Looking Unto Jesus!
Theodore Monod, 1874
"Looking unto Jesus!" Hebrews 12:2
Only three words, but in these three words is the whole secret of spiritual life.
Look unto Jesus in the Scriptures—to learn there . . .
what He is,
what He has done,
what He gives,
what He desires.
Looking unto Jesus in the Scriptures, we find . . .
in His character, our pattern;
in His teachings, our instruction;
in His precepts, our law;
in His promises, our support;
in His person and in His work, a full satisfaction provided for every need of our souls.
"You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about Me!" John 5:39
Looking unto Jesus, crucified—to find in His shed blood our ransom, our pardon, our peace.
Looking unto Jesus, risen—to find in Him the righteousness which alone makes us righteous, and permits us, all unworthy as we are, to draw near with boldness, in His Name, to Him Who is His Father and our Father, His God and our God.
Looking unto Jesus, glorified—to find in Him our Heavenly Advocate completing by His intercession—the work inspired by His loving-kindness for our salvation (1 John 2:1); Who even now is appearing for us before the face of God (Hebrews 9:24), the kingly Priest, the spotless Victim, continually bearing the iniquity of our holy things (Exodus 28:38).
Looking unto Jesus, revealed by the Holy Spirit—to find in constant communion with Him—the cleansing of our sin-stained hearts, the illumination of our darkened spirits, the transformation of our rebel wills; enabled by Him to triumph over all attacks of the world and of the evil one, resisting their violence by Jesus our Strength, and overcoming their subtlety by Jesus our Wisdom; upheld by the sympathy of Jesus, Who was spared no temptation, and by the help of Jesus, Who yielded to none.
Looking unto Jesus—Who gives repentance as well as forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31) because He gives us the grace to recognize, to lament, to confess, and to forsake our transgressions.
Looking unto Jesus—to receive from Him the task and the cross for each day, with the grace which is sufficient to carry the cross and to accomplish the task; the grace that enables us to be patient with His patience, active with His activity, loving with His love; never asking "What am I able for?" but rather: "What is He not able for?" and waiting for His strength which is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Looking unto Jesus—to go forth from ourselves and to forget ourselves—so that our darkness may flee away before the brightness of His face; so that our joys may be holy, and our sorrow restrained; that He may cast us down, and that He may raise us up; that He may afflict us, and that He may comfort us; that He may despoil us, and that He may enrich us; that He may teach us to pray, and that He may answer our prayers; that while leaving us in the world, He may separate us from it, our life being hidden with Him in God, and our behavior bearing witness to Him before men.
Looking unto Jesus—Who, having returned to the Father's house, is engaged in preparing a place there for us; so that this joyful prospect may make us live in hope, and prepare us to die in peace, when the day shall come for us to meet this last enemy, whom He has overcome for us, whom we shall overcome through Him—so that what was once the king of terrors is today the harbinger of eternal happiness!
Looking unto Jesus—Whose certain return, at an uncertain time, is from age to age the expectation and the hope of the faithful Church, who is encouraged in her patience, watchfulness and joy by the thought that the Savior is at hand (Philippians 4:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).
Looking unto Jesus—"The Author and the Finisher of our faith." That is to say—He Who is its pattern and its source, even as He is its object; and Who from the first step even to the last, marches at the head of the believers; so that by Him our faith may be inspired, encouraged, sustained, and led on to its supreme consummation (Hebrews 12:2).
Looking unto Jesus—and at nothing else, as our text at the same time directs us to fix our gaze upon Him, and to turn it away from everything else.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at ourselves, our thoughts, our reasonings, our imaginings, our inclinations, our wishes, our plans.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the world, its customs, its example, its rules, its judgments.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at Satan, though he seeks to terrify us by his fury, or to entice us by his flatteries. Oh! from how many useless questions we would save ourselves, from how many disturbing scruples, from how much loss of time, dangerous dallyings with evil, waste of energy, empty dreams, bitter disappointments, sorrowful struggles, and distressing falls—by looking steadily unto Jesus, and by following Him wherever He may lead us. Then we shall be too much occupied with not losing sight of the path which He marks out for us, to waste even a glance on those paths in which He does not think it suitable to lead us.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our creeds, no matter how evangelical they may be. The faith which saves, which sanctifies, and which comforts, is not giving assent to the doctrine of salvation—it is being united to the person of the Savior. "It is not enough," said one, "to know about Jesus Christ—it is necessary to have Jesus Christ." No one truly knows Him, if he does not first possess Him. According to the profound saying of the beloved disciple, it is in the Life there is Light, and it is in Jesus there is Life (John 1:4).
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our meditations and our prayers, our pious conversations and our profitable reading, the holy meetings that we attend, nor even to our taking part in the supper of the Lord. Let us faithfully use all these means of grace, but without confusing them with grace itself; and without turning our gaze away from Him Who alone makes them effectual, when, by their means, He reveals Himself to us.
Looking unto Jesus—and not to our position in the Christian Church, to the family to which we belong, to our baptism, to the education which we have received, to the doctrine which we profess, to the opinion which others have formed of our piety, or to the opinion which we have formed of it ourselves. Some of those who have prophesied in the Name of the Lord Jesus will one day hear Him say: "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:22, 23). But He will confess before His Father and before His angels, even the most humble of those who have looked unto Him alone for salvation.
Looking unto Jesus—and not to our brethren, not even to the best among them and the best beloved. In following a man—we run the risk of losing our way. In following Jesus—we are sure of never losing our way. Besides, in putting a man between Jesus and ourselves, it will come to pass that insensibly the man will increase, and Jesus will decrease; and soon we no longer know how to find Jesus when we cannot find the man, and if he fails us, all fails.
On the contrary, if Jesus is kept between us and our closest friend, our attachment to the person will be at the same time less enthralling, and more deep; less passionate, and more tender; less necessary, and more useful; an instrument of rich blessing in the hands of God, when He is pleased to make use of him; and whose absence will be a further blessing, when it may please God to dispense with him, to draw us even nearer to the only Friend who can be separated from us by "neither death nor life" (Romans 8:38, 39).
Looking unto Jesus—and not at His enemies or at our own. In place of hating them and fearing them—we shall then know how to love them and to overcome them.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the obstacles which meet us in our path. As soon as we stop to consider them—they astonish us, they confuse us, they overwhelm us, incapable as we are of understanding either the reason why they are permitted, or the means by which we may overcome them. The apostle began to sink as soon as he turned to look at the waves tossed by the storm. It was while he was looking at Jesus that he walked on the waters as on a rock. The more difficult our task, and the more terrifying our temptations—the more essential it is that we look only at Jesus.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our troubles, to count up their number, to reckon their weight—to find perhaps a certain strange satisfaction in tasting their bitterness. Apart from Jesus, trouble does not sanctify—it only hardens or it crushes. It produces not patience, but rebellion; not sympathy, but selfishness; not hope, but despair. It is only under the shadow of the cross, that we can appreciate the true weight of our own cross, and accept it each day from His hand, to carry it with love, with gratitude, with joy; and find in it for ourselves, a source of blessings.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the dearest, the most legitimate of our earthly joys—lest we be so engrossed in them that they deprive us of the sight of the very One Who gives them to us. If we are looking at Him first of all, then it is from Him we receive these good things, made a thousand times more precious because we possess them as gifts from His loving hand, which we entrust to His keeping, to enjoy them in communion with Him, and to use them for His glory.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the instruments, whatever they may be which He employs to form the path which He has appointed for us. Looking beyond man, beyond circumstances, beyond the thousand causes so rightly called secondary—let us ascend as far as the first cause—His will. Let us ascend even to the source of this very will—His love. Then our gratitude, without being less lively towards those who do us good, will not stop at them. Then in the testing day, under the most unexpected blow, the most inexplicable, the most overwhelming, we can say with the Psalmist: "I was silent, I opened not my mouth, because You are the one who has done this!" (Psalm 39:9). And in the silence of our speechless sorrow the heavenly voice will gently reply: "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." (John 13:7).
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the interests of our cause, of our party, of our church—still less at our personal interests. The single object of our life is the glory of God. If we do not make it the supreme goal of our efforts, we must deprive ourselves of His help, for His grace is only at the service of His glory. If, on the contrary, it is His glory that we seek above all—then we can always count on His grace.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the sincerity of our intentions, or at the strength of our resolutions. Alas! how often the most excellent intentions have only prepared the way for the most humiliating falls. Let us stay ourselves, not on our intentions—but on His love; not on our resolutions—but on His promise.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our strength. Our strength is good only to glorify ourselves; to glorify God one must have the strength of God.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our weakness. By lamenting our weakness, have we ever become more strong? Let us look to Jesus, and His strength will communicate itself to our hearts, and His praise will break forth from our lips.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our sins, neither at the source from which they come (Matthew 15:19) nor the chastisement which they deserve. Let us look at ourselves, only to recognize how much need we have of looking to Him; and looking to Him, certainly not as if we were sinless; but on the contrary, because we are sinners, measuring the very greatness of the offence by the greatness of the sacrifice which has atoned for it and of the grace which pardons it. "For every one look at ourselves," said an eminent servant of God (Robert McCheyne), "take ten looks at Jesus!"
"If it is very sure," said Vinet, "that one will not lose sight of his wretched state by looking at Jesus Christ crucified—because this wretched state is, as it were, engraved upon the cross. It is also very sure that in looking at one's wretchedness, one can lose sight of Jesus Christ; because the cross is not naturally engraved upon the image of one's wretchedness." And he adds, "Look at yourselves—but only in the presence of the cross, only through Jesus Christ." Looking at the sin, only gives death. Looking at Jesus, gives life. That which healed the Israelite in the wilderness, was not considering his wounds—but raising his eyes to the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:9).
Looking unto Jesus—and not—do we need to say it?—at our pretense of righteousness. Ill above all who are ill, is he who believes himself in health. Blind above all who are blind, is he who thinks that he sees (John 9:41). It is dangerous to look long at our wretchedness, which is, alas! too real. It is much more dangerous, to rest complacently on imaginary merits.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the law. The law gives commands, and gives no strength to carry them out. The law always condemns, and never pardons. If we put ourselves back under the law—then we take ourselves away from grace. In so far as we make our obedience the means of our salvation—we lose our peace, our joy, our strength; for we have forgotten that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes (Romans 10:4). As soon as the law has constrained us to seek in Him our only Savior—then also to Him alone, belongs the right to command our obedience: an obedience which includes nothing less than our whole heart, and our most secret thoughts, but which has ceased from being an iron yoke, and an insupportable burden—to become an easy yoke and a light burden (Mat 11:30). An obedience which He makes as delightful as it is binding. An obedience which He inspires, at the same time as He requires it; and which in very truth, is less a consequence of our salvation than it is a part of this very salvation—and, like all the rest, a free gift.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at what we are doing for Him. Too much occupied with our work, we can forget our Master. It is possible to have the hands full—and the heart empty. When occupied with our Master, we cannot forget our work. If the heart is filled with His love, how can the hands fail to be active in His service?
Looking unto Jesus—and not to the apparent success of our efforts. The apparent success is not the measure of the real success; and besides, God has not told us to succeed, but to be faithful in our work. It is faithfulness in our work that He requires an account, and not of our success—why then concern ourselves with success? It is for us to scatter the seed—and for God to gather the fruit. If not today, then it will be tomorrow. If He does not employ us to gather it, then He will employ others.
Even when success is granted to us, it is always dangerous to fix our attention on it. On the one hand, we are tempted to take some of the credit of it to ourselves. On the other hand, we thus accustom ourselves to abate our zeal when we cease to perceive its result—that is to say, at the very time when we should redouble our energy. To look at the success—is to walk by sight. To look at Jesus, and to persevere in following Him and serving Him, in spite of all discouragements—is to walk by faith.
Looking unto Jesus—and not to the spiritual gifts which we have already received, or which we are now receiving from Him. As to yesterday's grace—it has passed with yesterday's work. We can no longer make use of it—and we should no longer linger over it. As to today's grace, given for today's work—it is entrusted to us, not to be looked at, but to be used. We are not to gloat over it as a treasure, counting up our riches, but to spend it immediately, and remain poor, "Looking, looking unto Jesus!"
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the amount of sorrow that our sins make us experience, or at the amount of humiliation which they produce in us. If only we are humiliated by them enough to make us no longer delighted with ourselves; if only we are troubled by them enough to make us look to Jesus, so that He may deliver us from them—that is all that He asks from us. It is also this look which more than anything else will make our tears spring, and our pride fall. And when it is given to us as to Peter—to weep bitterly (Luke 22:62). Oh! then may our tear-dimmed eyes remain more than ever directed Looking unto Jesus; for even our repentance will become a snare to us, if we think to blot out in some measure by our tears—those sins which nothing can blot out, except the blood of the Lamb of God.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the brightness of our joy, the strength of our assurance, or the warmth of our love. Otherwise, when for a little time this love seems to have grown cold, this assurance to have vanished, this joy to have failed us—either as the result of our own faithlessness, or for the trial of our faith—immediately, having lost our feelings, we think that we have lost our strength, and we allow ourselves to fall into an abyss of sorrow, even into cowardly idleness, or perhaps sinful complaints!
Ah! rather let us remember that if the feelings with their sweetness, are absent—then the faith with its strength remains with us. To be able always to be "abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58), let us look steadily, not at our ever-changeful hearts—but at Jesus, who is always the same.
Looking unto Jesus—and not at the heights of holiness to which we have attained. If no one may believe himself a child of God so long as he still finds stains in his heart, and stumblings in his life—then who could ever taste the joy of salvation? But this joy is not bought with a price. Holiness is the fruit—not the root of our redemption. It is the work of Jesus Christ for us, which reconciles us unto God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, which renews us in His likeness.
The shortcomings of a faith which is true, but not yet fully established, and bearing but little fruit—in no way lessens the fullness of the perfect work of the Savior, nor the certainty of His unchanging promise, guaranteeing eternal life unto whoever trusts in Him. And so to rest in the Redeemer, is the true way to obey Him. It is only when enjoying the peace of forgiveness, that the soul is strong for the conflict. If there are any who abuse this blessed truth by giving themselves over unscrupulously to spiritual idleness, imagining that they can let the faith which they think they have, take the place of the holiness which they have not—then they should remember this solemn warning of the Apostle Paul, "those who are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24) and that of the Apostle John, "He who says I know Him, and keeps not His commandments—is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4) and that of the Lord Jesus Himself, "Every tree which does not bring forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire!" (Matthew 7:19).
Looking unto Jesus—and not at our faith. The last device of the adversary, when he cannot make us look elsewhere, is to turn our eyes from our Savior; to our faith; and thus to discourage us if it is weak, to fill us with pride if it is strong. Either way weakens us. For power does not come from the faith, but from the Savior by faith. It is not looking at our look, it is "Looking, looking unto Jesus!"
Looking unto Jesus. It is from Him and in Him, that we learn to know, not only without danger, but for the well-being of our souls—what it is good for us to know about the world and about ourselves, our sorrows and our dangers, our resources and our victories. Thus seeing everything in its true light, because it is He Who shows them to us, and that only at the time and in the proportion in which this knowledge will produce in us the fruits of humility and wisdom, gratitude and courage, watchfulness and prayer. All that it is desirable for us to know—the Lord Jesus will teach us. All that we do not learn from Him—it is better for us not to know.
Looking, looking unto Jesus—as long as we remain on the earth!
Looking unto Jesus—from moment to moment, without allowing ourselves to be distracted by memories of a past which we should leave behind us, nor by occupation with a future of which we know nothing.
Looking unto Jesus—NOW, if we have never looked unto Him!
Looking unto Jesus—AFRESH, if we have ceased doing so!
Looking unto Jesus—ONLY!
Looking unto Jesus—STILL!
Looking unto Jesus—ALWAYS! With a gaze more and more constant, more and more confident, "changed into the same image from glory to glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18), and thus awaiting the hour when he will call us to pass from earth to Heaven, and from time to eternity—the promised hour, the blessed hour, when at last "we shall be like Him, for we shall Him as He really is!" (1 John 3:2).
Oh! the bitter pain and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
"All for self—and none for Thee!"
Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the accursed tree;
And my wistful heart said faintly,
"Some for self—and some for Thee."
Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Brought me lower, while I whispered,
"Less for self—and more for Thee."
Higher than the highest heavens.
Deeper than the deepest sea;
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered,
"None for self—and all for Thee!"