Things Aren't Always As They Appear

Introduction

I have learned that things aren’t always as they appear.  This is especially true when dealing with human behavior and human relationships.  We humans are very complex beings and appearances typically do not tell you all that is going on.  It is easy to look at someone and prejudge them based on those appearances.  However, those appearances could have a whole different meaning then what we are familiar with, which would make our presuppositions incorrect.

I found the following story on the Internet as I was looking for illustrations for the topic of this discussion (http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=30756&ContributorID=1335).

Ridgecrest is a large Baptist-run assembly ground, nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. All summer long, every year, thousands of Christians come to Ridgecrest for training, inspiration, Bible study, and challenge.

A few years ago, during a conference, people began to notice a man hanging around the grounds. He did not look like he had just stepped out of your typical Sunday School class. His clothes were tattered and torn; they looked like something even the Salvation Army would throw away. His face had not been visited by a razor for a long time. His shoes could best be described by the title of Hymn No. 2 in the book – “Holy, Holy, Holy”! And worst of all, there was the BO. You know about BO? Let’s just say that when you got close, you did not get a whiff of Chanel No. 5. This young man was clearly “not one of us”, not the kind of person you normally see at Christian campgrounds.

What did he do? Not much, really. He did not approach anyone. He did not harass anybody. He did not ask for money. He mostly just hung around. When chapel services were held, he would walk across the front and sit down. When classes were under way, he would lie down on the grassy slopes nearby. And when meals were being served, he would stand on the dining hall porch, not far from the long lines of people clutching their meal tickets. No begging, no demands, just standing around.

At the end of the week they announced that there would be a special speaker for the closing service, and that he would speak on the theme, “Inasmuch as you have not done it unto one of the least of these, you have not done it unto me.” They promised that the audience would truly remember this message. The hymns were sung, the prayers were prayed, the choir sang, and the special speaker approached the podium. Who do you think was that special speaker? Who brought that memorable message?

That scruffy young man! That hangaround bum with the worn-out clothing, the messy beard, and the offensive BO! It turns out that he was a young pastor who had been asked to play a part by the organizers of the conference. And his message stung as he said to the crowd, “No one tried to include me in anything. No one asked me if I needed help. No one invited me to the dining hall. No one sat down to listen to my story. A few put religious tracts into my hand. One or two pulled out a dollar bill and gave it to me. But most of you turned your eyes and pretended not to see me. My appearance offended you, and you left me out.”

How many times have you prejudged someone based on their appearances?  How many times do you think you ostracized someone merely based on what you saw?  What about the other side of the coin so to speak?  How many times were you prejudged by someone based on appearances or what portrait someone else painted of you?

We are going to discuss the illusion that appearances expose and how this could adversely affect relationships and the decision making process.  I hope that you would come to know that you cannot rely on appearances as a definite source of reliable information about a person or anything else.  We are already aware of this fact, but for some reason we tend to abandon that knowledge in certain situations.  We are going to start our discussion with Samuel who presupposed a king for Israel based on appearances.

Samuel’s False Impression

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 Samuel 16:1 (NKJV) -- {1} Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

Here God told Samuel that He had chosen a king.  Note that the Lord says that he provided himself a king.  This is very interesting considering that God did not want to give the people a king, but instead wanted to be their king personally.  Here the Lord conceded to give them a king as they had requested (See 1 Samuel 8).

1 Samuel 16:2-3 (NKJV) -- {2} And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ {3} Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”

Now this is very interesting.  First we see that Samuel was human indeed and was concerned about his safety in obeying the Lord.  One would think that Samuel would not have been concerned about Saul because he would have been doing what the Lord commanded and therefore could assume a degree of safety and protection.  However, his concern was evident because he feared that Saul would try to kill him if he went to the new king that God had chosen.

What is even more interesting is God’s response to Samuel’s concerns.  The Lord didn’t say not to fear for He would be with him or something like that.  He didn’t admonish Samuel for doubting Him.  Instead the Lord told Samuel to say that he had come to sacrifice to the Lord.  Of course Samuel really was going to sacrifice, but he didn’t say why he had come to sacrifice.  So of course Samuel would not be lying because he technically would be sacrificing.

1 Samuel 16:4-5 (NKJV) -- {4} So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” {5} And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

So Samuel went and did what the Lord told him to do.  He consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.  Now the next thing that happens is very interesting in regards to our topic of discussion.

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NKJV) -- {6} So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” {7} But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Eliab’s appearance was so impressive or daunting that Samuel thought for sure that he was the king that God had chosen.  However, God rejected him.  It is also a good thing that Samuel checked with God before anointing Eliab as king based on his presupposition.

We also see here that God does not look at things the way we do.  We look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart, i.e., what’s on the inside.

1 Samuel 16:8-10 (NKJV) -- {8} So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” {9} Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” {10} Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.”

Samuel went through all of the sons of Jesse that were present, but the Lord had not chosen any of them to be king.  Again I think it is important to note that Samuel waited for God’s approval before anointing any of the sons of Jesse.  He then asked Jesse if there were any more sons.  After all, why would the Lord send him to anoint a son of Jesse when all of the sons were rejected up to that point?

1 Samuel 16:11-13 (NKJV) -- {11} And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” {12} So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” {13} Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

Samuel found the one that the Lord selected to be king.  However, note the reaction when David came into sight.  The Bible says that the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!”  There was excitement here.  Now I’d also like to point out that what the Lord said does not appear as though it was audible.  Perhaps Samuel heard it within him or that is the impression (feeling) that he had when he saw David.  That is a lesson for us in recognizing the voice of the Lord.  Do you hear shouting sometimes when you are seeking the Lord’s direction?  Well that is the topic for another discussion.  Let’s continue on with this topic now.

Outward Appearances

I think it is human nature to be superficial.  We tend to look at things based on its surface.  We tend to judge people based on superficial encounters.  In general, we tend to judge things and make decisions about things with little to no real information about that thing.

How many of you would purchase a car just because of the color or because it had shiny bumpers?  Yet there are many people that probably did that.  I know of at least one person that purchased an automobile like that.  We judge people by our first impression of that person.  I do not believe in first impressions personally.  I believe that we should take the time to get to know someone before we judge them.  We may judge an activity as good or bad, but we can’t judge the individual based on one act or a first impression.

We should be very careful in regards to judging people.  Besides it’s not our responsibility or duty to judge someone.

Matthew 7:1-2 (NKJV) -- {1} “Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

Now this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make decisions based on whatever we have.  It does mean that we should not judge the character of people as though it’s our duty or obligation.  Our duty is to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ and not to determine if they are going to heaven or hell.

The story given previously is a good example of what we do when we judge.  Many people that could be helped are ostracized.  We judge categorize people based on the clothes that they have on or how they speak not knowing what is really behind it all.  I recall a story about a young man that experienced first hand the presuppositions of church folk.

A minister in a church that I used to attend was once a hood rat so to speak.  He used to drink and hang out like some of the guys you see on the corners all of the time now.  He ended up in a church one day and was touched by the Holy Spirit.  The minister asked people to come up to the prayer line for prayer.  Everyone was prayed for except him.  He was left standing there.  He was neglected.  The others were taken to the back room to discuss salvation, but he was not.  You can imagine the pain, hurt, and anger that arose in this young man.  You can imagine his distrust and animosity for the church after that.

Well fortunate for him God is not limited to church or religious institutions.  This minister said that God met him while he was watching television.  He said that he had a beer in one hand and marijuana in the other if I remember correctly (or it was a cigarette).  Anyway, he accepted Christ alone in his own room that evening.  There were no church people around to judge him.  There were no people around to neglect or ostracize him.  God met him where he was, which was a good thing.

The people prejudged him as a hoodlum.  I can’t say for sure what they could have been thinking of to leave someone standing at a prayer line for salvation.  After all, those are the people we should reach, namely those who are in the world and are looking for a way out.  Anyway, this man came to Christ and became a very effective youth minister at a church in Delaware that I used to attend.

This goes to show that we should not prejudge anyone merely on their appearance.  We should not ostracize anyone based on outward appearances.  We should be open to build relationships and learn who people really are.

The Inward Truth

I think that it is worth noting here that we tend to look at ourselves the same way.  We tend to prejudge ourselves based on our past not really knowing what is on the inside.  I have learned that there are many reasons that people do the things that they do.  I have learned that there are many traps out there that could snare a person and hold them captive in various habits, behaviors, or activities.  You never really know what a person is battling in their lives so it would behoove us to not judge that person merely because of what he or she does.

The activity may be sin, but we need to understand what is going on within.  We also should be aware that inside of that person could be goldmine that has not had the opportunity to show itself.  A person stuck on drugs may have great leadership abilities, but those talents are never manifested because they are suppressed by the bad habit.  People have various skills and talents that are held captive by a bad habit or addiction.  Again, we should not judge anyone for those reasons.  If a person is addicted to something then we should only deal with that.  We should not allow ourselves to judge the character of that person because the character of the person may be hidden under layers of pain and suffering, which paved the addictive path for them.

I think that many people would be protected from bad habits and addictions if they only had someone to talk to without the fear of being judged.  Who can you go to talk about your deepest pains?  Who can you discuss the war that goes on inside of you every day?  Many of us would have to answer no one because we are afraid of being judged wrongly.  We are afraid that people won’t understand.

I believe for example that there are probably many homosexuals that don’t want to be homosexuals or people with sexual addictions that want to be free.  However, they can’t talk to anyone and they surely can’t go to the church because they are certain of being judged and ostracized.  We judge someone because he or she has abnormal sexual preferences or thoughts, not really knowing what is going on inside of that person.  That person could be the most loyal person you could have by your side.  That person could be the greatest accounting mind on the planet.  That person could have great leadership abilities, etc.  However, they are trapped by their addiction or thoughts and have no where to turn.  They don’t have the confidence that they could go to the church and obtain help because in their minds the church will judge them and in many cases have already done so.

The inward truth is the real person.  Strip away all of the traps that have them imprisoned and you will come to the real character of the person.  You can’t look at a person high on drugs and say that he is no good.  He may very well be a nice person, but stuck on an addiction that he or she may not know how to get out of.  The character of the person is hidden under layers of stuff.

We should therefore realize that under the layers of things that have you preoccupied in your life is the real you.  Under all of the issues that you fight each day is the person that God made you.  Don’t be confused by the outward appearances and its effects with the real you.  You are not a summation of your activities unless you allow yourself to be.  You are who God made you.  You have gifts, skills, and a purpose even though they may be trapped under layers of illusions.

The real you, that is, the inward truth, is there.  Embrace it and strive to be it.  I am reminded here of what the Lord said to the Hebrews at one point.

Leviticus 11:44 (NKJV) -- {44} For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

God said for them to be holy because He is holy.  They were to consecrate themselves (dedicate themselves for service, be separate).  They therefore could be holy.  It wasn’t something that they could never achieve.  However, the Lord told them how to be holy though at that time they were not.  The same applies to us today.  Learn to look for the real person.  Learn to look for the real you.  That will make victories more possible and it will surely keep you from being snared by the traps of guilt and presuppositions.

This is not to suggest in any way at all that we should neglect our sins.  However, we should realize that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory.  Your sins are not who you are unless indeed you have rejected Jesus Christ and refuse the truth.  Then you have chosen the sin nature.  However, if you truly are seeking for the Lord or your have already come to Christ then you should realize that your sins are forgiven and that you are not judged based on your sins.  Of course this does not mean that we should just go and sin as much as we want either.  That is a topic for another discussion (See Romans chapters 4 – 8).

Application

Let’s apply what we have learned here to situations in our lives.  Don’t judge a church because of your experiences in past churches.  Don’t judge ministers because of your experiences with those in the past.  Discern based on information that you really have.  If you want someone to do work in your house then you would like to see similar work the contractor has done in someone else’s house.  You want real data.

Don’t judge a person based on what someone has told you. Learn for yourself or don’t consider the information at all.  People may have a very good reason why they did something even if the reason is very wrong.  There could very well be a story behind anything that we or anyone else does regardless of how bad we think it may be.  This doesn’t mean that we should condone bad behavior or sin.  It does mean that we should deal with the person and not merely activities or manifestations of what is going on on the inside.

Samuel judged by outward appearances just as we all do.  However, we need to look on the inside.  We shouldn’t look at people and make conclusions about them merely on superficiality.  We should know the truth as much as we can and make decisions based on that truth.  We should learn the truth about an organization, a church, or whatever before we judge them.

Likewise, we should know the truth about God and His Kingdom before we blame Him for the things that happen to us and around us.  We should develop a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord and that relationship should transcend situations.

Know the Truth because things aren’t always as they appear.  Appearances lead to presuppositions, which take us away from the truth of others and even ourselves.  Amen.

 


Things Aren’t Always What They Appear To Be:
Presupposition by Appearances
By Pastor William R. Cunningham
July 2, 2006