By faith we understand and by grace we see

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. —Hebrews 11:1-3

John Piper, in a sermon “What Faith Knows and Hopes For”

3D hidden imageHere is an analogy at the physical level. A few years ago one of the rages was hidden 3-D images. These are pieces of art that, on one level, are one thing, but at another level are something quite different. At first glance all you see is the surface presentation. But if you let your eyes focus more deeply, or more distantly, you may see a train or a boxing kangaroo or a globe not only appearing, but actually standing up off the page. Now some people stare at these pages for several minutes and see nothing but color and chaos. But others almost immediately see the head of Beethoven or a lamb. If someone says, “How do you know a lamb is there?” the answer is, “I see it.” Your seeing is the evidence. They may not see it, but that won’t change your mind.

Now this is what it is like for some to look at God’s creation. Some see color and chaos. Others have a deeper view and suddenly God’s fingerprints come into focus. What evidence can they offer? They see it. It is as undoubted as a lamb in a 3-D image. No one can talk you out of it.

You may ask, “Should that be called faith?” Didn’t Paul say (in 2 Corinthians 5:7), “We walk by faith and not by sight”? How can faith be “sight”? Paul meant that Christ is not present physically on earth to see with physical eyes, but is in heaven. He did not mean that there is no spiritual perception of God’s reality. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the conviction – or better, the evidence – of things not seen.” And then the writer illustrates this in verse 3 when he says that “we understand by faith” that God created the world. In other words, faith is not just a responding act of the soul; it is also a grasping or perceiving or understanding act. It is a spiritual act that sees the fingerprints of God. This does not mean that you believe them into being. That would be wishful thinking – the power of positive thinking. That is not authentic faith. Real faith is based on real Truth. It looks deeply at the world God has made – looks through it, so to speak – and by the grace of God, it sees the glory of God (as Psalm 19:1 says) standing forth off the creation like a 3-D image.

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