Saturday, September 5, 2009

Eyes and more eyes, fixed on Jesus

I have been struck by the description in the book of Revelations of the four living creatures that are said to never rest in their praise of God before His throne. As marvelous as these creatures are, what really strikes me is the One they cannot get enough of.  Rev 4:6 tells us these creatures are “full of eyes in front and in back” and verse 8 tells us they’re “full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!" God is so glorious that these creatures, though full of eyes, gates through which they can experience their joy in God, do not rest from taking in the beauty of the Living God or in their praise of Him! It does me good to simply pause and think about that... my finite mind cannot come anywhere near to fathoming fully the manifold perfections of the Infinite One, but with every blip of time He gives me I want to dive deeper into the pools of His grace and experience more fully His relentless love. Perhaps, from our earthly vantage point, the people we know and the many hats we’re called upon to wear, the things we taste and hear and see and feel, can be looked at as eyes in front and in back, around and within...different windows or gates through which we’re given opportunity to behold the glorious perfection of our God as we fix our eyes upon Jesus. Someday we’ll see Him more clearly, but even now as we gaze upon Him through His Word and the windows He gives us in our lives, we know He’s our Treasure.

As one raised in a self-esteem culture, it also does me good to chew on quotes like this, taken from pages 15-16 of the book God is the Gospel by John Piper [which I also recently posted on Facebook with the preface “may we all become more delighted in Christ, and then enjoy His good gifts in His presence with grateful hearts rather than being enamored with His gifts in a fashion that ignores, belittles or exludes Him."]:

The critical question for our generation - and for every generation - is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauty you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding NO? How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God's love as the gift of Himself to God's love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate? ...Can we really say that our people are being prepared for heaven where Christ himself, not his gifts, will be the supreme pleasure? And if our people are unfit for that, will they even go there? Is not the faith that takes us to heaven the foretaste of the feast of Christ? J.C. Ryle once preached a sermon called "Christ is All" based on Colossians 3:11. In it he said: "But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of 'going to heaven' when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith, and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas! what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!"

Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into His likeness (2 Cor 3:18). Nothing would bless this world more than more people who are more like Christ...When we celebrate the gospel of Christ and the love of God, and when we lift up the gift of salvation, let us do it in such a way that people will see through it to God Himself. May those who hear the gospel from our lips know that salvation is the blood-bought gift of seeing and savoring the glory of Christ. May they believe and say, "Christ is all!" Or, to use the words of the psalmist, "May those who love your salvation say evermore, 'God is great!'" (Ps. 70:4). Not mainly, "salvation is great," but "God is great!"

May the church of Jesus Christ say with increasing intensity, "The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup" (Ps. 16:5). "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:1).

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