Bible Readings: Heb 1:1-4 with Rom 8:28-30, then 2 Cor 5:14-17
While teaching in Hong Kong last weekend I came into much greater clarity on what it means to be able to “see Jesus” in the everyday circumstances of life. As a Christ-centred experience this “seeing” has nothing to do with intuition or imagination but conforms to Paul’s description in Ephesians, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know….” (Eph 1:18).
Since in scripture “the heart” is the deepest part of a person (Prov 4:23) and the dimension of our humanity God’s Word speaks to, this heart seeing is much more profound than merely receiving mental information ( Heb 4:12).
Today we need a revival of such Spirit-inspired heart seeing (1 Cor 2:13) that we might be inwardly “compelled” to follow what we see in the Lord (2 Cor 5:14).
Christian service in all its forms is about helping others “see” things in their hearts so that they are moved to grow in sharing the ministry of Christ (Eph 4:11-12).
Speaking personally, the overarching goal of the type of ministry I usually exercise is to multiply “the testimony of Jesus” through the Church (Rev 19:10).
Whilst it’s not hard to find prophetic ministries in some parts of the Church today there is a great lack of understanding of what ministry with a biblically informed prophetic edge is all about.
A revival of God’s presence in our nation will not come from Church-centred prophecies but depends on the people of God beginning to “see Jesus” in everything so they can obey and follow him in every part of life.
JESUS IS EVERYWHERE
The New Testament teaches that “all things were made through and for” Jesus and he is the reason, goal and purpose of creation (cf. John 1:3; Col 1:16).
The writer of Hebrews describes Jesus’ active presence in everything; vs.1 “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, vs.2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. vs.3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:1-3).
Whatever we may or may not see with our natural sight Christ is radiating the glory of God into every situation of life in grace or judgement (cf. Isa 6:3; John 12:41). However most Christians I know are deeply confused about God’s sovereign presence in the world.
They love to quote Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”, but usually think of “the good” in terms of some ordinary everyday improvement in their circumstances e.g. better health, financial advancement, improved relationships etc.
And they don’t go on to read how Paul defines “the good” God is working on our behalf; vs.29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. vs.30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-29).
Everything that God has ever planned for you from one end eternity to another is to make you like Jesus (Eph 1:4; 1 John 3:2).
Christ-likeness is the good God is working towards in every circumstance of life and he is working it in exactly the same manner in which he justified and glorified Jesus (Luke 24:26; 1 Tim 3:16).
And we know Jesus reached the goal that the Father had set for his life only through suffering (Phil 2:5-10).
This means that whatever is happening in your life, if you ask the Lord to show you in what way he is working to conform you to the character of Christ, the eyes of your hearts will be spiritually enlightened and spiritual confusion will be taken away.
There is a little difficulty here however, remember how Hebrews described Jesus as “heir of all things”, as Jesus became the inheritor of the universe we are assured, vs.16 “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, vs.17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:16-17). The vision of inheriting the world with Christ is only experienced if we have a willingness to suffer for Jesus in every circumstance (1 Cor 3:21-23).
This is tough stuff but it is never complicated, for in his famous conversation with Nicodemus Jesus promised born again believers would be able to, ““see the kingdom of God”” (John 3:3).
If the promises are so plain why are so many believers short sighted about God’s ways in their own lives (2 Pet 1:9)?
The answer is that the only way to see things as God has always seen them is through the lens of the cross (1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8).
Jesus’ clarity in teaching and the miraculous flowed from his spiritual insight into the heart of the Father; ““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19).
This is where the Lord wants to take us, so that we speak and act from seeing what he is doing. Sometimes however what Jesus saw the Father doing was extremely painful; he said to his band of closest friends, ““Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”” (John 6:70).
On the road of suffering chosen for him by his Father 11 friends would desert him and he had been given a “devil” to betray him. He was able to accept the will of God in such painful things because he knew that they would all lead to the cross as the one way to restore sight to dull-eyed sinners like us
Isaiah spoke prophetically of the experience of the crucified Christ; “Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the LORD?” (Isa 42:19).
Bearing our sin on the cross Jesus must be plunged into the bottomless pit where the will of the Father is completely darkened (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Rev 9:11). “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”” is a genuine cry of total despair when Christ no longer can see the Father and know his will (Mark 15:34).
Such is the cost to God of bearing the blinded eyes of our fallen hearts (Rom 1:22; Eph 4:18).
If the cross meant darkness for Jesus the resurrection brought absolute illumination. He “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim 1:10).
The message that Jesus has translated humanity “from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God” is the message of the gospel (Acts 26:18).
We are so spiritually dull eyed because we have lost faith in the power of the gospel to open our eyes and to keep them open to what God is doing in all the circumstances of life (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 4:3-6)! And as a gospel deprived people other powers are ruling us.
WHAT AREN’T YOU SEEING?
Made for God who made everything very good every human being has a vision for what the “good life” means. When I was an adolescent this meant imagining a high paying job and a sports car that would attract girls (Lotus Elan).
The vision of most Australians is a variation on this fun loving theme.
From Eden on people have made decisions based on what they “see”/envision as good for their future. Adam and Eve started this when they “saw” eating of the tree of knowledge would bring them the good of immortality without the need for God (Gen 3:6).
To put this in a slightly different way, what a person “sees” most intensely and desires most deeply is their “glory”. Desiring something else more than God the first humans lost the glory of God and we have been struggling to see God as he is ever since (Rom 1:22-23; Rom 3:23). Whatever attracts us more than the Lord is an idol.
There is nothing like the power of idolatry to blind and deafen us to spiritual realities.
I fear the dread warning of the psalmists description of idols has come upon many of the people of God, vs.16 “they have eyes, but do not see; vs.17 they have ears, but do not hear… vs.18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them” (Ps 135:16-18 cf. 1 John 5:21).
Anything which grips our hearts more than Jesus does dulls the eyes of our hearts to the vision of Christ; whether the idol is marriage, family, ministry, church, money, sex, comfort, acceptance or whatever .
These popular idols are relatively easy to pick and speak to, but here is a deeper idolatry far more difficult to deal with; in our arrogance we think we are the experts on our own character and conduct.
Our hearts are commonly deceived into believing that we know what sort of people we are, we think we can see our hearts accurately (cf. 1 John 3:20). Confidence in our own self-understanding, whether we reckon ourselves to be wretches or saints, means we become like the deceived in Isaiah, “Walking by the light of our own fire, and by the torches that we have kindled!” (Isa 50:11 cf. Matt 6:23).
Praise the Lord for Jesus our complete deliverer from this dreadful situation, “Wretched man that I am!” says Paul, vs.24 “Who will deliver me from this body of death? vs.25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25).
By faith we see that our sinful flesh has been “crucified with Christ” and is on the way to being glorified (Rom 8:3; Gal 2:20; Phil 3:20-21).
Paul puts this revolution in “seeing” things in Christ in a dramatic and exciting manner; vs.16 “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. vs.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor 5:16-17) Cf. email from a friend seeking counsel about ministry in another country involving a man who had lost count of the number of people he had killed,; all that is past, he has a completely new identity.
The way of the cross is a stumbling block to our ordinary ways of seeing things but it is the only way to see things. Never be ruled by how others see you or how you see yourself. For decades I accepted the label that I was a “shy person”; until the Lord told me that he had never said that about me.
Our sanctified “common sense” understanding of who we are and how we should live must be put to death many times so that we can see the Lord’s presence in all that has ever happened and will ever happen to us. (1 Cor 1:23).
Accepting the seemingly weak and foolish ways of the humble Son of God is the key to seeing Jesus in your life again and again. This will involve losing every ambition you have, however seemingly good, so that only one ambition remains.
I have desired to be various things since I met Jesus; a scientist, a resident theologian, a revival preacher, but my own wisdom and vision has always proved destructive.
Many Christians have very fine ambitions, like to marry and have a family, but this might not be God’s means to reveal Jesus to them.
Paul puts all this concisely; vs.7 “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. vs.8 Indeed, I count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ….I make it my ambition to preach the gospel” (Phil 3:7-8; Rom 15:20).
The more you see Jesus in all his beauty and glory the more you learn to die to personal ambition so you increasingly “live no longer for yourself but for him who for your sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:15).
I said to someone recently about his struggles to settle into a church that generally speaking the vision of Christian leaders is too small.
The New Testament has vision of the universe as possessing a single unified purpose, to be filled with Christ through the Church (Eph 1: 1:10, 22-23; 4:10ff). The Father’s glorious eternal plan has always been to share with us everything he has shared with his Son in the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:7).
Which is why Jesus said things like; “Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give to you…..These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 14:27; 15:11). The love, joy, peace and so on of Jesus are wonderful things to share in, but they are not our most wonderful communion with Christ, this is what Peter and Paul call “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” (2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 4:13).
Anyone who shares in Christ’s afflictions will surely see what the Lord is doing in their life.
From the liberal progressives through to the suave presentations of Pentecostal megachurches contemporary Australian Christianity generally lives as though it has outgrown the cross.
Having just returned from 3 weeks overseas perhaps I should accept Jesus’ words are true, ““A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown and in his own household.”” (Matt 13:37).
I long to see the people of God equipped to discern the Lord’s working in their daily lives and empowered to bear testimony to his wisdom and grace in all things (Eph 4:10-12; Rev 19:10).
A Church living in this way would already be walking in a quiet revival.
But as things are we desperately need a revelation of Jesus as the centre of everything and to see that whatever has ever happened to us and whatever will ever to us has one great goal, to make us like Christ.
God’s great vision for life, the universe and everything shines out of the most unspectacular event imaginable, that the Creator could be crucified as one of his creatures.
May the Lord open our hearts to see him clearly. Let us pray.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 15th December, 2017 |
Author: Dr. John Yates
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