"I beheld the Lord always before my face" (Acts 2:25).
The last part of that quotation could rightly define the nature
and object of the ministry of this little paper.
Not to propagate a teaching as such; not to constitute a new
community; not to support a particular 'movement'; but
truly and solely to bring and keep the Lord Jesus in view in ever-growing
fullness: that is its object. It seeks to be occupied with the far-reaching
purpose of God concerning His Son, Jesus our Lord.
In this connection, and according to the above quotation from
David, it is impressive and instructive to note what a great influence on life the matter of seeing, or
It can be truly said that a great deal of what we are, and
therefore of the effect that we have in this world, is the result of our seeing.
There is much truth in the saying that we become like that upon which our eyes
are mainly focused. This can be seen in national characteristics. The arid,
austere, hard, cold, and colourless regions of the world produce a hard, austere
and matter-of-fact type of people. The colourful, verdant, soft, warm and
fertile realms, where nature has not to be coerced but only guided, produce
colourful and easy-going people with more artistic and sentimental natures. Small and restricted surroundings produce small minds,
with limited interests and understanding. The dwellers in the spheres of far
distances and massive dimensions are venturesome, bold, and generous, with
enterprise almost audacious. This is a general rule with occasional and
particular modifications or variations. It points to the effect on an
individual or a community, consciously or unconsciously, of that which is continually before their
The Bible takes much account of this fact and carries it over to
all its parallels in the spiritual life. Indeed, it puts every stage and phase
of the Christian life upon the basis of seeing.
The initiation or beginning of the Christian life is the
result of 'beholding the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world'
There were various objects of sacrifice in the
great typological system in Israel, but the lamb was the centre of all. Their
history as a nation began with the Passover lamb. They were ever and always
reminded of that beginning by the yearly Passover. They looked upon the lamb as
bearing their sin and judgment, although itself 'without spot or blemish', and
knew that it was God's lamb pointed out and provided for them to look upon.
The New Testament brings the Lamb of God into view and calls
for beholding. That word means more than 'take a look', 'glance your eyes
toward Him'. It means, 'fasten your gaze upon Him'. It is the gaze of need, of
a quest; of desperation, if you will.
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth"
Then the Bible places upon the same basis the whole matter of
our progressive transformation.
"Beholding... we are changed into the same image" (2 Cor.
It is not an effort to form some mental picture of Jesus. In
the Apostolic writings He is presented to us, and for us, from various vital
standpoints, by the One who knows Him best and most fully.
In 'Romans', for instance, He is comprehensively presented
as the essential righteousness of God provided where none can be found
otherwise, but without which there is no hope at all for man or creation.
This is not an introduction to the books of the New
Testament, but a pointer to Him and an indication as to how, as we are found
looking at Him-not
at the writers-an influence upon our character toward His likeness will follow.
What is true in principle regarding the beginning and the
progress of the Christian life is also shown to be related to its consummation.
"Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made
manifest what we shall be. We know that, if he shall be manifested, we shall be
like him; for we
shall see him even as he is" (1 John 3:2).
There is more that shows that that final 'beholding' will
have a consummating effect in putting the final touches to the work of
'conforming to His image'. So, from first to last, our salvation, transformation,
and glorification are vitally related to our eyes, our spiritual seeing. 'The
pure in heart shall see God' (Matt.5:8).
But, when I set out to pen these lines, I had other things
also in mind. Our eyes are so much confronted with conditions that are contrary
to Christ, and this constitutes such a battle-ground for our eyes.
The Bible contains much that shows the deplorable results of
the wrong use of the eyes. Think of Eve, of David, of the ten spies at
Kadesh-barnea, of Samson (who saw a woman to his spiritual undoing, and
eventually lost his physical eyes), and so on.
May it not be that much of that which is to be deplored in
evangelical Christianity is due to this wrong use of the eyes? Our religious
book-shops are furnished with the sour and bitter fruits of time and energy
spent searching out and 'exposing' the weaknesses, flaws, or faults of so much
that is otherwise of true value. This can become a predisposition, an obsession,
a mania, and a menace.
We look at men, at people. We look at ministries. We look at
Christian work, and in all we mark the human and faulty aspects. These become
our foci, and the result is that the really valuable, and-perhaps-much fuller
value, is eclipsed for us by the spot that has become everything to us.
Nothing has escaped this blighting use of the eyes, even that which has been
most of God. We have known greatly used servants of God having their ministry
cut off from thousands of believers just because of the focusing upon a
deviation-or imagined deviation-in some
small point, from common acceptance. The decline of ministry
in some of our great conventions can be traced to this very thing. None would be
more jealous for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, than we
are, but we are equally jealous that the standard of judgment should be-not
tradition, or rigid systems of men, but-the measure of Christ.
Christ is the criterion, from first to last; not the
judgments of men. Do I-or rather
I-see the Lord, if I am really looking for Him? If so, that must
be my focal point. If He is there, there is hope for the rest, and I must leave
that with Him.
How easy it is to sing glibly: 'Turn your eyes upon Jesus',
and forget that it is always from 'the things of earth'.
"I beheld the Lord always before my face."
For the sake of everything precious to Him, may this be true of