Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes recently reported on a puzzling disorder called face blindness. People with face blindness cannot recognize the faces of other people – celebrities, friends, parents, and even themselves. One man described apologizing to himself in a mirror, because he thought that his reflection was someone else. It’s a terribly sad problem; imagine not being able to recall the faces of your loved ones in your mind’s eye, or the anxiety you’d feel walking into any social setting. Who do you or don’t you know? Stahl even told the story of one super-recognizer, a person who never forgets a face she sees. She can look at pictures of celebrities as children and recognize them, even if she first saw them in their sixties! All of this talk about facial recognition got me wondering about something else: how does God see me?
Well there’s lots of Bible passages we could look at to see how God sees us,
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:13)
For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. (Job 34:21)
The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. (Ps 33:13-15)
… For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7)
These verses frighten me. Even though I can recognize the faces of my loved ones, I cannot see their actual heart toward me. God sees what no human can see: our heart’s desires, motives, loves and thoughts. In fact, God cares primarily not about outward appearances, but about the character of our hearts. He knows whether our love for him is steadfast (and he only works out things for the good of those who love him steadfastly) (2 Chron. 16:29, Rom. 8:28-29).
God sees into my hearts more truly than I can and this terrifies me because my heart is not a pretty picture. My desires are as turbulent as an easterly; my motives are darker than shadows. I find myself crying out with the psalmist, “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3). If God sees me as I really am, then my eternal plight is helpless. I cannot fool God. He knows that I deserve judgment, wrath, anger and the punishment of hell for my sins.
This is why the cross is such good news. You see, Christ’s death for our sins doesn’t merely patch up our sinful nature (which wouldn’t fool God’s piercing gaze), his death destroys our sinful nature and makes us brand new. This is why Paul writes that if you trust Christ, then “you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).
If you trust Jesus, then your old ugly sinful self died with Christ on the cross. Your true self is clothed with his righteousness, so that when God looks on you, he doesn’t see your old filthy rags, he sees the righteousness of his own son. The prophet Isaiah rejoiced that God “clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Is. 61:10).
This is why God calls us his adopted sons and daughters (Rom. 8:16). He does not look on us with disgust and disappointment, but looks on us with love and delight in his eyes, just as a father delights in his child. Understanding this is key to our faith; it’s why Jesus starts his prayer “Our father”. It’s what gives my heart confidence when I come to God. That’s how God sees me.