Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Look to him

"We don't mainly mortify sin by looking at it... We suffocate sin by redirecting our gaze to Christ."

Thus Dane Ortlund, in Deeper, p 139.

It is a strange kind of fight we're in, the fight against sin.  In pretty much every other war, the essential dictum is 'know your enemy'.  There is something of that in the fight for holiness - we are not unaware of the devil's schemes - but knowing our enemy is not going to take us to victory.  Doing reconnaissance, getting to understand sin and our own dark hearts better, is not going to get us there.

The only thing that will bring victory over sin is looking to the Lord Jesus, gazing at him, seeing his beauty and glory and goodness, delighting in him.

This is a battle of loves.  The problem with focussing on the enemy is that at some level, even as Christian believers, we love the enemy.  There would be no temptation to sin if we did not love sin.  But we do.  All human beings love sin; in certain circumstances we also hate it, and as Christians that hate becomes a real and significant force in our lives by the Holy Spirit.  But we still love sin.

So it is all well and good to assess what our chief idols are, or to pick up what false beliefs we might be holding.  But those things won't make us holy.  We fight the sin that we still love by seeing Jesus and loving him more.

Can I make a particular appeal to preachers and pastors?  It is common to hear McCheyne quoted from the pulpit - "for every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ".  Great, that's wisdom.  But can I encourage you to look at your sermons, your counselling sessions, your Bible studies - is there ten times as much time going into describing and depicting and verbally delighting in the goodness and grace and glory and love of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus?  Please, don't just set this as homework ('this week let's try to look at Jesus more') but actually devote sermon time to it.  If we're meant to be looking at Jesus, show us Jesus.

And for those of us who are not preachers and pastors, think about what the main goal of your private devotions is - how much time is spent in just looking at Jesus?  And how do we respond to our sin, whether temptation or actual failure - is it to look to Jesus?

Love elicits love, you see.  Do you see the Lord Jesus, suffering the agony of the cross?  Then you see love, deep love, love for sinners who hated him.  When he prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him - that was love, the eternal love of God displayed in mercy and grace to his enemies.  And you and I were just such enemies.  We weren't there, but it was our sin that he bore.  We can stand before the cross of Calvary and say with the apostle "the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me".  We can sing of that love vast as an ocean, loving kindness like a flood - and know that it reaches me, even me.  His love has no beginning - he is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, the one who has always been devoted and committed to your good even at the cost of his life, at the cost of cross and hell - and his love will have no end, because the crucified One is risen and now lives to intercede for you before the Throne.

Let the love of the Lord Jesus for you draw out your own love for him.  And then follow what you love, and that will suffocate sin.

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