We're going to read from the word of God this morning, from Matthew's gospel and chapter 14. Matthew chapter 14 and we're reading from verse 22.
Matthew 14 and verse 22: "And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit", or it is a ghost, "and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God".
I want you to keep your finger in the passage that we read together, Matthew chapter 14, but our main reading this morning is from Hebrews and chapter 12. Hebrews chapter 12, keeping your finger in Matthew 14, we're reading from Hebrews 12 and verse 1. We're only reading two verses, verse 1 and verse 2.
The writer to the Hebrews says: "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed", or surrounded, "about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God".
"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us". This is the verse that I want us to concentrate on this morning: "Looking", or as another translation puts it, 'fixing your eyes', "unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God".
Let us pray: Our Father, we need Your help this morning as we come to Your word. We pray that as we read it, and as we think about it, in the closing moments of our service this morning, that You would speak to us. We pray that Your Spirit would be very real to us, that we may know the presence of God the Holy Spirit in this place. For we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.
If you look to Matthew 14, a very familiar passage and a very familiar story that the Pastor preached on some weeks ago. I don't mean to concentrate on this passage this morning, but there's just one thing that I want to bring out of it. If you look at it, you see the story that's very familiar: the disciples were out in the boat, Jesus had gone away to pray for a while. Suddenly Jesus decides that He's going to come to them, they're out on a boat in the middle - picture it in your mind's eye - in the middle of a lake. It's dark, and all of a sudden as Peter is sitting there he sees a white figure on the ocean. He sees the sea, and all he can see is blackness, but like a torch he can see this white light. He doesn't know what to do. Then the voice speaks to him and tells him not to be afraid. He said: 'It is I, it is the Lord'. So Peter said: 'Right, well if it's You Lord, do You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to get out of this boat, and I want You to let me walk on this water'. Jesus said: 'Come', so Peter put one leg over the side of the boat, and he put his foot down. Can you imagine, now - imagine it - on water, he put his foot down on water! Then he put the next foot over the side of the boat on the water again, and he's beginning, like a child, to take his first steps on this water.
But it says in verse 30: 'But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid'. You see, what had happened was: the first thing that Peter saw was the Lord, that white light of the Lord Jesus Christ - the light of the world standing on the water. He looked, and he couldn't take his eyes off Him, his eyes were fixed on Him, he couldn't look at anything else. When the Lord said: 'Come', he was looking at Him, he had his eyes fixed upon Him. When he was putting his leg over the boat, and the second leg, and when he started taking those steps - he wasn't looking down at his feet, but he was looking at the Lord. Just as those who sailed the boats looked at the stars to navigate, he was looking at Christ. But then in his human ears, in his mind, and then finally with his eyes he saw a storm. The moment he saw that storm he began to sink.
I want to ask you a very simple question this morning, and it's this, whether you're a believer or whether you're an unbeliever I want to ask you today: are you sinking? Are you sinking? I don't know what you're sinking in, I don't know what your problems are, I don't know what your anxieties are, or your cares are, or the barriers and boundaries that you have, or the horizons that seem to be blocking the way ahead. I don't know what they are - I know God knows what they are, and I know you know what they are - but I'm just simply asking: are you sinking into something today? Does it seem that there's no hope? Does it seem that the ground is opening, and whatever this situation is, it is just gobbling you up? You feel that it's up to your neck at the moment, and before long you'll not be able to breathe, you'll not be able to do any more.
Perhaps it's fear, perhaps it's illness or sickness. Perhaps it's problems in your marriage, or with your family. Perhaps it's problems at the workplace, financial problems. Whatever it is, believer this morning, are you sinking? Are you really sinking and you don't know what to do? I wonder do you know why you're sinking? Do you realise what's the cause? I've had to realise it this week. Perhaps you've just come from a mountaintop experience, perhaps you've been going well with the Lord and everything's been going well - like me, with two weeks of mission, and the Lord really blesses - then suddenly it's as if you come over the mountaintop and you're into a valley, there's an anti-climax, nothing seems to be happening. You start sinking.
Why do you start sinking? Because, like Peter, you had your eyes fixed on the Lord. He was all that you saw, but then when the problems came - it's very easy to keep your eyes fixed on the Lord when everything is going OK, but then when the problems come, then when the pressures come, then when the anxieties come, we start like Peter to sink. There's tonnes of characters in the Bible that we can say this about. One man, Saul, think of him. The first king in Israel - Saul - God had anointed him, God had chosen him to rule over the nation. He was the anointed of God, he had everything going for him, but what happened? Saul took his eyes off the Lord, and the moment that Saul took his eyes off the Lord, the Lord took His eyes off Saul! No longer was Saul the blessed King of God, the anointed of God, but God told Samuel to tell Saul that He was going to move on to another king. Saul took his eyes off the Lord.
What about Lucifer? You might say: 'David, you can't use Lucifer as an example'. Think of who Lucifer was! If you like, in heaven he was God right-hand man, he was the head of all the angels, he had charge over many things. He was the Prince of Light, that's what Lucifer means. He was the highest of the high, apart from God, but what happened? He took his eyes off the Lord and he planted them on himself. He began to become proud. He no longer looked on the glory of God, but he started to look for glory within himself, started to be ambitious and strive for glory within himself. What happened? God cast him out of heaven, but really in reality: his pride came before his fall.
Are you sinking this morning? Do you not know what to do? Have you taken your eyes off the Lord? Is there some distraction that has come into your life? What is it? Like a cuckoo that steals other birds nests, and pushes the eggs away, there's something coming into your nest of your spirituality, of your life, and it seems to take over. It's a distraction that's pushing everything else out, and it's pushing your eyes off the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to bring you to Hebrews chapter 12 and verse 2, where he tells us to look unto Jesus. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith! Now, I want to say first of all: what happens when we look? Well, you know the hymn: 'Look to Jesus and He will save you' - you know that hymn - 'Look and live, my brother live'. That's what happened when you first got saved, wasn't it? You were saved because you turned, as it were, the eyes of faith towards the Lord, and He saved you - in a look of faith, almost. You see it in Numbers 21 and verses 4 to 9, where you have the pole, the snake of brass. You remember God cursed Israel because they were disobedient to Him, they were murmuring after Him, and what that God do? He sent fiery serpents, and they bit the Israelites with poison. They cried out to God for mercy: 'Lord, save us! Save us!'. God told the priest to go and make a pole and a bronze serpent and stick in the ground, and He told them all: 'Look at it and live!'.
You remember, and we're thinking about it tonight in the Gospel meeting, we're thinking about that - where, in John 3, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself compared Himself to that brazen serpent. Everyone who looks at Him, everyone who sees Him bleeding and dying in agony on the cross, when they are in their sin and their predicament - they look to Christ and they are saved! Maybe you've done that this morning, maybe you haven't done that - well, it's time you did do it! If you have done that, you know what it means to look to Jesus, you know what it means to let His eyes have contact with your eyes - and something happens!
What I want to stress this morning is this: Christianity is not a belief, OK? It is not primarily a belief, but Christianity - the Christian faith, the church of Jesus Christ, the word of God, prayer, the Breaking of Bread, baptism - it's not religion! The Christian faith is all about a Person - that's it! With this Person we have the faith, the Christian faith; without this Person we have absolutely nothing. Everything you have as a Christian, everything the Christian church has as a movement and an organism, it consists in Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Mark, in his Gospel and chapter 6 and verse 56, he summed up the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ by saying this: 'As many as touched him were made whole'. Maybe you know that experience - you have been healed by the Lord Jesus Christ, but when He came to you and He touched you and healed you - did He begin to explain how he did it? Did He give you, like a doctor, a chart with all the bars and the graphs on it showing you how He did it? No He didn't, He just did it. In the same way, I know many people who have been saved in an instant, and when they were saved they have told me that they couldn't tell me anything about the doctrine of the cross, or about the resurrection, they couldn't tell me anything about the second coming of the Lord - but when the Lord Jesus Christ met them, they knew it, and they knew they'd been saved!
As many as touched Him were made whole. You see we don't preach, or we shouldn't preach, just salvation. We shouldn't be preaching just a message or a belief, but we should be presenting a Person - it's what we believe! We are here today to worship a Person, we're here to remember a Person, later on tonight we will be here to proclaim a Person - it's all about this Person. One day a few Greek men came up to the disciples and said this: 'Sirs, we would see Jesus'. They didn't say: 'We want to see your systematic theology'. They didn't say: 'We want to see your basis of belief. We want to see your philosophy of life. We want to see how your lifestyle works out, if it really works'. That's not what they said, they said: 'Sirs, we would see Jesus'.
Christian, and I'm asking myself this, when was the last time you saw Jesus? When? I don't mean physically see Him, but I mean with the eyes of faith, actually see Him. Dr Gordon, a great preacher, one day spotted, at the back of the church, a strange looking man in a cloak. He made it his effort to go at the end of the meeting to go and find that man, but as soon as the last hymn was over he slipped out. He was dreaming. In his dream he went to the deacon at the door and he said: 'Did you see that strange looking man with the hood over his head?', he said, 'I haven't seen him before, or I haven't noticed him before. Who was he? Do you know who he was?'. In his dream the deacon said: 'That was Jesus Christ'. He got all excited, he said: 'How did I miss Him? How did I miss Him sitting at the back? I should have spoken to Him, I should have made an effort to speak to Him, or to go out the back door before He got away'. The deacon said this to him: 'Don't worry, Dr Gordon, He comes every week'.
Do we forget that? That at this very moment Jesus is here, and if we do not see Him, do you know why that is? Not because He's not here, but because there is something over our eyes. There's a church in America, and on its pulpit there are these words written: 'Sir, we would see Jesus' - so that every man who mounts the pulpit to preach, they want him not to simply preach a doctrine, but to preach about a Person. Do you come to church to hear about something, or do you come to church to meet with Someone? In John chapter 12 and verse 21 those Greeks said: 'Sirs, we would see Jesus', and later in the New Testament we see that a group of men looked upon the disciples and it says that they took knowledge that they had been with Jesus. You see, that's what happens: when you come into contact - whether it's here, whether it's at home, wherever it is - when you come into fellowship and communion with Jesus Christ, people will notice! It's written all over your face, they can tell, they take note that you've been with Jesus.
In the Christian church there's a great lot of interest that's taken in the book of Revelation, isn't there? Some, to our detriment, have used it almost like a crystal ball, like a horoscope. There are things in the book of Revelation that tell of the future, I believe that, but we have to be very careful. Because, you see, the revelation of Jesus Christ - which is what it is, not the revelation of John - it is a revelation not of future events, but a revelation of who Jesus Christ really is. What happened at the very start of the book? John is on the Isle of Patmos, and it says that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day - what happened to him? It says that he saw Jesus, he had a vision, he had Christ revealed to him. It says: 'When I saw him', John says, 'I fell at his feet as dead'. You can go home and read it in chapter 1 of Revelation, the description of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory. No longer was there blood covered over Him, but there were robes of white and beautiful jewels - lovely, beautiful, in all His majesty that we were singing about this morning. He saw Him, and it overwhelmed him! He fell at His feet as if he were dead.
Sometimes I can't see the wood for the trees. I read the word of God, I come to this place, I pray, I do all the exercises of what we say is godliness - yet I do all these things and I miss what the reality of it all is, and that is: about Jesus Christ as a person, not as a picture, not as a philosopher, not as a great religious leader, but as a friend, as a Lord, as a Master, as a Saviour! That's what the Bible's all about, it is the revelation - from Genesis to Revelation - it is revealing who God is. Sometimes we see the gems and beauties of the word, but we can't see Christ through the word! That's what it's for, it's like a magnifying glass trying to show us the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory.
Does Jesus overwhelm you? Is Jesus the centre of your life? Is He the centre of your thoughts, or do you have distractions that have taken Him away from your gaze? What are those distractions? Will you not say, like the chorus: 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace'. Fanny Crosby, that great hymnwriter, almost on her deathbed - you remember she was blind from about three months of age - lying on her deathbed an old man came up to her and said: 'Fanny, would you not have wanted to have had your sight? Do you not wish that God would have given you your sight at birth?'. Do you know what she said? She said: 'If I had another life to live all over again I would want to be blind, because when I get to glory the first face that I will see is my Lord'. She was looking unto Jesus.
Do you have distractions? I have distractions. They turn your eyes, they take your gaze away from Him. Leonardo da Vinci painted a great picture of the twelve Apostles at the Last Supper, maybe you've seen it. But you know, not many people know that there was one painting that was painted before the one that we have with us today. He had finished a beautiful picture of it, he brought a friend along. He asked the friend, an art critic, to look at it and tell him what he thought. He looked, he said: 'It's marvellous!', he says, 'It's glorious! I have never seen a depiction of the Last Supper like this and the figure of Christ'. Then he looked at Christ as He held the goblet in His hand, and he said: 'Such a reality you have captured in that goblet'. It was almost like a photograph of the goblet at the Last Supper. With that remark Da Vinci took his paintbrush, put it in the palette, and crossed out the goblet. Do you know what he said? 'Nothing will detract from the figure of Christ'.
What is detracting and distracting you from Christ this morning? What do you need to do to get your sight back on the Lord? If you've lost your sight of Jesus, if you're eyes have been fixed onto your problems, like Peter, or something in your life is breaking in and wanting attention - how do you get your eyes focused again on Him? I want to show you how we look, it's in Hebrews chapter 12 and it's found in verse 1. It says: 'Lay aside every weight', very simple, 'Lay aside every weight'. Easy to understand, but how much harder it is to do.
You see, when these athletes were training, what they used to do was: they put weights upon them as they ran. They were running a race, trying to build their strength up with these weights attached to their arms and their feet - and the reason was to strengthen them. But when they were running in the Olympics, and they were wanting to win a medal, and win a prize, get the goal, get to the finished line, they would be idiots to keep those weights on! So the writer here says: 'Lay aside those weights, whatever things are weighing you down, whatever things are taking your gaze away from Christ, distracting you', he says, 'Lay those things aside!'. It easier said than done, isn't it?
Those cares that you have, those sins that so easily beset you, those temptations that you and I seem not to be able to refuse, those bad relationships that are problems in our lives, those hobbies, those thoughts, those pastimes, those things we watch and listen to that we know are harmful to us - but at the end of the day we always give in, and we wonder then why our gaze is taken off Christ! It says that we are to fix our eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. The author, the beginning and the ending of our faith, and we know that, we believe that this morning, don't we? That He started our faith - without Jesus we would not be here, without Him at the cross dying for us, without Him saving us on the day that we came to trust Him, we wouldn't be here. He is the Author of our faith. We also believe that He is the Finisher - that one day, whether we die or whether He comes for us, He will take us to be with Him. You believe He is the Author and Finisher, but you know there's very few believe that He does the rest in between!
Do you believe that? You believe He's able to save you, and He is able to take you home one day - but do you really believe that He can take care of everything in between? Oliver Cromwell's secretary was away on a mission taking some political messages to another country, and it was the done thing that he took a servant with him. One night he was lying tossing and turning in his bed, and the servant realised this and came in and said: 'What is wrong, Sir? Why can you not sleep?'. He said: 'I'm worried! I'm worrying about this mission that I'm going to go on, whether it will go well and whether we'll get what we're looking for'. This servant simply said to him, listen: 'Sir, did God rule the world before we were born?'. He says: 'Of course He did!'. He says: 'Well, will God rule after we are dead?'. He says: 'Of course He will!'. He replied by saying this: 'Then Master, why not let Him rule the present too?'.
Are you letting Him rule the present? Are you living the life of salvation, but not a life of discipline and discipleship? We're not just looking to Christ for our salvation, but we're looking to Him every single day of our life for help, for strength. Are you looking to Jesus? A little boy of five years old was singing along in the home that famous hymn: 'Trust and obey', but as he was singing it his mother picked up her ears and noticed there was something different. He was saying: 'Trust and OK' - that's what it means! Trust and OK! If you trust Christ, I'm not saying everything will be fine and everything will be rosy, but the only place where anything can, in any measure, be alright is when we have fixed our eyes, fastened our eyes, upon the Saviour!
You see, a message or a sermon won't do you any good. A church or a denomination will do you no good. A book, even this book, will do you no good apart from Christ. David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians, he always preached Christ and Him crucified - do you know why? Because he said that after preaching Christ crucified, he never ever needed to give any more instructions to people about how to live, about what to get rid of, about how to go about their daily business - why? Because as soon as they saw that Person, that was enough for them.
You need to lay aside every weight, but I want you all to see in the closing minutes - look with me to Luke 10. You see, you need to look up, you need to look up from His feet. Luke 10 and verse 38, it says: 'Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful', or worried and anxious, 'and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good', or the better, 'part, which shall not be taken away from her'.
Where was Mary? Mary was at the feet of Christ, Mary was at those feet, and she was looking up to Christ - she was looking straight into His face, straight into His eyes. She, like the writer to the Hebrews, decided to fix her eyes upon Him - that's what she did, fixed her eyes on Him. Martha was rushing about troubled, anxious about everything that was going on - but she was sitting there looking, gazing, into the face of the Lord - and because she was gazing, she wasn't cumbered about with many things, she wasn't anxious. Do you know the statue of Jesus in Brazil; you know the one in Rio de Janeiro? His hands are out like this on top of the mountain. I found out a fact about that statue that I never knew, it's that you can only look into His eyes, the statue's eyes, if you are at His feet. If you want to look at the eyes of Christ, if you want to gaze into His face and fix your eyes upon Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith, you must be at His feet. You can only be at His feet if you spend time with Him, if you meditate upon Him, if you think about Him, if you try to imagine - as you read the stories of Him in the word of God - imagine what He was like, what His words were like, what His actions were like - if you imagine Him and consider Him.
Dr Brooke, the great evangelist, was a terribly worried man. He used to get so anxious about things. One day his secretary found him pacing the floor in his library - up and down, up and down. He knocked the door and he said to him: 'Sir, what is troubling you? What is troubling you?'. He says: 'Do you know what the trouble is? I'm in a hurry, but God isn't'. Are you in a hurry this morning? In your life, in your devotions, before God, in your family - are you in a hurry? You're cumbered about with many anxieties and fears and troubles, and you don't understand why your gaze has been taken of Christ - and it's because you're not there! You're not at His feet!
I want to leave you with one of my favourite phrases in the word of God, and it's found in Luke 2 and verse 19. It's Mary, Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ, blessed woman - the most blessed woman that ever walked the face of the earth, I believe, because she bore Christ. She was a godly woman, and the angels came to her and spoke many things - can you imagine hearing that you were going to bear the Christ of God? Then the shepherds came, remember they said: 'We have come to see the King', these ordinary shepherds came to worship this King. When Mary heard all these things, do you know what it says of her? 'Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart'.
Can I ask you today: do you ponder Christ in your heart? Do you rush away from the meeting on a Sunday morning? When He asks that you remember Him and ponder Him, do you leave? Do you ponder Him at home? Do you read the word of God like you've always read it, because you know the stories from you were a wee lad? Is that what you do, but you don't ponder Him? You don't think about Him, you don't think about what He has done? Because only when you ponder Him, when you meditate upon Him, when you look to Him, when you consider Him, and think about Him, and revel in Him - that is when you will be truly blessed.
A rich businessman died, and when he died he had no heir. He auctioned everything that he had, and there was one old lady came into that auction and she looked at a picture of that old man's son who had died at a young age. She bought the picture, she was the only person who showed any interest in this picture. She went over - she hardly had clothes worthy to wear - yet she went over and paid the money for that picture. She took it home - you see that woman had been the nanny for that child. Day after day she would look at that picture, she would ponder it, she would think about not the picture, but the person in the picture - she would think about him. One day as she was gazing on the face in the picture she saw a bulge, like a bubble. She took a razor blade and she went over - there was something behind the canvas - she put a little cut, a nick, in the paper. Behind it there was a letter, she pulled the letter out and it was the man's missing will. It read that everything in his possession was to be given to the person who took time to ponder his son.
Are you not blessed in the Christian life today? Can I just say something before we remember the Lord? You won't be if you don't ponder Him. Let us all, today, look unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church in Portadown, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Look At Jesus!" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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