Thursday, December 23, 2021

What are you looking at?

Where you are looking determines what you see.  That has always been true.  It is even more true now. Looking at the world is not only depressing but dangerous.  It steals not only the confidence and hope from the heart but over time can steal faith itself.  But that is the temptation.  It is a consuming addiction to think of the world, of all the things that are wrong, and of all the things that cause us fear and anxiety.

Scripture is filled with calls to look to the Lord or seek the Lord:

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.  Psalm 105:4   

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:18

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:2

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen.  Revelation 1:7

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 1 Chronicles 16:10-11

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!  Psalm 105:4

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.  Isaiah 55:6

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Mattthew 6:33

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Colossians 3:1

The good counsel of God's Word knows that if our focus is not on the Lord, it will be upon things that distract us from the Lord, compete with Him, and pull us from the grasp of His love.  As true as this is for individual Christians, it is even more true for the Church as a whole.

How easy it is for the Church to turn our focus to the world, to make a gospel that is palatable to the modern mind, amenable to the values of the moment, and in step with the direction of the people not of the Kingdom!  How tempting it is to keep the focus on what kind of worship people outside the Church might like or what kind of buildings or what kind of preaching or what kind of programs!  How urgent seems the cause of making the faith relevant to what people are thinking or feeling outside the Church!  But the cost of this focus is unfaithfulness, the willing surrender of the sharp edged truth for a therapeutic faith that is powerless to do any more than console people to follow their hearts.  The cost of seeking the approval of man is to lose the approval of God, to exchange the true Gospel for lies, deceptions, and distortions that can save no one.

Christmas is the call to look at the manger, to see the face of God in the Child Mary bore, and to rejoice in the gift of hope, forgiveness, comfort, and life.  These ought to be our focus.  The Spirit makes this Gospel relevant by confronting the heart and mind of man with despair, the prison of sin, the discomfort of loneliness, and death.  And it is the Spirit who makes a home for this Gospel in the heart of unbelievers by the preaching of the Church and her ministers.  It is the Spirit who fills the cold home with the warm fire of God's love as husband, wife, parent, and child teach and proclaim this Gospel one to another. Somehow churches seem to have forgotten that it is the Word we seek and the Word by which we live and the Word that we deliver to the nations in our Savior's name.  And when the Church forgets this, the home is in danger of being consumed by distractions and temptations as well.

When Christians come wounded and weary by the cares of the world, the answer is not therapy but the Gospel.  Keep your eyes upon Jesus and turn off the distractions.  Turn off the news if you have become addicted to the incessant political battles that are never resolved and the string of evils and wrongs that consume the news cycle.  Seek the Lord and your heart will rest in peace.  When the Church has lost her way and looks out upon empty pews after surrendering truth to a feel good religion whose music has a good dance beat, maybe we need to do the same thing.  God has not called us to analyze the world and its evils but to call out and confront them with the Law in all its sharpness and with the Gospel, to those who repent, with all its sweet comfort.  If we do that, it will be enough -- no matter what the world around us chooses to do.  The Word of the Lord endures forever and those who endure in this Word to the end shall be saved.  Look to the Lord and seek His Word.  It has always been true.

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