The Four Looks!
Adapted from a Sermon by George Everard, 1882
"Looking to Jesus!" Hebrews 12:2
Four precious promises embrace the whole field of God's bounty and goodness to His people. As we considered recently, the Four "Alls" touch our need on every side.
1. Conscience is satisfied knowing that "the blood of Jesus … cleanses us from all sin." (1 Jn 1:7)
2. Our many temporal and spiritual necessities are met by the assurance that "God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:19)
3. The pressure of anxiety is met by the invitation, "casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Pe 5:7)
4. The issue of numberless sorrows and trials is the revealed purpose of Divine wisdom: "for those who love God all things work together for good." (Rom 8:28)
We have here indeed . . .
four wells of crystal clear water,
four mines of purest gold,
four trees of life full of fruit,
four towers of defence to which we may run.
Somewhat in the same way may we consider "the four looks" which form the subject of this address. They cover the whole field of a Christian's walk and life. They tell alike of his privilege and duty — of his strength and of the path in which he must travel through the world. They are all inseparably joined together, and may be summed up in the single sentence, "Looking to Jesus." Yet this "looking to Jesus" branches out in several directions, which may be spoken of one by one.
1. First, there is a look for salvation.
The sinner turning his eye for help and mercy to the only Savior.
It is the bronze-serpent look. Behold, there is the dying Israelite — the deadly poison in his veins, the fearful infestation of fiery serpents has spread throughout the camp, and inflicted its deadly wounds. What can he do? What remedy can he find? There is only one. The prayer of Moses has been heard — the bronze serpent has been lifted up in the midst, and everyone who has been bitten has only to look up and be healed. So the man casts his dying gaze on the shining object, and in a moment, a new life is felt, and disease and death flee away. (Num 21:4-9)
This is a picture, a foreshadow, of Christ crucified. Here is the one appointed remedy for guilty, perishing man. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14, 15). Now, looking and believing is the same thing. Saving faith is a heart-look at the crucified Savior. "Turn to me," He cries, "and be saved, all the ends of the earth." (Is 45:22)
Yes, a look of faith at Christ dying for your sin will bring you pardon, peace, and righteousness. For the one who is despairing, who feels his guilt, who is ever poring over the wounds caused by his sins, his past transgressions, and his treacherous heart; does this describe you? — if so, then take heart and be sure of this one thing, salvation is in Christ, not in yourself. One believing look to Him who died for sinners will bring you comfort that all your self-effort could never produce.
The Spirit has awakened you to see your sin; now by the same Spirit, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Look to Jesus, and live. Look to Jesus, and be glad. Look to Jesus, and cast away all your gloomy, hopeless thoughts. A look brings salvation. Do not think of merit, or work, or human power; do not think of self — its feelings, reasonings, strivings, doings — but let there be full confidence in him who “is able to save to the uttermost.” (Heb 7:25)
Look out and look up to the one Savior — God's chosen Messiah — the one Sacrifice, the one Priest, the one remedy for the sins and miseries of mankind. Not one of all the company of Israel looked up in vain to the bronze serpent. Just so, not one of all earth's perishing inhabitants will look in vain to the Savior of sinners. You may be all evil — all unworthy in yourself — everything may seem against your being saved; but He saves to the uttermost, and He will save you. A thousand voices, within and without, may seem to threaten you with utter rejection, but one voice is heard above them all, faithful and sure — "whoever comes to me I will never cast out." (John 6:37)
It is a sweet and blessed promise. It meets all doubts; it scatters all fears; it overcomes every difficulty; it is eminently suited to carry with us through the grave.
But if salvation is free to all, why is it that so few look to the Savior? Why is it, that so many live and die without Christ?
It is because there is a high stone wall that stands between! There is a lofty barrier which men succeed in building between Christ and themselves. There is a fatal self-satisfaction that keeps men back. They are content with their present condition; they do not see their guiltiness, or the huge debt they owe to Divine justice; they see nothing of the looming danger of a broken law, or the gulf of misery that they are so near to entering, so they see and feel no need of earnestly, urgently, seeking the Saviour's mercy.
2. The second look is one for help.
We must ever be looking to Christ for grace, help, and strength in the walk and troubles of daily life. Those who have looked to Christ for pardon and salvation are still to be looking to Him every day for all help along the way: "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?" (Ps 121:1) "My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net." (Ps 25:1)
Israel was accused at one time, of looking for help to Egypt, and trusting in horses and chariots, but did not "look to the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 31.1). And when brighter days were at hand we are told, "in that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel." (Isaiah 17.7).
It is a great point of heavenly wisdom to be ever looking away from human resources, and looking for all we need to Christ.
Some are trusting in a priestly system, which lets down a veil, a thick blind between the sinner and the Savior, and blocks that free and open access to Him which is the very glory of the Gospel. Some are ever looking to ordinances as if they could necessarily impart grace, forgetting that they are only the lattice-work through which we would see the King, or channels by which the Holy Spirit strengthens those who use them in faith.
Some are ever looking to their feelings; and if they cannot feel as they would, they are ready to sink into despair. Some are looking to their efforts and resolutions, and are expecting to do great things. But the secret of power and victory is to fix the eye steadily on Christ. As soon as we stop doing this, we fail and are discouraged. While Peter kept his eye on the Savior, he walked safely over the churning sea — but when he looked to the waves and paid attention to the howling wind, he began to sink.
Perhaps you have a trouble grasping to full force of this expression — "Looking to Jesus." But consider for a moment — have you not used the same with reference to temporal things? You have said, perhaps, "I am in such a bind, and I have no one to look to but my brother or friend." We often hear or utter words like these, and they give us the true idea of looking to Jesus.
In our hearts we think of Him, and depend upon Him to help us.
In each conflict, we rely on Him to fight for us.
In each trouble, we cast ourselves upon Him for support.
In the path of duty and suffering, our hope is in Him to sustain and support us.
In perplexities and distresses, we know that no one but He can open out the way for us. And, inevitably, the more we thus keep looking to Him, the holier, the happier, and the stronger will we be.
There are many thoughts that may encourage us in daily looking to the mighty and merciful Savior. Every one of his offices tells us of something in Him that meets a need in us. We are very ignorant of divine truth — and He is the great Prophet of His Church. We are battling with enemies within and without — and He is the King who supports us and can put our foes beneath our feet. We have sins and infirmities that rise up in our consciences, and would block our approach to God — but He is our Advocate and High Priest who can silence the accusation and give us boldness before God.
It is wonderful also to think of Christ as the Treasurer, the Storekeeper of heavenly gifts. With loving heart and open hand He delights to dispense according to our need. He is our Joseph, and without Him nothing good can come to us. But when we go to Him, He opens the storehouse, and bestows the heavenly bread and all else that is profitable for us.
Jesus says “come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) He invites us to come to him for all our needs. It is as if the Lord comes to me and through some invitation or promise of His Word, He asks me if there is anything I need; and whatever it may be, He is ready to supply it. So I look to Him to fulfill toward me His purposes of mercy. When He says to me, "Are you in need of something today?" I reply to Him, "Yes, Lord, everything is needed today!"
I need Your presence to go with me wherever I go, and to remain with me wherever I remain.
I need Your wisdom to guide and direct me in every difficulty, and to show me the course I ought to pursue.
I need Your arm to uphold and support me in every temptation that may cross my path, that I turn not to the right hand or to the left.
I need Your all-sufficient grace to sanctify me, to cleanse me from old sins, to make me more humble and holy and heavenly-minded, to fill me with genuine, sincere love, and to transform me in Your likeness.
I need Your help and blessing in every word I speak, and in every work I have to do in Your service.
I need Your pardoning mercy to wash away the sins, negligences, and ignorances of every day.
I need Your Holy Spirit to be ever dwelling within me as the spirit of Adoption.
In fact, I need You to be ever at hand in steadfast love and faithfulness — and I need day by day everything that Your love, power, and goodness can give me.
Looking in this way to Jesus for all I need, waiting upon Him and trusting in His promises, I will never be sent away empty .
There is another important point in the Christian's looking to Jesus for the grace he needs.
This is with reference to one who may have fallen. Through the power of temptation, or through terrible and overwhelming sorrows, and the Christian being off his guard, or his faith stumbling — he sometimes is utterly broken down. He has yielded to some grievous sin, or has given way in utter despair. He is now completely broken — and his own heart whispers that there is no hope, and that for him there is no salvation. But even in this case the encouragement is to look to Jesus. There is help provided if you will only look for it. There is grace to lift up and restore: "The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." (Ps 145:14)
Christ is able to restore the backslider. He will not break the bruised reed, but hold it up and strengthen it. The soul may be utterly broken down, the wound may be serious and the bruise apparently incurable — but Christ is at hand; He has a special care for the fallen one. He binds up and deals gently and tenderly with His weak, erring child. He does not scold, but He pardons and saves. He sends His Spirit and awakens a new desire.
He recalls some sweet promise such as that given to backsliding Israel: "I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. " (Hos 14:4). He reminds the sinner of His dealings with Peter; and as He freely forgave him his threefold denial and restored him to his place in His Church — so the backslider should not despair. Return to your rest, and there is a welcome for you. The ark of safety is near; the window is open; a hand is stretched out to take you in. Therefore look up. Look to Jesus, and He will remember you in mercy! He will restore your soul, revive your broken, trembling spirit, and make you a blessing in His Church.
3. The third look is a looking to Jesus as our great pattern and example in the Christian life.
We are to look unto Him that we may copy Him and walk in His footsteps.
The Christian must behold Christ leading the way, and by His grace he must walk in His footsteps. It is to this mainly that the Apostle refers in the opening verses of Hebrews 12. We are exhorted to "lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."
Let us ever steadfastly consider Him, meditate on his perfections— and endeavour to follow in his footsteps.
We need to do this with reference to the duties of everyday life. The glimpse that we have of Christ at Nazareth, and His conduct with reference to Joseph and Mary, may show us how He was our perfect Example with reference to family relationships. And in all the lesser duties, in all the less prominent graces of life, He never failed. In the very least word and deed, He was ever holy, harmless, and undefiled, continually in everything, doing the will of His Father in Heaven.
And as it is on the right performance of the numberless little details of life that our growth and progress in holiness chiefly depends, Christian people need to be most on their guard in this respect.
The growth of a tree does not come so much from the action of the larger roots as of the hairlike fibers which are perpetually receiving moisture and nourishment from the soil, and when these are broken in the transplanting of the young tree, no care or effort can keep it alive.
And so a Christian ought to be careful in what may seem to be the lesser matters! Let no duty be neglected on matters which seem of little importance. Let no opportunity for doing good pass by without action. Perpetually practice in little things, the graces of faith and love. Watch over your thoughts, and pray frequently. Strive to be ever applying what you know of the Word, to the circumstances of each day and hour. Be careful how you spend your moments of leisure. In the least as in the greatest matters, walk in the footsteps of the Master.
More especially must we look to Christ as our Pattern in His last sufferings, for good and evil came to a climax at the cross. Never before was the wickedness of fallen man so clearly manifested — never before had there been witnessed such a lofty height of grace and virtue as was then seen in the sinless Redeemer.
Terrible indeed were those fruits of Sodom — those deadly sins — that were brought to light at the crucifixion.
Causeless hatred against perfect Love,
strange ingratitude for countless benefits,
reckless indifference to justice and truth and the fear of God,
the sway of pragmatism and the fear of man,
unbelief and faithlessness,
envy and malice,
covetousness and hypocrisy,
unfeeling cruelty towards One whose life had been unselfish benevolence and unspotted holiness
— a strange variety of the evils that reign in man's heart — all these stand out in the plainest colors around the cross!
But in the suffering Savior, there appeared a glory of goodness and holiness beyond all that had been manifested before — every possible grace shone out like the unclouded sun at noonday. We can only touch on a few points.
Look to Jesus in His Passion, and follow Him in His steadfastness of faith. He ever trusted in God. In the garden He cries, "Abba, Father!" (Matt 14:36) When bound and led away a prisoner to the house of Annas, He saw in it all, the bitter cup which His Father had willed that He should drink it. Beneath the dark cloud , He could yet plead, "My God, my God," (Matt 27:46) and pour out His soul before Him.
In this way let the Christian strive to act. Look to Jesus, and follow Him in His unwavering confidence. Fully rely on your Father's care and help.
In the dark and in the light,
in the storm and in the calm,
in the valley and on the mountain,
in the day of health and in the hour of sickness,
surrounded by every comfort, or deprived of all that makes life desirable,
rejoicing in active labor in the vineyard, or passing week by week wearily on the bed of suffering
— still trust and do not be afraid. Trust God with your soul, and trust Him with your circumstances.
Encourage yourself in the remembering that your Father will never leave you, nor forsake you. He will safely keep the soul that has been washed in the Saviour's blood. He will direct your way and guide every footstep; He will make all events of your life work together for your good and His own glory.
Look to Jesus and follow Him in His burning zeal and compassion for souls. He never grew tired in His work — He was ever seeking the stray ones. He spoke to the woman at the well — and to a sinful woman in the house of Simon. He was moved with compassion towards the multitudes, because they were as sheep having no shepherd, and He taught them many things. For this He worked even to the end. On the way to the cross He speaks a tender, yet solemn warning to comfort the women who mourned over Him. He prayed for the forgiveness of His murderers. He saved the thief that hung by His side. Every drop of His precious blood, tells of His pity for the perishing.
Let the believer put on the same spirit. Do not be selfish in religion — do not be content with your own salvation. If God has truly converted you — it is that you may go out and labor for others. Do your best to fight against selfishness. Speak a word to your fellow-sinner. Think of your unconverted relatives. Pray for them — show all possible kindness to them, and then watch your opportunity to speak or write a word in season. Gather the little ones into the fold of Christ. Do not despise those who have fallen, but stretch out your hand and pluck them as brands “plucked out of the fire.” (Zech 3:2)
Look to Jesus, and follow Him in His meekness and patience under reproach and persecution. As a lamb silent before her shearers, so did He silently and calmly bear all that was laid upon Him. “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten” (1 Pet 2:23) He did not hide His face from shame and spitting.
It brings much glory to God when the Christian acts in this way. Take it patiently when the reproach of the cross weighs heavily upon you. You may hear the cutting remark, you may notice the intentional slight, the cold rejection, you may have to face ridicule or opposition in some shape or form that may be very difficult; but take it quietly. Return sweet for bitter. Show a readiness to forgive and benefit those who act or speak in this way.
Look to Jesus, and follow Him in His entire self-surrender. Christ gave Himself wholly to do the Father's will — He withheld nothing. He was ”obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8) So yield yourself without reserve to God. Keep back nothing. Yourselves, your time, your influence, your gifts and talents, your home, your children, your favourite pursuit, all that you love the most and value the best — lay all at His feet to be used for Him, or, if need be, cheerfully surrendered at His will. Whatever comes, be loyal to your King. Give up all to Him, for you are not your own, but are bought with a very high price.
In everything behold Jesus as your Example. Study His holy character, and beg that His Spirit transform you and mould you after His likeness.
"we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:18).
4. Lastly, there is a looking to Jesus as the Coming One.
As the Apostle writes to Titus, "waiting (or looking) for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
He came once to save the lost, but He will come again to raise to His throne those whom he has rescued and saved. It is to be the perfecting of their glory, and the manifestation of their high calling as the sons and daughters of the Most High, and as citizens of the heavenly Zion. He comes to make plain the purposes of God, and to bring about the restoration of all things.
For the past, what has been seen on earth but discord and disorder, woes and wickedness everywhere covering the face of the earth? But He comes to cast out all things that offend, and to bring back a more glorious Paradise than Adam lost. For this we must earnestly look.
When the heart sickens as we hear of the desolation of cruel wars, of the destruction of helpless children, of ungodly powers tyrannizing over many, of heathen superstitions reigning supreme in others — we must hope and wait. Christ will make all things new, and for Him we look. He comes to reign in righteousness and peace. He comes to set up the dwelling of God among men. He comes to sweep away every hint of oppression and wrong. He comes to exalt those who have loved and followed Him, to set them among princes, and to gift them with a crown of immortality! He comes to be their Portion and for their great reward. With Him they will dwell, in Him they will rejoice, and His presence will be to them the light of everlasting day.
Come, Lord, and wipe away
The curse, the sin, the stain;
And make this blighted world of ours
Your own fair world again!