We all have friends that don't know God, and if you are like me, you have thought, "If only God would appear before them, then they would believe." I have even prayed that God would show himself to them. So it drives the question:
Why doesn't God show himself?
Why does he hide?
Interestingly, this question was asked directly of Jesus.
(John 14:22) Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
This question doesn't only appear in the Bible.
Richard Dawkins, the most famous of atheists, was asked what would he say if he got to heaven and found out there was a God. He said that the following would be his defense:
I'd quote Bertrand Russell: "Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence."
It is a question asked yesterday, today and tomorrow, "Where are you God?"
Perhaps you didn't know this question is found in the Bible. Perhaps you didn't know that Jesus was asked this question. So before you read any farther, why don't you try and think about what you think Jesus's answer will look like.
Now let's see how it is answered in the rest of the story in John.
23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
When I first read the above, I thought to myself that this isn't much of an answer. I couldn't even see how it answered the question.
Judas is asking "why don't you show yourself." Jesus doesn't answer this question, but he goes off on a tangent about how people that love him will obey him. Then people that obey him, will have a life with God.
However, if God comes to live with you, then he does show himself. The essence of what Christ is saying is "if you want to see God, it will happen by loving and obeying me." Okay, so this tells us how a Christian sees God, but it still doesn't answer the question as to why he doesn't reveal to the non-Christian. After all, if he wants us to become Christians, shouldn't he reveal himself to us?
The truth is that God does not show his face to many people on this earth. And even if God does show himself, we have a tendency not to see him.
Now, this might not make sense at first blush, but you need to go back and read the previous post on perceptual blindness. The problem, with the way that we are wired, is that we can't see what we don't want to see. If we are looking at other things in this world, we are going to have a difficult time seeing God.
Now, God could make himself known to us, even if we didn't want to see him. He could be big. He could be obvious. He could be God. If God wanted to, he could make himself known so that we couldn't ignore him. The problem with this is that seeing God, as God really is, is very, very intimidating.
God could come down so hard on you that your knee will bend. You will know that he is God. You will submit. However, submitting is not what saves you or I. God wants us to submit through love, not submit through fear.
I once was at a lecture by the famous Christian sociologist Tony Campolo. He stated that in psychological tests true love only happened if the love was not tied to demonstrations of force. The more that God shows himself to us as all powerful, the more that God is the bright light in front of our eyes, and the irresistible force, the less we will simply love him for who he is. I am a lover of Jesus Christ. If he appear in front of me, I would love him, maybe not as much as I should, but the core is there. A Christian is not somebody that believes in God. A Christian is somebody that loves Christ. I love him for who he his, not what he can do for me.
The problem is that most people believe that salvation is brought by believing in God. This is not correct, although it is an element of salvation. The key to salvation is understanding the greatest commandment as spoke about in the Gospels. Here is the version that Christ tells us in Mark 12:
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."The point of the whole of scriptures in not about you believing. Now, it is impossible to please God without faith, but don't get this wrong. Faith is only a part of the picture.
Believing is not the key as James points out in the second Chapter of his book:
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Think about the above verse. James is very familiar with the Gospels. He know that the greatest commandment says to believe in one God. However, he tears the commandment into two piece: belief and love. Belief without love is useless. The point is to love the Lord your God.
God does not show himself (in person to most people over most centuries) because showing himself does not foster love.
While God does not show himself to everybody, the evidence for God is there. What type of evidence? The answer is given by Paul in Romans 1.
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
God is present, but only in a secondary way. His attributes are seen, but he hides himself. Some of his attributes are clear, but he does not show himself completely.
However, the opposite is not true. If we seek God, we will find him. I am convinced that by reading and meditating on the word of God, you will find God. This is the promise of the New Testament.
In a parable in Luke 16, Jesus tells a story of a man that is being tortured in Hell. To prevent his brothers from coming to Hell, he asks that a resurrected beggar is sent back to warn his brothers. He is told the following:
'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'
If somebody asks you, "I would only believe if God showed himself to me," you need to answer the following fashion:
"God has appeared to some from time to time. We do not know why he does, and we cannot command his performance. If God appeared to you now, you might believe that he exists, but the scriptures teaches that this does not save you. The scriptures tells us that he wants to be loved. The more that God shows himself to you, the more that you'll do what he says, but it is all for the wrong reason.
The Bible tells a wonderful story. If you study that story, you are going to find truth and beauty. I think you will even find enough proof that you'll understand why God does hide from you. Would you be willing to spend a bit of time doing a Bible study with me? I'm pretty sure that if you read the stories, you might even find out Christianity makes sense."