We’re to “fix our eyes upon Jesus” (Heb 12:2). But how? What does he look like: The grotesque shadow of the Turin Shroud? Robert Powell? Mel Gibson? Or even our own CMM soloists Mike Stanley, Gordon Lee, Simon Cooper, Devon Brown? Is he black, white, yellow, purple? We’re all conditioned by culture, ethnicity and education, so have our own ideas, notions and expectancy.
So how do we picture him? For those of us who believe in him, when we see him, it will be a sight beyond our wildest imagination – a person who is pure, unconditionally accepting and loving us – the ultimate look of love! Consider the love displayed for the beloved: “Let me see your face…” in Song of Songs (2:14).
I’ve often been helped by the idea of him being a friendly guy in a check shirt and jeans on a park bench, inviting me to come and sit, rest and chat. We all have our own ideas and conceptions, but I’m certain he won’t be some kind of ‘Star Trek’ alien being that would frighten or threaten. The Bible says we’re made in his image, so in some way, no matter how much that image has been tarnished, something of him remains. He’ll be a person we recognise, who smiles and speaks, with a facial expression that says love without limit. He’ll look like one of us, although of course, we will be incredibly changed. Will my white hair be blonde? I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
We’re to fix our eyes upon Jesus, but also to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Are these irreconcilable commands? Maybe this idea may help:
Imagine walking backwards! What does it feel like? Pretty scary? We might trip up or get completely lost. That game of falling backwards into someone’s arms has never really appealed to me: what if they drop me? What if they’re not there? It’s more about the strength and reliability of the one behind us as it is about our own faith. Would you trust a stranger no matter how much they promised? We walk by faith because we know him already, at least in a small way, and that knowledge grows as the walk progresses.
“Fix your eyes upon Jesus” begins chapter 12 of Hebrews, which (amazingly!) follows straight on from chapter 11, which is all about looking back at ordinary, very imperfect men and women who exercised faith in their ‘walk’ with God. We learn by experience, by reading of the great cloud of witnesses, and recognising the ‘still, small voice.’ Common sense and conscience may play their part, but we can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus, and that means hearing and knowing his daily direction.
In John 10, Jesus talks of the shepherd’s relationship with his sheep: “He goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” This gives the clue. We walk by faith having first got to know his voice, even if in a very small way. In one of my early radio interviews, our toddler son Tim heard me speak, and instantly responded “Daddy!”. Above all the local radio jingle-jangle he knew it was me.
The Psalmist says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me,” which in the Hebrew suggests “chases after me”. It’s not just that we leave a legacy of a faith-walk behind us, although Enoch’s enviable obituary “he walked with God” is what I’d like to inherit. But he is there in our history, and we make history every second. A voice from behind (if we’re walking backwards it comes from behind!) says “This is the way, walk in it”. How do we know it’s him? Because we’ve already experienced something of him.
At one point the Old Testament people of God laid an “Ebenezer” (a stone of help, not of the Scrooge variety!) to remind them of how “so far the Lord has led us”. (I Sam 7:12). It’s not that we should live in the past, but at times when life is confusing or we feel God is far away, remembering how he spoke and acted may help us find him in the present. Learning to hear his voice, to know what he sounds like, know how he speaks, is the walk of faith that accompanies the eye-fixing challenge of Hebrews 12.
How do we learn to walk in the Spirit? By making small steps as the Spirit leads us. How do we learn to witness? By being a witness. How do we learn to pray and minister in the Spirit? By praying and ministering in the Spirit, obeying, and discovering how it works – just as the first disciples did in their response to Jesus’ direction.
But looking back involves discernment, because we all have a chequered past, “skeletons in the cupboard” of past experiences, good and bad done to us or by us. We can’t change our history, but he can change the way it affects us, as Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” (Heb 13:8) He can changes the power of past hurts, break chains that have bound us, and change the way past memories feel and taste!
The Psalmist wrote “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:11). We have so often believed lies, accepted curses, and made destructive vows by believing and accepting views about God and ourselves that are simply not Biblical. “You knew me in my mother’s womb” says the Psalmist (Ps 139:13) so no one is a mistake or unwanted, and there is no place he can’t go to put matters right. But we do need to put more Bible into our memory-banks!
Allowing Jesus into our past, may at times require allowing others to come alongside us! But we can look back in wonder: wonder at how he could love us so greatly despite everything and wonder at what he might show us next.
Fixing our eyes upon Jesus, turning away from that which hurts us, is not a denial of the reality of past pain. It’s a choice we can make daily, moment by moment, letting him be the Lord and healer of our past, present, and glorious future!
Finally, don't forget to tune into Heart & Soul every Wednesday evening at 6pm (repeated Thursday morning at 11am) on Brumside Radio. In August we are starting a series featuring different christian Songwriters and performers, beginning with Graham Kendrick tonight!
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