraded version of God. Then God “struck him on his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.”
Despite the pain in the hip, Jacob held onto God and insisted that “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Then God asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” (Jacob means Swindler or Supplanter.) Then God said to him,
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Ge 32:28).
God said he was no longer a swindler but a winner. The new name “Israel” means someone who had prevailed in the struggle with God and with people. It implies that he has attained the Great Commandments—loving God and loving people. We then read about his reconciliation with his alienated twin brother, Esau, the following day.
In other words, a pure heart is a heart that has no grudges and guilts. Jacob reached this point at 97 years old by wrestling with God. There were a few people who reached spiritual maturity at an early age. Jacob’s son Joseph seems to have reached his enlightenment since he was only seventeen.
The second person who had been through the refinement and seen God is Job. He said after a grueling experience of losing his wealth, family, and health,
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5).
Like Job before this point, most people have heard about God through their parents, teachers, churches, and Sunday School classes. They inherited the “religion.” However, you cannot see God until God becomes your personal God rather than someone passed down “by the hearing of the ear.”
Both Jacob and Job developed a pure heart through a painful process of refinement. The two stories are very different—one is a physical struggle, but the other is an intellectual debate. However, they both interpret each other and enrich the understanding of spiritual purification.
Job’s story gives us a hint of what happened during Jacob’s wrestling with God. Jacob was preparing for his final encounter with his long alienated brother. Would he win his brother back, or would his brother Esau kill him in revenge?
Esau was a hairy and macho man, but Jacob was the opposite—neat, clean, and contemplative. Allegorically, Esau represents our flesh, and Jacob our spirit. In fact, the name Esau, Edom, and Adam came from the same root word that means “redness,” indicating the color of the dust that we are made of.
John Calvin said that God created us with a “sense of divinity.” We are the combination of dust and divinity, or flesh and spirit.
Jacob represents our divinity that wants to win over the flesh. In other words, Esau is our ego, and Jacob is our spirit. The power struggle between Esau and Jacob represents the power struggle between our flesh and spirit.
Esau enjoyed hunting and fooling around with the Canaanite girls. Canaanites were idol worshipers, so Esau symbolizes someone who goes with the flow of the corrupt secular culture.
Jacob, on the other hand, had a higher purpose. He did not follow the trend but enjoyed putting things in order and had a higher purpose. He wanted to inherit God’s covenant with his grandfather Abraham to bless the world.
Have you noticed these twin brothers inside you? Your life is never satisfied until you let your Jacob win. You will never see God face to face if you allow Esau to win because God said,
“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom 9:13).
Allegorically, you are Rebecca, the mother of the twin—whether you are a man or a woman. Your job is to help Jacob win. In the story, Rebecca plays a significant role in assisting Jacob to win, and you must do likewise.
In a Christian context, Esau represents the “Adam” in you—your old self—and Jacob the “Christ” inside you—the new creation of you. The word Adam means “human” or “flesh,” and Jesus is the divinity. You must let Jesus win and overcome your flesh so that you are purified and able to see God.
The good news is that Jacob is predestined to win. During the pregnancy, Rebecca asked God why she was suffering so much with the twins fighting inside her.
“And the LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” (Ge 25:23).
Notice it says, “the elder shall serve the younger.” It means Esau shall serve Jacob. Your flesh will serve the Christ in you. Like Rebecca, we have these twins inside us struggling against each other, maybe daily. Sometimes, you feel that your flesh is winning over your divinity, but the good news is your divinity is predestined to win because God said, “the elder shall serve the younger.”
Your flesh will serve your divinity. That is when you will see God.
Job (not Jacob, we are using two stories to interpret each other) was also confident that he would survive the refining fire. He said,
“But he (God) knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (Job 23:10).
So, you take the way Rebecca took—to help Jacob win, and he will. You will come out as pure gold, and you will see God. Don’t fear adversity. Let it be the refining fire to purify you to see God.
In fact, in this fallen world, every day is adversity. Life is not a bed of roses but more like a crucible. Every day is an opportunity for refinement if you know how to take advantage of it. That’s how you see God and live in heaven on earth.
So, let us all learn to use adversity as an opportunity to purify our hearts—make our flesh serve our spirit, which will prepare us for enlightenment. Coming up next week, we will talk about Enlightenment, the seventh blessing.
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.