End of Year Gaze at Jesus

// December 29th, 2019 // Sermons

I had planned to preach on Rom. 8:25… You can listen online or download it and listen later…End of Year Gaze at Jesus– the idea that we have not yet arrived at where we are going…but we have a hope that our God will take us there.  I changed the direction for the sermon earlier in the week and will preach on the vision that John saw in Rev. 1 – but I plan to end with a brief look at Rom. 8:25.  So, to set the stage for this morning, let me read 2 Cor. 3:18….

“We all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  There is an amazing principle in this verse:  True gospel transformation of a person’s character comes from steady gazing at the glory of Jesus.

To a certain extent our being transformed takes place in correlation of our beholding the glory of the Lord!  Another way of saying that would be that – We become like what we treasure enough to spend time focusing on.  You become like what you behold!

It is my intention to try to inspire us, as a church, to begin the New Year with a strong commitment to – daily – fix our eyes upon Jesus!  And, as a result of this, we, as a church, would be transformed, bit by bit —to become more and more like Jesus.  So, I intend to have us take an End-of-Year Gaze at Jesus.

There are things about our Lord Jesus Christ that we need very much at the end of this year.

  • We need the perseverance of Christ in the face of affliction.
  • We need the Christ’s energy, zeal and strength to face our stress and pressure.
  • We need the wisdom of Christ to face the complexities of life.
  • We need the stability of Christ in the midst of rapid social and political changes all around us.
  • And, we need the assurance of his Sovereign authority in a culture that is rapidly moving away from God and truth.

I hope we all agree that we need more of Jesus in our present view of life than anything else in this world.  Jesus is of greater importance for life than a better job, more money, or anything else we think is of great value.

1 John 3:2 says, “But friends, that’s exactly who we are: children of God. And that’s only the beginning. Who knows how we’ll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we’ll see him—and in seeing him, become like him.”  Proportionate to how we see Him now, we are changed into his image.  When he comes back again to be seen in His full glory, our transformation will be completed.

So, I’m convinced that we need to behold Jesus, to gaze at our Lord Jesus Christ.  This morning, I want us to linger for a while with our gaze simply fixed on Jesus.  Recently, as I was recently reading through the book of Revelation, I was impressed – again – with what John saw, in his vision, recorded in the book of Revelation.

John was exiled on the island of Patmos “because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (v. 9).  Jesus was so real and so precious to John that he would rather be exiled to a barren island than not to talk about Christ.  He had watched Jesus and gazed at Him long enough that living in obedient fellowship was more important than the comforts of life.

God gives John another amazing chance to gaze at Jesus.  He gives him a vision that is not just for him, but for the seven churches of Asia and ultimately, for us.

In v. 10 John says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.  On one particular Sunday, he was deeply connected with the Spirit of God.  He wrote that suddenly (v. 10), he “heard behind him a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.”

In v. 11, the voice says, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches.”  The vision John was about to receive is meant not just for him but for us as well.  The purpose of writing it down is so that it can be preserved and passed along to future generations, so that we could have a similar experience of seeing Jesus as he had.

“Write what you see.”  It is much easier to tell someone what you have seen than to actually write it down.  Further, it is easier to write down what you hear than to write down what you see.

When you see things that you don’t ordinarily see, language and interpretation gets in the way making it that much more difficult.  But, John is proof that it is possible – and Jesus told him to do it, so it can be done.

Jesus didn’t plan to go to each of the seven churches; He could have but He doesn’t.  He gives John the vision and says, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches.”  John got the vision; we got the book.

By the way, Christ was not intending to be distant and impersonal with the churches; He wants to come to us in and through His Word.  He desires for us to seek Him in His Word, and know Him through His Word, and to gaze upon Him through His Word.  And, the amazing blessing…when we do, the Lord reveals Himself in His Word in ways that are far beyond the mere intellectual understanding of reading.

Our main means of gazing on Jesus today is through His Word – we can’t walk with Him along the Sea of Galilee like John did, or see Him grow into His ministry like Mary and Joseph did, or see Him face-to-face like all saved people who have already passed on.

John was to write in a book what he saw so that he could pass along to the readers some of what he experienced.  It is my hope that we see and visualize what John saw, so that we are better equipped for 2020.

To help us see what John saw, I will try to break it down in small chunks…first, John saw:

1) Jesus Standing in the Midst of the Churches

John turned to see whose voice it was that sounded like a trumpet, and that is when he saw 7 golden lampstands with Jesus standing the middle of them.

In v. 20, Jesus gives John an interpretation of these lampstands:  “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

John’s vision is of Jesus among the churches.  Christ is not merely ruling over the churches with a heavy hand, He is standing among the churches.  He is not distant from the churches; He is in their midst.  In v. 12-13 John wrote what he saw:  “I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man.”

As we read, we are not merely remembering something that happened to John a long time ago.  John starts by telling us that the Christ we are about to look to – He is in our midst.  He is not in far-away, He is among the churches.

The churches are his lampstands and Christ moves among His them, trimming the wicks and carving the wax, breathing life back into flickering flames.

We need to grasp the reality that Garrington is one of His lampstands – not one of the original 7, but a lampstand, nonetheless.  Jesus is here this morning, He is in our midst.   He is eager to see us burn with His light – that we would be so full of Him and His presence that we would reflect a “Jesus-glow” to the world around us.  He bids us look at what John saw.  The 2nd thing John saw:

2) “One Like a Son of Man”

“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself when he was on earth.

At first glance, you might think it refers merely to His humanity, and is only a title; but, it means so much more.  In Daniel 7:13-14, the term “son of man” or “one like a son of man” is a reference to a great ruler.

Listen to Daniel 7:13-14 – “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.”

So when John says that he saw “one like a son of man” standing in the middle of the lampstands, he means that he saw someone with dominion and glory and kingly power, with authority over all the nations and over all the peoples and who would rule the world forever and ever because his kingdom could not be destroyed.

The one who stands among the churches, trimming wicks and fanning our flames…He is the one to Whom God the Father gave dominion and glory and kingdom over all rule and power and authority in heaven and on earth.  Boy, do we need to see this today!

The seven churches needed to hear it, and so do we.  We need to renew our eternal focus and assurance again and again in the midst of the adversities and distractions of life.  The next phrase:

3) Clothed with a Long Robe and Gold Sash around His Chest

The wording used actually says, “…a robe reaching to the feet” – that phrase is not used anywhere else in the NT.  In the OT it almost always refers to the robe of the high priest.  Two things we should notice about the gold sash across His chest:  the fact that it is high—not around the waist but around the chest; and, the fact that it is gold – these 2 things show that the Christ’s priesthood is superior in every way.

Jesus is not only the Son of Man from Daniel 7 who receives everlasting dominion over all nations; He is also the final high priest who brings all the priestly work of the temple to an end – no more animal sacrifices.

  1. 5 says Christ “released us from our sins by his blood.” This priest is so great that He did something no other priest ever could have done. He gave His own blood, once for all, so that, at the end of the age He could put away sin once for all through the sacrifice of His life.

He stands among the lampstands—Christ stands here with us today—as One with authority, with the final act of forgiveness of our sins.  Next phrase…

4) His Hair Were White Like Wool and Snow 

In that same chapter in Daniel where John gets this picture of “one like a son of man”, this is how God the Father is described in v. 9, “The Ancient of Days took his seat; his vesture was like white snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool.”  John is describing the Son of Man – Jesus – using the terms God used for Himself.

I think John wants us to see something here about the age of Christ and the wisdom and dignity that come with age—everlasting age!

In our Canadian culture today, we don’t have great respect for the process of aging.  A person is admired if he/she can keep looking young, but usually not if he/she is advanced in age.  The Bible presents age another way.

In Prov. 16:31 it says, “A white head is a crown of glory.”  In OT law, in Lev. 19:32, God commanded, “You will rise up before the white head, and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God; I am the Lord.”

One of the reasons we avoid growing old is that we associate age with the fading of strength and ability that make life worth living.  The idea seems to be—the value of my life depreciates with the decreased capacity to see, hear, think clearly and move about without pain.  But we need to realize that all those things aren’t part of aging – they are part of living in an eroding and fallen world of sin.

Once God does away with sin and the curse, He will establish the new heavens and the new earth, where aging will not have any of these negative things.  Aging will be associated with growing wisdom and insight and maturity.  Can you imagine getting old and still being strong?  Still having full use of your mind, your sight, your hearing and your balance.  Imagine life, if nothing from your youth is left behind.  You would have the physical strength to support your years of living wisdom.

This is what John saw in Jesus.  He was like the Ancient of Days with all the wisdom of eternity and all the maturity and steadiness of age, but He was not weak or weary or faltering in His step.  Next…

5) Eyes like a Flame of Fire

The eyes of this Son of Man are eyes with sharp clarity.  They miss nothing that happens in the universe.  It’s like they are exploding with energy.

We all know what it’s like at this particular stage of the sermon – the eyes start to droop and you become less and less aware of your surroundings.  Or, have you noticed when someone is scowling or in a bad mood – the eyes are no longer wide open.

Eyes that are alive with wonder, excitement, hope, expectancy and energy are different from this.  Jesus’ eyes were like a flaming fire.  From His hair and His eyes we are able to recognize wisdom and maturity coming together.  The Ancient of Days is full of the energy, vitality and zeal of youth.

When we gaze upon Jesus as we near the end of 2019, we need remember He is not tired, weary, burned-out or fatigued in any way.  His eyes are on fire with the flashing intensity of endless energy and hope.

When Jesus thinks about His plans for you and when He considers His plans for Garrington and for Canada and for all the nations of the world – for this coming year….He is not overwhelmed, weary, hesitant about stepping out, and He is definitely not bored.  His eyes are a flame of fire filled with exhilaration and passion for the work He intends to do as another year in history is set to begin.

But, there is so much more that John intends for us to see . . .

There are the bronze feet and the voice like the sound of many waters and a right hand with seven stars and a sharp sword coming out of his mouth and His face shining like the sun in full strength.  And it would be good for us to see John’s reaction and Jesus’ response to John’s reaction.

But this morning, I so want you to gaze on Him:  He is among the lampstands — the churches— as the Son of Man, the One with power over the nations and with everlasting dominion and glory.  He is the great high priest Who has put away the sins of His people once and for all.  He is advanced in age, wise and mature, the great white-crowned Ancient of Days, yet with eyes that are aflame with the fire of youth, energy, hope and exhilaration for His unending plans for you and for our church and for the world.

Gaze on Jesus in these last days of 2019 and let His power, His priestly forgiveness, His ancient wisdom and His fiery hope…fill you with confidence.  A confidence that lets you know that the struggles of 2019 have not been in vain, and that the coming year – 2020 – will not have to be lived without Him, without His presence.

I want to end with a brief look at a verse that caught my attention recently…Rom. 8:25 – But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.”  The focus is on the word “yet”.  That little word makes all the difference.

We all know people who are not saved yet!

Your children may not be making good choices yet!

Your marriage is not doing very well yet!

The list could go on and on…

The reason that this should bring such hope is that Jesus is real and He is aware of every detail of our lives…and HE IS SUFFICIENT!

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Good theology makes all the difference as we face an uncertain future.”  He continued:  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He applied that not only to the individual but also the church.

What the church believes about God shapes everything else.  And what shapes the church must ultimately shape the culture around it.  We start with God – who He is, how He has revealed himself, what we believe Him to be, and what promises He has made to us.

When faced with great difficulties, we have to go back to who God is. If we have a proper understanding of the knowledge of God, we will have the right foundation to face whatever comes our way.  A couple of things:

#I. God intends to do things we cannot see today.

There are some lost people today who will saved tomorrow.

There are marriages that are broken and struggling today that will be healed tomorrow.

There are people who are sick that will be either ultimately healed by going to be with Jesus or they will be healed to serve Him here.   Next,

  1. God calls us to wait for what we do not presently see.

God allows our pain for a purpose. Through our trials God wants to develop two qualities in us:  Hope and Patience.

Cancer happens.
Recession happens.
Disagreements happen.
Ugliness happens because we live in a messed-up world.  We need to learn to wait.  The psalmist wrote, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Ps. 37:7). 

Waiting increases our dependence, strips us of our pride, forces us to cry out to God, kills our arrogance, and brings us to the place where we say, “Lord, only you can do this.”

What are you waiting for from the Lord?  What are you hoping for in 2020 that you do not yet have?  Hang onto that little word “yet.”

“The situation is not better yet!.”
“I don’t have a job yet.”
“My child has not come back to the Lord yet.”

It’s a great word as we come to the beginning of a new year.

Just because things seem impossible doesn’t mean that they are.  What we believe about God shapes everything else about us.  If we believe that God is able to do far beyond what we ask or imagine, then we will face the future with quiet confidence.

Just because things seem impossible doesn’t mean that they are.  God honors forward-looking faith.  Let’s trust Him with this next year!

Let’s pray….

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