01 March 2008

Simple Sermon on the Sight of Christ

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And such faith comes by hearing 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 (the preaching of the Gospel).

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.

Do not evaluate the one true God and His attitude toward you on the basis of what you perceive in your life and see in the world around you. The curse and consequence of sin and death do not reveal the big picture or tell the whole story. And the Cross that you bear as a child of God, as a disciple of Christ the Crucified, is not the angry face and scowling countenance of wrath and condemnation that it seems to be.

Listen to the Word of the Lord, and hear what He says to you, in order to know 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.

But His Law is not His last or final Word, nor His proper and decisive Word. It cannot even be heard and comprehended rightly apart from Christ and His Gospel. Apart from Christ, the Law of God always and only accuses you with your sin and unbelief. More than that, it kills you.

Apart from the Gospel, then, the Law blinds you to the one true God, and would finally close your eyes forever, leaving you to dwell in the utter darkness of eternal death.

The Lord, however, causes His Light to shine upon you. Not only the light of His Law, which exposes your sin, but 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 Christ Jesus.

You cannot see or perceive this true divine Glory, except by the preaching and hearing of the Gospel. As His Law blinds you and closes your eyes in death, His Gospel raises you to life and opens your eyes to see.

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).

Therefore, do not judge or evaluate Christ by what your eyes can see. For lifted up in Glory upon the Cross, He is a deformed and grotesque figure, a worm and not a man in His appearance, marred beyond human recognition.

Shut your eyes to what your sinful reason there perceives. Pluck them out, and blind yourself to mortal sight and sense.

No, do not mutilate your body, but rein your body in, your eyes and ears and all your members, your reason and all your senses, by hearing the Word of Christ.

Hear the Word that God the Father has testified concerning this Christ Jesus, the Crucified One: Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the beloved and well-pleasing Son. Listen to Him.

Hear His Word to you: "This is My Body, given for you. This is My Blood, poured out for you. Your sins are forgiven. Arise, and do not fear. Blessed are you, who are not scandalized by Me."

This Word of Christ — His blessing; His forgiveness — opens your eyes in faith to see the Glory of His Cross, to believe in Him and to believe His Gospel (that believing, you may have life in Him).

This Word of Christ, the Gospel of His Cross, opens your eyes in faith to perceive His gracious and glorious presence in His Church, in His humble means of grace, in the preaching and administration of Christ by your pastor (though all you can see, outwardly, is flawed and frail and finite).

He opens your eyes in faith to see the new and better Adam in the Man that He raises from the dust of the earth, from the spittle and the mud.

It is by the same Gospel of Christ and His Cross that God your Father looks upon you in love and sees you with tender mercy and compassion. He does not behold your sin and death, but Christ, His own dear Son, who covers you with Himself and adorns you with His Righteousness and Holiness forever.

Outwardly you are wasting away, a walking dead man, a rotting corpse (no matter how pretty you may be).

But the Lord your God has clothed you (from the inside out) in Jesus Christ; so that you are truly beautiful, radiant and glorious, a stunning, gorgeous Bride made ready for your heavenly Bridegroom. That is how He sees you; so, then, that is how you are.

Do not look at your sin beyond repentance and confession. Examine yourself rightly in the light of His Ten Commandments. Confess your sin according to the truth of His Word, His holy and righteous Law. Then hear and believe the truth of His Gospel, which speaks forgiveness and does exactly what it says: "Your sins are forgiven."

Open your eyes, therefore, and see yourself in this Light of Christ, who is your glorious Life and your eternal Day.

See your neighbor, also, in this Light of Christ, that is, according to His Word of the Gospel. Do not judge your neighbor by what your eyes see, by his or her outward appearance (whether behavior or suffering). Do not look upon your neighbor’s sins or failings. And do not conclude God’s verdict upon your neighbor by your perception of his external experience in the world.

Hear God’s verdict in the Word that He speaks by His Son. Look upon your neighbor as God the Father looks upon you: in Christ. See Christ in your neighbor — as God sees Christ in your neighbor, and 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 but sin and death (in yourself and in your neighbor). And you would not even see the full extent of that, until it is too late!

But now Christ has come and shines His Light upon you.

Awake, O sleeper! Arise, O dead! Open your blind eyes to the Son of Man who feeds you.

Taste and see that the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

1 comment:

sarahlaughed said...

Thanks Pastor. Your sermon really startled me out of my selfcentered focus of judging God and his perception of me based on my own perceptions of Him and of me. It was a jolt, but a refreshing, forgiving, life renewing jolt. Amazing how that sharp double edged sword cuts in order to heal, isn't it?
Thanks you so much! Sometimes I think that this is what I need to hear most. But just when I seem to have finally grasped the reality that the Lord doesn't see me according to the Law, I fall back into the same trap of miserably groaning over my failings again. Ironically, that's what the last sentence just did. It is so good to hear every time I come to church that for Christ's sake I AM righteous. I think it will take a while for that to fully sink into my thick head.