Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All eyes on Jesus - CROSS PURPOSES 119

A few weeks ago we celebrated the ascension of our Lord. In Luke’s account of the Ascension in Acts 1:10 he records that the disciples were looking intently up into the sky as Jesus ascended to His heavenly throne. That’s a good description of what our witnessing should be like. We need to keep our eyes intently fixed on Jesus Christ – He is the centre of all that matters.

I was given a wonderful reminder of this a few weeks ago. I had an appointment with a mortgage broker and it came up in the conversation that I had spent a year in Adelaide on full-time study. She asked what I had been studying. “Theology,” I told her. “Really? – that’s what I’m studying,” she exclaimed excitedly. As we shared our faith, it transpired that this lady had not really had a Christian upbringing as such, but had become interested in Jesus as a result of attending a leadership seminar conducted by the Christian radio station FM103.2.

It was a joy to chat with her about our faith, and I tell you, she has a rock solid understanding of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. At one point she pointed to a diagram depicted on the cover of her company’s promotional material. The diagram shows five jig-saw pieces: a centre piece in gold with a dollar sign on it, and four other pieces in grey each with a house symbol on them, and they each slotted into the centre gold piece. It is meant to remind investors that financial strategy is central to property investment – properties are merely vehicles through which the financial strategy is realised. But all too often investors become emotionally involved with their investment properties and lose sight of their financial strategy. They take their eyes off the centre piece.

Pointing to this diagram she said, “Christianity is like that. We all believe Jesus is our Redeemer and Saviour – he is the centre piece of pure gold – but we tend to shift our focus onto other things that are peripheral to the centre piece, Christ,” she explained. She gave several examples where she believed different denominations emphasised certain points of tradition or doctrine. They are all good and well,” she added, “and I’m sure people are well meaning, but they can become so intense about these secondary things that it shifts the focus away from the centre piece, which is Jesus Christ.”

She is absolutely right in her observation and makes a very valid point. When you think about it, there are innumerable examples – and I’m not just talking about points of doctrine or theological interpretations – where we as individuals or collectively as members of the Body of Christ put greater importance on things that are secondary to Christ, and so shift our focus away from Him. We don’t look intently at Him and to Him; we take our eyes off Him and our intensity for Him diminishes.

I said to this lady, “You know there is a second way we can look at this diagram. We can look at it as a target where Christ is at the centre.” I told her that the Greek term for sin is associated with an archery term meaning falling short of the mark. Indeed, Paul tells us in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “Like this diagram shows,” I said, “when we take our eyes off Jesus – the centre piece – we fall short of God’s glory.”

The death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father is the fulfilment of God’s glorious plan for humanity. In our falling short of God’s glory we are put right with Him by His grace through the righteousness of Christ. The faith to receive His righteousness is His gift to us and it comes through our hearing of the Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Ascension message carries a call to repentance, a call to faith, a call to receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal salvation, and a call to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus – the Risen Lord, the Ascended Lord, the Centre piece of all that is. Praise His name forever.

René van den Tol

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