CHAPTER I

"LOOKING UNTO JESUS"

"THE greatest joy in life is to make Jesus Christ known." I read this in large letters on the wall of the Moody Hall in Chicago. This word of that great evangelist expresses the essence of his life and the joy received thereby. These words should also be the motto of the service and the striving of all the truly redeemed. We all live "by" Christ. We all strive "toward" Christ. We all wish to be "in" Him and "for" Him. Our life is only of as much value as Christ is in us. Anything that is superadded besides Jesus is worthless. It is true, the earthly and outward has its value which is not to be underestimated in this present life, if it is kept within bounds. We are far from regarding the wonders of creation as of little import, or giving ourselves over to cynicism or escapism in that we despise everything that is natural. But we must insist that only that will remain for our everlasting existence which is today directed towards Christ in us. Only that has eternal value which has been lived for Him and loved for Him, which we have done in Him, which we have suffered for and gained with Him. Jesus and Jesus alone is the life of our life, the eternity of our time, the value which can never be stolen, ruined or devaluated. For this reason everything depends on a practical attitude of living faith to Jesus Christ.

This is the fundamental essence of all New Testament spiritual life. To show forth and practise the truth and the life of Christ is the content and message of the whole New Testament. Jesus Christ is for all the New Testament writers the living and only panacea for all illness, weakness, and distress. Every one of them is perfectly sure of it: Jesus never disappoints: Jesus only wonderfully surprises. He never does less than He promised. On the contrary, He exceeds His own word, so that everyone who really trusts in Him can join in the happy exclamation of the Queen of Sheba: "Not the half had been told me."

It is not a rhetorical phrase but my most serious conviction when I state: If anyone were to offer me a ball of gold as big as the sun, that is a ball more than one million two hundred thousand times greater than our whole earth-all pure gold-saying, however, at the same time, "You must exchange your faith in the Lord Jesus for this," I should not have to hesitate for one moment. There can be only one answer: "Away with your golden ball into outer space. I despise it. Jesus is of infinitely greater value to me." And I know that I should not be the only one to give this reply. Every real disciple of Christ would give the same answer. Every true believer would so reply, just as promptly, without any hesitation. All created lights of this world are eclipsed to the man for whom Jesus Christ is risen as the sun of righteousness. "A greater than all is here!"

The whole New Testament speaks of this "greater one," of Him who is indeed the greatest of all. For this reason the central message of the whole book is the call: "Let us look unto Jesus!"

Three New Testament writings out of a total of 27 books form a special constellation in this sense: the Gospel of John, the Colossian letter and that to the Hebrews.

In John's Gospel the glory of Christ is radiated as seen from above. He is the Son who came down from heaven into this world. He was sent from the Father. Thus we see Christ as viewed under the aspect of heaven. This is salvation's basis.

In the Colossian letter we view the glory of Jesus from within, i.e., from within Himself, as the living, active Saviour and Redeemer, because of the exceeding greatness of His person (especially in chapter 1), and the all-inclusive sufficiency of His work (especially in ch. 2). Thus we see Christ as viewed under the aspect of His own person and His own work. This is salvation's centre.

The letter to the Hebrews shows us the glory of Christ compared with earlier times, i.e., the times of the preparation for salvation in Old Testament history. So Christ is here shown as the One Who not only fulfilled God's greatest revelations but also infinitely exceeded them (especially in chapters 1-10). Thus we see Christ as viewed under the aspect of preparation and fulfilment. This is salvation's history.

Therefore, while the call, "Let us look unto Jesus!" is the motto of the New Testament in general, how much more is it the motto in this radiant constellation of these three Spirit-given Divine messages!

This message, as indeed the message of the whole New Testament, aims at life and reality. "Looking unto Jesus" must justify itself in practice. The message is not concerned with "enthusiasm for Christ" but with being "filled with the Spirit of Christ," not with mere admiration of His greatness, but with practical experience of His all-sufficiency in the trials and tribulations of this everyday life of ours; not only intellectual, spiritual vision, but spiritual action; not only songs of triumph, but a real practical victory; not only worship, but discipleship. Both aspects belong inseparably together: the sanctuary and everyday life, heaven and earth, the exalted Christ and His sanctifying practical life-power to be experienced here below.

The twelfth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews is that portion of the New Testament in which this relationship between the vision of Christ and victory in battle is especially emphasized. We shall consider this chapter from the following chief points of view:

Let us look unto Jesus!
For He is our example in conflict. Verses 1-3.
Let us look unto Jesus!
For thus we can attain practical victory. Verses 1-3.
Let us look unto Jesus!
For thus we remain steadfast in suffering. Verses 4-11.
Let us look unto Jesus!
For thus we shall not become weary in the race. Verses 12-15.
Let us look unto Jesus!
For thus we can live up to the privileges of our birthright. Verses 16-17.
Let us look unto Jesus!
For thus we shall attain unto the crown and the heavenly City. Verses 18-29.

This looking unto Jesus is at the same time a looking away from everything else. For this reason a word is used for "looking" in Hebrews 12 which includes both these meanings.* *(Greek ap-horan from the Greek apo = from, away from and boron = to look. Cf. Greek apo-blepein, Heb. 11: 26.) It means a purposeful looking away from those objects which automatically catch the eye, to those other objects which have to be concentrated upon. By this means all lack of concentration will be overcome. Our eyes will be directed on one object, Christ, and the heart will thereby be held by His glory. Thus the whole inward man experiences in ever increasing measure the depths and the riches of the Scripture: "They saw no one but Jesus only."

All the blessings of God are so devised that they can increase. That is, every fulfilment is at the same time a promise of something greater. God never reaches the end of His possibilities (John 1:16; Eph. 2:7). Thus the best and most glorious is ever before us and to come. All is of glory, in glory, and, according to His own plan, "from glory to glory" (cf. II Cor. 3:18).

With the world and sin it is otherwise. It starts with mock joy and ends with disappointment. At the beginning there is a deceptive glitter and at the end night.

Many years ago I visited a Press Exhibition in Cologne. In one of the large halls the relationship between the Press and the postal services was shown by various documents and tables. I shall never forget the decoration on one of the main walls. It represented a huge eagle. The exhibition concerned itself with the attainments of the German postal services up to 1928. The effect of this huge eagle was most imposing. But when one came nearer to it and looked at it more closely one discovered that it consisted solely of postage stamps of the inflation period-hundreds of thousands of small inflation postage stamps. I said to my companion immediately: "For estimating things earthly is not this a picture of the values of this world in general? Regarded from a distance, at first sight, they seem to be grand and imposing. But the nearer one comes to them, the more one discovers that they are all inflated values-huge numbers but little worth. Not only inflation of money but inflation of words, inflation of terms, inflation of ideals, inflation of spirit. Behind this mighty fašade only very little actual substance. The more one gets to know them the less one values them. From the distance like an eagle, yet in reality only inflation!"

How different is Jesus Christ! His worth for us increases the more we get to know Him. He proves Himself true even in the severest testing of everyday practice. He faileth never. For this reason our whole thought and endeavour should be directed towards Him. He leads us "from faith to faith" (Rom. 1:17), "from strength to strength" (Psa. 84:7), "from glory to glory" (II Cor. 3:18). In Him there is opened an inexhaustible fountain of salvation (Isa. 12:3; Zech. 13:1).

Yet we experience this increase in heavenly blessings only when our souls strive forward. Only those who are hungry get satisfied, only those who are thirsty are refreshed (Matt. 5:6), only those who take their discipleship to be a "race" attain the "prize" of their calling (Phil. 3:14; II Pet.1:10).

Therefore "let us look unto Jesus!" Only so can we be winners and reach in the arena of faith the goal of everlasting glory (Heb.12:1-3).

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