Seeing God’s Heart

picture of autmn leaves with hidden stereogram of a three dimensional heart

Can you see the hidden 3-D image?

Do you remember these stereogram three-dimensional images that were popular back in the 90’s?  They’re a lot of fun!

I used to have a calendar with a new image for each day.  I started each work day by viewing the new image.  We even had a custom 3-D image created of our company logo for the back of our product catalog.

Can you see the three-dimensional image hidden in this picture?
If you need help, this website discusses how to view a stereogram.  They also explain how stereogram images work. 
If you haven’t seen the three-dimensional image yet, be patient and keep trying.  You’ll know when you see it.  It is a 3-D valentine that sort of pops right out at you, once you’ve got the right focal distance.
I see the 3-D images best by holding it close to my face and intentionally focusing past the page, looking deep into the picture.  My most frequent mistake is not looking deep enough…staying too shallow and focusing on the details of the two-dimensional pattern rather than seeing the three-dimensional image revealed within the pattern.
We often make the same mistake in reading and interpreting scripture.  We focus on the details of legalistic rules and completely miss seeing the heart of God on a given topic.
We come to the Bible with our own preconceptions, asking legalistic questions, looking for lists of rules of do’s and don’t’s and exception clauses.  And…we find exactly what we’re looking for…while completely missing the real message…
As long as we are focused on the details of the rules, we cannot see past the rules.  Worse, we sometimes see rules even where there aren’t any.
The autumn leaves in this stereogram are a pattern established for the purpose of revealing the deeper image of the three-dimensional heart.  Once focused on the 3-D image, the foreground pattern is still clearly seen, but now in its proper perspective.
In the same way, the rules of behavior provided in scripture are a pattern established for the purpose of revealing God’s nature.  As we draw closer to God’s heart, we can still clearly see the rules of behavior, but now in their proper perspective.
We must learn to look past the rules to the godly principles that govern the rules.  Then we must look deeper still, past the principles to the character of God from whom the godly principles proceed.
As long as we are focused on the details of the rules, we will never look past the rules to see the heart of God!
This doesn’t mean we should disregard the details of scripture.  On the contrary, we must study the details closely in order to see the pattern that allows us to gaze deeper, to discern the heart of God.
This is the fundamental message of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3: 23-26)
Through the rules, the heart of God is revealed, by faith in Him.  The purpose of the rules are to lead us into fellowship with God. 
If Jesus had focused on the rules of the Levitical Law, He would have handed over the woman caught in adultery to be stoned to death.  Looking past the rules to see the heart of God, He, instead, offered her grace.
In my post titled Asking the Right Questions, I used one specific passage about marriage and divorce to illustrate how focusing on legalistic rules can cause us to completely miss God’s heart as revealed in a given passage.
Similarly, our various churches and denominations often become so focused on our own specific understanding of the proper procedures for baptism and communion that we miss the heart of God for unity within the body of Christ.
What are some other areas people miss God’s heart through focusing on rules?

34 thoughts on “Seeing God’s Heart

  1. “We focus on the details of legalistic rules and completely miss seeing the heart of God on a given topic.”

    Yes! I agree.

    What an interesting analogy as I have 2 books of these Magic Eye things. I’ll never be able to look at them again without thinking of how I view scriptures.

    Blessings to you today.

    • Ah, a fellow enthusiast! Stereograms are so fun, aren’t they?

      And, yes, that “Aha” moment when the stereogram image suddenly pops into focus does remind me of those epiphanic moments, when the Holy Spirit opens my eyes to a deeper understanding of God’s heart on a given topic.

      Blessings to you, Duane!

  2. Yes, yes, yes. We miss the forest for the trees when we nitpick scriptures to find those rules instead of seeing that they’re meant to lead us to Jesus.

    I love this:
    “We must learn to look past the rules to the godly principles that govern the rules. Then we must look deeper still, past the principles to the character of God from whom the godly principles proceed.”

    I could never get the right perspective on the picture; will have to follow the link now. 🙂 I’m so awful at finding hidden things. ha. (I was never good at those sections in Highlights magazines at the dentist office.)

    • “we nitpick scriptures to find those rules”

      An apt description, Lisa! And yes, in so doing, we miss the forest for the trees.

      The stereograms can be hard to see the first time, but are usually pretty easy once you figure out what works for you. I hope the magic eye website helps you view it. They are really pretty cool once you figure them out!

      Blessings to you, my friend!

    • I picked out that very same sentence, Lisa! Wonderful insights, Joe. I’ve always had trouble seeing those 3d images. I think I need to go visit that how-to link! So thankful that I have all the instructions I need to meet with God 🙂

  3. Very cool, Joe. GREAT analogy. We had a book of those in the 1990s, but I haven’t seen it for years. I should see if I could find that, to share with my girls. Thank you for linking, Joe. I am inspired by your creative approaches to sharing our faith.

    • I just love finding new ways to see His glory…

      …which lead to finding new ways to share His glory!

      I bet your kids will get a kick out of your stereogram book. We used to have one that told a story, but I couldn’t find it when I looked the other night. I’ll have to dig around the attic to see if it’s in storage…

      Thank you, Jennifer!

  4. Very interesting and well-delivered analogy. Unfortunately, I am not yet able to see the embedded image. Certainly not by lack of effort. Which, I know, is not a very inspiring parallel toward my journey through the bible. However, the “spirit” of the message is received. Which I assume is the point regardless. Sometimes, our preconceived notions and expectations can create somewhat of a barricade . It is good to try and keep an open mind. Even when things do not make sense right away, when approached from a different angle or view, they eventually might. Sometimes, you just have to take a deeper look. An idea that can pretty much be applied to life itself.

    • Oh, man! I hate you couldn’t see the 3-D image.

      Oh, well, sounds like the message still made sense without it, which is the more important part.

      Yes, I agree that the same concept, of a need to look deeper, can be applied to many areas of life.

      Blessings to you, Nowhere Man!

  5. Very good post. I think legalism and rules are the main reasons why so many people are turned off by the church. And probably why “non-denominational” churches are becoming so popular. Thanks for the insight.

    • Yes, I agree, Christa.

      Holding people to the letter of the law is a major turn-off from church. Even well-intended comments can come across as overbearing or judgmental, when rooted in a legalistic paradigm.

      Nor are non-denominational churches immune from becoming too focused on legalistic rules to see the heart of God. Freedom from traditions does not prevent being bound by a specific pastor’s vision and understanding of scripture.

      Blessings to you!

  6. Well, Joe, God certainly did have us on the same lesson this week! So you know my answer to your question is my post for yesterday (
    BTW, I love stereograms. Used some to introduce a Bible study on Ecclesiastes from a shifting focus. Interestingly, I can see the 3D images better since my vision has worsened. Somehow I could look beyond the details more effectively.
    (Also a note for anyone having trouble viewing the images. Printing it out might help.)

    • Sylvia, I loved your play-by-play description of seeing the heart of God’s message in Colossians come into focus!

      I can so relate…and absolutely love when The Holy Spirit opens my eyes to see beyond the rules to God’s heart!

      BTW, I did one of Kay Arthur’s Precepts studies on Colossians a few years ago, and loved it! Lots of depth in that little epistle!

    • Thank you, Joanne!

      I love learning to see things from a new perspective…especially biblical truths.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. There are so many ways you could go with this lesson. For most (me included) its so easy to see the “problems” and we miss the diagnosis because we stop with an aspirin treatment. But I don’t think even a half decent doctor would treat a heart attack with only an aspirin.

    Only when we look beyond the surface do we see the real truth… And “the truth will set you free” is just the surface. It’s the only thing that will set you free!

    Thanks Joe, and I hope you received my email earlier this week.

    • Ah, you’ve taken the concept a completely different direction, Michael. Good point!

      Yes, we often focus on sinful behavior, failing to see past the behavior to the selfish, broken heart, in need of renewal by The Holy Spirit.

      Thanks for the perspective!

      And, yes, I did get your e-bulletin, and am praying that God will guide and direct Erin and you in the next step of your journey.

      God bless!

  8. What an insightful post. What you describe is why the Bible stands the test of time – it is so much more than a list of rules! The more I read the same passages over and over again, the more that is revealed about God’s heart and the way he wants us to live. I agree that yes, there are rules, but it also about faith and trusting and loving others. Thanks for making me think deeper today.

    • “What you describe is why the Bible stands the test of time – it is so much more than a list of rules!”

      Yes, so much more! It is God’s revelation of Himself to us. And, yes, that revelation seems to become richer and deeper with each reading.

      Thank you, Courtney!

  9. Never been a rule follower, just a grace lover and desperate for truth, not rules to live by. Maybe we read the bible through the lens of our own experience and interpret it as rules or a way to live. We have a choice. I choose grace.

    • “Maybe we read the bible through the lens of our own experience…”

      Yes, I think so…

      Sometimes, that’s a good thing. It’s how God speaks to us, through His word, in our individual circumstances and personalities.

      However, when it blinds us to seeing a deeper truth, or having grace for our neighbor, it causes problems.

      Shelly, I love your last sentence, “I choose grace.”

      God bless!

  10. You always get me thinking when I visit here:) We tend to run our life by rules, thinking if we do all the right things, our life will be filled with blessing and prosperity. Jesus called us to another way, the way if grace, service, and sacrifice. Great post!

    • “We tend to run our life by rules, thinking if we do all the right things, our life will be filled with blessing and prosperity.”

      I agree, Christina. In fact, I think much of what is taught in most churches tends to promote this viewpoint (whether intentional or not).

      We can only keep up that charade for so long, before we fall flat on our face with no explanation for how we got there…and have to look a bit deeper for answers…

      Thank you for the insightful discussion!

  11. This is such a powerful analogy and comparison, Joe. I agree that we do get caught up on the details–the laws–of God’s Word and miss His deeper meanings and His Love that sits at the foundation of all of His truths. Such great gems that you’ve mined for us here today! Thanks so much!

  12. This is a wonderful object lesson. How many times do we look on the surface of things, when He looks to the heart. Thank you for inspiring me to look deeper…

    • “How many times do we look on the surface of things, when He looks to the heart.”

      All too often, myself included. Looking deeper requires letting go of familiar paradigms…not an easy thing…

      Thank you, KD!

  13. Joseph, wow! Amazing insights into the heart of God, and complete with a visual!
    Recently I was under a dark cloud for weeks. So grieved over fellow believer’s inability to see, to hear, to understand, and to look beyond the superficial. One evening in my prayer closet the revelation came suddenly. I was surrounded by the blind and deaf, those who are led by rules instead of the Holy Spirit. I understood that the grief I felt was more than just my own; it was the Lord’s grief.
    After reading this, I now feel in good company. Not so alone anymore.

    • Yes, rules make a very poor substitute for relationship…yet we seem so eager, sometimes, to pursue the rules. It truly is blindness…

      Thank you, Debra, for your prayers and your heart for God!

    • Hey, Michelle! I’m glad you got to see it, if only for a minute…hope the headache didn’t last.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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