Keep Your Eyes On Jesus
We’re called to a radical life.
This is a life in which we’re called to follow someone we’ve never seen. We’ve heard about him but we’ve never seen him with our own eyes. We’ve ‘believed the report’, the good message about who Jesus is and why he came, and our hearts have been convicted to follow him. And even though we haven’t seen him, we love him.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” – 1 Peter 1:8, ESV
The Redemptive Power Of His Sacrifice
We have come to realise that, without Jesus, we are nothing more than ‘dead men walking’.
We’re reminded of the story of the serpent placed on the pole during Israel’s wilderness wanderings (Numbers 21). Their criticism of God and His way brought a plague of poisonous snakes throughout the camp. Moses was told to place a copper snake on a pole for all to see and anyone who fixed their gaze on that serpent on the pole would be healed and live.
A snake on a pole has come to represent medicinal healing throughout the medical world today and we can, of course, see the redemptive symbol in this story for our Christian lives. The bronze serpent is the clearest type of the saving work of Jesus. Jesus himself used this symbol to appeal to the people in his day (John 3:14). Like the serpent, Jesus was to be raised on a stake for all to see, and all those who looked to his redemptive sacrifice would live.
We fix our gaze on Jesus, crucified, believing in the power contained in his name and though we are dying, yet we live! Death no longer has the final say.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” -1 Corinthians 15:-20-23, NIV
Believing And Becoming In Jesus
Our Christian life starts the moment we turn our eyes to Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord of our heart and our life. But our gaze must never leave him.
The Christian life is one of transformation; of more than just believing, but of becoming, where the impossible is possible. We are able to become more than conquerors through him who loved us.
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”- Romans 8:31-32, 37, ESV
We are learning to follow where Jesus has gone already and we are learning, day by day, to trust him as our good shepherd.
A Leap Of Faith
Living the Christian life is often stepping out into the unknown. It’s often an exercise in surrender, in trust and in faith.
“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, ESV
We look around us and see how things presently are, in this life, and yet we believe that there is more and that we can be more. This belief is underpined by the evidence of the risen Christ. Resurrection, the most unbelievable, incredible event to have possibly happened has happened. When Christians gather together for communion, we celebrate and witness to this remarkable event. The ramification for us as believers is not a small thing: the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in us!
“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 1:19-20, NLT
“And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you.” – Romans 8:11, BSB
Jesus promised his followers that he would be with them, even to the end of the world. This is his promise to us. Sometimes he will lead us through fire and across water, through deep valleys and up high mountains. There is no promise that the Christian life will always be easy but he promises he will never leave us or forsake us.
Some of you may be feeling the heat of those flames. Or perhaps you feel like your feet are sinking and you’re going to drown. Raise your eyes and fix them on Jesus! He goes before us, he stands beside us, every day of this Christian life.
Faith Is Learning From History
We learn a lot from the story of Israel and their exodus from Egypt. When the children of Israel were delivered out of slavery, that moment only signalled the beginning of a journey of faith. And almost immediately, they were brought to the edge of the ocean, with churning water ahead of them and the enemy hard at their heels. There was no way forward and no way back. And then, suddenly, a miracle was performed and God parted the ocean before them – a way out – seemingly impossible but clearly visible. They had to make a decision of faith – to step into that path cut through the ocean and cross through to the other side. Moses, their leader, spoke boldly in this moment:
“Don’t be afraid, stand firm and watch God do His work for you.”
Some of us may be in that moment right now, afraid of what is behind us and unable to see a path ahead of us. Sometimes, the step of faith involves standing still and watching God go to work for us. Sometimes, faith asks us to step out into the unknown.
We have the story in Matthew 14:24-31 of Peter being called by Jesus to step out of the boat and onto the churning water. And we realise from reading this story that sometimes faith asks us to step out of the boat, out of the place where it feels comfortable and relatively safe and into the dark and churning ocean. In those moments, too, we must not lower our gaze. Faith will keep us afloat, fear will sink us.
We must look for Jesus and keep looking for Jesus. He is the good shepherd, who laid his life down for the sheep, and, like the Psalmist, we can confidently say,
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus
How do we keep our eyes on Jesus? How do we ‘follow him’ and keep him front and foremost in our minds, day by day?
We need to make him real! We need to learn about him, discover what kind of leader he is, read about his character, his personality, his emotions. We need to talk to him, tell him our struggles and our fears. We need to ask for his courage to be ours. We need to invest in relationship with him; deep and personal and transformational.
We need to be reminded and convicted in our hearts that he is not just our personal saviour and friend, but the resurrected King, in whom all power rests and with whom all things are possible!
When we come together as church, we are reminded that the church was born from the sacrifice of a man who, while we were yet sinners, died for us. Who, for the joy that was before him, endured the cross. And whose resurrection assures us that the best is still yet to come.
“The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God – “Jesus is my Master” -embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what He did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting Him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between Him and me!” Scripture reassures us, “No one who trusts God like this – heart and soul – will ever regret it.” – Romans 10-10-13, MSG