O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The sight of a Baby
"The sight of a Baby"
Based on 1 John 3:1-3
Preached on April 22, 2012
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Beloved, fellow baptized children of God, all those awaiting the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our text today focuses in on a very visual topic. Sight. Physically seeing. This is a topic that receives greater importance in our culture every day. All advertising, entertainment, and even education now attempt to maximize the visual stimulation its audience receives. I hate to disappoint you, but the only visuals I have will be my flamboyant gestures. However, our text today holds a much more colourful image for us to consider than any television or computer screen could ever display. The apostle John is revealing the connection between our physical sight and the spiritual world that is around us and in us. He paints a picture for us so we can understand through faith what awaits our eyes. Today, let us look into the spiritual truths that we will see with our physical eyes.
Our text says, "Beloved, we are God's children now, but what we will be has not yet appeared." We cannot physically see now, not God, nor what we shall be. At this time our dignity as children of God, our new life obtained in our new birth is covered up by our sinful flesh as well as by our crosses and sorrows and all other humiliating experiences in life.
God has not withdrawn Himself from us; but the world, our sinful flesh and the devil weaken us and prevent us from seeing God. Our eyes are covered by these three enemies. The world is the first covering, our sinful flesh is the second and the devil is the third. Each of us must force our way through each of these coverings with faith, which we receive from hearing the God's Word. However, while we are in the world, we are attracted by the allurements of the flesh and led astray by the devil, unable to see the appearance of our new life in God. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."
Consider some of the major figures of the Old Testament. God promised Abraham his descendents would be like the stars in the sky, yet when he died he had only Isaac. Moses led Israel around the desert for forty years, striving to bring them to the promised land. When they finally arrived Moses could not enter it and behold its glory. We may also recall from the Gospel of St. John when Jesus restored the sight of a man born blind. All of these occurred in order to demonstrate the extremity of the sin found in our fallen flesh, and the need for His power to overcome its effects and restore our spiritual sight.
For an alternative example, consider the sight of a newborn baby. According to a public health program, a newborn infant is unable to see clearly when they first open their eyes. In fact, a typical newborn cannot distinguish detail until after one week. Even, at this point, they can only see eight inches in front of their face, not six, and not sixteen. What's more, they may not be able to track movement until they are four months old, and their visual activity is only considered fully developed after six months. Compare this with our spiritual birth of baptism and compare the short lifetime of a human with eternity as a child of God. According to this comparison, we are still newborn infants who can open their eyes but are unable to see God. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like an infant will never enter it."
However, the most interesting thing about the development of newborns, is that they recognize the voice and words of their mother while they are still in the womb. Likewise with us in our spiritual situation. As Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." We also confess in the third article of the Apostle's Creed, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith." We hear the Word of God in the days preceding our baptism, and we hear them again during our baptism, as we are born into the family of God. We are children of God not by seeing, but by faith. As God's beloved infants we do not physically see anything spiritual, at least not yet.
Of course this lack of sight is extremely frustrating for us as we live out our Christian lives this side of heaven. We believe we are saved yet we continue to violate God's law, and we continue to live in our sinful flesh. We do not yet feel or see that we are a child of God, but we see and feel our flesh and blood. We are constantly tempted by our worldly and fleshly desires. In our sinful nature we don't want to see God, we are unwilling to see God and we are unable to see God - He must call us or we sinners would never see Him. As St. Paul quoted from the Psalms, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God."
Our lack of sight is also frustrating when we try to relate to those who do not know God and follow His path. We often feel alienated, different and out of place. We do not share the same sense of belonging. Jesus prayed for His disciples on this matter. "I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one."
Sometimes our lack of sight can be frustrating simply because Christians live by faith. The world mocks us for hoping in something we cannot see. In their eyes, we are just foolish Christians. But St. Paul reminds us of the way of faith, "We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
Perhaps the most difficult thing about being a newborn infant of God is that the world persecutes God and His family. St. John wrote, "The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him." Jesus put it this way, "they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me." If the world by nature could know God, we would also behave differently. We would abandon our efforts, humble ourselves, and let God purify, love and glorify us. We would condemn all blasphemies against Christ! Instead, the world shows it teeth, defends its own efforts, exalts itself and persecutes Christ and His Church. Thus they fashion another god for themselves. But praise be to our God for He has made us His children even though we must wait to physically see the fullness of what that means
Thankfully the apostle John reveals the connection between our physical sight and the spiritual world that awaits us. He says, "We will see Him as He is." Our eyes will not stay covered. Our physical eyes will behold Jesus' face. We too can confess with the godly man Job of long ago, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another." When we physically see Jesus, we will become aware of many gifts.
When we see Him, our sinful flesh will be restored to perfection. Jesus himself heals our wounds. He promises that ‘when he is revealed, we shall be like Him."
When we see Him, we will belong. Jesus himself makes us belong. He said, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
When we see Him, we will no longer be frustrated. Jesus himself will teach us all things. St. Paul wrote, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
When we see Him, we will no longer be persecuted. Jesus himself removes all enemies. Jesus said, "Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." As God's children we already have all these unseen gifts.
Let us consider one last example. Have you ever seen a child lose a game after playing their best? They hang their head, ashamed that they did not reach their goal. That they were not perfect, not winners. It is often a shocking sight, but something we have all seen. As you watched you were pleased by their effort, yet the moment you realize the child feels inadequate, your heart is moved to tell them they have done a great job. That their performance was excellent (and for them it was). Yet the child may recognize that it was not perfect, as they had hoped. Similarly, in the performance of our lives we too have fallen short, but we hope to see the perfection of Jesus. We hang our heads, and cast our eyes to the ground because we know we are not perfect, we know we do not deserve to see such perfection. But thanks be to God that in Jesus Christ we can proclaim, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are."
As our head begins to hang in our last moments on Earth, He reaches out His hand, places it on our chin, and raises our eyes up to meet His. In that instant, we will see. In that instant, we will know the redemption of our bodies. In that instant, we shall become like Him, glorified, loving, righteous, faithful, immortal. We will be the children of God in the fullness of His perfected image. No longer by faith alone, but with our eyes and every other beautiful newly fashioned sense our Creator is pleased to bestow upon us.
Our hope is to look into His eyes and see His perfection. Our hope is seeing Jesus face to face. As St. John wrote, "everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." "We shall see Him as He is, and we shall be like Him." With Jesus we shall see. With Jesus we shall endure. With Jesus we shall live. Forever.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr