Since ancient times “what appears before the eyes of men” has become a measure. Look at how a great prophet like Samuel mistakenly recognized Eliab as the anointed of God only because of his appearance or his height (1 Sam 16: 6-7). We also use this perspective often when interacting with other people, right ?! For example, sometimes we quickly conclude someone is mature and wise just because he doesn’t talk much. Even though the reality is not necessarily so. In Proverbs 17: 27-28 it is written: “He who has knowledge spares his words, [And] a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; [When] he shuts his lips, [he is considered] perceptive.” (Proverbs 17:27-28 NKJV) This shows us how easy it is to judge someone’s personality only from the outside.
Conscious or not, often our judgments and attitudes toward others are influenced by what we see and what we hear. Indirectly this makes ourselves to be a person who is more concerned with “what appears outside” like our appearance and the way we speak in order to get the “image” that we want in the eyes of others. We become a person who cares deeply about what other people say. We feel “okay” when people say we are great, cool, kind, humble, and various other compliments. On the contrary, we feel bad or even feel rejected when people say our performance isn’t as good as usual, considered boring, not smart, our opinions are not accepted, and so on. The judgment of others becomes very important to us as if it contributes to our self-worth.
Without realizing it, we carry such a mindset when worshiping and while serving God, whether to get a positive assessment from others or even to obtain God’s “favor”! We diligently come to church and serve so that others see us as godly people. We sing, close our eyes, and raise our hands in worship, but actually our minds are wandering everywhere. The prayers we offer are just strands of beautiful sentences that we speak eloquently but without faith. Our services to God is only the talent that is presented well without any life offered on the altar. Even worse, we wrap our speech with “spiritual languages” while in church, even though we often emit our emotions with inappropriate words in the work environment. We are kind and friendly to all economic strata while in church, but we often discriminate people in our daily activities. Not the kind of worship that is desired by God. What God longs for is we come to Him with sincerity, without falsity!
We will learn about this from Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael. According to tradition, Nathanael and Bartholomew were considered to be the same person, namely one of the 12 disciples of Jesus. The opinion developed since the ninth century may be based on writing a list of the names of 12 disciples in the three Synoptic Gospels (Mt 10: 1–4; Mk 3: 13-19; Lk 6: 12–16) who always juxtaposed Bartholomew’s name with Philip, while Nathanael was a friend of Philip. The story of Nathanael began when Jesus went to Galileam, where He met Philip, whom He called to follow him. Philip rejoiced that he had found Jesus and immediately invited his friend, Nathanael, to meet Jesus. Then there was a very interesting conversation between Jesus and Nathanael in John 1: 45–51.
GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
(John 1:45-48 NIV)
Regardless of the estimate of who Nathanael really is, what is interesting is Jesus’ statement when he saw him: “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47 NIV)
There was a quality within Nathanael that Jesus likes: there is no deceit. No deceit means no guile nor duplicity. This means that everything in Nathanael’s self – his actions, his heart and mind – all are sincere, not acting, and without falsity. What appears on the surface is a reflection of what is in him, without pretense. As what appears in people’s eyes, that’s how he is. Not made up, not hypocritical. Nathanael’s sincerity was the opposite of the condition of the Israelites of that day, especially the scribes and Pharisees, who were only concerned with outward things. On different occasions Jesus criticized them: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV) In the midst of such Israeli conditions, it is not surprising that Jesus called Nathanael as truly Israelite.
No matter how good one’s performance in the human eye, one’s value is not determined by what appears outside because God’s eyes penetrate far to the bottom of the heart: “…..The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV) God knows every thought and motivation that we don’t even realize. God wants whatever we do, more than just because we care what people say. God wants us to do our best not because we just carry out our obligations, even more than just professionalism. Let us not do something just because of politeness, especially if there is a hidden purpose.
Proverbs 23: 7 is a real example of insincerity: For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior—one who manipulates]. He says to you, “Eat and drink,” Yet his heart is not with you [but it is begrudging the cost]. (AMP version) This verse also serves as a reminder for us to be careful of kindness and hospitality accompanied by hidden intentions, as well as a warning to ourselves so that we do everything with a pure heart. God wants us to live without falsehood and not hypocrisy. A life that is in harmony between heart, mind, words, deeds. A piety without pretense. Life isn’t just good on “packaging”, but really beautiful and fragrant. This quality isn’t produced overnight, but is the result of spiritual discipline and consistency to continually decide life with a sincere and pure heart before God.
EASY TO BELIEVE IN GOD
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
(John 1:48-49 NIV)
Nathanael was surprised how Jesus could know him even though they had never met before. Shortly after hearing Jesus’ answer “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you”, Nathanael gave a spontaneous statement that showing his belief in who Jesus is: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (John 1:49). Look, how easy for Nathanael to trust Jesus, even though Nathanael had made a skeptical statement when Philip told him about Jesus of Nazareth. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46 NIV).
Nathanael is an example of how people who are with no deceit will easily to believe in God because his heart is sincere and pure before God. Why is it sometimes difficult for us to believe in God? One of the causes is because we are not truly sincere and pure towards God. Unconsciously we still have a hidden agenda and veiled motivation for God. We don’t come to God with ” as we really are “. Often it is hidden deep in the heart, but God who sees the heart knows everything. Therefore, allow God to investigate and justify our hearts, straighten out and show our mistakes, so that there is no obstacle between us and God. Let the psalmist’s prayer before this omniscient Lord also be our prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139:23-24 NIV)
SEE GREATER THINGS THAN BEFORE
Jesus said, “You believe[h] because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
(John 1:50-51 NIV)
Living with no deceit will make us uncomplicated in trusting God and easier to follow God’s guidance because we believe in Him. Walking in God’s guidance will lead us to greater things, as Jesus promised to Nathanael: “You will see greater things than that”. Larger things aren’t just about miracles, God’s help, blessings, promotions, and things like that. Much bigger than all of that is the knowledge of God. Jesus said to Nathanael: “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” This is similar to Jacob’s dream at Bethel in Gen. 28:12, but this time with a special revelation regarding the Son of Man. Previously Nathanael acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God but Jesus stated that He is the Son of Man, as prophesied in Daniel 7:1-14. This equipped Nathanael’s understanding of Jesus. When we read the rest of the story, Nathanael was one of those who saw Jesus when He appeared on the shore of the lake of Tiberias after His resurrection in John 21:2.
It is a gift to be allowed to know God personally, because in fact we will not be able to know God if He doesn’t reveal Himself to us. If at this time we can trust and know God, it is because the Holy Spirit has placed the seeds of faith in our hearts. This is Paul’s statement that understands how valuable the knowledge of God is:
But whatever former things were gains to me [as I thought then], these things [once regarded as advancements in merit] I have come to consider as loss [absolutely worthless] for the sake of Christ [and the purpose which He has given my life]. But more than that, I count everything as loss compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord [and of growing more deeply and thoroughly acquainted with Him—a joy unequaled]. For His sake I have lost everything, and I consider it all garbage, so that I may gain Christ (Phillipians 3:7-8 AMP)
Believing and knowing Christ is the most valuable thing in life. Without Christ we will be lost, aimless, and unsaved. Therefore let us faithfully follow Christ. Let’s keep living in sincerity and true piety with no deceit, so that we become people who are easily formed by God and obey Him. By continuing to believe and live in His guidance we will increasingly know Him and experience greater things with Him in all areas of our lives. Amen.
By: Sella Irene – Beautiful Words
Photo Credit: Google Images (Edit with: pixlr app)