"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."Today, the words of this hymn strike me. It strikes me how much this idea of turning our eyes to Jesus is an idea significantly contrary and foreign to human, and specifically American, nature. This hymn also reminds me of the meditation that led me to the title of this blog.
Last summer, I was reading the bible and I came across two passages. The first is the story of Jesus walking on water in Matthew chapters 14, specifically verses 28-31:
What struck me, was that when he looked to Jesus, Peter was successful. He walked on the waves and only began to sink when he lost focus on Jesus. The second passage I found was in 1 Corinthians 9:
The NIV's heading for this section of verses sums up my feelings well. Christian life is about discipline. Discipline is essential to life as a disciple. Clearly the words come from the same root. As runners run the race to get the prize, they focus on the finish line. They are disciplined and train hard so that they can run fast.
In these two passages, two things are made clear. Christian life takes work. While the word "Christian" is a noun, it means to be a believer, follower and/or disciple of Christ. This definition places the verbs to believe and to follow intrinsically central to what it means to be a Christian. And to do those things one must be disciplined. Next, we also must understand where these passages place the focus of Christian discipline. Salvation is Paul's prize, and spreading the Gospel his goal. Peter walks on water until he loses sight of Christ. "Turn your eyes upon Jesus", seems to come to mind.
My summer last year was a time in which I turned my eyes to Jesus. While college had challenged my faith, it had not taken it away, but instead I found myself thirsting deeply for God's word. Last summer I took it upon myself to read more scripture and when I did what I had learned growing up came flooding back to me. When I came across the 1 Corinthians and Matthew passages all I could think about was "I am the vine and you are the branches", the passage from John 15 that inspired this blog:
The LORD Jesus Christ has given all people good and beautiful gifts. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" - Jeremiah 29:11. Growing up this verse seemed almost cliché. But it is a promise, that people can take to heart. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" - John 17:3. As Christians we are called to live fruitful lives in connection to Christ's vine. We are saved by Christ. We gain Salvation by grace, that we receive through faith, but we can only tap into the rewards of that salvation if we focus on the source of the amazing grace that saves us. When we fear the wind and waves around us, and worry and fret about earthly things, we lose sight of Christ. The dimming of earthly things that occurs when eyes turn to Christ, is not the rejection of the physical world but instead it is the peace of transcendence. A focus on Christ allows for him to lead, to be a lamp to illuminate the path. So if we are disciplined and focus on Christ we will not run aimlessly through life and we will not sink under its waves. Trials and temptations will become dim and the weight of this world will not weigh us down. We will live our lives in obedience and the God of creation will illuminate our darkness and lead us in peace. We will be instruments of God's will, loving others and caring for all. We will tap into the very salvation and fruitful life that Christ died and rose again to give us. To turn your eyes upon Jesus is to be a fruitful branch.