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Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, I’m overwhelmed by the thought that He willfully turned away from ecstasy in order to take on flesh. … That He walked away from ultimate happiness that we might share in His holiness.

Jesus Christ

The Bible describes God as “the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11). One translation says God is “the blissful God.” The word “blessed” here means “happy.”

God is happy because He needs nothing.

If God were on your shopping list this Christmas, He’d be the person who has everything, the one who is impossible to shop for.

“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:9-10).

God is happy because He sees His creation.

A friend of mine posted a picture of her Christmas tree on Facebook when she finished decorating it. Why? Probably because we humans take pleasure in things we’ve made. Whether it’s an oil painting, a blog post, a business proposal, a flower arrangement, a birthday cake or a graphic design element – we like to take a revisit our handiwork, savor the result and admire a job well done.

Can you imagine God’s sentiments after He spoke the galaxies into being?  How he must have savored the moment when He first saw the eagle fly, the Cheetah run and the whale swim!

God is happy because He is His own best friend.

In When God Weeps, Steve Estes writes:

If you were God, where could you go to be impressed? After all, you have created everyone and everything. It’s all wonderful, doubtless, but lesser than you. Conversation with any of your creatures, even the grandest, costs an infinite lowering of yourself. What could truly entertain your limitless mind? What idea would intrigue you? Whose company would charm you? Whose character and accomplishments take you aback? Where could you find beauty and grace enough to ravish you?

There is only one answer. Nothing can satisfy an infinite being but an infinite being. For God, the real intoxication comes as he stares in the mirror.

This mirror is the Trinity.[i]

Before the earth existed, before there were angels – ever before heaven itself – God existed as three persons. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In their fellowship is ecstasy.

The Holy Spirit is the quiet One. He shares equal deity with the Father and the Son, but His job is to honor the Son by appropriating to us the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Son takes center stage in the Bible. Steve Estes continues:

He is God, absolute divinity, on a par with the Father and the Spirit in every way. The Father never tires of bragging about him (see Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 3:17)…The two are so close that the Son is “in the bosom of the Father”—that is, resting his head on his chest, as close friends did while reclining on carpets around a low dinner table in the Middle East (John 1:18). Furthermore, God has taken the universe and turned the shop over to the Son: “All things have been committed to me by my Father” (Luke 10:22).

Why does the Father treasure him so? Because he sees himself in his Son. His own perfections are flawlessly reflected there. The Son is God standing in the mirror. In him God sees the fountain of all the intelligence, grandeur, and goodness that ever was. We look in the mirror and are almost always disappointed. God looks in the mirror and is riveted. To put it almost ridiculously, if the Father ever had any “cravings,” they are more than met by the Son. The eternal Threesome revels together in a swirling dance of mutual love. The Trinity enjoys pleasure beyond comprehension.[ii]

Jesus walked away from a life of sheer pleasure and ecstasy. He walked away from ultimate happiness that we might share in His holiness.

“5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion” (Philippians 2:5-8, The Message).

Jesus turned His back on infinite, present joy to live instead for a joy that was set before him.

“…who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

He walked away from perfect fellowship with God that He might associate with publicans and sinners. He forsook the comfort of Heaven to camp on earth without a place to lay His head (Luke 9:58).

Jesus didn’t clothe Himself with humanity and then, with the first ache or pain, change His mind. No, as The Message states, “He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process.

Throughout His life and ministry – and even His death on the cross – Jesus could have claimed special privileges. He could have created a bed from nothing, chosen not to deal with clueless disciples, avoided fasting in grueling desert temperatures or opted to bypass the suffering of the cross. Instead, He stayed. He endured. He suffered.

“Imagine the self-control required of a martyr
who could free Himself at will!”
[iii]

Today, you may be frustrated from the opposite problem. Perhaps you are enduring tremendous hardship and can’t free yourself at will.

The writer of Hebrews mentioned this very situation. He referred to our hardship as God’s training ground — as evidence that we’re His children and recipients of His unconditional love.

“7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it….10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:7-10).

The word “discipline” means “tutorage, education or training.” The word is even translated elsewhere as “nurture.” Beloved, God is nurturing us through our current hardships.

When we become one with Jesus in His suffering, He becomes one with us in ours. He takes on our flesh and we take on His holiness.

I’ve written three posts about the benefits of suffering — a few reasons why God allows hardship in our lives. But if there were no other reason than that we’re able to share in Christ’s holiness, that’s enough! That’s a bit of heaven here on earth!

Here at Christmastime, we’re celebrating the eternal God leaving heaven, coming to earth and taking on human form. As a result, if we are a child of God, in our sufferings we have a spirit-man that is elevated to heaven, seated with Christ in the heavenly realm! Jesus descended that we may ascend, even while our feet are planted firmly on this earth. That’s good news!

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6).

Fixing our eyes…

Before the writer of Hebrews spoke about our sufferings, he spoke about Jesus’ suffering.

“2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross…3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

“Yeah, yeah. Right,” you say. “I’ve heard the whole don’t-grow-weary pep talk before.”

The Message version is sure to charge your spiritual batteries:

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Understanding that God is sovereign and has permitted our trials for His glory and our good, let us do what Hebrews 12:2 instructs. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus!

Jesus, who lacked nothing in Heaven, became flesh and took on the status of a slave that we might have everything – Him!

I love Christmas and all that comes with it – the decorations, gifts and time with family and friends. These blessings from God are to be enjoyed.  Yet, it’s easy to let these blessings, or any lack thereof, take precedence over the greatest gift we could ever receive: Jesus Christ.

May nothing overshadow the Savior whose birth we celebrate! May our lives be a song of praise to Him – today and throughout the New Year! A song of praise to this martyr who could have freed Himself at will.

Question: What can you do to deliberately fix your eyes on Jesus today?

 


[i] Joni Eareckson Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 33

[ii] Ibid., 34

[iii] Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 417

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