Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And such faith comes by the hearing of the Word of Christ.
Therefore, do not judge by what your eyes see, but by the Word of the Lord which your ears hear.
Do not judge the Lord your God by what you see and feel and experience. Do not attempt to know His heart or mind apart from His Spirit, who speaks to you by the Word of Christ, by the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Do not look for your “God” in that which appears beautiful and glorious to the eyes of man. Do not fix your eyes on the graven images of this world. Your eyes will utterly deceive you in such things. But learn to know what is pleasing to the Lord by hearing and heeding what He says.
Do not evaluate the one true God and His attitude toward you on the basis of what you perceive in your body and life or see in the world around you. The curse and consequences of sin and death are everywhere, within and without, but they do not reveal the big picture or tell the whole story. Nor does the Cross that you bear and suffer as a child of God, as a disciple of Christ the Crucified, indicate the visitation of God’s righteous wrath and judgment against you, although that is surely how it seems and feels. It is rather that God would conform you to the Image of His Son in love.
Listen to the Word and preaching of the Lord, and hear what the Father speaks to you by His Son, in order to know the good and gracious will of God and His heart and mind toward you in Christ.
It is true that His Law thunders against you, and cries out against your sins, exposing them by the light of His Commandments. His Law does reveal and condemn your sins, from which you are summoned to repent. Therefore, do not participate in those unfruitful deeds of darkness.
But His Law is not His last or final Word concerning you. His Law is not His decisive judgment against you. Nor can His Law even be heard or comprehended rightly apart from Christ and His Gospel. Apart from Christ, the Law of God must always accuse you and oppose your sin and unbelief. More than that, it must put you to death and damn you forever.
Apart from the Gospel of Christ, the Law blinds you to the one true God; it closes your eyes and leaves you in the darkness of eternal death. Not because the Law is bad, but because of your sin.
The Lord, however, causes His Light to shine upon you. Not only the light of His Law, which exposes your sin, but also the Light of His Gospel, the forgiveness of your sin, which is the Light of the revelation of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
You cannot see or perceive this true divine Glory except by the preaching and hearing of Christ and His Gospel. But as the Law of the Lord blinds you with its intensity and closes your eyes in death, so does the Gospel raise you up and give you life and open your eyes to see God truly.
Those who presume to see apart from this Word of the Lord are doubly blind and cannot see anything rightly, neither the Law nor the Gospel, though they are quite convinced and certain of what they perceive with their eyes on the surface.
Guard yourself against that instinct and temptation, and do not judge or evaluate Christ by what your eyes can see. For as He is lifted up in Glory on the Cross, He is a deformed and grotesque figure, a worm and not a man in His appearance, marred beyond all human recognition.
Therefore, shut your eyes to what your sinful reason there perceives. Pluck them out, and blind yourself to mortal sight and sense.
That is, do not mutilate your body, but rein your body in, your eyes and ears and all your members, your reason and all your senses. Rein them in by hearing and heeding the Word of Christ.
Hear the Word that God the Father testifies concerning this Jesus Christ, the Crucified One:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the beloved and well-pleasing Son who accomplishes your salvation. Listen to Him, and take to heart what He says:
“This is My Body, given for you. This is My Blood, poured out for you. All of your sins are here forgiven. Arise, and do not fear. Blessed are you, who are not scandalized by Me.”
By this Word of Christ — His blessing, the gift of Himself, and His forgiveness of your sins — He opens your eyes in faith to recognize the true Glory of His Cross, to fear, love, and trust in Him, and so also to believe His Gospel; so that, believing, you may have life in Him.
This Word of Christ, the Gospel of His Cross, likewise opens your eyes in faith to behold and believe His gracious and glorious presence within His Church on earth: in His humble means of grace, and in the preaching and administration of Christ by your pastor, even though all you can see on the surface is flawed and frail and finite.
The Lord opens your eyes in faith to see the new and better Adam in the Man God raises from the dust of the earth, from the mud and the spit, whom He glorifies with Himself at His Right Hand.
It is by the Gospel of this same Christ Jesus and His Cross that God the Father looks on you in love and sees you with such grace and tender mercy and compassion. He does not look at your sin and death, but at Christ, His own dear Son — who died for you and rose again — who covers you with Himself and adorns you with His own beautiful Righteousness and Holiness forever.
Because of your sin, you are wasting away, a walking dead man, and a rotting corpse, no matter how healthy and handsome, wealthy, active, or good looking you may be (or appear to be).
But the Lord your God has cleansed you from the inside out, and clothed you in Christ Jesus, so that you are truly beautiful, radiant and glorious, a stunning, gorgeous Bride made ready for your true and heavenly Bridegroom. That is how He sees you; so that is how you are.
Therefore, do not look at your sins beyond repentance and confession. Examine yourself, to be sure, in the light of the Ten Commandments, as the Lord has taught you to do. Confess your sins according to the truth of His Word, His holy and righteous Law. But then also hear and believe the truth of His Gospel, which speaks forgiveness and does and gives exactly what it says:
“Your sins are forgiven.”
Open your eyes, therefore, by opening your ears to this Word of the Lord; and see yourself in this Light of Christ, who is Himself your glorious Life and your eternal Day.
So also look at your neighbor in this Light of Christ, that is, according to the Word of His Gospel. Do not judge your neighbor by what you see on the surface. Not by his or her outward appearance; not by his behavior; and neither by what he suffers in this body and life, nor by what he achieves in the eyes of the world. Do not look upon your neighbor’s sins or failings. And do not conclude God’s verdict on your neighbor by your perception of his external experience in this world.
Instead, hear God’s verdict in the Word that He speaks by His Son, in whom He has reconciled the world to Himself in peace and with forgiveness. Look upon your neighbor, then, as God the Father looks at you: in Christ. And see Christ Jesus in your neighbor, as the Lord your God beholds your neighbor in Christ, and as the same Lord God also beholds you in Christ and Christ in you.
Such gracious perception is only by faith in the Gospel, by the preaching and hearing of Christ.
Apart from that Word of Christ, you shall never be able to see anything else but sin and death, both in yourself and in your neighbor. And truth be told, you would not even see the full extent of that curse and demise — until it was far too late!
But now Christ has come, and in His mercy and His love He shines His Light upon you, that you might know and believe the Glory of God by the grace of His Gospel.
Awake, O sleeper! Arise from the dead! Open your blind eyes to the Son of Man who feeds you. Taste and see that the Lord is good, and that His mercy endures forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.