The Scripture lessons for August 14, 2016 were Jeremiah 23:16-29; Hebrews 11:17-12:3; and Luke 12:49-56. Pastor Roskowic entitled his message “Fix Your Eyes on Jesus.”
The focus of Pastor Roskowic’s message was Hebrews 12:1-2 from which he also got the title for his sermon. These two verses have been favorites of mine for a long time. In fact, if you have ever received an email from me you probably noticed under my signature at the close of the email the phrase “Fix your eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2).
In his message Pastor Roskowic joined the author of Hebrews in inviting us/challenging us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Personally, I like to challenge people to fix their eyes, their minds, their thoughts on Jesus—His presence, His person, His love, His power, and His wisdom—and try to be unhappy. Or to fix their eyes, their minds, their thoughts on Jesus—His presence, His person, His love, His power, and His wisdom—and to say “I can’t” and mean it. When I truly fix my eyes, my mind, my thoughts on Jesus it is almost impossible to be unhappy or to say “I can’t” for Jesus is such a positive, powerful, can-do God.
Hebrews 12:2 then begins to describe Jesus: “Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” Jesus, through His Spirit, using such things as Word and Sacraments, births faith in us and in so doing our adoption as God’s sons and daughters is complete and we have become inheritors of eternal life (Jn 3:16; Jn 20:31; Gal 4:4-7; 1 Jn 3:1). But Jesus is far more than the author of our faith—saving us and making us inheritors of eternal life. He also seeks to perfect, to form, the faith that He has birthed in us. Through the birthing of faith, He indwells us and He now seeks perfect our faith by forming His presence within us (Gal 4:19) until we become mature and perfect in Him (Col 1:28; 1 Jn 3:1-2). Again, Word and Sacrament is the chief means by which He accomplishes not only our birthing, but His perfecting (1 Thes 2:13; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Tit 3:5-6). As He perfects our faith and forms His presence in us we increasingly become like Him manifesting the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), loving selflessly, unconditionally, and sacrificially even as He has loved us (Jn 13:34-35; 1 Cor 16:14).
Hebrews 12:2 continues “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning (discounting) its shame.” This brings to my mind at least two things. First, it gives us a picture of what love looks like, particularly Jesus’ love for us. Love entails picking up the cross of servanthood, even if it should lead to death. Romans 5:8 tells us “God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Now, as He indwells us in love, we are to love others as He has loved us (Jn 13:34-35), and as He now seeks to continue loving through us (Jn 15:4-5). Jesus tells us this means that we are to daily pick up the cross of servanthood (Lk 9:23). There is a second thing that comes to mind as I read “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning (discounting) its shame.” We know Jesus went to the cross and died a horribly painful death for us, in order that He might pay the penalty for our sins, but the verse says He did it for joy. This means in this verse we are called Jesus’ JOY. Yes, we caused Jesus unimaginable pain and suffering, yet, He discounted it because of the joy we would enjoy with Him in an eternal loving relationship. You are the joy of Jesus, the apple of His eye and the light of His life, in spite of any pain that you have caused or ever will cause Him.
Pastor Roskowic as he reflected on Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that fixing our eyes on Jesus will mean that we “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Pastor Roskowic made mention of a number of sins with which people, including Christians, can become entangled: premarital and/or extramarital sexual relationships, homosexual relationships, abortion, etc. He warned against taking our cues from today’s cultural influences rather than Jesus as He speaks to us in and through Holy Scripture. I agree with everything Pastor Roskowic said. There are, however, also things with which we can become entangled and that can hinder us that are neither overtly sinful nor immortal. There is a phrase “the tyranny of the good.” The “tyranny of the good” refers to one of Satan’s most subtle and most effective ploys. It is the temptation to settle for “the good,” rather than to pursue God’s best. It is a failure to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It seeks to avoid picking up crosses and making sacrifices. It settles for mediocrity. It fails to embrace God will and fails to claim His presence, His power and to express His love. In short, it falls short.
As I wrap up my reflections and as we “fix our eyes on Jesus,” I would like to leave you with three passages of Scripture:
1 John 2:1-2 (NIV) My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV) being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
- With what are you encouraged?
- For what are you empowered?
- How are you going to respond?
These have been some of my reflections. I would love to hear or read yours.
Chime in with your thoughts and questions in the comment section!