Fix Your Eyes - Jon Fryer
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When you are little and your parents taught you how to cross the road, they taught you how to look in a different way – look left, look right, look left again. It’s a conscious way of looking that is more deliberate than the normal, everyday way of just looking around. When a good detective is looking at a crime scene they are looking at two things at once – they look at the big picture to try and see what might be out of place or unusual, and they simultaneously focus on the tiny details because any single fact may be the critical clue - It’s a conscious way of looking that is more deliberate than the normal, everyday way of just looking around. The Bible teaches us, as disciples of Jesus, to look at the world in a different way, a way that is more deliberate than the everyday way of just looking around. And, like our parents teaching us to cross the road, it teaches us the how as well as the what – the Bible teaches us to Look In, Look Up, and Look Out. Say it with me – look in, look up, look out. Well done.
The Bible teaches us to look inwards, to examine our hearts before we come before God. In the Old Testament the Jews had to purify themselves with living water and prayer before coming into God’s presence, else they ran a very real chance of being destroyed by God’s holiness. Jesus is our living water who makes us clean, but even so, he commands us to put ourselves right as best we can before coming to worship or serve. We are told to put right our hearts with our brothers and sisters before coming to take communion. We are told to ask for forgiveness when ever we pray, as modelled in the Lord’s Prayer. We are told to remove the plank of wood from our own eyes before trying to assist our neighbour with the speck of sawdust in theirs! We did this on our first night here to enable us to focus on God clearly without the daily dirt that blows in our eyes getting in the way. But there is another reason for fixing our eyes – it makes us even more attractive to God.
Revelation 3 says to the Church: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
When a bride is getting ready for her wedding, what does she put on to make herself look beautiful for her husband to be? How about… jewellery, dress, makeup? Now the church is the Bride of Christ, so how should she make herself attractive to the Bridegroom?
Rev 3;18 is God’s advice to a church that was falling apart on how to make herself attractive to Him. These three things – gold, white robes, salve for your eyes - will make a church look good to God! However… if you are the parents of the bride, what is the key fact that you will notice about weddings? They’re damn expensive! So is becoming attractive to God as a church – the cost is high. Note the first key words of the verse are ‘I counsel you to buy…’ Everywhere else we are told to ‘Ask, and it shall be given to you…’, or ‘Receive from me freely and without cost…’ … but here, to do this, we are told that we have to buy. There is a cost to pleasing God. It takes a serious, conscious effort. It takes a servant’s heart offering real service to both God and each other. If we are to please God we will have to make sacrifices, just as in the Old Testament people sacrificed animals in an attempt to please God.
But what are we to buy? What are we trying to obtain? This instruction to do three things is all symbolism – what are we trying to do in the real world? For an answer we turn elsewhere in the Bible. There is only one other verse in the whole Bible that says ‘If you do this, this and this, then I will do that’ – 2 Chron 7;14 - if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. My eyes will be open towards them.
These two verses together explain how to make the church ‘attractive’ to God.
Gold refined in the fire so you may become rich…
The Bible tells us elsewhere that ‘gold refined in fire’ is a picture of faith that has survived the world’s turmoil and troubles and suffering. These are sufferings that come unsought, but we are told to buy gold refined in the fire – to seek it out. How are we to buy this gold rather than just wait for it to happen? The verse from 2 Chronicles makes it clear – ‘If My people would pray and humble themselves…’ We’ll come back to prayer later, but what does it mean to ‘humble ourselves’? The phrase is used in Dan 10 and it means fasting. But what is fasting? It’s not about giving up food, or sleep, or alcohol, or sex for a time, or at least not just about these things. Fasting is about our attitude towards God, and this is the gold that we must seek out and buy.
Jesus said: If anyone wants to become my follower, let them deny themselves, and take up their cross daily, and follow me.
Jesus said: If anyone wants to be my disciple, they must be prepared to die for me, every day.
Jesus said: If anyone wishes to follow me, they must put down their own desires and ambitions and selfish wants every moment of their lives.
Jesus said: Any who say they believe in me but do not give up their own comfort when I call them to pray have no part in me.
Jesus said: Any who say that they trust me but do not lift up the broken can not be my disciples.
Jesus said: Any who value time with the TV or their food or their XBox more than time with me do not know me, or my Father.
...On hearing this many of Jesus’ disciples turned back, and no longer went about with him...
Fasting is about lifestyle, not for a day, but for a whole pattern of life. We need to look inwards to see if we are different to the rest of the world. Running a race requires discipline and training. If you look just the same as the next couch potato slob, are you really a runner? If your life looks the same as the next person, are you really following Jesus as closely as you should? Are your eyes fixed on him, or on earthly junk that just weighs you down?
Buy white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness…
‘Shameful nakedness’ is a stock phrase in the Bible that means unrepentant, habitual sin, specifically idolatry. Laodicea, the city where the church in Revelation was situated, had three main industries – gold jewellery, fine white linen and eye makeup – but its fourth industry was ritual prostitution, which helped support the other three for obvious reasons. When the church turns from God to the world and to sin, then it turns the Bride of Christ into a whore, stripped of her glory. God calls the church in Revelation 3 to cover herself with ‘white clothes’. What are these white clothes we need to buy to make the church ‘attractive’ to God?
‘White clothes’ are mentioned twice more in Revelation, in Rev 19 where they represent the righteous acts of the saints, and in Rev 7 where they have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb – the old jargon phrase for repentance. To repent simply means ‘to turn away’, and that’s what the 2 Chronicles verse calls us to do, ‘to turn from their wicked ways’. The start of repentance is confession – you can’t turn away from something unless you admit that it is wrong. The Greek word for confession is homologeo, which literally means ‘to say the same thing’ – to confess is to say the same things about your life that God would say, and then to repent is to give up evil and to start doing the things that God would do – we’ve already said that true fasting is about lifestyle – and this lifestyle is the righteous acts of the saints, the white robes that we need to seek out and buy.
God says in Isai 58:
"This is the kind of fasting I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'
If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.
When we start doing these things then the church’s shameful nakedness will be covered by the revealed glory of God – it’s only because we don’t that the world points at the church’s hypocrisy and says that it doesn’t work. All of our prayers and plans and work are just like the Emperor’s New Clothes without this lifestyle to back it up – totally non existent! We need to buy ourselves white clothes to cover the churches shame!
Buy salve to rub into your eyes, so that you can see…
The third thing that we are told to buy is ‘eye salve’. The Greek word for this is kohlourian, which was a kind of eye-shadow that came in small lumps shaped like loaves of bread. the word for ‘rub in’ is egkrisai which is one of the words used for ‘anointing’ and literally means ‘to rub in medicine or perfume’ – the eye salve that we are told to buy is both beautifying and healing – but what is it? The 2 Chronicles verse again makes it clear – ‘if they look to My face’. Looking with eyes, but also with our hearts. In the Old Testament ‘look to My face’ means ‘to really spend time with and get to know’. If we spend time getting to know God then it will bothbeautify and heal the church… and the best way to get to know God is to learn to live as He would, say what He would say (as we have already seen), and finally to see things the way that He sees things… and the best way to get to know how He sees things is to read the Bible, the Bread of Life, like those mini loaves of eye-shadow! To learn to see things as God sees them we need to eat, sleep, breathe, study, memorise and meditate on God’s word to us but above all, we need to trust, obey and believe as the prophets did. In fact, the gift of prophecy is simply to see what God sees through His eyes and then speak it out… and that brings us on to the next way of looking – to look up.
There is a bunch of guys in America called Improv Everywhere, and they do random publicity stunts, improvised drama, and other cool stuff just because they can, just to get people talking. They do synchronised swimming in city fountains. They throw surprise street parties for people they’ve never met. They’ll have two people on a bus pretend to be twins separated at birth accidentally meeting each other for the first time. Once a year they get everyone they know to forget to put their trousers on before they go to work, so there are hundreds of people on the New York metro seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are in their underwear. One of my favourites is they got a few dozen people and they all went and stood in all of the front windows of a famous multi storey department store. And once they were all there they took it in turns to dance, or mime, or whatever, and eventually a huge crowd gathered outside the store just looking up into the windows. They called the stunt ‘Look Up More’.
That’s what the Bible encourages us to do. Look up more. When times are hard and temptation is near, and the race is long, look up to Jesus. Let him be your focus. Like a runner running for the prize, fix your eyes on the goal, Jesus, and ignore all of the distractions to the side. Most of our problems occur when we take our eyes off of Jesus. A story from the Bible:
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the surface of the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind and the waves, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
When Peter took his eyes of Jesus, he got distracted. And when he got distracted, he began to sink. You can walk on water, but if you take your eyes of the prize then you will be entangled by the waves and winds of this world. You can be walking out you salvation quite nicely when you are focussed on Jesus, but as soon as you lose that focus, as soon as you start looking around at what the Devil has to offer, rather than keeping your eyes fixed above, that’s when it all goes Pete Tong. The Bible says that there are three sources of temptation, and the very first of these is the lust of the eyes – we get into trouble whenever we start looking for sin rather than focussing on the author and perfector of our faith.
I wonder what was going through Jesus mind when he decided to ignore the laws of physics and take a stroll on the lake? I think it’s clear that Jesus had a very different way of looking at the world. What’s interesting though is that the more we focus on him, the more it transforms us, and the more we start to see the world through Jesus’ eyes – we start to see possibilities, such as the idea that water is solid. We start to see possibilities in people too – Jesus never saw failures and sinners, he saw damaged sons and daughters who could all be saints and heroes. Jesus sees things upside down, and we need to see things upside down too. Take a look at this video – this is a statement of unbelief from an atheist.
Seeing things from a different perspective, seeing things the way Jesus does as he looks down from the right hand of the Father, seeing things upside down actually changes things. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus so that he can change the way we see things, and we need to change the way we see things because that changes the world around us.
Does anyone here know much physics? One of the strange facts that we learn from quantum physics is that the act observation changes things. Some particles behave differently when they are being watched – how weird is that? Another fact we learn from quantum physics is that the act of observation actually defines which possibility becomes a certainty – the Schrodingers Cat effect demonstrates that a probability only becomes a fact once it has been observed. Physics teaches us that what you see becomes true. The Bible teaches us the same thing – how you look at the world actually changes it. If you fix your eyes on the distractions and troubles, then that’s what you get, and that’s all there is. But if you fix your eyes on the destination, on Jesus, then suddenly there is a way through. If all you see in someone is their failure, then that’s all they will ever be to you. But if you see them the way Jesus sees them, as glorious and bright as the stars in procession, then you allow the chance that they might be transformed, and you become open to the option that Jesus might use you to change them for their good. Fixing your eyes on Jesus transforms not only your journey, but actually changes the world around you to match his vision of how the world is, and that brings us neatly onto the last of the three – look out.
The Bible teaches us not just to look inwards and upwards, but to look outwards. As we look to Jesus our eyes are transformed, and he commands us to look outwards into his world. We saw earlier that we are called to live a transformed lifestyle. To buy gold refined in fire is to pray and to back it up with lifestyle, ‘to pray and humble themselves’. What kind of prayers are needed? The verse in Chronicles means a specific type of prayer.
In Greek there are four words for prayer, all of which are demonstrated in the Lord’s Prayer. There is
1.) Proseukos – ‘prayer’ – which asks to know God’s will and to see His Kingdom and Glory – ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done’
2.) De’esis – ‘supplication’ – asking for material needs – ‘Give us this day our daily bread’
3.) Hikateria – ‘supplication’ – asking for blessings or favours – ‘Deliver us from evil’
4.) Enteuxis – ‘intercession’ – asking for spiritual needs – ‘Forgive us our trespasses’
It is this final type that the Chronicles verse calls us to in order to make the church attractive to God, to cry out for our own spiritual needs and the for those of other people constantly, at all times and in all situations. This is the kind of prayer Jesus referred to with a promise - Ask and it will be given. This isn’t a basic thing taught to new Christians, this is part of Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples, who could already heal the sick and drive out demons and perform miracles – this is the source of real power in the church – spiritual intercession for others, for in this way the church becomes
‘rich’. The treasure that we store up in heaven is souls won from the battle out of Satan’s grasp, gold refined in the fire, and these souls will be safe in
God’s house never to be stolen away, and to be enjoyed by us forever! Other people are the only thing on Earth that we can take to Heaven with us, so for God’s sake pray for them!
Take a look at this video clip.
In order to pray for our friends and families and communities we need to look outwards. Why? Because you can’t see what you are not looking for. How does the church pray? Lets find out. Lets pray together. Everybody stand up and get yourself into a big circle…
… ok, what’s wrong with this picture? Even though I was just talking about looking outwards, as soon as I said get into a circle, you automatically created one looking inwards. Unfortunately, this is how the church often prays. Even with the best of intentions, even when the church is trying to look outwards, we all too often pray inwards – we get distracted by our own concerns, our own desires, and that is what we spend most of our time praying for… but it is the outwards prayers that are most attractive to God. Stay looking inwards for a bit and lets have a quick look at why it’s a good picture of how not to pray as a church:
- Keep watch and be on your guard. Your enemy the Devil prowls around you like a lion looking for someone to devour. What is the only piece of your body that is not covered by the armour of God? Your back. So when your enemy comes for you, which way do you think the church should be looking? Not only are you exposed when the focus of a church is inwards, but your friends who should be watching out for you can’t see the Devil coming either – you can’t see what you’re not looking for.
- What happens when someone wants to join your community if the focus is inwards? There is no one to greet them; all they see is a wall, and you can’t see them coming to offer a welcome or to make room. Your evangelism is compromised by a permanently inward focus.
- What happens when Jesus is doing something over there? No one notices – we’re all busily waiting for him to do something in here, when he realy wants us to be following him outwards. You can’t see what you’re not looking for.
Everybody turn around 180 degrees and face outwards. This is a picture of where a church is meant to focus the majority of its prayers. Now what happens? When the devil comes, your armour is front and centre, and your friends can see him coming. When Jesus is busy outside, someone can say “Hey guys, we need to be other there”. When a friend approaches, you can see them far off, and come out to welcome them, and make room in the circle. And one other thing. You might say that the inward focussed church is good at looking after people ‘cos you can bring them into the middle for safety while you look after them – true enough, but that’s also the case here. Does anyone watch Sharpe on tv or read the books? In the Napoleonic wars, when the battle was tough, the army used to form a square around the colours and the injured to protect them, but they still faced outwards, so
all the enemy was faced with was a wall of guns and sharp and pointy death when they tried to pick off the weakest members – the church is much, much stronger when we face resolutely outwards.
So that’s the message tonight – look inwards and mend your eyes; look upwards and fix your eyes on the prize; look outwards and see what is actually going on.
May you see your world transformed in your lifetime.
May you see your visions come to be.
May your hope touch every generation to come.
May your eyes shine with the light of the Torah
And your face be radiant as the brightness of the sky.
May your lips speak words of wisdom,
And may the world you live in be the world you see in your dreams.
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The Authority of Scripture
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What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
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When the Fire Burns Low
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Fix Your Eyes
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Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
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Hearing From God
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A creative prayer/worship service
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A Relationship With Jesus
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The Pilgrim's Progress
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Heroes, Promises and Trust
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Sex and Self Image
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Would you know him if he met you on the road?
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More Than Words
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The Armour of God
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The Heart of the Gospel
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Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
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Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
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Basics of Christianity
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