Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Believing is directing the heart’s attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to “behold the Lamb of God,” and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives. At first this may be difficult, but it becomes easier as we look steadily at His wondrous Person, quietly and without strain. Distractions may hinder, but once the heart is committed to Him, after each brief excursion away from Him the attention will return again and rest upon Him like a wandering bird coming back to its window.
I would emphasize this one committal, this one great volitional act which establishes the heart’s attention to gaze forever upon Jesus. God takes this intention for our choice and makes what allowances He must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world. He knows that we have set the direction of our hearts toward Jesus, and we can know it too, and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that a habit of the soul is forming which will become after a while a sort of spiritual reflex requiring no more conscious effort on our part.
Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves- blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.
A. W. Tozer
The twelfth chapter of Hebrews opens with these words:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
We are told that all around us, both those who have preceded us and those who are contemporaries with us who are witnesses to the faithfulness of God and His saving and keeping power. The writer in the previous chapter of Hebrews gives us a list of those whose faith in God witnesses to us in this present time. From Abel to the prophets, the writer tells the stories of those who fully trusted God and then he moves on to say that all these died without having fully seen all that God had promised; the promise of the Redeemer. However, he says that they testify to the fact that through faith all things are possible and that it is humanly possible to attain to pleasing God.
We must say that all these were not perfect by any means, but then God is not looking for perfection as much as He is desiring our hearts fully being occupied by love for Him. We know in human relationships that there is great grace that works through love and so it is with God. Indeed the Bible says that love covers a multitude of sin. God looks more at our intentions, attitudes and motives that our actions. We may be failing at points in our journey but if our hearts are pursuing God, eventually that desire for God will overcome our failures. Sin only has the power to attract outside the view of Christ. When we can see sin in comparison to the wondrous essence of Christ, it appears in its true state of ugliness and loses its attraction.
The writer of Hebrews directs us to “look away from all that will distract us and focusing our eyes upon Jesus who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive of our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity].” This is the secret to living a life pleasing to God. The writer goes further to say to us that when we are going through adversity consider what Christ endured in comparison so that we will not lose heart.
One of Satan’s frequent questions that he imposes upon human hearts is the question of God’s love. From the Garden to the present day even among believers is this question asked. “Does God truly love me?”, is asked probably more that the question of “Do I truly love God?” Like Peter who wants to be with Christ and is separated by the storm, we may venture out of the boat only to become distracted by the waves and wind. We may wonder if Christ invited us out of the place of safety to let us drown in our battles. I’ve actually heard people say that life was better before they made a commitment to Christ than after. If there’s any lesson we can learn from Peter is the lesson that what captures our attention will always determine the outcome. If we focus on the waves, we sink. If we focus on Christ, the waves that moments before were threatening to drown us now becomes the highway upon which we walk with our Lord.
Paul tells us that we behold Christ as a mirror and that that image is our goal. It has been said that imitation is the greatest flattery one can give and that’s our goal with Christ. As we see Him and desire to imitate Him; we to a measure become like Him and if this is our focus, we find the vain attempt to be holy in our own strength vanishes as our hearts become enthralled with Him.
Far too often we spend great amounts of energy and time attempting to change ourselves only to find at the end of the day, we drift back to our old self. It is only through the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit that we can become “a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Only Christ can conqueror and destroy the work of sin in us. Any attempt to make ourselves righteous will fall far short of the mark. What I’ve discovered and am learning to practice is that the more I focus my heart on Christ and His love and glory, the less I’m tempted to sin. I’ve learned that the more His word captures my thoughts and the more I converse with Him the less I yield myself to sin. I have learned that it is possible to be so focused on righteous that I totally miss the presence of Christ. I think that too often we as the church have spent too much time trying to define and practice what’s right rather than teaching an intense intentional pursuit of Christ.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are in a race. He no doubt is thinking of a relay where the baton is passed from runner to runner. We as believers have been passed the baton by those who ran before us, who have witnessed to us that the race can be ran successfully. Were the writer to stop there, we would more likely quit the race. I’m sure that when we consider Abraham and Moses and the apostles, we would say to ourselves that we could never attain to that status. But, thanks be to God, he continues. “Looking unto Jesus,” he says, the One who started us in the race and the One who will be at the finish line and maybe most important, the One who runs with us, giving us strength, courage, and sufficient grace.
Some years ago this principle was made clear to me in vivid detail. Our family was at an amusement park where there was the rope climb and bridge. My oldest granddaughter who was afraid of heights watched as her siblings and other children ran across the ropes and I saw in her face her desire to do the same. When I asked her if she wanted to do the same she told me that while she wanted to, she was afraid. I took her gently by the hands and told her that together we would go across the ropes. Her only effort was to hold my hands and to keep looking at my face. During that trip across the ropes, there were moments when she would look down and almost freeze and I would remind her to look at me. We made the journey across. Actually we did it several times together and then came the magic moment when she became confident to go by herself. I walked under the ropes in her view encouraging her all the way and what a celebration when she made it to the other side. Standing there that day, the Lord made clear to me that this is us. We may be fearful of the journey but if we focus our attention on Him, He will bring us over and on that day when we cross the finish line, what a celebration it will be.
May I encourage us today in the words of the old song:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glorious grace.